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Breast Cancer Prevention Institute

Breast Cancer Risks and Prevention Edition 4

Glossary

Anovulatory menstrual cycle
A menstrual cycle that does not produce an egg, thereby producing lower estrogen levels in a woman's body.
Arimidex Example of a drug which blocks the aromatase enzyme.
Aromatase
The enzyme responsible for estrogen production present in the ovaries and also in fat tissue.
Atypical ductal hyperplasia
Overgrowth of abnormal cells within a milk duct (see diagram on page 9).

BRCA gene

A defective gene which can be inherited from a parent, increasing the risk of breast cancer.

Cancer promoter

An agent which stimulates cancer cells to grow faster.
Carcinogen or cancer initiator
An agent which causes a normal cell to transform into a cancer cell.
DHEA Dehydroepiandrosterone, an inactive adrenal product which declines with age. It can be converted to estrogen in bone and vaginal lining, and can be used to treat menopausal symptoms.
Differentiation
The maturing of cells from immature cancer susceptible cells to mature cancer resistant cells.
DIM
Diindolylmethane, a metabolite of indole-3-carbinol (from cruciferous vegetables) which aids in the inactivation of estrogen.
Estrogen
The main type of female sex steroid hormone primarily responsible for breast growth.
Estrogen receptor
Place in cell where estrogen can attach, thereby stimulating the cell to grow or change.
Gene
A portion of DNA in the nucleus of a cell which controls an inheritable trait.
Hyperplasia
Overgrowth of normal cells (see diagram on page 9).
Induced abortion
Termination of pregnancy by surgery or medication.
Lobule
Group of breast cells, composed of a duct and glands, which make milk.
Mammogram
A soft-tissue x-ray of the breast used to detect breast cancers.
Maturation of breast lobules
The development of lobules from primitive, immature cell structures present at birth, which are incapable of producing milk and are most susceptible to carcinogens, into advanced, mature cells which are capable of producing milk and are most resistant to carcinogens.
Menarche
Age at which menstrual periods start.
Menopause
Age when menstrual periods stop.
Metabolism
Mechanism by which the body changes, processes and eliminates hormones and other body chemical substances; i.e., turns them into metabolites.
Miscarriage
The spontaneous, natural loss of a pregnancy.
Mitogen
An agent that causes mitosis.
Mitosis
The process of cell division causing one cell to become two cells.

Natural Family Planning (NFP)

Any of several methods whereby a woman learns to recognize her own bodily changes so that she recognizes the few days of fertility in her menstrual cycle (e.g., type of cervical mucus and basal temperature). NFP is not the "rhythm method."

Nulliparous

Never bearing children.

Perimenopause

Years immediately preceding menopause, when menstrual periods can be irregular.

Progesterone The steroid hormone which enables and maintains pregnancy, and permits the mitogenic effect of estrogen.
Progestin Any substance that acts like progesterone.

Proliferation

The multiplication of cells through mitosis.

Proliferative breast disease

Breast tissue which has "overgrown," e.g., ductal hyperplasia which as multiple layers of cells instead of a single layer.

Spontaneous abortion
Natural miscarriage not caused by surgery or drugs.
Tamoxifen
Example of a drug which blocks estrogen receptors.

 

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