Cancer Word List for Patients

A diagnosis of cancer can cause a major disruption in the economic, social and personal lives of cancer patients and their families. Suddenly, complex and difficult-to-understand information is presented and important decisions need to be made based on this information. The Cancer Information Service provides this Cancer Word List to describe terms that may be used in this process so that patients and family members can take an active role in their care.

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Words that are underlined are defined in the list in alphabetical order.


Abdomen or Abdominal Area:
The area of the body below the diaphragm between the chest and the pelvis. The organs of the digestive, reproductive, and urinary tracts are located in the abdomen.
Absolute Neutrophil Count:
In a white blood count, the absolute count is the actual number of neutrophils in the blood, rather than the percentage.
Accelerated Phase:
Chronic myelogenous leukemia that is progressing. The number of abnormal white blood cells in the bone marrow is higher than the chronic phase but not as high as in a blast crisis.
Actinic Keratosis:
A pre-cancerous condition of thick, scaly patches of skin.
Acoustic Neuroma:
A benign tumor of the hearing nerve.
Sudden onset of symptoms or disease.
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL):
ALL is one of four basic types of leukemia. In ALL, there is abnormal production of immature lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.
Acute Myelogenous or Non-Lymphocytic Leukemia (AML):
AML is one of four basic types of leukemia. In AML, there is an abnormal production of granulocytes or myeloid cells, a type of white blood cell.
A type of cancer that involves the cells of glandular organs. Adenocarcinomas may occur in the breast, esophagus, lung, pancreas, prostate, small intestine, stomach, vagina, and other organs.
Pieces of lymphoid tissue located on both sides at the back of the pharynx or throat, near the tonsils. Lymphoid tissue is part of the immune system.
A benign or malignant tumor arising in the lining of an organ.
Enlarged lymph nodes.
Adjuvant Treatment:
Treatment that is added to increase effectiveness of the first treatment done. In cancer, adjuvant treatment usually refers to chemotherapy or radiation therapy given after surgery to increase the chance for cure.
Adrenal Glands:
Two small organs located near the kidneys that release hormones affecting various body functions.
Adverse Effects:
Undesired effects of treatment.
Aklyating Agents:
A group of chemotherapy drugs that interferes with the division of cells, slowing or stopping their growth and reproduction.
A type of chemical made by plants. Some types of chemotherapy are made from alkaloids.
See Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.
Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant:
A type of transplant where the bone marrow is obtained from another person.
Loss of hair, baldness. May include all body hair, not just the hair on the scalp.
Alternative Medicine:
Treatment that generally is not recognized by medical professionals as standard or conventional. Some people choose to use alternative medicine instead of standard medicine. Examples of alternative medicine may include megadoses of vitamins or herbs, drinking of special teas, and practices such as magnet therapy.
Tiny air sacs at the end of the bronchioles in the lungs.
See Acute Myelogenous or Non-lymphocytic Leukemia.
A drug used to relieve pain.
Cells that divide very rapidly and have very little resemblance to normal cells.
Surgery to connect the healthy sections of tubular structures after the diseased part has been surgically removed.
A male sex hormone. Androgens may be used in some patients with cancer to treat recurrence of the disease.
A condition of the blood when there are too few red blood cells.
Medications given to promote loss of feeling or awareness. General anesthesia causes a person to fall asleep.
Blood vessel formation. Tumor cells release chemicals that promote the growth of blood vessels within the tumor.
An x-ray of the blood vessels. Dye is injected into the patient to outline the blood vessels on the x-ray.
Loss of appetite.
Anterior Mediastinotomy:
A surgery where a tube is inserted into the chest to view the tissues and organs in the area between the breastbone and the spine. During this procedure, doctors can take tissue samples of the lymph nodes on the left side of the chest.
A medication used to block the production of the male hormones (androgens) in the body. This kind of treatment may be used to treat prostate cancer.
Prevention of the growth of new blood vessels.
Substances derived from other organisms such as mold or bacteria that can be used to treat diseases. Penicillin and streptomycin are examples. There are a few antibiotics used to treat cancer.
A protein substance formed by the body to help defend it against disease.
A medicine that is used to prevent or treat nausea/vomiting.
A substance that prompts the body to produce antibodies.
Medicine used to block the production of hormones that can stimulate cancer growth.
Medicine that stops the growth of cancer cells.
A substance that can prevent cell damage by binding with free radicals.
A series of events that lead to cell death.
The dark colored skin that surrounds the nipple of the breast.
Abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity.
The fluid or material that is removed by aspiration (suction) from a body area.
A procedure to remove fluid or material from a body area, such as the chest or abdomen, often done with a needle and syringe. It is often done to help make a diagnosis.
In a clinical trial, children and adolescents are not capable of giving true informed consent, so they are asked for their assent or agreement, to participate in a trial.
Showing no symptoms or signs of disease.
Loss of muscle coordination.
Ataxic Gait:
Awkward walking.
Unusual, abnormal.
In a clinical trial, on-site monitoring of the trial procedures, documents and data is called an audit.
Autoimmune Disease:
A condition where a personís normal immune system makes antibodies against his or her own body.
Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant:
A transplant where the patient's own bone marrow is removed, stored, treated and returned to the patient.
The armpit.
Axillary Nodes:
Lymph glands in the armpit.
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Barium Enema:
An x-ray examination of the colon using barium sulfate.
Basal Cell Carcinoma:
The most common form of skin cancer. It is slow growing, and rarely spreads to other areas. It is easily cured when treated early.
Basal Cells:
Small round cells found in the lower part of the epidermis, the outer layer of skin.
A type of white blood cell. Basophils are granulocytes.
A type of white blood cell that makes antibodies and is part of the immune system. Also called B lymphocytes.
Bacillus Calmette Guerin: A type of biological therapy used to treat superficial bladder cancer. A catheter is used to insert the BCG solution into the bladder. The solution stimulates the immune system.
A tumor or growth that is not cancerous and will not spread to other areas of the body.
Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy or BPH:
A non-cancerous growth of prostate tissue. It may cause symptoms similar to prostate cancer.
Relating to both the right and left sides of the body or its parts.
Bilateral Salpingo-olphorectomy:
A surgery to remove both fallopian tubes and ovaries.
Referring to the bile ducts, liver or gallbladder.
Biological Response Modifiers (BRM):
Substances which are naturally produced in the body and can be made in a laboratory. They boost the body's immune system to fight disease. Interferon is an example of a biological response modifier.
Biological Therapy:
A treatment that stimulates the body is own immune system to fight cancer.
The surgical removal of a small piece of tissue to determine if the area is cancerous.
The hollow organ that stores urine.
An immature or imperfectly developed blood cell.
Blast Crisis:
Also called a blast phase. This occurs when the number of immature and abnormal white cells in the bone marrow and blood is very high.
Blood-brain Barrier:
A membrane that acts like a barrier to prevent harmful substances from getting into the spinal fluid and brain. This barrier can also prevent chemotherapy drugs from reaching a tumor in the brain.
Blood Count:
A blood test used to determine the number of the various types of blood cells.
Blood Vessels:
Tubes that carry blood throughout the body.
Bone Marrow:
The inner cavity of bone which normally contains the spongy substance which produces red and white blood cells and platelets.
Bone Marrow Ablation:
Using radiation therapy or chemotherapy to destroy the bone marrow.
Bone Marrow Biopsy and Aspiration:
A test where a needle is inserted into the bone of the hip or sternum (breast bone) to obtain a bone marrow sample for microscopic study and examination.
Bone Marrow Harvest:
Removal of bone marrow from the hip bone for use in autologous or allogeneic transplantation.
Bone Marrow Transplant:
A procedure where a patient's bone marrow is replaced with healthy marrow. In an autologous transplant, the patient's own marrow is harvested, possibly treated, and then transplanted. In an allogeneic transplant, another person donates the marrow.
Bone Scan:
A type of diagnostic examination that takes pictures of the bones after a radioactive dye is injected into a vein. This examination can show tumors of the bone.
Another name for intestine. Humans have both a small and a large bowel.
A therapy where radioactive materials are implanted directly into a tumor or body cavity, causing death of cancer cells.
Brain Scan:
A type of x-ray examination using a radioactive dye injected into a vein that will show injury, disease or healing.
Brain Stem:
The part of the brain connected to the spinal cord. The brain stem controls basic body functions, including blood pressure, heart beat, and breathing.
A gene, that when damaged, may increase a woman's chance of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer.
Breast Conserving Surgery:
A surgery that removes cancer from a breast, but not the breast itself. There are three types of breast conserving surgery: a lumpectomy (surgery that removes a lump), quadrantectomy (surgery that removes one quarter of the breast), and segmental mastectomy (surgery that removes the cancer, some tissue around the tumor, and the lining over the chest muscles below the tumor).
Breast Lobe:
The part of the breast where milk is made.
Breast Reconstruction:
A surgery that rebuilds a breast's shape with tissue after a mastectomy
Breast Self-Exam (BSE):
A procedure done by women themselves on a monthly basis to detect early changes in the breast which may indicate a problem such as cancer.
The large air passages of the lungs.
Bronchial Tubes:
Tubes that branch off from the trachea, carrying air to the lungs and to the lobes in each lung.
Tiny branches of air tubes in the lung.
A thin, lighted instrument used to examine the inside of the trachea and bronchi.
A direct examination of the air passages of the lungs. A narrow, flexible tube called a bronchoscope is gently inserted either into the nose or throat and then through the voice box, down the trachea, and into the large airways of the lungs.
Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, or the removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries on both sides.
The area inside of the cheek and lips.
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A tumor marker test that measures a substance in the blood that may indicate the presence of ovarian cancer. Tumor marker tests are helpful but cannot prove a definite diagnosis of cancer. Tumor marker tests may also be used to monitor the progress of treatment or to detect a possible recurrence after treatment.
A severe protein loss in the body, leading to weight loss, weakness, fatigue, impaired wound healing, and a decreased tolerance for aggressive cancer treatments. Also known as wasting syndrome.
Small calcium deposits that may occur in breast tissue. A cluster of microcalcifications may indicate a cancer.
Cancer Chemotherapy:
Chemical substances used to kill cancer cells.
A broad term for a large group (more than 100) of diseases where there is uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal, malignant cells.
Cancer Information Service (CIS):
A free service where information specialists answer questions about cancer and provide free educational materials. The Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center has a nationwide CIS that can be reached at 1-800-237-1225.
Cancer of Unknown Primary:
Cancer cells have been found in the body but doctors cannot determine where the cancer originally started growing.
Containing cancer cells.
A tumor, usually found in the gastrointestinal tract, that is usually slow growing and may secrete hormones.
A kind of cancer that develops in epithelial tissue (skin or lining of an organ).
Carcinoma In Situ:
A cancer in the stage of development when the cancer cells are still confined to their site of origin.
A cancer-causing substance.
The process where normal cells turn into cancer cells.
: Using either surgery or medicine to lower the level of testosterone, a male hormone.
CAT Scan (CT or Computed Tomography Scans):
This test combines x-ray and computer technologies to produce highly detailed cross sectional tissue views, particularly of soft tissue.
A flexible tube used to administer or withdraw fluids. An example is a bladder catheter to remove urine. During a course of chemotherapy, an indwelling catheter can be placed in a vein to administer intravenous fluids and chemotherapy. Catheters can stay in place for several weeks or months with proper care.
Cauterization uses heat to destroy abnormal cells or stop bleeding. It may be used to treat dysplasia, or abnormal cells that might become cancerous. To perform this procedure, a probe which has a high-frequency electric current at the tip, is touched to the abnormal area. The heat kills only the surface cells.
CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen):
A tumor marker found in the blood that may indicate the presence of certain types of cancer cells. Tumor marker substances may be produced by the tumor itself or by the body in response to a cancer.
