Welcome to Cambridge Pink Week: Education!

Pink Week may be loads of fun, but we also want everyone to remember what we’re raising money for. Our Education Officer has put together a load of great material to learn more about the cause! If you think there’s anything else you’d like to see on this page then please feel free to get in touch with the Pink Week Committee.

Let's find out more

How common is breast cancer?

  • Every two minutes someone is diagnosed with cancer in the UK. According to Cancer Research UK, this equates to about 367,000 new cases every year – more than 1000 every day. Of these, around 15% are new breast cancer cases, which is about 55,000 a year. Luckily, cancer research estimates that around 23% of these breast cancer cases are preventable, meaning that with wider awareness campaigns and research efforts, we can make a real difference in society.

How do I check myself?

  • We all know that we should do it, but very few people know how to. Everyone, all genders and ages, should check themselves regularly to help identify breast cancer early. And remember, you can check both yourselves and your partners.

What to know before you start:

    Breast tissue extends right up into the armpit and to the collar bone! This means cancer can occur here too, so don’t neglect this tissue when checking yourself.

    Breast tissue changes in consistency over the menstrual cycle. This is completely normal.

    Breast tissue is full milk ducts and connective tissue. These are also completely normal and can be felt as many small nodules. You should get to know what normal breast tissue feels like so if anything does change you are ready to act.

    If in doubt about anything, talk to your GP who can provide you with expert advice.


What does the NHS say?

    The NHS recommends feeling each breast up to the collarbone and into the armpit. Look at them in the mirror from the front and from the side with your arms by your side and also with them raised.

    Follow the Breast Cancer Care Acronym – TLC, Touch, Look, Check.


Step 1: What do they LOOK like?

    Get used to what your breasts normally look like. This way, you’ll notice any changes

    Look to see any of the following signs:

    Changes in skin texture, such as dimpling or puckering, often called an ‘orange peel’ appearance;

    A sudden change in size, outline or shape of the breast(s);

    Any swellings or redness

    Changes in nipple position, such as being pulled in, or changes in direction;

    Nipple discharge that’s not milky;

    A rash or ‘crusty’ appearance of the nipple and the surrounding area, which doesn’t heal easily.


Step 2: raise your arms and repeat

      This gives you a better look at the entire breast and to give you a peek into the armpits.



Step 3: Feel your breasts while lying down

      Lying down will give you the best access to all the tissue.

      Keep your hands flat on your skin and use a firm smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand.

      Push down firmly onto the breast tissue, starting from the top in your armpit and ending at the bottom, in any pattern you wish as long as you cover all the tissue. For example, some people carry out a clockwise path, while others travel up and down in rows.

      Some women find it easier to feel their breasts in the shower, as it is easier to feel wetter skin.


What are you feeling for?

      A new lump, bumpy area or thickening in the breast or armpit;

      Swelling in the armpit region, or around the collar bone;

      Any long-lasting discomfort or pain in the breast(s), particularly if it’s not going away.

Can men and transgender individuals get breast cancer?

  • Breast cancer is not a female only disease – in fact, it can occur in anyone with breast tissue, meaning men, women, and transgender individuals. Around 55,000 women and 370 men are diagnosed every year in the UK – in fact it is the 20th most common cancer in men. A recent study found that transgender women are in fact 47 times more likely to develop breast cancer if they are on hormone treatment. So, it is important for all of us, regardless of gender, to be aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and to know how to check yourselves.


    The risk of breast cancer does increase as you age – 8 out of 10 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women aged 50 or over, and 25% of cases are in women aged 75 or over. However, this doesn’t mean that checking yourself is less important when you are younger- getting used to knowing your normal will increase the chance of noticing a change in the future. Plus, cancer can occur in younger women- 2,200 women in the UK are diagnosed aged 39 or under. So, get checking! 

How do I reduce my risk of getting breast cancer?

  • What factors increase the risk of developing cancer is a complex question but it is known to be influenced by both lifestyle and genetics. For example, some people inherit genes that increase the risk of cancer. On the other hand, there are numerous environmental factors that can contribute to this risk factor, such as smoking and obesity. Taking breast cancer as an example, up to 80% of cases are due to chance or environmental factors (figure). However, genetics and the environment are tightly intertwined, so even if you have got a predisposition to a particular cancer, healthy lifestyles and attending regular checkups are just as important.


