Glossary of terms – Diagnosis
Terms relating to breast cancer diagnosis
This list is not exhaustive, it contains terms experienced by supporters of Against Breast Cancer who have each chosen to share their own stories in the hope that they might serve to educate or inform others.
The glossary of terms contains both a definition and a link to an external site* to provide further reading.
*Against Breast Cancer is not responsible for the content of external sites
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is diagnosed when non-invasive cancerous cells are found in the milk ducts.
Fibroadenoma is a benign, non-cancerous lump in the breast. It typically occurs in younger women under the age of 35 but can occur when older and very occasionally in men. You should still see a doctor if a lump is found to ensure it isn’t breast cancer.
The grade of a cancer outlines how quickly it might grow and is decided based on what the cancer cells look like under a microscope compared with normal cells. For example:
Grade 1 – The cancer cells look similar to normal cells and usually grow slowly. They are also deemed less likely to spread.
Grade 2 – The cancer cells look more abnormal and grow slightly faster.
Grade 3 – The cancer cells look very different from normal cells and generally grow faster.
HER2 is found in all human cells and controls cell growth and repair. HER2 positive breast cancer is diagnosed when high levels of HER2 are found, which helps the cancer cells grow and survive.
Invasive lobular breast cancer
Invasive lobular breast cancer is diagnosed when it is found that the cancer that started in the cells lining the lobules (milk-producing glands) has spread into the surrounding breast tissue.
Breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body. If this happens, it’s known as secondary, advanced, or metastatic breast cancer.
Oestrogen receptive breast cancer
Breast cancers with receptors for the hormone oestrogen are called oestrogen-receptor positive or ER positive breast cancer.
Oestrogen receptor negative
(ER) negative or Oestrogen-receptor breast cancers don’t have these hormone receptors
Remission may be classed as partial or complete and describes a decrease or disappearance of visible signs and symptoms of cancer. In partial remission, some, but not all, signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. In complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared, although cancer still may be in the body.
Breast cancer can also be divided into four numbered stages based on size and location of the tumour.
Stage 1 and 2 breast cancer is often called ‘early breast cancer’.
Stage 3 breast cancer is sometimes called ‘locally advanced’ breast cancer.
Stage 4 breast cancer is also called ‘secondary’ or ‘metastatic’ breast cancer.
Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC)
Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) does not have receptors for oestrogen, progesterone or HER2 protein. Current understanding estimates that TNBC occurs in 15 out of every 100 breast cancers.
Triple positive breast cancer
Triple positive breast cancer is cancer that tests positive for high levels of HER2, ER (estrogen receptors) and PR (progesterone receptors).
Where the cause of a disease or condition is unknown.