The individual unit that makes up all of the tissues of the body.
Cell Motility:
The ability of a cell to move.
Cell Proliferation:
An increase in the number of cells as a result of cell growth and division.
Central Nervous System (CNS):
The brain, spinal cord, and cerebrospinal fluid
The part of the brain in the back of the head between the cerebrum and the brain stem. The cerebellum controls balance for walking and standing and other motor functions
Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF):
The fluid around the brain and spinal cord.
The cerebrum is part of the brain and is divided into two halves called cerebral hemispheres. The cerebrum controls muscle function, as well as speech, emotions, reading, writing, and learning.
Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN):
Dysplasia or abnormal cells of the cervix.
Cervical Nodes:
Lymph nodes in the neck.
The lower part of the uterus that connects with the vagina in women.
A treatment where the blood supply of the tumor is blocked and chemotherapy drugs are delivered directly into the tumor through a catheter.
The use of drugs in an attempt to prevent disease.
A treatment using medicines.
Chest Wall:
The muscles, bones and joints that make up the area between the neck and abdomen.
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL):
CLL is one of the four basic types of leukemia. CLL is a disorder where too many lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, are produced.
Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML):
CML is one of the four basic types of leukemia. CML is a disorder where too many granulocytes or myeloid cells, a type of white blood cell, are produced.
Clinical Trial:
A study that uses new treatments to care for patients. During clinical trials, more information is collected about new treatments, their risks, and how well they do or do not work. If clinical trials show that the new treatment is better than the treatment currently being used, the new treatment may become the "standard" treatment.
See Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.
See Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia.
A surgical procedure to remove all or part of the colon or large bowel. A partial colectomy removes the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it.
Colon (large bowel):
The part of the gastrointestinal system that goes from the end of the small intestine to the rectum.
A thin, lighted tube used to examine the inside of the entire length of the colon.
An examination of the entire length of the colon using a lighted, flexible tube.
Colony Stimulating Factors:
Naturally occurring substances in the body which stimulate the bone marrow to produce red and white blood cells and platelets. Because they stimulate the bone marrow to produce more cells, they can be used to help patients receiving chemotherapy to tolerate larger doses of chemotherapy which are more effective in treating the cancer.
A surgically made opening in the large bowel that connects it to the surface of the abdomen. It is made for the elimination of stool or bowel movements or fecal material.
An examination of the cervix and vagina using an instrument called a colposcope.
Combination Therapy:
This treatment uses a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy to treat cancer.
Compassionate Use:
Patient use of a drug on humanitarian grounds before the drug has received official approval.
Complementary Medicine:
Treatments that are used in addition to standard treatment, either with or without a doctor's knowledge. Complementary methods might include taking dietary supplements, or practices such as massage, spiritual healing and meditation.
An unexpected, undesirable effect of a condition or treatment.
Computerized Tomography Scans (CAT scan or CT):
An examination using computers and x-rays to diagnose tumors or metastasis and other conditions.
Cone Biopsy or Cervical Conization:
A biopsy of the cervix to remove a cone of tissue. It is done as a diagnostic procedure to detect or rule out cancer or neoplasms and determine the extent of the disease.
Consolidation Therapy:
Chemotherapy which is given only after leukemia is in remission. An "extra shot" of medicine is given just to make sure that all leukemia is eradicated. This treatment is used with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.
The ability to control passing of urine and bowel movements.
Control Group:
In a clinical trial, the control group does not receive the new treatment being studied. The control group is compared to the treatment group to see if the new treatment is effective.
Cooperative Group:
A group of health care providers that is formed in order to treat a large number of patients the same way so that new treatments can be evaluated quickly. Examples of cooperative groups include CALGB and NSABP.
Core Needle Biopsy:
The removal of tissue with a wide needle for examination under a microscope.
A surgical procedure using liquid nitrogen or carbon dioxide to destroy a tumor by freezing.
Also called undescended testicles. A condition where one or both testicles fail to move from the abdomen, where they develop before birth, into the scrotum. About 10% of men with undescended testicles will develop testicular cancer.
Another word for skin.
Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma:
A type of lymphoma that affects the skin.
A surgery to remove part or the entire bladder.
A procedure to visualize the urethra and bladder by introducing a lighted, flexible tube.
The examination of cells under a microscope looking for abnormalities.
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The thin muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen.
Disseminated intravascular coagulation. A process in which microscopic clotting occurs throughout the body, leaving no clotting factors available when needed. It can cause excessive bleeding and may be treated with a heparin infusion. Patients with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia, a type of AML, are particularly prone to DIC during therapy.
In cancer, it refers to how mature the cancer cells are. Well-differentiated cancer cells are more like normal cells, usually less aggressive and respond better to treatment. Undifferentiated or poorly differentiated cells are not able to carry out normal cell functions.
The digestive tract contains the organs where food is processed and digested. It includes the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, and stomach.
Digestive Tract:
The part of the body where food is processed and digested. It includes the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines or bowels.
Digital Rectal Examination:
An examination in which the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to examine the rectum or prostate in males. In females, it may be a part of a pelvic examination to feel for abnormalities in the rectum or uterus.
Dilation and Curettage:
A minor surgery where the cervix is expanded or dilated to permit the uterine lining and cervical canal to be scraped with an instrument called a curette.
Seeing one object as two. Double vision.
Direct Laryngoscopy:
Direct examination of the hypopharynx and larynx with a laryngoscope, a flexible, lighted tube which is inserted into the patient's mouth over the tongue while the neck is extended.
Disease-free Survival:
The length of time a patient is cancer free after treatment.
Deoxyribonucleic acid or a biological chemical in the cell that contains and controls the genetic information, which determines the unique characteristics of each person.
In a clinical trial, neither the medical staff nor the patient knows which of the treatments the patient is receiving.
Dry Orgasm:
Sexual climax without the release of semen.
In the breast, a tube that carries the milk from the lobule to the nipple. The ducts in the breast are a common place where breast cancer occurs.
