Glossary of terms – Therapies
Terms relating to breast cancer therapies
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
AC chemotherapy – Adriamycin and Cyclophosphamide
AC is a combination of two chemotherapy drugs used mainly to treat primary breast cancer but also local recurrence, regional recurrence and metastatic breast cancer.
It takes its name from the initials of these drugs:
- doxorubicin (also known as Adriamycin)
A randomised trial recruiting patients in the UK and India who have had (or are currently having) treatment for an early stage cancer of the breast, bowel, stomach, oesophagus or prostate. Aiming to find out whether taking aspirin daily for 5 years after treatment for an early stage cancer can prevent recurrence.
Used to treat breast cancer in post-menopausal women, like Letrozole, Anastrozole (brand name Arimidex) works by cutting down the amount of oestrogen produced, by blocking aromatase, an enzyme involved in oestrogen production.
A blood transfusion is when you’re given blood from someone else (a donor). It’s used to replace blood that has been lost, or to replace cells, plasma or platelets.
Calcichew-D3 Forte tablets contain calcium and vitamin D3 which are both important substances in bone formation and may be prescribed to combat bone change caused by some breast cancer treatments.
Capecitabine is a cytostatic medicine which stops the growth of cancer cells and may be used either alone or in combination with other medicines.
Carbamazepine is a medicine used to treat epilepsy and is available in tablet, oral and suppository form.
Carboplatin and Docetaxel
Carboplatin and Docetaxel are administered intravenously as separate infusions, usually one after the other. Carboplatin works by interfering with cell division and Docetaxel works by blocking the growth of the cancer.
Clonidine can help reduce hot flushes and night sweats in some menopausal women and is taken in tablet form. It doesn’t affect hormone levels, so unlike HRT it doesn’t carry an increased risk of problems such as breast cancer.
A cold cap is a hat worn during some chemotherapy treatments. Its cooling effect reduces blood flow to the scalp, which also reduces the amount of chemotherapy medication that reaches this area. This helps to prevent hair loss.
It’s usually worn for 15 minutes before each chemotherapy treatment.
A chemotherapy drug that belongs to a class of chemotherapy drugs called plant alkaloids, also known as topoisomerase inhibitors. The plant alkaloids are cell-cycle specific so they attack the cells during various phases of division.
Also called a clinical trial, it compares the effects of one treatment with another. It may involve patients, non-patients, or both.
EC is the name of a chemotherapy combination made up of:
As a treatment for breast cancer it destroys quickly dividing cells, such as cancer cells. It is delivered intravenously.
E – CMF (Epi-CMF) is a chemotherapy combination used to treat breast cancer. It includes the drugs:
E (Epi) – epirubicin
C – cyclophosphamide
M – methotrexate
F – fluorouracil
Fulvestrant is a hormonal therapy drug used to treat advanced breast cancer and is given as intramuscular injections into the buttocks.
FEC is a combination treatment used to treat breast cancer and is made up of a combination of 5 fluorouracil (also known as 5FU), epirubicin and cyclophosphamide.
FEC-T is a combination treatment used to treat breast cancer and is made up of a combination of 5 fluorouracil (also known as 5FU), epirubicin, cyclophosphamide and docetaxel (also known as Taxotere).
Also known as the brand names Neupogen® and Granix®, filgrastim is used to stimulate the production of a type of white blood cells called granulocytes to combat neutropenia, a potential side effect of some chemotherapy treatment.
Goserlin, also known as Zoladex, is a type of hormone therapy used post-treatment in pre-menopausal women to prevent the ovaries from producing oestrogen.
Herceptin is the brand name of a medicine called trastuzumab. It’s used to treat some types of breast cancer, oesophageal cancer and stomach cancer.
Hormone driven therapies
Hormone therapy, also called endocrine therapy, is a treatment that blocks the effect of oestrogen on breast cancer cells. Different hormone therapy drugs, such as Tamoxifen, do this in different ways.
Ibrance is a brand name of Palbociclib, a targeted (biological) therapy. This group of drugs block the growth and spread of cancer. They target and interfere with processes in the cells that cause cancer to grow. When used to treat breast cancer, palbociclib is taken alongside hormone therapy.
Chemotherapy drugs can be delivered through an intravenous line such as a central line, PICC line or Portacath.
Kadcyla is a brand name for Trastuzumab Emtansine (TDM1) which is a targeted (biological) therapy, combining trastuzumab (Herceptin) and Emtansine, a chemotherapy drug which kills the cancer once inside the cell.
Prescribed to be taken in combination with another anti-cancer medicine, Lapatinib (brand name Tyverb / Tykerb) is used to treat HER2-overexpressing breast cancer which have metastasised. It may slow or stop cancer cells from growing or may kill them.
Letrozole (tradename Femara) is an aromatase inhibitor. The enzyme aromatase is involved in the production of oestrogens, blocking this enzyme can block the growth of breast cancer that needs oestrogens to grow.
A therapy for focal seizures. Can be used alone or as an add-on therapy and available in a number of forms including granules, tablets or oral solution.
Lupron is a brand name of Leuprolide, a hormone therapy classified as a luteinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) agonist. It is used for prostate, breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer and is usually given as a subcutaneous or intramuscular injection.
Treatment given to those in remission from breast cancer to prevent it from coming back. This can include drugs such as Tamoxifen, vaccines or antibodies.
Ondansetron is an antiemetic used mainly for nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy or radiotherapy. It is also used for nausea and vomiting after an operation or caused by some pain-killing medicines.
Used to treat metastatic breast cancer, a Paclitaxel Injection can either be combined with an anthracycline (e.g. doxorubicin) or with trastuzumab (for patients for whose cancer cells have a protein on their surface called HER 2.
Perjeta, the brand name for pertuzumab, is used in combination with Herceptin in chemotherapy for HER2-postive, locally advanced, inflammatory or early stage breast cancer.
A Port-a-cath (Port) is a device placed under the skin in the right side of the chest. It is attached to a catheter that is threaded into a large vein above the right side of the heart called the superior vena cava. A port-a-cath is used to give intravenous fluids, blood transfusions, chemotherapy, and other drugs. It is also used for taking blood samples. A port-a-cath may stay in place for weeks or months and helps avoid the need for repeated injections.
Radiotherapy uses controlled doses of radiation to kill cancer cells.
Tamoxifen is a type of hormone (endocrine) therapy used to treat breast cancer in both pre and post-menopausal women. It can also be taken by men who have breast cancer.
Xgeva is a brand name of denosumab, a type of targeted therapy called a monoclonal antibody and is used to prevent fractures and other cancer related bone problems in adults with bone metastases.
It works by targeting a protein called RANKL which controls the activity of osteoclasts. This stops bone cells being broken down and strengthens the bone.
Belonging to a group of substances called bisphosphonates, Zoledronic acid works by attaching itself to the bone and slowing down the rate of bone change. It is used to prevent fractures in adult patients with bone metastases.