Glossary of Breast, Ovarian and Prostate Cancer Terms

18 Aug 2021

Acellular Dermal Matrix (ADM)

Dermal matrix is a soft tissue substitute that is derived from donated human skin tissue. To ensure that the matrix is acellular, or not at risk of rejection, the matrix undergoes a multi-step proprietary process to remove the epidermis (or outer layer of skin) and any cells that can lead to an antigenic or rejection response. The use of an acellular dermal matrix offers a number of advantages to tissue donation from the patient’s body, as it eliminates skin graft and harvesting surgery, produces consistent results, and is available in multiple sizes and thicknesses to meet the specific needs of the patient. 


A small circular area, in particular the ring of pigmented skin surrounding a nipple. 

Ashkenazi Jewish Ancestry

Ashkenazic Jews are the Jews of France, Germany, and Eastern Europe and their descendants.


The removal of cells or tissues for examination to determine if the tissue is affected by a disease. The removed cells or tissues are usually examined by a pathologist, who determines the presence or extent of a disease by studying the cells or tissues under a microscope. The pathologist may perform other tests on the removed cells or tissue. There are many different types of biopsy procedures. The most common types include: (1) incisional biopsy, in which only a sample of tissue is removed; (2) excisional biopsy, in which an entire lump or suspicious area is removed; (3) needle biopsy, in which a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle.


Breast cancer genes in which some mutations may be related to elevated risk of breast, ovarian, and/or other cancers. 

BRCA Mutation Carrier

A person that has a one BRCA gene that has a mutation and one BRCA gene that does not have a mutation. This means that a BRCA1 carrier has one mutated gene on chromosome 17 and one non-mutated gene; whereas a BRCA2 carrier has one mutated gene on chromosome 13 and one non-mutated gene.


BRCA1 stands for Breast Cancer One, a human gene that has been identified to be associated with an increased risk of hereditary breast cancer if the gene has certain mutations or changes. BRCA1 is located on chromosome 17 and normally helps to suppress cell growth. A person who inherits certain mutations (changes) in a BRCA1 gene has a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian, prostate, or other types of cancer.


BRCA2 stands for Breast Cancer Two, a human gene that has been identified to be associated with an increased risk of hereditary breast cancer if the gene has certain mutations or changes. BRCA2 is located on chromosome 13 and normally helps to suppress cell growth. A person who inherits certain mutations (changes) in a BRCA2 gene has a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian, prostate, or other types of cancer.

Breast Augmentation

Breast enlargement by surgery. Also known as augmentation mammoplasty. 

Breast Cancer

Cancer that forms in tissues of the breast, usually the ducts (tubes that carry milk to the nipple) and lobules (glands that make milk). It occurs in both men and women, although male breast cancer is rare.

Breast Lift

Surgery to lift the breasts. Also known as mastopexy.

Breast Reduction

Reduction of breast size and breast lift by surgery.

Breast Self Examination (BSE)

A breast self-examination is a screening method used in an attempt to detect early breast cancer.

Breast Specialist/Surgeon (BS)

Usually a general surgeon who is especially skilled in operating on the breast. 

Breast Cancer Surveillance

Screening for breast cancer on a more frequent basis than recommended for the average women. Doctors recommend that some women get screening for breast cancer more often than most women if they have a higher-than-average risk of developing breast cancer.


Cancer is the term for a group of cells that displays uncontrolled growth (division beyond normal limits), invasion (intrusion on and destruction of adjacent tissues), and sometimes metastasis (spread to other locations in the body). Most cancers form a tumour (i.e. a lump or mass). However, some cancers, like leukemia, do not. Oncology is the branch of medicine concerned with the study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer. 

Capsular Contracture

A complication of breast implant surgery which occurs when scar tissue that normally forms around the implant tightens and squeezes the implant and becomes firm. 

Clinical Breast Examination

A breast examination performed by a healthcare professional.


The use of drugs or other agents to prevent, delay, or reduce the risk of developing cancer by inhibiting the development or progression of malignant changes in cells. Chemoprevention is generally considered for persons identified as having a high risk of developing cancer. Common brands in Australia are Tamoxifen and Raloxifene.


