Pathology Terms

The following are the most common pathology terms and their meanings

Anaplasia: a lack of differentiation in a malignant neoplasm, making it difficult to determine the tissue or cell of origin and not a characteristic of benign neoplasms.

Adenoma: A benign (noncancerous) tumor of glandular tissue that can compress adjacent tissue as it grows in size.

Adenocarcinoma: A general term for a cancer formed from glandular (adeno) tissue, including breast cancer.

Aneuploid: Having an abnormal number of chromosomes -- a characteristic of cancer.

Angiogenesis: A biological process by which cancerous growths send out chemical signals to promote the growth of blood vessels to feed the tumor.

Apocrine metaplasia: a benign lesion of human mammary epithelium.

Asymmetrical cells: Cells which are not proportional or not the same size.

Atypical cells: abnormal cells, usually found inside the milk ducts and increase a woman's risk of breast cancer by four to five times.

Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia: A benign (noncancerous) condition in which cells have abnormal features and are reproducing more rapidly than normal. It is associated with an increase of breast cancer progression.

Biomarkers: are cellular, biochemical, molecular, or genetic alterations by which a normal, abnormal, or simply biologic process can be recognized, or monitored. in the blood or tissues when cancer is present. CA 15-3 is a common biomarker for breast cancer.

Columnar Cell Change: dilated terminal duct-lobular units, lined by uniform, abnormal columnar cells one or two layers thick.

Columnar Cell Hyperplasia: same as above except cell layers are greater than two cells thick.

Comedo Pattern: high-grade lesion characterized by clusters of large epithelial cells with central necrosis, reflecting cell death due to deprivation of essential metabolites and associated with a poor outcome.

Cribriform Pattern: uniform cells with similar nuclei, growth patterns and density.

Differentiation: degree which a cancer cell resembles a normal cell. Poorly differentiated cancer cells are usually more aggressive and harder to treat.

Discohesion: structure of cancer cells are sperated throughout a mass.

Ductal lavage: a minimally invasive method of collecting cells inside the milk ducts to be analyzed to determine whether they are normal or abnormal.

Dysplasia: - alterations in size, shape and staining characteristics of cells in nonneoplastic tissue.

Estrogen Receptor: written as ER+ or ER- and measures, the degree of a tumor's dependency on estrogen for growth.

Fat Necrosis: benign breast change where a firm, irregular mass forms as a result of trauma to the fatty tissue.

Fibroadenoma: A fibroadenoma is a firm, noncancerous tumor of a gland in the breast. It is round, painless, feels firm and rubbery.

Fibrocystic changes: refers to a common non-specific condition of the breast due to cyclical hormones.

Flow Cytometry: test cancer cells to determine the number that are in the S-Phase (dividing stage), and looks at DNA content (ploidy) which are correlated to aggressiveness of tumor growth.

Focal Invasion: cancer cells that have "escaped" from in-situ component but are still at the in-situ site.

Grade: Describes resemblences of cancer to normal tissue of its same type, and the cancer's probable rate of growth.

Grading: classifies cancer cells and sorts by how malignant or aggressive they appear and how quickly it might spread.

HER-2/neu: gene that may contribute to some breast cancers.

HER2 Positive: the presence of HER2 protein overexpression in a cell or tissue.

HER2 Protein Overexpression: The excess production of the HER2 growth factor receptor (cell-surface receptor) that results from a change in the HER2 gene in cancerous cells.

HER2 Growth Factor Receptor: one of the many proteins on a cell’s surface that signals the cell to divide.

Heterogeneity: means there are many different types of cells with differing properties in any breast cancer.

High grade carcinoma: Fast growing cancerous tumor.

Hormone Receptor Test: measures the amount of hormone receptors in cancer tissue, because hormones can attach to proteins and feed cancers enabling them to grow.

Immunohistochemistry (IHC): method using antibodies to identify, locate, and stain specific protein molecules in tissue sections using a microscope.

Intraductal papillomas: A noncancerous (benign) small growth inside a milk duct in the breast.

Lesion: term indicating a change in the structure of tissue, often used as a synonym for cancer.

Malignant: Cancerous - a growth with a tendency to destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

Microcalcifications: tiny deposits of calcium in the breast that cannot be felt but can be detected on a mammogram. A cluster of these very small specks of calcium may indicate that cancer is present.

Medullary Carcinoma: extensive infiltration of lymphocytes and plasma cells, found in 5%-7% of breast malignancies.

Mitoses: a process in the nucleus of a dividing cell, and results in the formation of two new nuclei each having the same number of chromosomes as the parent nucleus. Scored as up to 7 -score = 1; 8 - 14 score = 2; 15 or more score = 3.

Monoclonal antibodies: are laboratory-produced substances that can locate and bind to cancer cells.

Necrosis or Necrotic: refers to tissue that has died.

Neoplasia: abnormal new growth of cells.

Neoplasm: new growth of tissue which may be benign or malignant.

Neoplastic: relating to or constituting a tumor.

Noncomedo: low grade DCIS with low mitotic rate.

Non-neoplastic: a growth that is not a tumor

Nottingham grade: system that looks at tubule formation, mitotic count and nuclear pleomorphism to determine prognosis in breast cancer with grade 1 (low)being best prognosis, grade 2 (intermediate)intermediate prognosis and grade 3 (high) worst prognosis.

Nuclear Pleomorphism: a change in cells noted as small, uniform cells (grade 1); moderate increase in size and variations (grade 2); or marked variation (grade 3).

Nucleoli: organelles found in the nucleus of every eukaryotic (complex) cell, and may play a part in the aging process of a cancerous tumor. There are 2 -5 nucleoli in a typical nucleus.

Oncogene: any gene believed to be responsible for the uncontrolled cell growth of cancers.

Osteoblastic: type of bone metastasis with abnormal bone growth.

Osteolytic: type of bone metastasis where the bone is eaten away, producing a "moth-eaten" appearance and increases chance of fractures.

Overexpression: excess production of growth factor receptors that result from alteration of a gene in cancerous cells.

p53: a gene in many cancers if mutated tend to make cells grow without normal controls.

Proliferated Fibrocystic Changes: abnormal changes in breast cells that are growing and reproducing too fast.

RNA (ribonucleic acid): one of the nucleic acids found in all cells.

Sarcoma: malignant tumor arising in the bone, cartilage, fibrous tissue or muscle.

Sclerosing Adenosis: benign breast condition that involves excessive growth of tissues in the breast's lobules, often resulting in breast pain.

Solid Pattern: where cancer cells completely fill breast ducts.

Synchronous: lesion or mass that appears at the same time as the original mass but one is not a metastasis of the other.

Tag-72 antigen: protein/sugar complex found on the surface of breast cancer cells.

Tubal Formation: % of carcinoma composed of tubular structures measured and scored. Minimum is <10%-score=3; moderate is 10 - 75%- score = 2, high >75%- score = 1

Tumor - a swelling; could be due to any number of causes

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Pathology terms and definitions: (pics:; definitions:,, Principles of Molecular Medicine,,,,

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