Glossary

 

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Abdomen (AB-do-men):

The area of the body that contains the pancreas, stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder, and other organs.

Adjuvant therapy (AD-joo-vant):

Treatment given after the primary treatment to increase the chances of a cure. Adjuvant therapy may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or biological therapy.

Anesthesia (an-es-THEE-zha):

Drugs or substances that cause loss of feeling or awareness. Local anesthetics cause loss of feeling in a part of the body. General anesthetics put the person to sleep.

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Barium enema:

A procedure in which a liquid with barium in it is put into the rectum and colon by way of the anus. Barium is a silver-white metallic compound that helps to show the image of the lower gastrointestinal tract on an x-ray.

Benign (beh-NINE):

Not cancerous. Benign tumors do not spread to tissues around them or to other parts of the body.

Biological therapy (by-o-LAHJ-i-kul) or biological response modifiers:

Treatment to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune system to fight infections and other diseases. Also used to lessen side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments. Also known as immunotherapy, biotherapy, or biological response modifier (BRM) therapy.

Biopsy (BY-op-see):

The removal of cells or tissues for examination under a microscope. When only a sample of tissue is removed, the procedure is called an incisional biopsy or core biopsy. When an entire lump or suspicious area is removed, the procedure is called an excisional biopsy. When a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle, the procedure is called a needle biopsy or fine-needle aspiration.

Bone Marrow:

The soft tissue in the hollow of flat bones of the body that produce new blood cells.

Bone Marrow Aspiration and Biopsy:

A procedure in which a needle is placed into the cavity of a bone, usually the hip or breast bone, to remove a small amount of bone marrow for examination under a microscope.

Bone marrow transplantation (trans-plan-TAY-shun):

A procedure to replace bone marrow that has been destroyed by treatment with high doses of anticancer drugs or radiation. Transplantation may be autologous (an individual’s own marrow saved before treatment), allogeneic (marrow donated by someone else), or syngeneic (marrow donated by an identical twin).

Brachytherapy (BRAKE-ih-THER-a-pee):

A procedure in which radioactive material sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters is placed directly into or near a tumor. Also called internal radiation, implant radiation, or interstitial radiation therapy.

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Cancer:

A term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control. Cancer cells can invade nearby tissues and can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body. There are several main types of cancer. Carcinoma is cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs. Sarcoma is cancer that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue. Leukemia is cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as the bone marrow, and causes large numbers of abnormal blood cells to be produced and enter the bloodstream. Lymphoma is cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system.

Carcinogen (kar-SIN-o-jin):

Any substance that causes cancer.

Carcinoma:

A malignant tumor that begins in the lining layer (epithelial cells) of organs. At least 80% of all cancers are carcinomas.

Carcinoma in Situ:

An early stage of cancer in which the tumor is confined to the organ where it first developed. The disease has not invaded to distant parts of the body. Most in situ carcinomas are highly curable.

Catheter (KATH-i-ter):

A flexible tube used to deliver fluids into or withdraw fluids from the body.

Central Nervous System (CNS):

The brain and spinal cord.

Cerebrospinal Fluid (seh-REE-broe-SPY-nal) (CSF):

The fluid flowing around the brain and spinal cord. Cerebrospinal fluid is produced in the ventricles in the brain.

Chemotherapy (kee-mo-THER-a-pee):

Treatment with drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used with surgery or radiation to treat cancer when the cancer has spread.

Clinical trial:

A type of research study that uses volunteers to test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of a disease. The trial may be carried out in a clinic or other medical facility. Also called a clinical study.

Colonoscopy (ko-LAHN-o-skope):

A thin, lighted tube used to examine the inside of the colon.

Computed Tomography (tuh-MAH-gra-fee) CT Scan:

A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body taken from different angles; the pictures are created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. Also called computerized tomography and computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan.

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Digital Rectal Examination (DRE):

An examination in which a doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for abnormalities.