Chromosomes are long pieces of DNA contained in the nucleus of cells. Genes are found on chromosomes, that part of a cell that contains genetic information. Chromosomes are composed of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and proteins. Under a microscope, chromosomes look like little rods. Humans normally have 46 chromosomes-44 autosomes (nonsex chromosomes) plus XX sex chromosomes in the case of the female and XY sex chromosomes in the case of the male.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

The computed tomography (CT) scan is a medical imaging procedure that uses x-rays and digital computer technology to create detailed two- or three-dimensional images of the body.

Diep Inferior Epigastric Perforator (DIEP)

A DIEP flap is a type of breast reconstruction in which blood vessels called deep inferior epigastric perforators (DIEP), and the skin and fat connected to them are removed from the lower abdomen and transferred to the chest to reconstruct a breast after mastectomy without the sacrifice of any of the abdominal muscles.


DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the molecules inside the centre (nucleus) of cells that carry genetic information and pass it from parents to children. DNA determines what characteristics a person inherits, such as blood type, hair colour, and eye colour. DNA are called chromosomes. Each person’s DNA contains many thousands of genes.

Donor Site

An area of the body where the surgeon harvests skin, muscle and fat to reconstruct a breast/s. Commonly located in less exposed areas of the body such as the back, abdomen or buttocks. 

Drop and Fluff

Refers to the gradual movement and change in shape that occurs to breast implants following breast augmentation/ reconstruction. However, it’s important to note that it’s not the breast implants themselves that change; rather, it’s the body that changes.

Direct to Implant

The direct-to-implant involves placing a breast implant immediately at the time of the mastectomy. Also known as single- stage or one-step breast reconstruction. 

Early Menopause

Menopause occurring in women under 45 years of age. Early menopause is often a side effect of some common treatments for breast cancer, chemoprevention and ovary removal.


Exchange is the surgery where the expanders are removed and the implants inserted.

Expanders (also known as Tissue Expanders)

A fillable tube inserted temporarily into the subperiosteal tissue and progressively inflated to expand the pectoral muscle and create space for later reconstruction. 

Family History

A record of a person’s current and past medical conditions, and those of his or her parents, brothers, sisters, children, and other family members. Knowing a person’s family history of medical conditions and diseases can help show a pattern of certain diseases that may be hereditary or genetic (meaning they run in the family). Knowing a person’s family history also helps to determine risk factors for those and other diseases.

Fat Grafting

Fat grafting, called lipofilling, is used to fix minor differences in the shape, balance, or position of the reconstructed breast/s.


A “fill” is the solution used and injected into the expander port to slowly inflate the expander. This is done (several fills) over a period of weeks to stretch out the muscle and allow a new “pocket” for the implant.


A type of breast reconstruction using the body’s own tissue (skin, muscle and fat).

Founder Mutation

A gene mutation that is found with high frequency in certain ethnicities or descendants of people from specific geographic areas. 


Each cell in the human body contains thousands of genes. Genes carry information that determines traits such as blood type, hair colour, eye colour. Traits are characteristics a person inherits from their parents. Parents pass on characteristics to their children through genes. Genes also determine a person’s risk of developing certain hereditary or genetic diseases. Defective genes (or mutations) can also be inherited, and they may cause changes in certain body processes or functions that lead to genetic diseases. Diseases that run in families are often caused by genetic defects. A person may be born with a genetic makeup that makes him or her have a higher risk (or be more susceptible) to developing a certain condition.

Gene Sequencing

A combination of laboratory procedures used on a segment(s) of DNA to identify the nucleotide sequence.

Genetic Counselling

A communication process between a specially trained healthcare provider and a person interested in understanding his or her genetic risk of developing a specific hereditary or genetic disease. The person’s family and personal medical history may be discussed, and counselling may lead to genetic testing.