    There are various things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer. Since being overweight is a large risk factor in cancer, maintaining a healthy balanced diet will be beneficial. For example, eat lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, but avoid foods high in sugar, red meat, and salt. Sports are also beneficial, especially in breast cancer due to the great impact of the hormone balance of the body on breast cancer development. Smoking and high alcohol consumption are also risk factors for many cancers including breast cancer.


    Since some cancers can be caused by viruses, keeping up to date with your vaccinations is also recommended. For example, HPV is relevant in cervical cancer and Hepatitis in liver cancer.



    When it comes to breast cancer, there are various recommendations that relate particularly to women. Firstly, if possible, breast feeding should be tried as research has shown that it has cancer reducing effects, although the aetiology is unknown. Secondly, avoiding hormone treatments during menopause has been found to be protective against cancer. Finally, hormone-based contraceptives such as the contraceptive pill is a complicated issue as it has been found to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer whilst increasing the risk of breast, liver, and cervical cancer, so the verdict is not yet out. 

What to say to someone with cancer – how can I better support the people I care about?

  • When someone we care about is diagnosed with cancer, we want to do the best we can to support them through the journey. However, often it is difficult to know what to say and what to avoid, and this can sometimes result in us not saying anything at all. Luckily, many of the wonderful people in the community have written some excellent guides and blog posts about the sort of things that they would and would not want to hear from there family and friends.

Below are just some of the phrases that various articles have suggested or emphasised avoiding. The list is of course not exhaustive and may not apply to every situation:


“I’m here for you.” 

• “Let me help you with…” 

• “You are not alone.” 

• “If you ever feel like talking, I’m here to listen.” 

• “I’m sorry this has happened to you” 

• “What day works for a visit?” 

• “You are beautiful.” 

• “I care about you” 

• “There are so many things to love about you.” 

• “Did you see the latest episode?”


And here are some less useful phrases that you should avoid:


• “I know just how you feel” 

• “Don’t worry” 

• “How long do you have?” 

• “I’m sure you’ll be just fine” 

• “look on the bright side / just be positive” 

• it may not be helpful to share the stories of other people you 

• “have you tried….?” 

• “Remember there’s always someone worse off than you”


And remember, non-verbal communication can be just as powerful as verbal communication. Comfortable silences, attentive listening, body language, and facial expressions are tools that can be used.


How is breast cancer treated?

  • Treatment will depend on the grade and type of tumour. Surgical management includes either tumour excision, where the tumour tissue is removed from the breast, leaving the breast in place afterwards, or a mastectomy whereby all the breast tissue is removed followed by optional reconstruction immediately or at a later date.


    There are also adjuvant therapies that the doctors will consider, including chemotherapies and radiotherapy, again depending on the grade of tumour but also on other particular features. For example, some of the monoclonal antibodies used in breast cancer chemotherapies relies on the presence of the HER2 receptor in the tumour cells, leading to the idea of personalised medicine. Indeed, a crucial part of the cancer care pathway in the UK involves sending samples of tumours to a genetic sequencing laboratory in America, and here they identify markers that make the cancer more or less susceptible to certain therapies so the correct and most effective treatment is given. 


What is metastatic/secondary breast cancer?

  • Secondary breast cancer occurs when tumour cells spread from the primary site (the breast) via the blood or lymphatic vessels to another part of the body, most commonly the liver, brain, bones, and lungs. This can occur months or years after the original diagnosis. The management involves similar therapies to the treatment of primary breast cancer – surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and hormone therapy. 


Our charities

Breast Cancer Now is the UK’s first comprehensive breast cancer charity, supporting those diagnosed with primary and secondary breast cancer as well as investing millions in life saving research. At the moment they are funding around 80 cutting-edge projects around the UK worth £26 million.


Breast Cancer Haven is one of the smaller charities we support, and they do amazing work creating personalised support programmes to those diagnosed with breast cancer, as well as counselling for both the patient and their families. We had an amazing time participating in their Dance-A-Thon this past weekend!


We are proud to be supporting Coppafeel! It is the first breast cancer charity in the UK to have its central focus be raising awareness among young people. They aim to equip young people with life-saving knowledge and tools for detecting breast cancer as early as possible, and their message is light-hearted, young and empowering!

Black Women Rising is a powerful movement that was started to support those in the BAME community who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, be it through cancer treatments or remission.


Breast Cancer UK focuses on the prevention of breast cancer through education, scientific research, collaboration and policy change. They believe in the ability to reduce rates of breast cancer through lifestyle changes, and they fund research into this crucial prevention. They also campaign for policies and processes to put prevention at the heart of addressing the disease, and so doing aim to reduce breast cancer rates in the UK by a quarter.