Ductal Carcinoma In Situ:
Cancer that begins in the ducts of the breast, but has not grown through the duct wall into the surrounding tissue.
The first part of the small intestine.
Problems with the ability to comprehend written language.
Difficult or painful swallowing.
Abnormal cells that might become cancerous if not treated.
Difficulty or pain with breathing; shortness of breath.
Difficult or painful urination.
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Swelling or accumulation of fluid in a body part.
Collection of fluid in tissue or in a body cavity, such as in the chest (pleural effusion).
The release of semen through the penis during sexual orgasm.
Eligibility Criteria:
In a clinical trial, the participant eligibility criteria may include age, sex or type of cancer, or it may include more specific information about the patient and his/her type of cancer.
A tumor that is located in only one area and is completely surrounded by a layer of tissue.
Endocrine Therapy:
Also called hormonal therapy. This is treatment of cancer by removing, blocking or administering hormones.
Endometrial Cancer:
A cancer of the layer of tissue that lines the uterus.
The tissue that lines the uterus is called the endometrium. In endometriosis, this same tissue can be found growing outside of the uterus where it does not belong.
The lining of the uterus.
A thin, lighted instrument used to examine parts of the inside of the body.
Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP):
An examination of the pancreas where a tube in inserted down the throat, through the stomach and into the pancreas. A dye is injected and x-rays are taken to show abnormalities. The ERCP can also be used to obtain tissue samples for biopsy.
An examination that uses a hollow tube with a light that visualizes the inside of a body cavity.
What researchers measure to evaluate the results of a treatment being tested in a clinical trial. Some examples of endpoints would be tumor response, side effects, and survival time.
Return of normal hematopoiesis, or production and maturing of blood cells, following bone marrow transplantation.
Enteral Feeding:
A way of feeding patients by the administration of feedings through a tube directly into the stomach or intestines.
Enterostomal Therapy Nurse (WOC Nurse):
A nurse specially trained to help patients with stomas (openings in the abdomen created to remove wastes), wounds, skin care concerns, or continence problems.
Complete surgical removal of the eyeball.
The outer layer of skin that contains both squamous and basal cells.
A long twisted tube at the side of the testicles where the sperm mature.
Situated upon or outside the dura mater, the outermost and toughest membrane of the brain and spinal cord.
A flap of tissue that covers the trachea when swallowing so that food does not go into the lungs.
A thin layer of tissue that covers organs, glands and other parts of the body.
Redness of the skin.
The red blood cells that carry oxygen and are responsible for the red color of the blood.
Esophageal Speech:
A learned method of speaking used by individuals who have had their voice box or larynx removed.
A surgery to remove a part of the esophagus, the food tube.
Inflammation of the esophagus or food tube.
Examination of the esophagus with a thin, lighted scope.
A muscular tube which runs from the back of the throat to the stomach. Food travels through the tube to get to the stomach.
A female sex hormone. It has been linked with several cancers, including breast and endometrial cancer, and may be used in the treatment of prostate cancer.
Estrogen Receptor Assay:
A test that determines if breast cancer is stimulated by the hormone estrogen.
The causes of disease.
A term used when a portion of bowel pops out through a surgical incision that has not healed completely. When used in connection with the eye, it means removal of the contents of the eyeball, with the white part of the eye being left intact.
Surgical removal.
Excisional Biopsy:
A surgery to remove a tumor or lesion for microscopic examination. For example, in breast cancer an excisional biopsy would remove an entire lump rather than just a piece of it.
Extended Radical Neck Dissection:
A surgical procedure that involves removal of additional lymph node groups or other structures relative to the Radical Neck Dissection.
External Beam Radiation Therapy:
Treating cancer with the use of radiation from a machine, usually located at a distance from the body. Another name for radiation therapy.
The leaking of intravenous fluids out of the vein into the soft tissue. When the intravenous fluid contains medicines that are caustic (harsh), tissue damage may occur.
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Fallopian Tubes:
Two slender tubes about three inches long which connect the ovaries to the uterus. After eggs are expelled from the ovary, they travel through the fallopian tube to the uterus.
Familial Adenomatous Polyposis:
A hereditary condition that causes the development of numerous polyps in the lining of the colon and rectum. It increases the risk of cancer.
Refers to the stools or bowel movements.
Fecal Occult Blood Test:
A test that checks for hidden (occult) blood in the stool (fecal material).
The ability to reproduce children.
A general term to describe benign tumors arising in the muscle of the uterus. The medical name is leiomyoma uteri.
Fine Needle Aspiration:
A procedure in which a needle is inserted under local anesthesia to obtain a sample for the evaluation of suspicious tissue.
An abnormal channel-like opening between two areas of the body. A fistula may be present at birth or occur because of injury, infection, or cancer.
Fistula Repair:
A surgical procedure to remove the fistula channel and stitch or staple the hole to return the tissue to normal function.
Five-Year Survival:
A measurement of the effect of cancer treatment over a five-year period of time. Survival rates include persons who survive five years after diagnosis, whether in remission, disease-free, or under treatment.
Fractionated Radiation Therapy:
Dividing the total dose of radiation into smaller equal doses, which are given over a period of days.
Free Radicals:
Chemicals that often contain oxygen and can damage important cell components, including the DNA.
Frozen Section:
A diagnostic technique done by a pathologist on a piece of tissue removed by a surgeon. The tissue is quick frozen, stained, then examined under a microscope to determine if it is benign or malignant.
Destroying tissue using an electric current.
The bottom of an organ, or the part opposite the opening of a hollow organ.
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An organ connected to the liver that stores bile, a fluid made by the liver that helps digest fat.
Gamma Knife:
A type of radiation therapy in which high energy beams are directed at a tumor from many angles in a single treatment session.
A surgery to remove all or part of the stomach.
Having to do with the stomach.
Refers to the digestive tract and/or the intestines.
The material in each cell that contains the hereditary information and determines the traits we get from past generations. There are thousands of genes in each cell.
Gene Deletion:
The loss or absence of a gene.
