Breast Cancer Glossary: 41 Terms You Should Know

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer it was unimaginably overwhelming in so many ways. My head was spinning with questions and fears and like many newly diagnosed patients, I felt like I needed to quickly learn a new language. Little by little I began to understand my diagnosis and what it meant for me as a breast cancer patient. Now, 16 months later, I have come across all of these terms either through my own experiences, discussions with my doctors or by reading the endless sources of information that I have discovered along the way. In the beginning of my journey it would have been so helpful to have all of the information below in one place for me to reference. I hope by sharing this article I am able to help answer some of the questions you might have as a breast cancer patient or a caregiver to a breast cancer patient.

At the bottom of this article, Monica suggests writing your cancer story basics using this guide. I am finding that quite often people will ask me for this information whether it is in a new forum that I have joined or during a conversation I am having with someone new. I have included my cancer story basics here in this blog post and on my “About Me” page.

My Cancer Story Basics: I was Dx at age 51 w/ ER/PR+, HER2-, IDC. I have had ACT, Rads, and I am on a 10 yr plan w/ HT, Anastrozole. My cancerversary is the date of Dx on February 25th, 2019. I have had a partial mastectomy, port-a-cath insertion, reconstruction w/reduction mammoplasty and insertion of breast prosthesis following reconstruction.

The author of this article, Monica Haro, is the community guide for the breast cancer support app BC Healthline. This particular app has been an amazing source of support for me both while I was in the middle of fighting breast cancer and also now that I am learning to live life as a survivor.

Medically reviewed by Krystal Cascetta, MD — Written by Monica Haro on July 6, 2020

Utterly overwhelmed is how I felt when I faced the uncertainty and devastation of my breast cancer diagnosis 5 years ago.

I dove into online communities to connect, observe, research, and be heard. When I did, I was lost on some of the language. There were so many terms, acronyms, and abbreviations to learn.

Some things that now seem obvious to understand weren’t while dealing with a brain processing the new trauma of my cancer diagnosis.

If you’re wondering what in the world a red devil, foob, expander, and ooph is, I’ve got you.

16 Months in Pictures

Mood: Amazed 😌

As I was looking through my pictures the other day I noticed that I have a picture of myself, taken in most months from when I was diagnosed with breast cancer up to the present time. So I decided to make a collection showing how I looked before breast cancer {the first picture} all the way up to how I look now {the last picture}. You can clearly see when the chemotherapy treatments really started to effect how I looked; the loss of my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, my skin getting dryer and my fine lines showing more.

It’s a given that the last 16 months have been hard on me both mentally and physically.  But, nothing tore me down and damaged me more than the chemotherapy treatments did. Chemotherapy took a part of me that I will never get back. When the chemotherapy treatments were over I realized how much the drugs and the stress of everything I had been through up to that point had aged me, a lot. Looking back through my pictures it’s easy to see how much my face has aged and it breaks my heart. I am doing what I can to undo the damage but it has not been an easy process.

Cure Magazine

Early on in my breast cancer journey I heard about a free magazine for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers called “cure.” I received my first issue around the time I had my 2nd chemo treatment in early June and I found this magazine to be so helpful in understanding more about cancer. Today I received this issue and I wish I had this early on….there is some great information in this issue for newly diagnosed cancer patients.

Please don’t get me wrong, all three of my doctors are amazing and have always taken the time to listen to me and answer all of my questions, but sometimes extra information can be helpful as well. I try not to flood myself with too much information as it can be depressing, confusing and it can make everything even more overwhelming than it already is.

Free Subscription for cure magazine

Free bulk subscriptions are available for physicians, cancer centers and other organizations.

Reality of Chemotherapy

Mood: Sad 😫

I know I have written about the side effects I experienced while going through chemotherapy treatments and the after effects, so I won’t go into the details about all of that again. You can read that entry here if you haven’t read it.

This is a hard entry for me to write, to show you a part of me that breast cancer and chemotherapy have taken from me. Anyone that knows me well, knows that I take pride in my appearance. I knew from the beginning that I would lose my hair, so I bought a few wigs early on in my journey and I promised myself that I would not go to a doctor’s appointment or out in public without a wig and at least some makeup on. I didn’t want people seeing me and feeling sorry for me, and I still don’t.

I have an update about my two big toe nails….I had to cut them both almost completely off and quite honestly, I cried…this newest development is devastating to me!

My sad toes, with medication applied!

This is yet one more part of me that I have lost to breast cancer and chemotherapy. First it was my beautiful long blonde hair, then my eyebrows and eyelashes, then the rest of the hair on my body, yes, all of it, then it damaged my finger nails and now, losing my toenails. Luckily, it looks like my nail beds were growing under my damaged toenails, my toenails had almost completely lifted away from my nail beds, so my toenails should grow back healthy and normal, but it will take time. My hair, eyebrows and eyelashes are growing back now, but slowly. I will eventually take a picture of what my hair looks like now and update you. Currently I am waiting for it to fill in a bit better as I have a big patch in the front that is not growing at the same rate as the rest of my hair and I have noticed that my eyebrow on the same side is behind in its growth as well…no clue as to why.

So at a time when I have already been feeling ugly and less than feminine, losing my toenails and worrying about what they will look like by my trip in May, has not been helpful. I know that the way I am feeling about how I look will eventually pass as my body continues to fight to get me back to good health.

Taxol Treatments

July 17th, 2019

Mood: Stressed 😧

I have to admit, I am nervous about my first Taxol treatment tomorrow. I am praying that it will be as easy as my oncologist says it will be.

The thought of another 12 treatments is daunting and depressing but I understand that it is necessary. We have to do everything possible to make sure that I don’t have cancer anywhere else in my body.

I am doing everything my oncologist is telling me to do so that I don’t have any major side effects and so far it helped a lot during the first part of my treatment.