Teenage Cancer Trust is the only UK charity dedicated to helping 13 to 24 year olds diagnosed with cancer receive specialized care and support. Young people are at the heart of everything they do and they ensure young people do not face cancer alone, recognising that this age group experience a unique set of challenges in the face of diagnosis.



Abdomen Belly.

Ablation Removal of or stopping a part of the body from working by surgery, hormone therapy or radiotherapy.

Abraxane A type of chemotherapy drug used to treat breast cancer.

AC chemotherapy A combination of the chemotherapy drugs Adriamycin (also known as doxorubicin) and cyclophosphamide.

Adjuvant Treatment given after initial treatment, for example  chemotherapy or radiotherapy given after surgery.

Adriamycin see Doxorubicin

Advanced breast cancer Breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast and the lymph nodes under the arm to other parts of the body. Also known as secondary, stage 4 or metastatic breast cancer.

Adverse effect An undesired or harmful effect resulting from treatment.

Alopecia Loss of hair from the head or body.

Alternative therapy Term used to describe therapies used by some people in place of standard medical treatment.

Anaemia Too few red blood cells in the body. It may cause symptoms including tiredness, shortness of breath and weakness.

Anastrozole A hormone therapy and one of a group of drugs called aromatase inhibitors. It may be known by different brand names, the most well-known being Arimidex.

Anthracyclines A group of chemotherapy drugs commonly used to treat breast cancer. Examples include doxorubicin (also known as Adriamycin) and epirubicin.

Anti-emetics Drugs used to reduce nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting (being sick).

Areola Coloured area of skin around the nipple.

Arimidex see Anastrozole

Aromasin see Exemestane

Aromatase inhibitors Breast cancer treatment that works by reducing the amount of oestrogen in the body. A type of hormone (endocrine) therapy.

Ascites A build-up of fluid between the two layers of the peritoneum (a membrane which forms the lining of the abdomen). 

Avastin see Bevacizumab

Axilla Under the arm, the armpit.

Axillary clearance An operation to remove all the lymph nodes (also called lymph glands) from under the arm (axilla).

Axillary nodes The lymph nodes (also called lymph glands) under the arm (axilla).

Axillary sampling An operation to remove some of the lymph nodes (also called lymph glands) from under the arm (axilla).

Benign Not cancer.

Bevacizumab A targeted therapy, also known as Avastin. It works by stopping the cancer cells from developing their own blood supply. This can help to stop the cancer from growing.

Bilateral Affecting or about both the right and left sides of body. For example, a bilateral mastectomy is removal of both breasts.

Biological therapies see Targeted therapies

Biopsy Removal of tissue to be looked at under a microscope.

Biosimilars Drugs that are very similar, but not identical, copies of biological therapies.

Bisphosphonates A group of drugs for:

  • reducing the risk of breast cancer coming back in post-menopausal women
  • treating secondary breast cancer in the bone
  • preventing or treating osteoporosis

Examples of bisphosphonates include sodium clodronate, zolendronic acid and ibandronic acid.

Blood cells Tiny structures produced in bone marrow. Includes red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

Blood count The numbers of red and white blood cells and platelets in a sample of blood.

Bone marrow Spongy material found in the hollow part of the bone where red and white blood cells and platelets are produced.

Bone metastases Also known as secondary breast cancer in the bone. Cancer cells that have spread from the breast to the bones.

Bone scan A test to help identify any abnormal changes, such as tumours, infection or fractures, in the bones.

Brain metastases Also known as secondary breast cancer in the brain. Cancer cells that have spread from the breast to the brain.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 People who inherit an altered BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene from either parent have a much higher risk of developing breast cancer and some other cancers compared with the general population.

Breast calcification Areas of calcium deposit in one or both of the breasts.

Breast care nurse Provides information and support to people diagnosed with breast cancer.

Breast-conserving surgery Also known as wide local excision or lumpectomy. The removal of the cancer with a margin (border) of normal breast tissue around it.

Breast density refers to the amount of fibrous and glandular tissue compared with fatty tissue in the breast. A woman has high breast density when there is more collagen and glandular tissue compared to fatty tissue in her breasts, and low breast density when there is more fatty tissue compared to glandular tissue and collagen.

Breast reconstruction Surgery to rebuild a breast after a tumour is removed. 

Breasts Made up of lobules (milk-producing glands) and ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple). These are surrounded by glandular, fibrous and fatty tissue. This tissue gives breasts their size and shape

Cannula A small plastic tube through which drugs are given into a vein, usually in the arm or hand.

