GLOSSARY OF MEDICAL TERMS

You may hear these common medical terms and phrases when talking with your healthcare team about HER2+ breast cancer

A

Adjuvant treatment

Adjuvant treatment is a treatment for early breast cancer that is given just after, and complementary to, the main treatment (usually surgery). For HER2+ breast cancer, this may include radiation treatment, traditional chemotherapy, hormonal treatment, and/or targeted treatment.

Advanced breast cancer

Advanced or metastatic is breast cancer that has spread to different parts of the body.

C

Cancer cell

A cell that divides and reproduces abnormally with uncontrolled growth. This cell can break away, travel to other parts of the body, and then set up at another site. This process is referred to as metastasis.

Chemotherapy

A type of cancer treatment that kills cells that grow and divide rapidly. This can include cancer cells or fast-growing normal cells.

E

Early breast cancer

Early breast cancer is breast cancer that has not spread locally or to other parts of the body.

Estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor

Proteins on breast cells that receive signals from estrogen or progesterone. These signals tell cells to grow and multiply. If breast cancer cells have these receptors, the cancer is called estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor-positive.

F

First-line treatment for cancer that has spread to other parts of the body

A treatment that is given first or as an initial treatment for cancer that is advanced or metastatic.

H

HER2-positive (HER2+)

Breast cancer cells that have too many HER2 receptors are considered HER2-positive. HER2 is a type of protein that tells cells to grow and divide. HER2 is found on the surface of cells in everyone, but cancer cells with too many HER2 receptors can grow and divide too quickly.

Hormonal treatment

Hormonal treatment helps fight tumors that thrive on hormones like estrogen or progesterone by acting on hormone receptors on tumor cells, or by decreasing the amount of estrogen available to bind these receptors.

I

Inflammatory

Inflammatory breast cancer usually appears as changes to the skin, rather than a distinct lump. These changes may include skin thickening, redness, swelling, and warmth.

Intravenous infusion

Also known as an IV infusion, this is a way of delivering medication slowly into the bloodstream through a vein or port.

L

Locally advanced

Locally advanced breast cancer is cancer that has spread to 4–9 lymph nodes or to the chest wall or skin.

Lymph nodes

Small, bean-shaped organs that store white blood cells and help remove cell waste, germs, and other harmful substances from the body.

M

Metastasized

When a cancer has metastasized, that means it has spread to other parts of the body.

Metastatic breast cancer

Breast cancer that has spread outside the breast to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, or bones.

Monoclonal antibody

A molecule that is made to target specific cancer cells and may affect normal cells.

N

Neoadjuvant treatment

Treatment given before surgery.

P

Pathological complete response

Pathological complete response is achieved when a tumor and nearby lymph nodes are tested and no cancer cells are seen.

Pathology report

A report that details the results of a tissue exam conducted to determine the presence of disease. The pathology report can help healthcare teams determine how advanced the cancer is, how aggressive it is, and other unique characteristics that will help in making better treatment decisions.

Port

An implanted device through which blood can be taken and medication can be given without repeated needle sticks; also called “port-a-cath.”

R

Radiation treatment

Radiation treatment uses high-energy rays to kill cells and/or shrink tumors.

S

Surgery

A type of cancer treatment that involves removing tumors and/or lymph nodes from the body. This can include a mastectomy (the removal of the entire breast) or lumpectomy (the removal of the tumor, as well as some surrounding normal tissue) for breast cancer.

Systemic disease

A disease that affects the whole body.

Systemic treatment

A treatment that travels through the whole body. Systemic treatments for cancer will treat cancer cells anywhere in the body, and may also affect healthy cells.

T

Targeted treatment

Targeted treatments are a type of medicine that is designed to attack specific cancer cells, but may also affect healthy cells.

Taxane

A type of chemotherapy drug (eg, paclitaxel, docetaxel) that stops the growth of cells and makes it difficult for cells to repair damage.

Tumor

An abnormal mass of tissue that comes from the overgrowth of cells.