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.

Here’s Why Exercise Is Crucial in Preventing, Treating Cancer

I struggle with getting exercise into my daily routine not because I am too busy, but because I am still dealing with fatigue from over a year of fighting breast cancer. Everything about my journey has been exhausting both physically and mentally. Luckily I am on the other side of treatments and endless doctors appointments so my energy level is slowly improving. Most days I try to get some form of activity in, even if it is just cleaning part of the house or playing with my dog….it all counts and I make sure to remind myself of that.

Written by Matt Berger on October 20, 2019

Strength training two to three times a week along with aerobic exercise three times a week is recommended for cancer prevention.
  • A panel of experts has released guidelines stating that regular exercise can help prevent cancer as well as help people undergoing cancer treatment.
  • The experts recommend 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 times a week and strength training 2 to 3 times a week.
  • Experts say exercise can help prevent cancer by reducing inflammation, keeping weight under control, and boosting the immune system.

Kathryn Schmitz is seeking a paradigm shift.

Schmitz, a professor of public health specializing in cancer at Penn State University, thinks the perception of the ties between exercise and cancer is where the perception of the ties between exercise and heart health was decades ago.

Back then, she said, getting a patient out of bed and moving after a heart attack would be criticized. Today, the benefits of exercise to heart health and recovery are well known.

A similar consensus is emerging in the way the medical field thinks about cancer.

The latest sign in that shift came this week, with the publication of new guidelines that recommend physicians “prescribe” exercise in efforts to reduce the risk of certain cancers and improve the treatment outcomes and quality of life of those with the disease.

“Today if you asked someone with a dad with colon cancer if he should be exercising they’d probably either say no or they don’t know,” Schmitz told Healthline.

Schmitz co-chaired the roundtable — which included experts from the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Cancer Society, and 15 other groups — that put together the new guidance.

The gist of the guidance, published in three papers this week, is that exercise can contribute to the prevention of bladder, breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, stomach, and uterine cancer.

The guidelines also state exercise can help improve survival rates for people with breast, colon, and prostate cancer — as well as the quality of life of those people in terms of reducing side effects of cancer treatment.

How much exercise?

The researchers recommend that people with cancer do 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity 3 times a week and strength training such as weights 2 to 3 times a week.

Schmitz said originally the researchers looking into that question sought to find out if there were specific “doses” of exercise that could be tailored to different people with cancer.

But the 30 minutes 3 times a week recommendation seemed to work pretty universally.

They still ended up with their goal of being able to “prescribe exercise like a drug,” Schmitz said. “Just turns out that it’s, say, 600 milligrams for everybody, if you will.”

In terms of cancer prevention, the recommended general physical activity guidelines are at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week.

Schmitz says getting more tailored recommendations for cancer prevention is one of the remaining open questions that ongoing research hopes to help answer.

“We don’t know the exact, optimal dose of exercise needed for cancer prevention,” Alpa Patel, the American Cancer Society’s senior scientific director for epidemiology research, told Healthline. “But we know from the evidence to date that the more you do the better.”

Why exercise works

Patel, lead author of the paper that covered the prevention aspects of the new guidance, said how exactly exercise affects cancer prevention is severalfold.

That includes exercise’s effects on reducing inflammation, helping regulate blood sugar and sex hormones, and improving metabolism and immune function.

“Depending on the specific cancer, one or more of those mechanisms may be more important than the others,” he said. “So, for breast cancer, the benefits of exercise are really driven through the impact on sex hormones.”

“It can also affect cancer development or risk through reducing obesity, a risk factor for many cancers,” said Dr. Crystal Denlinger, an oncologist at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and chair of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s panel on survivorship guidelines.

She told Healthline that the exact reasons why exercise affects certain cancers in different ways still needs additional research.

The current recommendations do vary a bit based on personal history, Denlinger noted. But, she said, “at this time, there is no one ‘best’ exercise — anything that gets you moving and active is good.”

She said further trials are under way to evaluate how and when exercise can affect cancer treatment.

The effort underway for Schmitz — through an initiative she started at the American College of Sports Medicine — is pushing to get oncologists to assess and advise cancer patients’ physical activity.