Capecitabine Also known as Xeloda. A type of chemotherapy drug taken as a tablet.

Carboplatin A chemotherapy drug sometimes used to treat breast cancer.

Carcinoma Another word for cancer.

Cardiotoxicity Damage to the heart muscle causing the heart to become weaker and less efficient. Caused by some chemotherapy and targeted therapy drugs.

Cell proliferation An increase in the number of cells as a result of them multiplying and growing.

Cells Tiny structures found in all living organisms.

Cellulitis An infection of the skin and tissue beneath the skin. People who have lymphoedema have an increased risk of cellulitis in the arm or chest area.

Chemoprevention is a way to reduce the risk of a disease by taking medication. The drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene are now available on the NHS for some women with an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Chemotherapy Treatment that destroys cancer cells using anti-cancer drugs.

Chest wall Skin, muscles and bones that make up the area of the body between the neck and the abdomen (belly).

Chronic A term used to describe an illness, disease or condition that is long lasting and generally slow to progress.

CISH (chromogenic in situ hybridization) A test for measuring HER2 levels in cancer cells.

Cisplatin A chemotherapy drug sometimes used to treat breast cancer.

Clinical trials Research that aims to improve treatment or care for patients.

CMF A combination of three chemotherapy drugs – cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and 5-fluorouracil (5FU).

Cognitive impairment Difficulty concentrating or being more forgetful as a result of a cancer diagnosis or treatment. Sometimes called ‘chemo brain’ or ‘chemo fog’.

Complementary therapies A varied group of therapies used alongside conventional medical treatments.

Contralateral The other or opposite side, for example the contralateral breast.

Cording (also known as axillary web syndrome) Tight ‘cords’ of tissue stretching down the inside of the arm, which can occur after surgery to remove lymph nodes under the arm. Causes pain and restricts arm movement. Sometimes cords can be felt in the chest area too.

Core biopsy Biopsy using a hollow needle to take one or more samples of tissue for analysis under a microscope.

CT (computerised tomography) scan A type of scan that uses x-rays to take detailed pictures across the body.

CyberKnife see Stereotactic radiotherapy

Cyclophosphomide A chemotherapy drug used to treat breast cancer.

DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) An early type of breast cancer where the cells have not yet developed the ability to spread out of the ducts into surrounding breast tissue or to other parts of the body. Sometimes called pre-invasive, intraductal or non-invasive cancer.

DDISH (dual-color dual-hapten brightfield in situ hybridization) A test for measuring HER2 levels in cancer cells.

Denosumab (Prolia) A targeted therapy used to treat osteoporosis.

Denosumab (Xgeva) A targeted therapy used to treat the effects of secondary breast cancer in the bone.

DEXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) scan A scan that measures bone mineral density. Used to diagnose or monitor osteoporosis, or assess the risk of developing it.

Diagnostic radiographer Someone trained to carry out x-rays and scans.

DIEP (deep inferior epigastic perforator) flap A type of breast reconstruction that uses the skin and fat between the belly button and the groin.

Differentiation How different cancer cells are when compared to normal cells. Well-differentiated cancer cells look almost normal (a similar size and shape to normal cells); moderately differentiated cancer cells look less like normal cells (often larger and more varied shapes); poorly differentiated cancer cells look most changed and are usually fast growing.

Docetaxel A chemotherapy drug also known as Taxotere. One of a group of chemotherapy drugs called taxanes.

Doxorubicin A chemotherapy drug also known as Adriamycin. One of a group of chemotherapy drugs known as anthracyclines.

Drug resistance The ability of cancer cells to resist the effects of a drug.

ECHO (echocardiogram) A type of ultrasound of the heart, to check how well it is working.

EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) Proteins on the surface of cells. When there are higher than normal levels (known as over expression) on cancer cells, they stimulate growth.

Embolism When blood flow is blocked, usually by a blood clot or air bubble.

Encapsulated Surrounded and encased. For example, an encapsulated breast implant has been encased by a build-up of dense, tough tissue, also called fibrous tissue.

Endocrine therapy see Hormone therapy

Endometrial cancer Cancer of the lining of the womb (uterus).

Epirubicin A chemotherapy drug used to treat breast cancer. One of a group of chemotherapy drugs known as anthracyclines.

Eribulin Also called Halaven. A chemotherapy drug used to treat breast cancer.