A branch of science that focuses on genes.
Genetic Tests:
Tests that analyze the DNA in cells to look for changes in the genes that may cause an increased risk of developing a specific disease or cancer.
Gene Therapy:
Treatment that alters a gene, either by improving the body is ability to fight disease or by making cancer cells more receptive to treatment.
The organs of the male and female reproductive systems.
A single word used to describe the genital and urinary tract.
The gums orthe tissue which surrounds the roots of the teeth.
Groups of cells that secrete or excrete substances or hormones that affect tissues or organs.
Gleason Score:
A system that rates how aggressive a prostate cancer is. This information helps determine the best treatment for the cancer.
Glomus Tumor:
A rare and usually very small tumor occurring in the head and neck area.
The middle part of the larynx or voice box, where the vocal cords are located.
A way of describing how aggressive or malignant a tumor is. The grade helps determine the best treatment for the cancer.
A process of deciding how abnormal cancer cells look under a microscope and how quickly the tumor is likely to grow and spread.
Graft Failure:
A condition that may occur after a bone marrow transplant where the donated marrow cells are present, but function poorly. Often it will be followed by recurrence of disease.
Graft Rejection:
A condition that may occur after a bone marrow transplant where the marrow is donated by another person. It is characterized by the loss of donor cells and the return of host cells.
Graft vs. Host Disease (GVH):
A common complication of bone marrow transplantation in patients receiving marrow from another person. The transplanted marrow identifies the host body as foreign and attacks it, resulting in varying degrees of damage to three target organs, the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and liver.
A type of white blood cell that kills bacteria.
The part of the body where the thigh connects to the abdomen.
A type of intravenous catheter that is surgically implanted to administer intravenous fluids. It is maintained with normal saline instead of Heparin, a medicine which prolongs the clotting time of blood.
Guaiac Test:
A test that checks for hidden (occult) blood in the stool.
A doctor who specializes in treating cancer of the female reproductive organs.
A doctor who specializes in the diseases of the female reproductive organs.
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Helicobacter Pylori:
A type of bacteria that causes inflammation and ulcers in the stomach that may lead to cancer.
Hematocrit (Hct):
A blood test that tells the percentage of red blood cells in the blood.
A doctor who specializes in the study of blood and bone marrow.
A medical specialty that focuses on diseases of the blood and blood-forming organs.
The process where blood cells mature and become specific types of blood cells.
Blood in the urine.
A surgical procedure, also called partial laryngectomy, where part of the larynx or voice box is removed. This may be used to treat tumors confined to one side of the larynx.
Hemorrhagic Cystitis:
A condition where the bladder tissue is ulcerated, usually due to infection or the toxic effects of certain types of chemotherapy.
Small, mobile air filters.
A drug that helps prevent blood clots from forming.
A primary tumor of the liver.
HER-2/neu: Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2.
The HER-2/neu protein is involved in the growth of some cancer cells.
Heredity or Hereditary:
Qualities or traits transferred through the genes from ancestors to their descendants.
Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colon Cancer:
A hereditary condition that causes a higher-than-average chance of developing colon and certain other types of cancer. It is also called the Lynch syndrome.
Hickman® Catheter:
A type of intravenous tubing that is surgically implanted into a large vein near the heart to administer intravenous fluids.
Human leukocyte antigens. A series of antigens found on white blood cells and most other cells of the body that are used to determine tissue type. Often referred to as the human body "fingerprint."
Hodgkinís Disease:
A type of cancer that affects the lymph nodes, a type of lymphoma.
Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center:
One of 41 centers in the U.S. designated comprehensive by the National Cancer Institute. The Holden Cancer Center, located at The University of Iowa, was established to promote interactive high quality research, to provide high quality care related to prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer, and to educate cancer professionals and the citizens of Iowa about cancer.
Hormonal Therapy:
This treatment either uses or manipulates the body's hormones to treat cancer. This can be done by medication, by surgical removal of the hormone-producing glands, or radiation therapy to destroy the hormone-producing cells.
A substance secreted by various glands of the body which regulate growth, metabolism and reproduction.
Hormone Receptor:
The degree to which either a tumor is or is not dependent on hormones for growth. In breast cancer, estrogen and progesterone receptor tests are performed on cancer cells.
An organization that provides supportive care to meet the special needs of dying patients and their families.
Human Papillomavirus:
A virus that causes abnormal tissue growth (warts) and is often associated with some types of cancer such as cervical cancer.
Giving radiation therapy in small doses several times a day, rather than a larger dose once a day.
An abnormal growth of normal cells, which increases the size of an organ. In some cases hyperplasia can become malignant or cancerous.
The lower part of the throat near the voice box and joining the esophagus.
The surgical removal of the uterus. It is often combined with removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
A procedure in which a hysteroscope, a flexible instrument with a lighted tube and optical system, is inserted through the vagina and cervix. It is done to inspect inside the uterus and fallopian tubes to diagnose cancer and other disorders.
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I & D:
Incision and drainage.
Describes a disease of unknown causes.
Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura or ITP:
A disorder where a personís normal immune system makes substances called antibodies which destroy the platelets, a type of blood cell. When the platelets are destroyed, a person is more susceptible to easy bruising and bleeding.
A surgically made opening in the small bowel that connects it to the surface of the abdomen. It is made for the elimination of waste.
Imaging Studies:
Tests that produce pictures of the inside of the body.
Immune System:
A complex group of cells and substances that protect the body from foreign substances that might cause infection or disease.
The body's ability to fight disease or infection.
Weakening of the natural immune system responses.
A treatment that stimulates the body's immune system to fight cancer.
A device inserted into the body to either treat cancer or to replace or substitute for a lost part or ability. Examples of implants include a radioactive implant used to treat a cancer, or a breast implant.
Implanted Port:
A catheter (tubing) connected to a disc that is implanted just below the skin of the chest during an operation. The catheter is inserted into one of the large veins or arteries so fluids can be given directly into the bloodstream, or blood can be drawn from this port.
