bc terminology

Hi everyone,

I posted my first comment last week after being recently diagnosed with bc. I’ve taken a few days holiday with the family down in sunny dorset to take my mind of it while i wait to go in to have snb on the 26th April, i am having a double mastectomy (cancer in one breast but due to family history having both off) poss reconn but all depends on the results from this snb. I understand what this is but can anyone let me know what does it mean by clear margins? when do you get to find this out? have read a few posts stating this but dont know what it means. Sorry to be ‘rookie’ am gettig to grips with some of it but at the moment my head is swimming in emotions, positive and negative, just want to get on with the inevitable now and know where i’m at if that makes sense?
hope some one can help? thanks ladies

Hi dancer1

When removing the tumour they also take some surrounding tissue to check for any rogue cancer cells, this is the margin they talk about. Clear margins is what it is called when no cancer cells are found in this surrounding tissue.

Like you I was bamboozled with terminology and still can be sometimes. Hope this helps and take care. J.

Hi there dancer1

Our site has a glossary of terms, etc so this might help you understand some of the terminology used when speaking to your medical team or simply help you understand some of the messages on the forums.

Here’s the link, it’s in alaphabetical order too to make it slightly easier:


Hope you find it useful.

Best wishes


thank you louise and J,

I have multiple (approx 3-4) areas in my left breast, two were tested positive, does that mean then that i won’t have clear margins? assume so,but do i still get grade etc…? crumbs - my head hurts! louise- will check out the information suggested, thankyou and of course will speak with my bc nurse aswell. Thanks j for your help, am sure it will all become clearer over time. xxxxxxx

Hi dancer1

I really do understand how stressed and anxious you will be at this time. As you are being seen this week then I would suggest that you write down any questions you have and take this with you as that way you won’t forget to ask all the questions that you currently have in your head. I remember only too well the feelings I had of utter confusion and fear last year in August when I was diagnosed and I found writing things down very helpful. Always try to take someone with you as often you don’t take in everything that is being said.

Importantly please take care of yourself and try not to scare yourself with too much information. Once you know that treatment plan you will feel more in control of the situation.

Thinking of you at this diffucult time. J.

thank you , it is good to know that there are people who really do understand and can help. i have one more question if i dare? my husband says i should ask as i have been worrying about this for a few days. Since having the biopsies to diagnose the bc on the 5th April, i have had aches and throbbin in my left breast. I hadn’t had any bother before! my bc nurse says this is normal, however, over the past few days i have had twinging all over this area as result of nurve endings and bruising, but over the last few days i have had more under my left arm, again, i hadn’t expereinced any of this before, has anyone experienced similar? (especially under the arm)sometimes it’s like pins and needles. Sorry to be a pain, i know i will have the results of the snb soon as i go in on Tuesday but just felt i need to ask. no worries if not. thanks again and lol xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Hi Dancer

Yes, the aching is not unusual. Think about it, you’ve been stabbed, it’s definitely going to hurt! And we’re all hyper-sensitive about aches and pains.

Take a look at the Publications part of the site, particularly the bit aimed at those who are newly diagnosed, and you’ll find lots of leaflets that might help to explain things to you, or give you starting points for the questions you might want to ask when you see your specialists next.

And I’m glad to see you asking questions. THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A SILLY QUESTION, so just ask away.


thanks chocci muffin, will have a look and glad i’m not being a pain in asking questions, sometimes you feel as though you are always askin or moaning about something, most of the time any twinges i get convince me that it’s somewhere else!! glad to hear this is normal, having snb tues and hope results will help me to move on with whatever treatment is required, i try to sound brave but i’m not - really scared to hear them if i’m being honest, will keep you posted. thanks again xxxxxxxxxxx

I’m sure the aches and pains are a result of the biopsy. I had exactly the same pains under my arm from the lymph node biopsy and the area where they biopsied the lump itself was all the colours of the rainbow for ages.

I was worried about the pains as well but when I asked on here I found out just how common it was! If there’s anything you’re worried about though do tell your consultant or BCN - they’re there to help.

As CM said, there’s no such thing as a silly question and whatever you ask someone will try to help you. It’s such a horrible and confusing time but trust me, it will get easier (if that’s the right word to use!) and we’re all here to chat to if you need us.

Jane xxx