Genetic Counsellor

Professionals with specialised graduate degrees and experience in medical genetics and counselling. Genetic Counsellors work as members of a health care team and act as a patient advocate as well as a genetic resource to primary care physicians, other clinicians, and families. Counsellors assist in the identification of families at risk for birth defects, or a genetic condition, disorder, or syndrome. Additionally, Genetic Counsellors investigate the problems present in the family, interpret genetic information, analyse inheritance patterns and risks of recurrence, and review with families the available testing options.

Genetic Testing

Tests that involve analysing DNA to look for a genetic alteration that may indicate an increased risk for developing a specific disease or disorder.

Gluteal Artery Perforator Flap (GAP Flap)

Inferior superior and inferior gluteal flap is a surgical procedure that uses the soft tissue of the gluteal region to create a breast/s. This method is more limited in its ability to create a breast that is large however the reconstructed breast will be soft and have a natural shape. There is flattening at the buttock donor site, which can be noticeable in normal clothing.

Gynaecologic Oncologist

A Gynaecologic Oncologist is an obstetrician/gynaecologist who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of women with cancer of the reproductive organs. Specifically, the Gynaecologic Oncologist treats cancer of the ovary, endometrium, uterus, cervix, vagina, vulva and trophoblastic disease. 


A Gynaecologist specialises in the branch of medicine that deals with the diseases and routine physical care of the reproductive system of women.


Blood pooling beneath the skin creating a swelling.


Transmitted from parent to child by information contained in the genes.

Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HBOC)

Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (HBOC) is an inherited tendency to develop breast, ovarian and other cancers. Inherited conditions are passed to a person through blood relatives.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

Hormone replacement therapy refers to any form of hormone therapy where in the patient, in the course of medical treatment, receives hormones, either to supplement a lack of naturally occurring hormones, or to substitute other hormones for naturally occurring hormones. 


Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. It may also involve removal of the cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes and other surrounding structures.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

In Vitro Fertilization is a fertility treatment where the women’s eggs are removed and fertilized in a test tube.

Latissimus Dorsi Flap

A surgical technique that uses muscle, fat and skin tunneled under the skin and tissue of a woman’s back to the reconstructed breast and remains attached to its donor site, leaving blood supply intact.


Mammography is the study of the breast using x ray. The actual test is called a mammogram. There are two types of mammograms. A screening mammogram is ordered for women who have no problems with their breasts. It consists of two x-ray views of each breast. A diagnostic mammogram is for evaluation of new abnormalities or of patients with a past abnormality requiring follow-up (i.e., a woman with breast cancer treated with lumpectomy). Additional x rays from other angles or special views of certain areas are taken.


The surgical removal of the whole breast (or as much of the breast tissue as possible), typically to rid the body of cancer. 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a technique for looking for abnormalities such as cancer using magnetic fields. Breast MRI is typically recommended as a screening tool for breast cancer in high-risk women and is often used to follow up on a breast abnormality seen on mammogram. 

Mutation/Gene Mutation

A mutation occurs when a DNA gene is damaged or changed in such a way as to alter the genetic message carried by that gene. Some gene mutations can be passed from a parent to a child. Other mutations are not inherited and are caused by mistakes during cell division and growth or exposure to DNA-damaging agents in the environment. Mutations can be harmful, beneficial, or have no effect at all. Examples of harmful mutations are those that may lead to increased risk of cancer or other diseases. 

Nipple Delay

This is a step in a nipple-sparing mastectomy, and involves severing the blood vessels and other breast tissue beneath the nipple so that it’s no longer dependent on the underlying tissue for blood supply. The nipple then becomes accustomed to getting its blood supply from the skin around it instead of the breast tissue underneath it (that will later be removed), which can help it survive the surgery.

Nipple Reconstruction

Numerous techniques have been developed to reconstruct the nipple following mastectomy. These include intradermal tattooing, variations of local tissue flaps, skin grafts, cartilage grafts, tissue-engineered structures, and nipple-sharing techniques. The most common problem following nipple reconstruction is a decrease in projection, or nipple flattening.

Nipple Sparing Mastectomy (NSM)

A mastectomy where the nipple and/or areola are left in place while the breast tissue under them is removed. 

