Glossary of breast cancer terms

ADVANCED BREAST CANCER

Breast cancer that has spread from the breast to other parts of the body such as the bones, lungs, liver and brain. Also known as metastatic, or stage 4 breast cancer.

ANASTROZOLE

An aromatase inhibitor, used as hormone therapy to suppress estrogen production and prevent recurrence of ER positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women, or in combination with ovarian function suppression in premenopausal women.

AROMATASE INHIBITORS (Al)

A class of drugs used to treat breast cancer by stopping estrogen production in postmenopausal women. After menopause, small amounts of estrogen are still produced with the help of an enzyme called aromatase. AIs such as letrozole, anastrozole and exemestane block aromatase, and therefore the production of estrogen.

CDK4/6 INHIBITORS

A new class of drugs used to treat HR-positive, HER2-negative advanced breast cancer, that target specific proteins known as cyclin-dependent kinases 4 and 6.

CHEMOTHERAPY

The use of drugs that kill cancer cells, or prevent or slow their growth.

ESTROGEN RECEPTOR (ER)

A protein found in some cells to which estrogen (and some drugs) can bind. When bound, the receptor binds to DNA in the cell and alters the expression of genes. In breast cancer, high ER expression is associated with a positive response to hormone therapy.

ESTROGEN RECEPTOR-POSITIVE (ER+)

ER+ breast cancer is a type where estrogen receptors can be detected in standard histology tests. When present, it indicates that endocrine therapy may be useful.

EXEMESTANE

An aromatase inhibitor used as hormone therapy to suppress estrogen production and prevent recurrence of ER-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women, or in combination with ovarian function suppression in premenopausal women.

FULVESTRANT (FASLODEX®)

A selective anti-estrogen used in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. Given by monthly injection.

HER2

Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2; a protein involved in cell division. In HER2 positive breast cancer, the HER2 gene is over-expressed, and cancer cell growth is stimulated.

HORMONAL THERAPY

Treatment of cancer by alteration of the hormonal balance. Some cancers will only grow in the presence or absence of certain hormones (such as hormone receptor positive or estrogen receptor positive breast cancers).

HORMONE

Chemicals secreted by various organs in the body that help regulate growth, metabolism, and reproduction.

HORMONE RECEPTOR-POSITIVE (HR+)

See ER positive.

HUMAN EPIDERMAL GROWTH FACTOR RECEPTOR 2

See HER2

IBRANCE® (PALBOCICLIB)

A CDK4/6 inhibitor (targeted therapy) used to treat ER positive HER2 negative advanced breast cancer.

LETROZOLE

An aromatase inhibitor used as hormone therapy to suppress estrogen production and prevent recurrence of ER-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women, or in combination with ovarian function suppression in premenopausal women.

LUTEINIZING HORMONE RELEASING HORMONE (LHRH)

A hormone in the brain that helps control the making of estrogen by the ovaries

LYMPH

Clear fluid circulating through the body in the lymphatic system (part of the immune system); it contains white blood cells and antibodies.

LYMPH NODES

Little glands or nodules that form part of the lymphatic system.

MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING (MRI)

A non-invasive method of imaging, which allows the form and metabolism of tissues and organs to be visualised (also known as nuclear magnetic resonance).

MENOPAUSE

The point in time when menstrual periods end.

METASTASIS

The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another through the lymphatic system or bloodstream. The cells in the new cancer location are the same type as those found in the original sites.

NEUTROPENIA

An abnormally low count of a type of white blood cells (neutrophils).

PALBOCICLIB (IBRANCE®)

See Ibrance®

POSITRON EMISSION TOMOGRAPHY (PET)

Use of radioactive material to see the shape and function of body parts.

PROGESTERONE

A hormone with key roles in menstruation, pregnancy, and embryogenesis; it is also involved in breast development, immune response and brain function. It may stimulate or inhibit growth of hormone receptor positive breast cancer depending on dose.

PROGESTERONE RECEPTOR-POSITIVE (PR+)

Describes cells that have a protein that binds to the hormone progesterone. Cancer cells that are PR+ may need progesterone to grow. These cells may stop growing or die when treated with substances that block the binding and actions of progesterone.

SIDE EFFECT

An unhealthy physical or emotional response to treatment.

TARGETED THERAPY

A general term for a medication or drug that targets a specific pathway in the growth and development of a tumour.

TUMOUR

A swelling or lump. Tumours can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

References

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