The inability to have or maintain an erection.
The inability to have or maintain an erection adequate for sexual intercourse.
The rate at which a certain event occurs, as the number of new cases of a specific disease occurring during a certain period.
A cut made during surgery.
Incisional Biopsy:
A surgery to remove part of a lump or suspicious area to be examined under a microscope.
The leaking of, or inability to control urine.
Induction Therapy:
The initial course of chemotherapy given to patients after diagnosis of leukemia is established. The goal of therapy is remission. Future courses of chemotherapy may be called re-induction.
Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma:
A common type of breast cancer that begins in the milk duct and has grown through the wall of the duct and spread into the surrounding tissue.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer:
A type of breast cancer where the breast looks red and swollen and feels warm to the touch. The redness and warmth occur because the cancer cells block the Lymph vessels in the skin.
Informed Consent:
In a clinical trial, a process where all relevant information, including the purpose, risks, benefits, alternatives and procedures to be followed are provided to the potential participant. After the information is reviewed, if the patient decides to participate in the trial he/she signs a form, signifying informed consent.
Inguinal Orchiectomy:
A surgery where a testicle is removed through an incision in the groin.
In Situ:
Cancer in an early stage of development when the cancer cells are still confined to the site where they began.
Institutional Review Board:
A board of researchers, ethicists and lay people who oversee all research projects in an institution in order to ensure participant safety.
A natural body protein produced by normal cells that is capable of killing cancer cells or stopping their growth. Interferon can be artificially produced and used as a form of immunotherapy.
A group of natural, hormone-like substances that are made in the body by lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. Interleukins may increase the activity of cells in the immune system that normally recognize and destroy cancer cells.
Internal Beam Radiation Therapy:
A procedure where radioactive material contained in seeds, needles, or wires is put directly into a tumor. Also called brachytherapy or interstitial radiation therapy.
Within an organ. For example, radioactive seeds may be implanted within the prostate to treat cancerous cells. A type of radiation therapy.
A long tube-like organ that completes the digestion and absorption of food. It includes both a small and large intestine. Also called bowels.
Into the liver.
Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT):
Radiation therapy given during surgery.
Into the peritoneal cavity or the area that contains the abdominal organs.
Intrathecal Chemotherapy:
A procedure to inject anticancer drugs directly into the cerebrospinal fluid
Intravenous (IV):
Into a vein.
Intravenous Pyelogram:
Also called IVP. An x-ray of the kidneys, ureters and bladder, taken after a dye is injected into a vein.
Within the bladder.
Invasive Cancer:
A cancer that has spread beyond the layer of tissue where it started. The tumor is growing into healthy tissue in the surrounding area. Also called infiltrating cancer.
Investigational Group:
In a clinical trial, the group that receives the new treatment being tested is the investigational group.
Investigational New Drug:
A drug the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows to be studied in clinical trials but has not yet been approved by the FDA for commercial marketing.
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Ayellowish discoloration of the skin and bodily tissues and fluids.
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The organ that filters the blood and excretes waste products and excess water in the form of urine.
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Lacrimal Duct:
A tube that carries tears from where they are made to the surface of the eye.
Lacrimal Gland:
A gland, also called the tear gland, about the size and shape of an almond. It produces tears to moisten and lubricate the eye.
Lacrimal Sac:
The dilated upper end of the lacrimal duct.
Production of tears.
A surgical procedure to examine the organs in the abdomen with a lighted tubular instrument that is passed through a small incision in the abdominal wall. It is usually performed under general anesthesia.
A surgical procedure where the abdominal cavity is opened either to examine it or to remove or repair tissue.
Large Intestine:
The colon or large bowel. The part of the gastrointestinal system that goes from the end of the small intestine to the rectum.
The surgical removal of the larynx or voice box. This results in the loss of the ability to speak normally.
A thin, lighted tube used to examine the larynx or voice box.
Examination of the larynx. With the aid of a mirror it is called an indirect laryngoscopy. Using the laryngoscope, a flexible lighted tube, it is called direct laryngoscopy.
The organ that plays a major role in the production of sound and speech. It is also called the voice box. It has three parts: the glottis is the middle part where the vocal cords are located, the tissue above the glottis is called the supraglottis, the supbglottis is the tissue below the glottis.
Laser Therapy:
A device that uses narrow, high energy light beams in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Also called fibroid. A benign, non-cancerous tumor that develops in smooth muscle tissue such as the uterus.
A lump, sore or abscess that may be caused by injury or disease, such as cancer.
Cancer of the blood forming organs. White blood cells may be produced in excessive amounts and are unable to function properly. Different types of leukemia include chronic or acute lymphocytic, granulocytic and myeloblastic leukemia.
Another name for white blood cells. A leukocyte is a type of cell in the blood which helps defend the body against diseases caused by bacteria, virus, or parasites. There are three types of leukocytes: monocytes, granulocytes and lymphocytes.
An increase in the total white blood cell count.
A low number of white blood cells or a decrease in the total white blood cell count.
Blood is taken from a vein and the leukocytes are removed. The remaining blood cells are returned to the patient. Leukopheresis is used to treat patients with leukemia with elevated white blood cell counts.
White thickened patches on the mucus membranes of the mouth, lips and gums. It may be caused by injury or excessive use of tobacco, alcohol and spicy food condiments. It can be precancerous.
Interest in sexual activity.
Limb Perfusion:
A procedure where chemotherapy is delivered directly to an arm or leg. The blood flow to the limb is temporarily stopped with a tourniquet, and the drugs are put directly into the blood of the limb. This technique allows the patient to receive high doses of drugs in the area where the cancer occurred.
An organ located in the upper abdomen that cleanses the blood and secretes bile to aid in digestion.
A division or part of an organ or gland. The brain, breast, liver and lungs have lobes.
: Surgical removal of an entire lobe, such as a lobe of the lung.
Lobular Carcinoma In Situ:
A type of breast cancer that begins in the lobes or milk-producing glands and has not grown through the walls of the lobe.