Dysplasia (dis-PLAY-zha):

Cells that look abnormal under a microscope but are not cancer.

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Edema:

Build-up of fluid in the tissues, causing swelling. Edema of the arm can occur after radical mastectomy, axillary dissection of lymph nodes, or radiation therapy. (See also lymphedema)

Emesis:

Vomiting. Throwing up.

Endoscopy (en-DAHS-ko-pee):

The use of a thin, lighted tube (called an endoscope) to examine the inside of the body.

Excisional Biopsy (ek-SI-zhun-al BY-op-see):

A surgical procedure in which an entire lump or suspicious area is removed for diagnosis. The tissue is then examined under a microscope.

External Radiation (ray-dee-AY-shun):

Radiation therapy that uses a machine to aim high-energy rays at the cancer. Also called external-beam radiation.

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Fecal Occult Blood Test (FEE-kul o-KULT) (FOBT):

A test to check for blood in stool. (Fecal refers to stool; occult means hidden.)

Fertility (fer-TIL-i-tee):

The ability to produce children.

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Gene:

The functional and physical unit of heredity passed from parent to offspring. Genes are pieces of DNA, and most genes contain the information for making a specific protein.

Graft-versus-host disease (GCHD):

A reaction of donated bone marrow or peripheral stem cells against the recipient’s tissue.

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Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT):

Hormones (estrogen, progesterone, or both) given to women after menopause to replace the hormones no longer produced by the ovaries. Also called menopausal hormone therapy.

Hormone Therapy:

Treatment that adds, blocks or removes hormones. For certain conditions (such as diabetes or menopause), hormones are given to adjust low hormone levels. To slow or stop the growth of certain cancers (such as prostate and breast cancer), synthetic hormones or other drugs may be given to block the body’s natural hormones. Sometimes surgery is needed to remove the gland that makes hormones. Also called hormonal therapy, hormone treatment, or endocrine therapy.

Hyperalimentation:

Giving nutrition other than as food, often intravenously (IV).

Hysterectomy (hiss-ter-EK-toe-mee):

An operation in which the uterus is removed.

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Imaging:

Tests that produce pictures of areas inside the body.

Immune System (im-YOON):

The complex group of organs and cells that defends the body against infections and other diseases.

Immunotherapy (IM-yoo-no-THER-a-pee):

Treatment to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune system to fight infections and other diseases. Also used to lessen side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments. Also known as biological therapy, biotherapy, or biological response modifier (BRM) therapy.

Impotent (IM-po-tent):

In medicine, describes the inability to have an erection of the penis adequate for sexual intercourse.

Incisional Biopsy (in-SIH-zhun-al BY-op-see):

A surgical procedure in which a portion of a lump or suspicious area is removed for diagnosis. The tissue is then examined under a microscope.

Infertility:

The inability to produce children.

Informed Consent:

A legal document that explains a course of treatment, the risks, benefits, and possible alternatives; the process by which patients agree to treatment.

Interferon (in-ter-FEER-on):

A biological response modifier (a substance that can improve the body’s natural response to infections and other diseases). Interferons interfere with the division of cancer cells and can slow tumor growth. There are several types of interferons, including interferon-alpha, -beta, and -gamma. The body normally produces these substances. They are also made in the laboratory to treat cancer and other diseases.

Interleukin-2 (in-ter-LOO-kin) (IL-2):

A type of biological response modifier (a substance that can improve the body’s natural response to infection and disease) that stimulates the growth of certain disease-fighting blood cells in the immune system. These substances are normally produced by the body. Aldesleukin is IL-2 that is made in the laboratory for use in treating cancer and other diseases.

Internal Radiation (ray-dee-AY-shun):

A procedure in which radioactive material sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters is placed directly into or near a tumor. Also called brachytherapy, implant radiation, or interstitial radiation therapy.

Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (IN-tra-per-ih-toe-NEE-al KEE-mo-THER-a-pee):

Treatment in which anticancer drugs are put directly into the abdominal cavity through a thin tube.

Intrathecal chemotherapy (in-tra-THEE-kal KEE-mo-THER-a-pee):

Anticancer drugs that are injected into the fluid-filled space between the thin layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord.

Intravenous (in-tra-VEE-nus) or IV:

Injected into a blood vessel.

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Laparotomy (lap-a-RAH-toe-mee):

A surgical incision made in the wall of the abdomen.

Lesion:

A change in the body tissue; sometimes used as another word for tumor.

Leukemia (loo-KEE-mee-a):

Cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as the bone marrow, and causes large numbers of blood cells to be produced and enter the blood stream.

Local Therapy:

Treatment that affects cells in the tumor and the area close to it.

Lymph Node (limf node):

A rounded mass of lymphatic tissue that is surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue. Lymph nodes filter lymph (lymphatic fluid), and they store lymphocytes (white blood cells). They are located along lymphatic vessels. Also called a lymph gland.

Lymphatic system (lim-FAT-ik SIS-tem):

The tissues and organs that produce, store, and carry white blood cells that fight infections and other diseases. This system includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes, and lymphatic vessels (a network of thin tubes that carry lymph and white blood cells). Lymphatic vessels branch, like blood vessels, into all the tissues of the body.

Lymphoma (lim-FO-ma):

Cancer that begins in cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas. One kind is Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. The other category is non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, which includes a large, diverse group of cancers of immune system cells. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas can be further divided into cancers that have an indolent (slowly progressing) course and those that have an aggressive (rapidly progressing) course. These subtypes behave and respond to treatment differently. Both Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas can occur in children and adults, and prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and the type of cancer.

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Malignant (ma-LIG-nant):

Cancerous. Malignant tumors can invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

Malabsorption:

Impaired intestinal absorption of nutrients.

Mammogram (MAM-o-gram):

An x-ray of the breast; the method of finding breast cancer that can’t be felt. Mammograms are done with a special type of x-ray machine used only for this purpose. A mammogram can show a developing breast tumor before it is large enough to be felt by a woman or even a highly skilled health care professional. Screening Mammography is used to help find breast cancers early in women without any symptoms. Diagnostic Mammography helps the doctor learn more about breast masses or the cause of other breast symptoms.

Medical Oncologist (MED-i-kul on-KOL-o-jist):

A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and biological therapy. A medical oncologist often is the main health care provider for a person who has cancer. A medical oncologist also may coordinate treatment provided by other specialists.

Melanoma:

A form of skin cancer that arises in melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment. Melanoma usually begins in a mole.

Metastasis (meh-TAS-ta-sis):

The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. A tumor formed by cells that have spread is called a metastatic tumor or a metastasis. The metastatic tumor contains cells that are like those in the original (primary) tumor. The plural form of metastasis is metastases (meh-TAS-ta-seez).

Mole:

A benign growth on the skin (usually tan, brown, or flesh-colored) that contains a cluster of melanocytes and surrounding supportive tissue.

Monoclonal Antibodies:

Antibodies made in the laboratory and designed to target specific substances called antigens. Monoclonal antibodies which have been attached to the chemotherapy drugs or radioactive substances are being studied to see if they can seek out the antigens unique to cancer cells and deliver these treatments directly to the cancer,thus killing any cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. Monoclonal antibodies are also used in other ways, for example, to help find and classify cancer cells.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging):

A procedure in which radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer are used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures can show the difference between normal and diseased tissue. MRI makes better images of organs and soft tissue than other scanning techniques, such as CT or X-ray. MRI is especially useful for imaging the brain, spine, the soft tissue of joints, and the inside of bones. Also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.

Mucous Membrane:

Tissue that lines the passages and cavities that communicate with air, such as the GI tract (mouth, throat, stomach, colon & anus).