“This is an easy, cheap way to give patients less fatigue and a better quality of life,” she said.

Final Follow-up with My Surgeon

Mood: Accomplished 😊

I had my final follow-up appointment with my surgeon earlier this week. Both sides of my chest look good. During my surgery he stitched up my breasts from underneath a little bit so the implants would drop and settle without making my entire chest drop too much. During the first reconstruction surgery I had a breast lift so it was important that during the second reconstruction surgery, when he inserted my implants, that all the work he had done with my lift would not be ruined.

It has been 9 weeks since my surgery and my breasts are almost completely done dropping into a natural position. I am completely healed from surgery and cleared, no restrictions! It was important for me to get to the place where I am cleared with no restrictions because I have been having issues with a bulge on the side of my left breast, the side where the cancer was, that has been causing me some pain and discomfort since my first surgery over a year ago. The pain isn’t constant, but it is enough to bother me. I am feeling pain and pressure both when my arm is resting against the side of my breast and if I wear a bra for more than a few hours. With most of my clothes I don’t have to wear a bra anymore thanks to my reconstruction surgeries, but now I feel like I don’t have an option concerning wearing a bra or not due to the pain and discomfort.

During my last follow-up appointment with him we discussed this problem and it seemed like it might go away with time. He also stressed that it is difficult to operate due to pain, as he would be blind going in, not being able to actually see what is causing the problem. But since that appointment the pain and discomfort has only gotten worse so I mentioned it to him again this week during my appointment and we talked about it in more detail.

I asked him if he thought that the bulge was fat or tissue and he said that fat is tissue. So I asked if getting back to working out and maybe even lifting weights, now that I am cleared, would help give me some relief or even possibly get rid of the problem altogether. He said that it possibly could help and it was worth a try before falling back on having  another surgery that could fix the problem or not, no guarantees. So, we agreed to wait and see what happens once I am working out again and instead of making an appointment for three months out, the normal amount of time, we will see how I am doing in 7 weeks when I go back to see him after my mammogram in mid-August for my results.

In other news….here is a picture of what my hair looks like now! After 8 months of growth, I am a blonde again! 😁 I couldn’t deal with the dark/gray hair anymore…it was seriously depressing me!

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.

8 Exercise Routines That Don’t Involve a Gym

A long time ago I had a gym membership with a friend of mine and eventually that friend stopped coming to the gym, even no showing our trainer. I kept my membership and continued to go to the gym but as soon as my membership was up I decided to find a way to workout at home. I have done a few of the suggestions below and I have found that a gym is not needed. Now with online classes both live and on demand and affordable home equipment, it is easy and convenient to workout at home. My workout schedule has been on and off over the past year due to extreme fatigue from treatments, generally not feeling well and having multiple surgeries. I intend on getting back to regular workouts soon and in the meantime I have been working on keeping my eating as healthy as possible so I am steadily losing weight. If I can do it, you can do it….there is always something you can do.

By Lorna Collier Last Updated: May 8, 2019

Skip the Gym and Get Fit at Home

You want to exercise, you really do, but it’s tough to fit a trip to the gym into your jam-packed daily schedule. Not to mention gym memberships can be expensive. Or it may be intimidating to think about working out next to pumped-up hard bodies if you’re just looking to stay fit. Whatever your reason, avoiding the gym doesn’t have to mean giving up exercise. Try these tips to reach your 30 minutes of daily activity outside of a fitness center. 

1. Video Workouts

Want to avoid spending money on fitness DVDs? Many local libraries have collections of workout videos you can check out for free. You can also buy used copies through online classifieds or garage sales. Streaming sites like YouTube or your cable’s on-demand service can also be budget-friendly sources of video workouts. Government agencies like the American Council on Exercise and the Centers for Disease Control also offer free online exercise videos. Seniors can get a free exercise DVD tailored to older participants from the National Institutes of Health. 

