Glossary

Medical terminology can be confusing – here is a list of some words you may hear mentioned.

Abdomen – The central part of your body containing the intestines and organs. In the context of breast reconstruction we mean the skin, fat and sometimes muscles of the lower part of the tummy.

Areola – The flat brown patch of specialised skin around the nipple.

Artery – A blood vessel that carries blood towards a body part.

Autologous – Is using the tissue (skin, fat, and sometimes muscle) from another place on your body to form a breast shape. The tissue (called a “flap”) usually comes from the belly, the back, buttocks, or inner thighs to create the reconstructed breast.

Bi-Lateral – both sides

BRCA – BRCA is a tumour suppressor gene. We all have such a gene and it helps prevent us developing cancer. When a person has a faulty copy of that gene they are prone to certain cancers such as those of the breast and ovary.

Breast surgeon – A surgeon whose initial training has been in general surgery and who specialises in surgical treatment of breast disease.

Capsular Contracture – when scar tissue develops around a implant, causing the breast to feel hard

Chemotherapy – The treatment of cancers with drugs.

CT Angiogram – technique used to visualize arterial and venous vessels throughout the body.

Delayed reconstruction Reconstruction – (in this context – of the breast) done at some time after the initial treatment for the underlying condition (in this context – cancer).

DIEP (Deep inferior epigastric perforator) – This is the name of a blood vessel that passes through the abdominal wall to supply the skin and fat of the lower abdomen. A DIEP flap is a flap of the lower abdominal skin and fat supplied by this blood vessel.

Donor Site – an area of the body where skin and/or tissue is taken from to be used somewhere else

Flap – A portion of tissue that is transferred with a blood supply.

General Anaesthetic – a drug that puts you in a controlled unconcious state

Genetics – The science of inheritance. This is based on the fact that we all have two copies of genetic material in every cell in our body. One copy is inherited from our father and one from our mother. Genetics can predict the likelihood that a characteristic or disease is passed from parent to child.

Hernia – when a part of the anatomy protrudes through an opening, tear, or weakness in the body tissue.

IGAP (Inferior gluteal artery perforator) – This is the name of a blood vessel that passes through the buttock muscles to supply the skin and fat of the bottom.  An IGAP flap is a flap of the skin and fat of the bottom supplied by this blood vessel.

Immediate reconstruction Reconstruction – (in this context – of the breast) done at the same time as the initial treatment for the underlying condition (in this context – cancer).

Implant – An artificial device that is inserted surgically into the body for the purposes of repair or reconstruction.  Breast implants are made of a substance called silicone.

Latissimus dorsi – A large muscle of the back which, along with overlying skin and fat, can be moved to the chest to reconstruct a breast.

Lipofilling – This is using small grafts of fat taken from another part of the body using liposuction and injected beneath the skin to improve shape and contour.

Liposuction – This is removing fat from beneath the skin using a metal tube called a cannula and suction. This is used to reduce the amount of fat in that area. The fat that has been taken can be used for lipofilling.

Local Anaesthetic – a drug that numbs one particular area of the body

Lumpectomy – An operation to remove a lump. In this context a lump in the breast.

Mastectomy – An operation to remove the entire breast usually including the nipple.

Microsurgery – A technique to join very small parts together using an operating microscope and very small stitches.

NICE (The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) – NICE is an independent organisation responsible for providing national guidance on promoting good health and preventing and treating ill health. It makes recommendations on best practice in medicine and surgery.

Oncoplastic surgeon – This is a surgeon who has trained and specialises in the surgical treatment of cancer, and who also has trained in reconstructive techniques – in this context of the breast.  Most breast oncoplastic surgeons have a background in general surgery rather than plastic surgery.

Partial or wide open excision – a surgical removal of part of the tissue

Partial mastectomy – When only part of the breast is removed along with the cancer.

Pedicled flap –  Also called an attached flap. Is a section of tissue, with its blood supply intact, which is maneuvered to another part of the body

Perforator – A blood vessel that passes through, or perforates, another tissue to supply a flap.

Plastic surgeon – A surgeon who has trained and specialises in plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery.

Prosthesis (external) – An artificial device attached to or placed on top of a body part to replace what is missing. In this context an external breast shape that is inserted inside a bra to mimic the breast in a patient who has had a mastectomy, but no reconstruction.

Prosthesis (internal) – Another name for an implant. An artificial device that is inserted surgically into the body for the purposes of repair or reconstruction. Breast implants are made of a substance called silicone.

Radiotherapy – The medical use of ionizing radiation as part of cancer treatment to control malignant cells.

Reconstruction – To rebuild a part of the body in order to achieve healing, restore function and improve appearance.

Seroma – A build-up of clear bodily fluids in a place on your body where tissue has been removed by surgery

SGAP (Superior gluteal artery perforator) – This is the name of a blood vessel that passes through the buttock muscles to supply the skin and fat of the bottom. An SGAP flap is a flap of the skin and fat of the bottom supplied by this blood vessel.

Skin Sparing Mastectomy – when all of the breast skin, except the nipple and the areola, is preserved. This makes reconstruction easier and most importantly avoids making any scars on the breast, allowing for better results after breast reconstruction

SIEP (Superficial inferior epigastric perforator) – This is the name of a blood vessel that emerges from the groin and passes into the skin and fat of the lower abdomen. An SIEP flap is a flap of the lower abdominal skin and fat supplied by this blood vessel.

TAP – Thoracodorsal artery perforator

Tattooing – The implantation of pigment into the skin – in this context to recreate the colour in a reconstruction of the nipple and areola.

TRAM (Transverse rectus abdominis musculocutaneous) – This is the name of a flap that consists of a portion of the rectus abdominis muscle of the abdominal wall and the skin and fat of the lower abdomen along with its blood supply. A TRAM flap is commonly used to reconstruct the breast.

TUG (Transverse upper gracilis) – This is the name of a flap that consists of a portion of the gracilis muscle of the upper inner thigh along with the overlying skin and fat and its blood supply. A TUG flap is sometimes used to reconstruct the breast.

Uni-Lateral – one sided

Vein – A blood vessel that carries blood away from a body part.

Wide local excision – An operation to remove a lump, usually a cancer, with an appropriate margin of unaffected tissue in order to ensure its complete removal and minimise the risk of the tumour coming back in that area. Wide local excision followed by radiotherapy is often used to treat breast cancer, thus avoiding a mastectomy.