Local Skin Flap:
A skin flap's composed of skin and subcutaneous tissue that is transferred from a donor site to a directly adjacent recipient site.
Local Treatment:
Treatment of the tumor and the area close to it.
Removal of a lump and the tissue surrounding it in the breast.
Luteinizing Hormone-Releasing Hormone (LHRH):
A hormone that controls the production of sex hormones in men and women.
Luteinizing Hormone-Releasing Hormone Agonist:
A substance very similar to LHRH, but keeps the testicles from producing hormones in men.
A clear fluid that contains white blood cells including lymphocytes and circulates through the body in the lymphatic system.
Lymph Nodes:
Also called lymph glands. A small gland that produces lymph. They are the body is defense against infections and cancer.
A surgical procedure to selectively or totally remove lymph nodes in the axilla, pelvis, and/or groin. It is done to determine the spread of the cancer.
An x-ray examination for enlarged lymph nodes.
A term used to describe swelling of a limb such as an arm or leg. This can be caused by surgical removal of lymph nodes or obstruction or damage to lymph nodes.
A type of white blood cell. The three main kinds of lymphocytes are T cells, B cells, and Natural Killer cells. T cells attack and destroy virus-infected cells, foreign tissue and cancer cells; B cells help produce antibodies or proteins that help destroy foreign substances; Natural Killer cells destroy cancer cells and virus-infected cells.
Lymphoid Tissue:
Tissue in which the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, develop. Lymphoid tissue is part of the immune system.
A type of cancer, which develops in the lymphatic system, affecting the body's immune system.
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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):
A diagnostic procedure, which uses magnetic fields to produce images of the body.
Maintenance Therapy:
Maintenance therapy ischemotherapy medicine given to keep leukemia in remission. In patients with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, it is usually a three-year course of various types of chemotherapy.
Usually refers to a tumor, which is cancerous.
Malignant Tumor:
A tumor containing cancer cells that can spread to other organs and parts of the body.
Sometimes called mammography. A diagnostic x-ray of the breast to screen for tumors. This technique uses low dose x-rays to produce an image of the breast. All suspicious lumps must be biopsied (see biopsy) to determine whether or not they are cancerous.
The area of normal tissue remaining after a cancer has been removed. "Clean margins" means no cancer cells are present in the normal tissue around the cancer.
The surgical removal of a breast.
Modified Radical Mastectomy
: Removal of the entire breast and the underlying muscle and axillary (armpit) lymph nodes.
Segmental Mastectomy or Lumpectomy
: Removal of a lump and a small amount of surrounding breast tissue.
Simple Mastectomy
: Removal of the entire breast.
A surgery where a tube in inserted into the chest to examine the organs in the area between the lungs and the lymph nodes. Doctors are able to take tissue samples from the lymph nodes on the right side of the chest during this procedure.
The area between the lungs, including the heart, trachea, esophagus, bronchi and lymph nodes.
Medical Oncologist:
A doctor who treats cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or biological therapy.
The substance in the skin that gives it color.
The cells in the skin that produce melanin.
A very aggressive form of skin cancer.
The three layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord.
Periodic discharge of blood and tissue from the uterus. Menstruation occurs about every 28 days when a woman is not pregnant. Menstruation stops at menopause.
The spread of cancer cells from the original site to distant areas of the body.
Tiny deposits of calcium in the breast that cannot be felt but can be detected on a mammogram. Clusterings of microcalcifications may indicate that cancer is present.
Micro Direct Laryngoscopy:
Direct examination of the larynx and the area around it with a microscope placed above the laryngoscope, a flexible, lighted tube.
The process of cell division.
Modified Radical Neck Dissection:
A surgical procedure similar to a radical neck dissection that removes all of the cervical lymph nodes but leaves intact either the muscle on the side of the neck, the major vein, or the spinal accessory nerve.
Mohs Surgery:
A surgical procedure to remove a skin cancer. After a numbing medicine is injected, the cancer is shaved off one thin layer at a time. Each layer is examined under a microscope until the entire tumor is removed.
Monoclonal Antibodies:
Artificially manufactured antibodies designed to target cancer cells. These may be used to diagnose a cancer, or deliver chemotherapy and radiation therapy directly to a cancer, thus killing the cancer cells and sparing healthy tissue.
A type of white blood cell.
The term usually refers to the proportion of people with an illness.
The number of deaths in a given population.
Motor Function:
In medicine, motor function refers to the movement of body parts.
A layer of tissue that is rich in mucus glands and lines a passage, which connects to the outside of the body, such as the digestive, respiratory, or genitourinary tracts. The mucus glands secrete a fluid, which moistens and protects the tissue.
Inflammation of the lining of the mouth, the gastrointestinal tract, or any mucus membrane.
A thick fluid produced by the tissues that line certain organs, including the nose, mouth, throat and vagina.
Mucus Membrane:
A layer of tissue that is rich in mucus glands and lines a passage, which connects to the outside of the body, such as the digestive, respiratory or genitourinary tracts. The mucus glands secrete a fluid, which moistens and protects the tissue.
Arising from or occurring in more than one spot or location.
Multimodality Therapy:
Therapy that uses more than one kind of treatment. Also called combination therapy.
Multiple Myeloma:
A malignant tumor of the plasma cell, which is produced in the bone marrow, and associated, with the production of abnormal proteins.
Mycosis Fungoides:
A type of non-Hodgkinís lymphoma that first appears on the skin and can spread to the lymph nodes, spleen, liver or lungs. Mycosis Fungoides is one type of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.
Immature non-lymphocyte type white blood cells.
Myelodysplastic Syndromes:
A group of disorders in which the bone marrow does not function normally and fails to produce sufficient numbers of healthy blood cells.
A disorder where the bone marrow is replacedby fibrous tissue. Myelofibrosis can occur as part of a myeloproliferative disorder, or as a result of another unrelated condition.
Produced by or starting in the bone marrow.
A term describing the non-lymphocyte type of white blood cells.
