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Dictionary of Radiology Terms

A comprehensive glossary of radiology terminology.


NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms

Contains more than 6,000 terms related to cancer and medicine.

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your Imaging Reports

Physicians may use a variety of methods to capture images of breast cancer tumors.

Common Imaging Tests for Breast Cancer Patients

Mammography uses a low-dose x-ray to provide an image of the breasts. A radiologist interprets the results.

Ultrasound uses high-energy sound waves to create echo patterns that form a picture – called a sonogram – of body tissue.

Bone Scan
A bone scan is a nuclear scanning test that is used to detect whether the cancer has metastasized (spread) to the bone. Bone scan results must be interpreted along with your symptoms and the results of other tests, such as x-rays, CT, MRI, blood tests, or a biopsy. A bone scan is not the same as a bone density test or DEXA scan, which is used to assess bone health.

Computer Tomography
Computer Tomography (CT) uses a thin x-ray beam to create digital images of the body. CT may be used to diagnose whether the cancer has spread to the spine, bones, abdomen, pelvis or head. Sometimes a CT will be done at the same time as a PET scan.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI uses a strong magnet to produce an image of a specific area of the body. MRI may be used to obtain additional images of the breast tumor. It is also often used to diagnose whether the cancer has spread to other areas, such as the brain or spine.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan
PET scans tell how your body's cells are functioning and can detect the signals of actively growing cancer cells. In contrast, a CT scan provides a detailed picture of your internal organs that reveals the location, size, and shape of any cancerous growths. A PET scan may be performed at the same time as a CT scan. PET scans may be used to stage a cancer or to look for cancer cells that may have metastasized (spread).


Commonly Used Terms in Imaging Reports

These are some of the terms commonly used in imaging reports. You do not need to understand these terms to complete your BCT Health History.

Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BIRADS) Classification
A number that indicates the radiologist's overall impression. The BIRADS scale goes from one to five; the higher the number the greater the possibility that cancer is present.

Small calcium deposits in the breast tissue that can be seen by mammography.

Small groups of cells that appear different from the surrounding tissue.

Hot Spot
An area of accumulation seen on a bone scan. A hot spot may be caused by cancer in the bone. It can also be caused by a fracture, a bone infection, arthritis, or abnormal bone metabolism.

An area of abnormal tissue. It can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

A disease or swelling of the lymph nodes.

Tiny calcifications in the breast tissue that can be seen on a mammogram. When clustered, it can be a sign of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

Describes a cancer that can be felt by touch.

A term to describe the breast tissue.

The breast is divided into four quadrants or sections: the upper/outer quadrant (armpit), upper-inner quadrant, lower-inner quadrant, and lower/outer quadrant.