ER status ER positive (ER+) means the breast cancer has oestrogen receptors. ER negative (ER-) means the breast cancer doesn’t have oestrogen receptors (see Oestrogen receptors)

Everolimus Also known as Afinitor. A targeted therapy used to treat secondary breast cancer and given with the aromatase inhibitor exemestane.

Excision Surgical removal.

Exemestane A hormone therapy drug, also known as Aromasin. One of a group of drugs called aromatase inhibitors.

Expander implant A type of breast implant used in breast reconstruction. The implant is gradually inflated with saline (salt water) through a small port.

Faslodex see Fulvestrant

FEC A combination of the chemotherapy drugs 5-flurouracil (5FU), epirubicin and cyclophosphamide.

FEC-T A combination of the chemotherapy drugs 5-flurouracil (5FU), epirubicin, cyclophosphamide and Taxotere (docetaxel).

Femara see Letrozole

Fibrocystic A benign (not cancer) breast condition when multiple cysts or lumpy areas develop in one or both breasts.

Filgrastim A type of GCSF, also known as Neupogen

Fine needle aspiration (FNA) Using a fine needle and syringe to take a sample of cells for analysis under a microscope.

FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization) A test for measuring HER2 levels in cancer cells. FISH negative (FISH-) means normal levels are present, FISH positive (FISH+) means excessive amounts are present, classed as HER2+.

Fluorouracil Also known as 5FU. A chemotherapy drug used to treat breast cancer.

Fraction Each radiotherapy treatment is known as a fraction. Treatment involves several fractions given over a few days or weeks.

Fulvestrant Also known as Faslodex. A hormone therapy used to treat post-menopausal women with secondary breast cancer.

Gamma knife see Stereotactic radiotherapy

GCSF (granulocyte-colony stimulating factor) A drug that boosts the levels of white blood cells in the body when they are low, for example during chemotherapy treatment.

Gemcitabine A chemotherapy drug sometimes used to treat breast cancer, also known as Gemzar.

Gemzar see Gemcitabine

Gene Stores the biological information we inherit from our parents, affecting the way we look and how our bodies work and grow.

Goserelin A hormone therapy drug, also known as Zoladex

Grade The system used to classify cancer cells according to how different they are to normal breast cells and how quickly they are growing.

HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) A protein involved in the growth of cells. Around 15–20% of breast cancers have higher than normal levels of HER2 (known as HER2 positive) which stimulates the cancer to grow.

Herceptin see Trastuzumab

Hereditary Characteristics, conditions or illnesses that can be passed from a parent to their child through genes.

Hickman line Also known as a skin-tunnelled catheter. A fine silicone tube through which chemotherapy drugs are given. It’s put into a large vein through a small cut in the chest wall, and can stay in place for several months.

Hormone receptor Involved in the growth of cells. In some breast cancers they bind to hormones within the cells (known as hormone receptor positive) and stimulate the cancer to grow.

Hormone therapy (also called Anti-hormone therapy or endocrine therapy) Drugs that work in different ways to block the effect of oestrogen on cancer cells. Only used if the breast cancer is hormone receptor positive.

Hormones Chemical messengers produced in various organs of the body that control growth and reproduction.

HRT (hormone replacement therapy) A treatment containing female sex hormones – either oestrogen alone or a combination of oestrogen and progesterone – to help reduce menopausal symptoms.

Hypercalcaemia Higher than normal levels of calcium in the blood. Can be caused by secondary breast cancer in the bones.

Hyperplasia An increase in the number and growth of cells.

Hypocalcaemia Lower than normal levels of calcium in the blood.

IHC (immunohistochemistry) A test for measuring HER2 levels in cancer cells. A score of 0 or 1+ means the breast cancer is HER2 negative. A score of 2+ is borderline and a score of 3+ means the breast cancer is HER2 positive.

Imaging Techniques, including mammography, that allow doctors to get a detailed picture of internal body structures.

Immune response An automatic defence function of the body that recognises and protects it from infection and foreign bodies, for example.

Immunosuppression Reduced ability of the body to protect against infection and disease. Can be caused by chemotherapy.

Immunotherapy A treatment that involves helping the immune system to recognise and attack cancer cells.

Incidence refers to how many people are diagnosed with a disease per year. It can be expressed as a number or as a rate, for example the number of people diagnosed per 100,000 of a population.

In situ (breast cancer) Breast cancer that has not developed the ability to spread outside the ducts, either within the breast or elsewhere in the body.

Infertility Being unable to get pregnant. May be temporary or permanent and can be caused by chemotherapy, for example.

