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Glossary of Terms Relating to Breast Cancer

Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation (APBI)

As an alternative to external beam radiation (whole breast irradiation), APBI is a type of radiation therapy given only to the part of the breast where the cancer was removed. Accelerated partial-breast irradiation delivers a higher dose over a shorter time period than is prescribed for standard whole-breast radiotherapy, which is typically delivered over a six-week period. Accelerated partial-breast irradiation may be given using internal or external sources of radiation.

Axillary lymph nodes

Or armpit lymph nodes (20 to 30 in number) drain lymph vessels from the lateral quadrants of the breast, the superficial lymph vessels from the walls of the chest and the abdomen above the level of the navel, and the vessels from the upper limb. They are divided in several groups according to their location in the armpit. These lymph nodes are clinically significant in breast cancer, and metastases from the breast to the axillary lymph nodes are considered in the staging of the disease.


A material that is dissolved or broken down in the body.


The removal of cells or tissues for examination by a pathologist. The pathologist may study the tissue under a microscope or perform other tests on the cells or tissue. There are many different types of biopsy procedures. The most common types include: (1) incisional biopsy, in which only a sample of tissue is removed; (2) excisional biopsy, in which an entire lump or suspicious area is removed; and (3) needle biopsy, in which a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle. When a wide needle is used, the procedure is called a core biopsy. When a thin needle is used, the procedure is called a fine-needle aspiration biopsy.


A type of radiation therapy in which radioactive material sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters is placed directly into or near a tumor. Also called implant radiation therapy, internal radiation therapy, and radiation brachytherapy.

Breast-conserving surgery (BCS)

An operation to remove the breast cancer but not the breast itself. Types of breast-conserving surgery include lumpectomy (removal of the lump), quadrantectomy (removal of one quarter, or quadrant, of the breast), and segmentectomy (removal of the cancer as well as some of the breast tissue around the tumor and the lining over the chest muscles below the tumor). Also called breast-sparing surgery or a partial mastectomy.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

CT stands for computerized tomography. A procedure that uses a computer linked to an x-ray machine to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are taken from different angles and are used to create 3-dimensional (3-D) views of tissues and organs. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the tissues and organs show up more clearly. A CT scan may be used to help diagnose disease, plan treatment, or find out how well treatment is working. Also called CAT scan, computed tomography scan, computerized axial tomography scan, and computerized tomography.

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

A noninvasive condition in which abnormal cells are found in the lining of a breast duct. The abnormal cells have not spread outside the duct to other tissues in the breast. In some cases, DCIS may become invasive cancer and spread to other tissues. At this time, there is no way to know which lesions could become invasive. Also called intraductal carcinoma.


Superficial reddening of the skin, usually in patches, as a result of injury or irritation causing dilatation of the blood capillaries

External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT)

A type of radiation therapy that uses a machine to aim high-energy rays at the cancer from outside of the body.  Also called external radiation therapy.

Five-year survival rate

The percentage of people in a study or treatment group who are alive five years after they were diagnosed with or started treatment for a disease, such as cancer. The disease may or may not have come back.


The hardening of tissue, usually because of the accumulation of cells from an inflamed of infected site. Also called sclerosis when caused by inflammation.

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), is the most common form of breast cancer, representing 80 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses. IDC is a cancer that begins growing in the breast duct and then invades nearby tissue outside the duct. Also called infiltrating ductal carcinoma.


Mastectomy is the name of the surgical procedure done to remove the breast. A radical mastectomy used to be performed for breast cancer. This involved removing the breast, skin, underlying tissue including muscles, and axillary lymph nodes. It was a long, difficult operation causing significant blood loss and leaving very little tissue behind for breast reconstruction.


The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. A tumor formed by cells that have spread is called a “metastatic tumor” or a “metastasis.” The metastatic tumor contains cells that are like those in the original (primary) tumor.


A side effect attributed to radiation exposure where the skin thins and begins to weep fluid because of a loss of integrity in the outer-most layer of the skin.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) gives different pictures. One advantage of the MRI is that magnets and radio waves are used to obtain images and not radiation. Contrast material can also be added. MRI scans may be done to look for breast cancer spread.

Radiation Half-life

Radiation half-life is the amount of time required for a substance to lose one-half of its radioactive activity. For example, Palladium 103, the radioactive material used in Breast Microseed Treatment, has a measured half-life of 17 days. After every 17 days of treatment, Palladium 103’s radioactive activity is halved until all radiation is delivered.

Sentinel Lymph nodes

The first lymph node to which cancer is likely to spread from the primary tumor. When cancer spreads, the cancer cells may appear first in the sentinel node before spreading to other lymph nodes.


The extent of a cancer in the body. Staging is usually based on the size of the tumor, whether lymph nodes contain cancer, and whether the cancer has spread from the original site to other parts of the body.


A strand is the bio-absorbable material that surrounds Microseed® radiation sources and holds them in place.


Ultrasound machines use sound waves to generate images. They can be used to look at breast masses, often being able to tell if a tumor is solid or fluid filled. They can also be used to look for tumor spread.

Concure Oncology®

Dedicated to helping you put cancer behind you so you can get back to your life faster, with the peace of mind that comes from following the appropriate breast cancer treatment to help prevent a recurrence.

Kevin Kelley
Chief Executive Officer


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