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Breast Cancer Glossary of Medical Terms

The terms which are underlined have active hyperlinks. Click on an underlined word for a more comprehensive discussion of the term.

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Tamoxifen This drug blocks the effects of estrogen on many organs, such as the breast. Blocking estrogen is desirable in some cases of breast cancer because estrogen promotes their growth. Recent research suggests that tamoxifen may lower the risk of developing breast cancer in women with certain risk factors.  

Taxol (generic name, paclitaxel): A drug sometimes used to treat breast cancer that has spread into and/or beyond the axillary (underarm) lymph nodes.

Taxotere: Generic name, docetaxel. Drug used to treat metastatic breast cancer in patients who have not responded well to standard chemotherapy.  Taxotere inhibits the division of breast cancer cells by acting on the cell's internal structures.

Therapy: Any measure taken to treat a disease. Unproven therapy is any therapy that has not been scientifically tested and approved. Use of an unproven therapy instead of standard therapy is called alternative therapy. Taking vitamin supplements or herbs to help treat breast cancer is an example of an alternative therapy.  Some alternative therapies have dangerous or even life-threatening side effects. For others, the main danger is that a patient may lose the opportunity to benefit from standard therapy. Complementary therapy, on the other hand, refers to therapies used in addition to standard therapy. Some complementary therapies may help relieve certain symptoms of cancer, relieve side effects of standard cancer therapy, or improve a patient's sense of well-being.  Patients should discuss alternative or complementary therapies with their physician before beginning them.

Thermography: A method in which heat from the breast is measured and mapped. Also called a thermogram or thermal imaging, this method is not yet reliable in detecting breast cancer.

Thrush: A yeast infection that develops in the baby's mouth and is characterized by white patches on the baby's tongue, gums, and cheeks inside the mouth. Thrush most commonly results from antibiotics taken by the mother or baby.

Tissue: A collection of cells, united to perform a particular function.

Tissue expander: A device used to stretch the remaining breast skin after a mastectomy. A tissue expander is similar to a balloon, and the surgeon will fill the expander with salt-water solution periodically (usually once a week). The expansion process typically takes three to four months. After the skin is sufficiently stretched, the surgeon will replace the expander with a permanent breast implant.  Also called breast expander.

TMN classification: The most commonly used method of breast cancer staging classification currently used by physicians.  The TMN system assigns a stage to a breast cancer (0-IV) based on tumor size (T), palpable nodes (N), and/or extent of spread (mestatasis, M).

Total mastectomy: See mastectomy.

TRAM flap: See transverse rectus abdominus muscle flap procedure.

Transillumination: See diaphanography.

Transscan: See electrical impedance imaging.

Transverse rectus abdominus muscle flap procedure: A method of breast reconstruction in which tissue from the lower abdominal wall which receives its blood supply from the rectus abdominus muscle is used. The tissue from this area is moved up to the chest to create a breast mound and usually does not require an implant. Moving muscle and tissue from the lower abdomen to the chest results in flattening of the lower abdomen (a "tummy tuck").  Also called a TRAM flap or rectus abdominus flap procedure.

Trastuzumab (brand name, Herceptin): See Herceptin.

T-Scan: See electrical impedance imaging.

Tumor: A growth (lump or mass) which has formed due to excessive accumulation of abnormal cells. "Tumor" is not a precise medical term. Tumors can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Two-step procedure: A method in which the breast biopsy for diagnosis and breast surgery for treatment (such as lumpectomy or mastectomy, if the diagnosis is breast cancer) are performed as two separate procedures, after an interval of days or weeks. This method is strongly preferred by women and their health care teams because it allows time to consider all options. (See also one-step procedure).

Tylectomy: See lumpectomy.

Updated: September 21, 2007