Inflammation Swelling, redness or warmth caused by the reaction of body tissues to injury, infection or irritation.

Inflammatory breast cancer A rare type of breast cancer where the skin of the breast looks red, and may feel warm and tender (‘inflamed’).

Infusion A method of delivering fluids or drugs, usually into a vein.

Intraductal see DCIS

Intramuscular (IM) Injected into the muscle.

Intravenous (IV) Injected into the vein.

Invasive cancer Cancer that has the potential to spread to other parts of the body.

Ipsilateral On the same side, as opposed to contralateral

Kadcyla Also called trastuzumab emtansine. A targeted therapy used to treat HER2 positive breast cancer.

Ki67 A protein found in cells. The higher the levels, the faster the cells are dividing and growing.

Lapatinib A type of targeted therapy, also known as Tyverb, and one of a group of cancer drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs).

LD (latissimus dorsi) flap A type of breast reconstruction that uses the latissimus dorsi (a large muscle in the back just below the shoulder blade), along with skin and fat.

Letrozole A hormone therapy, also known as Femara. One of a group of drugs called aromatase inhibitors.

Local recurrence see Recurrence

Local treatment Specific to an area of the body, for example surgery or radiotherapy.

Locally advanced breast cancer Also known as regional recurrence. See Recurrence

Lumpectomy An operation to remove an area of breast tissue. In breast cancer may also be called wide local excision or breast-conserving surgery.

Lymph nodes Also known as lymph glands. Small oval-shaped structures found in clusters throughout the lymphatic system, for example under the arm (axilla).

Lymphatic system The drainage and filtering system of the body, made up of lymph nodes (lymph glands), vessels and fluid. Helps to get rid of waste and fight infection.

Lympho-vascular invasion When breast cancer cells invade (spread into) the lymph and blood vessels within the breast, and can be seen in these vessels under the microscope.

Lymphoedema Swelling of the arm, hand or breast/chest area caused by a build-up of lymph fluid in the surface tissues of the body. It can occur as a result of damage to the lymphatic system, for example because of surgery and/or radiotherapy to the lymph nodes under the arm and surrounding area.

Malignant Cancer (abnormal cells that divide and grow in an uncontrolled way).

Mammogram A breast x-ray.

Mastectomy This is a type of surgery in which all of the breast tissue is removed, including the nipple. A modified radical mastectomy also involves removing some of the lymph nodes under the armpit and some muscle from the chest wall.


Metastases Another name for secondary breast cancer

Methotrexate A chemotherapy drug used to treat breast cancer.

Mets Short for metastases.

Microcalcifications Small deposits of calcium in the breast. They show up as white dots on a mammogram, and are sometimes a sign of DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ).

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan A type of scan that uses magnetism and radio waves to produce a series of images of the inside of the body. An MRI doesn’t expose the body to x-ray radiation.

MUGA (multiple-gated acquisition) A scan using a small amount of radioactive material, to check how well the heart is working.

Multi-centric When there is more than one area of breast cancer in different quarters of the breast.

Multi-focal When there is more than one area of breast cancer but only in one quarter of the breast.

Navelbine see Vinorelbine

Neo-adjuvant Treatment given before surgery. Examples are chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Sometimes called primary, for example primary hormone therapy.

Neupogen A type of GCSF

Neutropenia When the number of white blood cells falls below a certain level. May happen as a side effect of chemotherapy. If there is also a high temperature (above 38°C), it’s known as febrile neutropenia.

Occult breast cancer Breast cancer that can’t be felt or seen on imaging (for example, mammogram or ultrasound). It’s usually diagnosed when someone is being investigated for symptoms elsewhere in the body, for example enlarged lymph nodes. Sometimes a biopsy in another part of the body shows cells that look like secondary breast cancer cells, indicating there is a primary cancer in the breast, even though it can’t be seen.

Oestrogen receptors Proteins that attach to the hormone oestrogen and stimulate (help) the cancer to grow. May be abbreviated to ER, from the US spelling estrogen.

Oligometastatic disease Small, isolated areas of secondary breast cancer that are stable (not progressing) and usually present in only one place in the body (oligo means ‘little’ or ‘few’).

Oncologist A doctor who specialises in cancer (oncology). A medical oncologist specialises in cancer drugs. A clinical oncologist specialises in radiotherapy alone or radiotherapy and cancer drugs.

Oncoplastic surgeon A breast cancer surgeon with training in plastic surgery.

OSNA (one step nucleic acid amplification) A test used during surgery to see if breast cancer cells are in the lymph nodes under the arm.