2. Exercise Videogames

Videogame platforms like the popular Wii Fit for Nintendo use technology to track your body’s movements, so you can play games like tennis or golf virtually, as well as ride bikes, box, and dance. One study showed that participants burned more calories playing Wii’s boxing module for 30 minutes than through brisk walking. Exer-games can be a fun way to stay fit at home, though you will need to use them regularly and with intensity. Along with the Nintendo Wii, you can find exer-games for PlayStation and Xbox, too. 

3. Home Gyms

These days, it’s possible to build your own home gym on any size budget. You can buy firsthand from sporting goods and fitness stores or score used equipment from garage sales, resale shops, or online resources like Craigslist. Friends or relatives also may want to find a new home for the treadmill that’s taking up dust in their basement, so let them know you’re looking. Many discount stores carry small exercise items, such as fitness balls, jump ropes, and resistance bands, making it convenient to complete your home gym on your weekly shopping runs.

4. DIY Equipment at Home

You don’t even necessarily have to buy equipment to exercise at home. Do you have stairs? Voila! You have a StairMaster. Want to do step training? You can swap out a pricey exercise step for a stepstool or sturdy chair. Large cans of food or 12 packs of soda make effective hand weights. Finally, use your own body as a weight, doing planks, push-ups, lunges, jumping jacks, and balancing poses to increase strength and tone muscle. 

5. Mall Walking

Walking is the easiest, least expensive activity to fit into your day. If you want to get out of the house but don’t have anywhere outside that you’d like to walk, or if the weather is bad, consider becoming a mall walker. Some malls even open early to allow mall walkers to make their way through the halls, which is especially good if you want to avoid slower-moving crowds of shoppers. Keep in mind that for a workout, mall walking is more than just an excuse to window shop. Walk fast enough that singing would be difficult, but not so fast that you can’t talk. 

6. Household Chores

It can be hard to get to chores when you think of them as, well, chores. But as fitness boosters, they’re a sure thing. Vacuuming, scrubbing floors and walls, and many other household tasks can rev up your cardio system or challenge your muscles enough to help you get fit. Outdoor chores like gardening or sweeping the garage count, too. Just keep your mind open to possibilities as you go about your daily tasks and remember to do them energetically enough to break a sweat and get your heart pumping. 

7. Outdoor Clubs

Community clubs and activity groups offer a fun and social alternative to the gym. The Sierra Club, for example, has lists of local hikes, bicycling trips, and other outdoor activities you can join. Search online social sites like Meetup.com for groups and people near you who are interested in outdoor activities like walking, hiking and other outside-the-gym fitness pursuits. For a more intense outdoor workout, try boot camp programs in local parks run by trainers who can provide a gym-level workout outside a traditional gym. 

8. At-Home Personal Trainers

Certified personal trainers don’t only work with clients at gyms. They also make home visits and can design personal workout routines for you in the environment you prefer. You can check with your local fitness club for referrals, or visit personal training professional associations like the American Council on Exercise to find qualified trainers in your area. 

Our Wedding Anniversary

Today is our 16th wedding anniversary and I can’t help but look back at this time last year as it was a major turning point in my breast cancer journey. The day after our 15th wedding anniversary last year I started aggressive chemotherapy. I had already gone through my first surgery to remove the cancer and my second surgery to place the port in my chest for my chemotherapy treatments, but little did I know at the time that the most difficult fight of my life was just beginning.

Everything was so overwhelming and it felt like I was floating through all of the doctors appointments, surgeries, scans and tests in a daze. The day of my first chemotherapy treatment is somewhat of a blur now but I do remember sitting down in the chair in the treatment room and starting to cry. I was terrified as I realized that the nurse was about to pump horrible, destructive drugs into my body.

My husband looked at me and asked “Why are you crying?” I said, “It’s so overwhelming knowing what is about to happen to me, what I am about to go through.” He came and sat closer to me and held my hand, trying to comfort me. He had already been through countless appointments, surgeries, etc….with me, but he has never wavered. He has been by my side through many tears, pain, sleepless nights and so many other stages of fighting aggressive breast cancer.

I love you sweetie! Happy Anniversary and thank you for being my rock during the most difficult fight of my life! 💕

16 years and counting! 💕