Glossary of terms – Diagnostic investigative tools
Terms relating to breast cancer diagnostic investigative tools
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
A biopsy is a medical procedure that involves taking a small sample of body tissue so it can be examined under a microscope. The term “biopsy” can also refer to the tissue sample itself.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
A fault (mutation) in certain genes can increase risk of breast cancer. Genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the main genes where mutations are linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Sometimes referred to as CAT scans, a computerised tomography (CT) scan uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of the body.
An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound scan used to look at the heart and nearby blood vessels.
An echocardiogram may be requested by a heart specialist (cardiologist), doctor or GP who wants to check the functioning of the heart.Learn more
Cancers develop due to a fault or mutation in one or more of the genes in a cell. Sometimes, these faults or mutations can be passed on from parent to child. These are called inherited cancer genes.
A common breast screening method, where an X-ray test is used to identify cancers which may be too small to see or feel.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body.
It can be used to examine almost any part of the body, including the brain and spinal cord, bones and joints, breasts, heart and blood vessels and internal organs, such as the liver, womb or prostate gland.
PALB2 is a gene that works with BRCA2 to repair DNA and prevent tumour growth. However a faulty or mutated PALB2 gene, like with BRCA1 and BRCA2, can significantly increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans are used to produce detailed 3-dimensional images of the inside of the body and can be used to detect abnormal areas and highlight how well certain functions of the body are working.
PET scans can be combined with CT scans and are known as a PET-CT scan, Or an MRI scan which is known as a PET-MRI scan.
Tumour Hypoxia refers to a situation where cells in the tumour are not getting enough oxygen. When this happens it can affect how the tumour behaves and how it responds to treatment. It can make the tumour more aggressive, which means it might grow faster or spread to other parts of the body more easily.
Oxygen is also important for treatments like radiation therapy and some types of chemotherapy to work effectively. Tumour cells without enough oxygen might not respond as well to these treatments, making it harder to shrink or control the tumour.
A non-invasive procedure commonly used to produce images of the inside of the body.