Osteopenia Decreased bone mineral density (a measurement of bone strength) but not low enough to be diagnosed as osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis Literally means ‘porous bones’. Decreased bone mineral density (a measurement of bone strength), meaning thinner, weaker bones that are more likely to break. It’s usually diagnosed with a bone density scan (often called a DEXA scan).

Ovarian suppression Sometimes called ovarian ablation. Stopping the ovaries producing oestrogen using surgery, drugs or radiotherapy.

Paclitaxel Also known as Taxol. A chemotherapy drug and one of a group of drugs called taxanes.

Palliative care Focuses on symptom control and support when cancer cannot be cured. Usually involves a team of healthcare professionals such as specialist nurses, doctors, social workers and physiotherapists.

Palliative care consultant A doctor who specialises in palliative care.

Palliative care nurse A nurse who specialises in palliative care.

Palliative treatment Aims to control symptoms and slow down the progress of cancer, rather than cure it.

PARP inhibitors PARP (poly-ADP ribose polymerase) is a type of protein that helps to repair damaged cells in the body. PARP inhibitors are used in cancer treatment to stop the PARP from repairing cancer cells, causing them to die.

Pathology The branch of medicine that looks at how disease affects the body’s cells and tissues. Each time you have tissue removed a report is written by a pathologist (a doctor who examines the tissue).

Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) A tube put into a vein in the arm through which chemotherapy drugs are given. It stays in place throughout the course of treatment.

Perjeta see Pertuzumab

Pertuzumab Also called Perjeta. A targeted therapy used to treat HER2 positive breast cancer.

PET (positron emission tomography) scan A scan that produces a 3D image  to show the structure and function of organs or tissue being looked at. Sometimes combined with a CT scan.

Plastic surgeon A specialist surgeon trained in plastic surgery techniques such as breast reconstruction.

Portacath Also called an implanted port. A portacath consists of a port (rubber disc) connected to a thin tube. The port is put under the skin, usually in the chest. The other end of the tube goes into a large vein just above the heart. Drugs are then given into the port.

Primary breast cancer Breast cancer that has not spread beyond the breast or the lymph nodes (lymph glands) under the arm (axilla).

Progesterone A naturally occurring female hormone. It is essential for normal sexual development and the functioning of female reproductive organs.

Progesterone receptors Proteins within cancer cells that attach to the hormone progesterone (may be abbreviated to PR).

Prognosis An estimate of the likely outlook of a disease, such as the likelihood of it coming back (recurrence) and the person’s life expectancy.

Prosthesis An artificial breast form used to restore shape when all or part of the breast has been removed.

Quality of life is a term often used by healthcare professionals and researchers to refer to the well-being of patients during and after their breast cancer treatment. Quality of life can be affected by any of the experiences a patient has from diagnosis through to surviving breast cancer, including the physical, psychological and social implications of the disease and its treatment.

Radiologist A doctor who specialises in the use of imaging (for example x-rays, ultrasound, CT, PET, MRI) to diagnose and treat disease.

Radiotherapy The use of high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells.

Reconstruction Surgery that rebuilds the breast shape after all or part of the breast has been removed.

Recurrence When a disease or condition returns. There are different types of breast cancer recurrence.

  • Local recurrence Breast cancer that has come back in the chest/breast area or in the skin near the original site or scar.
  • Locally advanced breast cancer (also known as regional recurrence) Breast cancer that has come back and has spread to the tissues and lymph nodes (lymph glands) around the chest, neck and under the breastbone.
  • Distant recurrence Also called metastatic, advanced, stage 4 or secondary breast cancer. When cancer cells from the breast have spread to other parts of the body such as the bones, lungs, liver or brain.

Remission When the signs and symptoms of a disease partly or completely disappear. This may be temporary or permanent.

Risk factor Something that increases a person’s chance of developing an illness such as cancer.

Saline implant A type of breast implant that contains a sterile liquid solution (saline). Used in breast reconstruction.

Secondary breast cancer When cancer cells from the breast have spread to other parts of the body such as the bones, lungs, liver or brain. Also called metastases, advanced breast cancer, secondaries or stage 4 breast cancer.

Selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) A type of targeted internal radiotherapy that uses radioactive beads to deliver radiation to the cancer.

Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) Identifies whether the sentinel lymph node (the first lymph node that the cancer cells are most likely to spread to) is clear of cancer cells. Sometimes called sentinel node biopsy (SNB).

