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What Did My Doctor Say?

The special words doctors and nurses use can be hard to understand. You may see or hear these words at your doctor’s office, on the Internet, on the radio or TV, or in newspapers or magazines. We call these words “medspeak.” The Medical Library Association created this site to help you understand what a doctor or nurse tells you. You’ll find tips on how to understand many health words. The terms on this site were created with the help of the Working Group for Health Literacy, Massachusetts Health Sciences Library Network (MAHSLIN)
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  • BRACHI, BRACHIO

    This is part of a word. It means something to do with the arm. For example, a brachial vein is a vein in your arm.
  • BRADY

    This is part of a word. It means slow. Bradycardia” means slow heart beat.
  • BRCAl AND BRCA2 GENES

    These are genes that control growth of cells in the breast; when they do not work right, they may increase the chance of getting breast cancer.
  • BREAST DENSITY

    This term describes the type and amount of tissue in the breast. A dense breast (common in young women) has less fatty tissue. A mammogram of dense breasts may be harder to read or interpret, so a doctor may suggest using ultrasound, which uses sound waves.
  • BREAST IMPLANTS

    These are sacs placed in the breast and filled with a substance such as saline or silicone. Implants are often used to reconstruct or replace the breast after a mastectomy.
  • BREAST SELF-EXAMINATION (BSE)

    This is a check by a woman of her own breasts. Women should know how their breasts feel and report any change to a health care provider as soon as it is found. For more information, call 1.800.227.2345 or visit http://www.cancer.org/.
  • BRONCHI, BRONCHO

    These are parts of a word. They mean some of the tubes in your throat and chest you use to breathe. The tubes go into your lungs. BRONCHI is in the word “bronchitis”. Bronchitis means these tubes are swollen inside.
  • BUFFALO HUMP

    This is a term for extra fat on the upper back and neck. It is caused by taking HIV drugs.

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