Health + Wellness

Common Breast Cancer Terms You Should Know


If you’re facing a breast cancer diagnosis, you may feel devastated, overwhelmed, and uncertain. Some of the language used by online breast cancer communities to describe research, terms, acronyms, and abbreviations are difficult to learn. If you’re wondering what some of the common language used in the breast cancer community means, this glossary is for you.

This glossary hopes to ease the way for the newly diagnosed, empowering you to jump into discussions with the knowledge of general breast cancer terms. After reading this list of medical terms, you should better understand breast cancer-related terms. 

RELATED: Treatment Options For TNBC

Early-Stage Breast Cancer

Breast cancer stage 1-3 that hasn’t metastasized to the bones or organs. Early-stage breast cancer is typically any breast cancer that is still contained to the breast. 


Estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor. If someone asks you what your hormone receptor status is, they’re asking if your cancer is ER/PR-positive or ER/PR negative. 

Flap Recon

A type of post-mastectomy reconstruction that involves making a breast mound out of tissue harvested from other parts of your body.

Types of flap recon may include:

  • Deep inferior epigastric artery perforator (DIEP) – blood vessels, fat, and skin from the abdomen
  • Gluteal artery perforator (GAP) – skin and fat from the buttocks
  • Latissimus dorsi flap reconstruction – blood vessels, fat, muscle, and skin from the upper back area. 
  • Transverse rectus abdominis muscle (TRAM) – fat, muscle, and skin from the lower abdomen
  • Transverse upper gracilis (TUG) – blood vessels, fat, muscle, and skin from the inner thigh


Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 – a protein that can play a role in the development of breast cancer. Treatment plans often depend on whether your HER2 status is negative or positive 


Hormone therapy. These drugs, like tamoxifen, are used to block estrogen in some tissues, while aromatase inhibitors lower estrogen levels. Hormone therapies help to prevent the recurrence or slow progression of cancer. 


Lymphatic dysfunction – swelling in the arms or other body parts after lymph nodes are surgically removed or damaged by radiation. Lymphedema may never develop, or it could develop years after a diagnosis. 


Metastatic breast cancer – cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, such as the brain, bones, liver, or lungs. Metastatic breast cancer is stage 4 cancer, which is the most advanced stage. 

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