Seroma A collection of fluid that forms under a wound after an operation. It is a common and sometimes uncomfortable but harmless effect of breast surgery.

SGAP (super gluteal artery perforator) flap and IGAP (inferior gluteal artery perforator) flap Types of breast reconstruction that use fat and skin taken from the upper or lower buttock.

Side effect Unwanted effect of treatment.

Silicone implant A type of breast implant filled with silicone gel. Used in breast reconstruction.

Spinal cord compression Pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. It can be caused by the cancer growing in, or spreading into, the bones of the spine and can result in permanent damage to the spinal cord.

Stable disease The cancer has stayed the same size or has grown only a little.

Stage The size of the cancer and how far it has spread.

Stereotactic core biopsy Taking a sample of tissue using a needle biopsy device connected to a mammogram machine and linked to a computer. Helps locate the exact position of the area to be biopsied.

Stereotactic radiotherapy Also known as radiosurgery. A precise radiation treatment used in secondary breast cancer. May also be referred to as Gamma Knife or CyberKnife.

Steroids May be given as part of cancer treatment, for example to help with side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea and vomiting, or to control some symptoms caused by cancer.

Subcutaneous injection An injection into the fatty tissue under the skin.

Surgical margin How close the cancer cells are to the edges of the whole area of tissue removed during surgery.

Systemic treatment Drugs that treat the whole body, for example chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy.

Tamoxifen A hormone therapy drug used to treat oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer.

Targeted therapies Also known as biological therapies. A group of drugs that block the growth and spread of cancer. They target and interfere with processes in the cells that cause cancer to grow. 

Taxol see Paclitaxel

Taxotere see Docetaxel

TENS machine A small portable device that uses adhesive skin pads to deliver small electrical impulses to help relieve pain.

Terminal A term often used when someone is approaching the last few weeks or days of life.

Thrombosis Occurs when blood forms a clot. If the clot occurs in a major vein, the condition is known as a deep vein thrombosis or DVT.

Tissue Bank The Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank is a unique collaboration with four leading research institutions to create a vital resource of breast cancer tissue for researchers across the UK and Ireland – the UK’s first ever national cancer tissue bank. It is an initiative where tissue samples donated by patients from across the UK will be safely and consistently stored. These samples are then made available to scientists to study how and why breast cancer develops and spreads, and to devise the best possible treatments.

TP53 gene A gene that provides instructions for making a protein called tumour protein p53. Some people inherit an altered TP53 gene, which can result in a rare inherited cancer syndrome called Li-Fraumeni syndrome. This can increase the risk of getting breast cancer.

TRAM (transverse rectus abdominis muscle) flap A type of breast reconstruction that uses the large muscle that runs from the lower ribs to the pelvic bone in the groin along with skin and fat.

Trastuzumab A targeted therapy used to treat HER2 positive breast cancer, and one of a group of drugs called monoclonal antibodies. A well-known brand name is Herceptin.

Triple assessment An assessment to make a diagnosis of a benign breast condition or breast cancer. This has three parts:

  • a breast examination
  • breast imaging (for example, a mammogram or an ultrasound scan)
  • tissue sampling (for example, a core biopsy or FNA)

Triple negative breast cancer Around 15 per cent of breast cancers are found to be ‘triple negative’. This means they lack the three molecules which are used to classify breast cancers; the oestrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2).

TUG (transverse upper gracilis) flap or TMG (transverse myocutaneus gracilis) flap Types of breast reconstruction that use muscle from the inner or outer upper thigh along with skin and fat.

Tumour An overgrowth of cells forming a lump. May be benign (not cancer) or cancer.

Tumour markers Substances produced by cancer, or by the body as a response to cancer.

Tyverb see Lapatinib

Vacuum assisted biopsy Used to remove breast tissue for examination under a microscope, often when a previous biopsy was difficult to perform or more tissue is needed to make a diagnosis. Sometimes it can be used as an alternative to surgery to remove a whole area of breast tissue (called a vacuum assisted excision biopsy).

Vinorelbine Also known as Navelbine. A chemotherapy drug used to treat breast cancer.

Wide local excision (WLE) Surgery to remove breast cancer with a margin (border) of healthy tissue. Sometimes called breast-conserving surgery or lumpectomy.

X-ray Used to produce images of dense tissues in the body such as bone or lungs.

Xeloda see Capecitabine

Zoladex see Goserelin

Thank you to Breast Cancer Now for producing this incredibly informative glossary!

Pink Week Flyers from this year

Pink Week Flyers from last year