Mutation:

Any change in the DNA of a cell. Mutations may be caused by mistakes during cell division, or they may be caused by exposure to DNA-damaging agents in the environment. Mutations can be harmful, beneficial, or have no effect. If they occur in cells that make eggs or sperm, they can be inherited; if mutations occur in other types of cells, they are not inherited. Certain mutations may lead to cancer or other diseases.

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Neoadjuvant Therapy (NEE-o-AD-joo-vant):

Treatment given before the primary treatment. Examples of neoadjuvant therapy include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy.

Neoplasm:

An abnormal growth (tumor) that starts from a single altered cell; a neoplasm may be benign or malignant. Cancer is a malignant neoplasm.

Neutropenia:

Low white cell count which creates high risk of infection.

Nuclear Medicine Scan:

A method for localizing diseases of internal organs such as the brain, liver, or bone. Small amounts of radioactive substances (isotopes) are injected into the bloodstream. The isotope collects in certain organs. A scintillation camera is used to produce an image of the organ and detect areas of disease.

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Palliative Treatment:

Treatment that relieves symptoms, such as pain, but is not expected to cure the disease. The main purpose is to improve the patient’s quality of life.

Pap test:

The collection of cells from the cervix for examination under a microscope. It is used to detect changes that may be cancer or may lead to cancer, and can show noncancerous conditions, such as infection or inflammation. Also called a Pap smear.

Pathologist (pa-THOL-o-jist):

A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

Pelvic Examination:

An examination of a woman’s uterus and other pelvic organs. It is used to help find cancers of the reproductive organs. The doctor will visually examine structures and palpate (feel) the internal organs such as the ovaries and cervix.

Pelvis:

The lower part of the abdomen, located between the hip bones.

Peripheral Stem Cell Transplantation (per-IF-er-al):

A method of replacing blood-forming cells destroyed by cancer treatment. Immature blood cells (stem cells) in the circulating blood that are similar to those in the bone marrow are given to the patient after treatment. This helps the bone marrow recover and continue producing healthy blood cells. Transplantation may be autologous (an individual’s own blood cells saved earlier), allogeneic (blood cells donated by someone else), or syngeneic (blood cells donated by an identical twin). Also called peripheral stem cell support.

Peristalsis:

Progressive contraction and relaxation of the intestines.

Permanent Section:

A method of preparation of tissue for microscopic examination. The tissue is soaked in formaldehyde, processed in various chemicals, surrounded by a block of wax, sliced very thin, attached to a microscope slide and stained. This usually takes 1-2 days. It provides a clear view of the sample so that the presence or absence of cancer can be determined.

Primary Site:

The place where cancer begins. Primary cancer is usually named after the organ in which it starts. For example, cancer that starts in the breast is always breast cancer even if it spreads (metastasizes) to other organs such as bone or lungs.

Prosthesis:

An artificial form to replace a part of the body, such as a breast prosthesis.

Progesterone (pro-JES-ter-own):

A female hormone.

Prognosis (prog-NO-sis):

The likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery or recurrence.

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Radiation Oncologist (ray-dee-AY-shun on-KOL-o-jist):

A doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.

Radiation therapy (ray-dee-AY-shun THER-ah-pee) or Radiotherapy:

The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy, implant radiation, or brachytherapy). Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radio labeled monoclonal antibody, which circulates throughout the body. Also called radiotherapy.

Radiation/Portal Field:

The area of the body designated to receive radiotherapy; usually marked with ink or tattoos.

Radioactive (RAY-dee-o-AK-tiv):

Giving off radiation.

Radionuclide Scanning:

A test that produces pictures (scans) of internal parts of the body. The person is given an injection or swallows a small amount of radioactive material; a machine called a scanner then measures the radioactivity in certain organs.

Recur:

When cancer occurs again.

Remission:

Complete or partial disappearance of the signs and symptoms of cancer in response to treatment; the period during which a disease is under control. A remission may not be a cure.

