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Common medical terms in the clinic or hospital setting.

Medical Terminology

What are you saying?

You will hear a lot of medical terms anytime you are in a clinic or hospital setting. Here are some explanations to help you during your visit:

Aspiration – Ultrasound guided procedure to drain a cyst or abscess for comfort or diagnosis.

Benign – Not cancer, will not become cancerous.

Breast Ultrasound – Use of sound waves to target a mass or density in the breast and characterize that anomaly as cystic or solid. Ultrasound is not a screening tool as it is unable to ‘see’ calcifications.

Calcifications – Tiny, sometimes microscopic, calcium deposits within breast tissue. The reason for their occurrence is unknown and the majority of calcifications are benign. Dietary routines, vitamins or dairy products, do not contribute to calcification appearance. This can be the earliest form of detectible breast cancer; however, the majority of calcifications are benign.

Cyst – Fluid filled sac within the breast. Sometimes palpable or painful, depending on size. Cysts are benign and can fluctuate under hormonal influence, as with menstrual cycle or hormone replacement. Small cysts are generally left alone, as cysts will not turn into cancer. Larger cysts, usually painful, can be drained (aspirated) to alleviate symptoms, but may reoccur.

Density – An area within the breast that images differently than the adjacent tissue. A density on mammogram could correlate to a cyst, lymph node, insufficient compression, or tumor.

Diagnostic mammogram – Mammogram appointment requiring physician’s order, for a breast problem or concern.

Magnification – Part of a diagnostic mammogram. Another small paddle is used in tandem with a raised platform to magnify a specific area of the breast. Imagine enlarging a negative or photograph. This projection is used to evaluate calcifications.

Malignant – Cancerous.

Mass – A tumor in the breast tissue. Several solid tumors of the breast are benign. A biopsy is the only means to confirm benignancy or cancer.

Needle Biopsy – Breast tissue sampling done in the Mammography department. The radiologist uses mammographic or ultrasound guidance to take pieces of the abnormal tissue. The tissue is sent to the pathology department and analyzed under a microscope to determine whether or not the mass is cancerous.

Needle Localization – The use of a thin wire to guide a surgeon to the anomaly in the breast. Placed under mammographic or ultrasound guidance, the wire is inserted through a small, hollow needle to pinpoint the area of concern. This is usually performed after a tissue diagnosis of cancer has been made from a biopsy or when a patient is not a candidate for needle biopsy.

Screening mammogram – Routine, no problems, mammogram appointment.

Spot compression – Part of a diagnostic examination. A small paddle is used to target a specific area of the breast and apply compression to that area only. Useful to assess densities within the breast tissue.