Non-Nipple Sparring Mastectomy

A mastectomy where the nipple and/or areola are removed. 

Profunda Artery Perforator Flap

The Profunda Artery Perforator Flap is a procedure that uses the skin and fat of the posterior thigh as a donor site for breast reconstruction. 

Prophylactic (or Preventive) Bilateral Mastectomy (PBM)

The removal of both healthy breasts as a preventative procedure to reduce the risk of future diagnosis of breast cancer. 

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis is a medical procedure that allows people who carry a disease causing hereditary mutation to have children who are free from the specific mutation that causes the disease.

Prophylactic (or Preventative) Oophorectomy

The removal of the ovaries as a preventative procedure to reduce the risk of future diagnosis of ovarian cancer.


A survivor of a predisposition (or increased risk) for a disease, such as cancer.

Plastic Surgeon (PS)

A Plastic Surgeon is a qualified surgeon to repair or reconstruct a body part. Plastic Surgeons correct physical defects and to rebuild parts of the body that have been damaged by trauma or disease. Many plastic surgeons also perform cosmetic surgery that is unrelated to medical conditions.

Prophylactic (or Preventative) Salpingo

The removal of the fallopian tubes as a preventative procedure to reduce the risk of future diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

Prophylactic (or Preventative) Salpingo Oophorectomy (PSO)

The removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries as a preventative procedure to reduce the risk of future diagnosis of ovarian cancer.


Surgical procedure to removal the ovary/ovaries.

Risk Factor

Something that may increase a person’s chance of developing a disease. There are four types of risk factors. (1) behavioural – factors that a person can change (such as smoking, diet, exercise or drinking alcohol); (2) biological – factors based on physical characteristics (such as sex, race or age); (3) genetic– factors related to the genes a person inherits from parents; (4) environmental – factors found in surroundings (such as the sun, second-hand smoke, or where you live). 


The removal of the fallopian tubes.

Salpingectomy-Oophorectomy (SO)

The removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries. 


Screening is an attempt to detect unsuspected disease such as cancers in persons before they show any symptoms of illness. Screening occurs for many types of cancer, including breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancer. If signs of cancer are found, more definitive and invasive follow-up tests are performed to confirm the diagnosis. In some, but not all cases, screening can lead to earlier diagnosis in specific cases, and early diagnosis may lead to more successful treatment of the cancer and an extended life.


Fluid that collects in or around a scar after surgery. 

Superior Gluteal Artery Perforator Flap (SGAP flap)

Superior Gluteal Artery Perforator flap is a type of breast reconstruction which takes tissue (skin and fat) from the upper buttock. The gluteal muscles are preserved and donor site scar is hidden in underwear. 

Transverse Rectus Abdominous Myocutaneous Flap (TRAM Flap)

Transverse Rectus Abdominous Myocutaneous flap is a type of reconstructive breast surgery where skin, fat and muscle from the abdomen are used to recreate breast tissue.

Transverse Myocutaneous Gracilis Flap (TMG Flap)

The TMG (Transverse Myocutaneous Gracilis) flap is a breast reconstruction method using the inner thigh region, the same distribution as in a cosmetic inner thigh lift. Part of the gracilis muscle is taken to provide the blood supply to this flap, this is usually not missed following its removal. This flap is used to create a smaller sized breast and almost no contour abnormality can be expected in the inner thigh following this flap.


A tumour is an abnormal growth of body tissue. Tumour can be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign). Cancerous tumours have uncontrolled growth and spread to other parts of the body. Noncancerous tumours do not grow or spread.

Tumour Suppressor Genes

Genes whose protein products are involved with the rate of cell division, cell death, and DNA repair processes. When these genes are mutated, cells can grow out of control, which can lead to the presence of various types of cancer.


Diagnostic ultrasound, also called sonography or diagnostic medical sonography, is an imaging method that uses high frequency sound waves to produce relatively precise images of structures within your body.

For information on breast, ovarian and prostate cancer terms please see:

Cancer Australia

Breast Cancer Network Australia

Ovarian Cancer Australia

Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia

Prostate Cancer Institute