Right Atrial Catheter or Central Venous Catheter:

A tube stitched into the vein through which medications and other solutions are given; remains in place until not needed.

Risk Factor :

Something that may increase the chance of developing a disease. Some examples of risk factors for cancer include age, a family history of certain cancers, use of tobacco products, certain eating habits, obesity, exposure to radiation or other cancer-causing agents, and certain genetic changes.

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Sarcoma:

A malignant tumor growing from connective tissues, such as cartilage ,fat, muscle or bone.

Screening:

Checking for disease when there are no symptoms.

Sigmoidoscope (sig-MOY-da-skope):

A thin, lighted tube used to view the inside of the colon.

Sonogram (SON-o-gram):

A computer picture of areas inside the body created by bouncing high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) off internal tissues or organs. Also called an ultrasonogram.

Sperm Banking:

Freezing sperm for use in the future. This procedure can allow men to father children after loss of fertility.

Stage:

The extent of a cancer within the body. If the cancer has spread, the stage describes how far it has spread from the original site to other parts of the body.

Staging (STAY-jing):

Performing exams and tests to learn the extent of the cancer within the body, especially whether the disease has spread from the original site to other parts of the body. It is important to know the stage of the disease in order to plan the best treatment.

Stomatitis:

Inflammation or ulcers of the mouth area. Stomatitis can be a side affect of chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

Subcutaneous Venous Access Disk:

Device implanted under the skin through which chemotherapy, IV fluids, and blood may be given; sometimes called “implanted port.

Sun Protection Factor or SPF:

A scale for rating the level of sunburn protection in sunscreen products. The higher the SPF, the more sunburn protection it provides. Sunscreens with an SPF value of 2 through 11 provide minimal protection against sunburns. Sunscreens with an SPF of 12 through 29 provide moderate protection, which is adequate for most people. Those with an SPF of 30 or higher provide high protection against sunburn and are sometimes recommended for people who are highly sensitive to the sun.

Sunscreen:

A substance that helps protect the skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Sunscreens reflect, absorb, and scatter both ultraviolet A and B radiation to provide protection against both types of radiation. Using lotions, creams, or gels that contain sunscreens can help protect the skin from premature aging and damage that may lead to skin cancer.

Surgery (SER-juh-ree):

A procedure to remove or repair a part of the body or to find out whether disease is present. An operation.

Systemic Therapy (sis-TEM-ik THER-a-pee):

Treatment using substances that travels through the bloodstream, reaching and affecting cells all over the body.

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Tissue (TISH-oo):

A group or layer of cells that are alike and that work together to perform a specific function.

Thrombocytopenia:

A decrease in the number of platelets in the blood: can be a side effect of chemotherapy.

Tumor (TOO-mer):

A mass of excess tissue that results from abnormal cell division. Tumors perform no useful body function. They may be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

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Ultrasonography (UL-tra-son-OG-ra-fee):

A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram. Also called ultrasound.

Ultraviolet Radiation (ul-tra- VYE-o-let ray-dee-AY-shun) or UV radiation:

Invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun. UV radiation also comes from sun lamps and tanning beds. UV radiation can damage the skin and cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. UV radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface is made up of two types of rays, called UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are more likely than UVA rays to cause sunburn, but UVA rays pass deeper into the skin. Scientists have long thought that UVB radiation can cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. They now think that UVA radiation also may add to skin damage that can lead to skin cancer and cause premature aging. For this reason, skin specialists recommend that people use sunscreens that reflect, absorb, or scatter both kinds of UV radiation.

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White blood cell (WBC):

Refers to a blood cell that does not contain hemoglobin. White blood cells include lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, macrophages, and mast cells. These cells are made by bone marrow and help the body fight infection and other diseases.

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X-ray:

A type of high-energy radiation. In low doses, x-rays are used to diagnose diseases by making pictures of the inside of the body. In high doses, x-rays are used to treat cancer.

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