Also called multiple myeloma. A malignant tumor of the plasma cell, which is produced in the bone marrow, and associated with the production of abnormal proteins.
Myeloproliferative Disorder:
The Myeloproliferative Disorders are diseases where too many of some types of blood cells are made in the bone marrow. The four major types of myeloproliferative disorders are chronic myelogenous leukemia, essential thrombocytopenia, idiopathic myelofibrosis, and polycythemia vera.
A decrease in the production of red blood cells, platelets and some white blood cells by the bone marrow.
A surgical procedure where fibroids are removed through an abdominal incision. It is done to diagnose and remove tumors found in the uterus (leiomyomas or fibroids).
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The lowest point, usually used in reference to blood counts related to chemotherapy.
The upper part of the respiratory tract behind the nose.
Examination of the nasopharynx, a tube that connects the area behind the nose (nasal cavity) to the area behind the soft palate of the mouth.
National Cancer Institute (NCI):
The National Cancer Institute is part of the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Government. It is the governmentís primary agency for cancer research.
Natural Killer Cells:
A type of lymphocyte normally present in the body. Their responsibility is to kill cells that are infected with viruses.
Needle Biopsy:
A type of biopsy where a needle is used to withdraw small amounts of tissue or fluid for examination by a pathologist. This procedure is also called fine needle aspiration.
Therapy given before the primary treatment in order to shrink a tumor.
Abnormal and uncontrolled cell growth.
Any new abnormal growth. A neoplasm may be benign or malignant but is generally used to describe a cancer.
Cancerous or malignant.
A surgery to remove a kidney.
Radical Nephrectomy:
Surgery to remove the kidney, adrenal gland, lymph nodes near the kidney, and surrounding tissue.
Simple Nephrectomy
: Surgery to remove only a kidney.
Partial Nephrectomy
: Surgery to remove a tumor from a kidney, but not the kidney itself.
Nerve Sparing Surgery:
A type of surgery in which the surgeon saves the nerves such as those that affect sexual functioning and urination.
A tumor that can begin anywhere in the sympathetic nervous system or the system that regulates tissues such as the glands, muscles, and the heart. It most commonly occurs in the abdomen and is a common type of childhood cancer.
A decreased number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell.
A mature white blood cell that fights bacterial infections. Also called segmented neutrophils or segs. If the neutrophil or seg count is less than 1,000, the patient is at great risk for infection.
A medical term for mole, a skin growth that is usually colored.
A group of chemotherapy drugs that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Examples of nitrosureas include carmustine and lomustine.
Frequent urination at night.
Cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes.
Cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes.
Lymph nodes. Small glands that produces lymph fluid. They are the part of the immune system and the body's defenses against infection and cancer.
A small group of cells, a small solid mass.
Non-Hodgkinís Lymphoma:
A cancer of the lymphatic system. A type of lymphoma.
Non-lymphocytic Leukemia
: See Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.
Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer:
A cancer that begins either in the basal or squamous cells of the skin, but not in the melanocytes.
Nuclear Scan:
A diagnostic procedure in which a weak radioactive substance is injected into the blood stream. The body then absorbs the substance. A machine, like a giant Geiger counter, moves over the area being tested and takes pictures.
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OCN (Oncology Certified Nurse):
A registered nurse who has met the requirements and successfully completed a certification exam.
A surgery to remove all or part of the omentum, a fold in the peritoneum that surrounds the stomach and other organs of the abdomen.
Ommya Reservoir:
A port placed in the brain in a neurosurgical procedure. It can be used for repeated taps into the Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) for drainage or to give medications.
A gene that has the potential to cause a normal cell to become cancerous. Genes that when inappropriately activated, can promote or allow the growth of cancer.
A doctor who specializes in the study and treatment of cancer.
The study of tumors (cancer).
A surgical procedure to remove an ovary. It is done to remove infection, tumor or in association with hysterectomy.
Optic Nerve:
The nerve that carries visual impulses from the retina to the brain.
Orbital Decompression:
A surgical procedure to relieve pressure on the optic nerve to preserve or restore vision.
Surgical removal of a testicle, the male organ that is the source of testosterone, the male sex hormone. Removal of both testicles is called a bilateral or radical orchiectomy. Removal of both testicles causes infertility or the inability to father children. Orchiectomy may be done to treat testicular cancer or to remove a source of hormones stimulating prostate cancer cells to grow.
A part of the throat that includes the soft palate, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils.
Otolaryngology, the medical specialty concerned with the ear, nose, and throat.
A doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the ear, nose and throat.
Ovarian Cystectomy:
A surgical procedure using a small incision and a lighted, tubular instrument called a laparoscope to remove a small cyst of the ovary. It can also refer to a surgery where an abdominal incision is made to remove a cyst on the ovary and determine the extent of disease. It is done to rule out or diagnose a possible cancer or neoplasm.
Ovarian Epithelial Cancer:
A cancer that starts in the cells that line the ovaries.
Ovary or Ovaries:
Glands located on either side of the uterus. This is where eggs are developed and some female hormones are produced.
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P53 gene:
A tumor suppressor gene that normally stops the growth of tumors. This gene is altered or deficient in many cancers.
Palliative Treatment:
Treatment that relieves symptoms, such as pain or bleeding, but does not change the course of the disease or cure it. Its primary purpose is to improve the quality of life.
Physical examination by touching or feeling. A palpable mass is one that can be felt.
A surgery to remove the pancreas.
A condition where there is a reduction in the red and white blood cells and platelets.
Another term forpanendoscopy.
Direct examination of the larynx, esophagus, and air passages of the lungs usually done in the operating room.
A panoramic x-ray view of the upper (maxilla) and lower (mandible) jaw.
Pap Test:
A microscopic examination of cells of the cervix. This test can detect cancer of the cervix in the early stages.
A procedure that removes fluid from the abdomen, using a needle under local anesthesia.
A surgical procedure for the removal of benign and malignant tumors of the parotid gland, a gland near the ear.
A doctor who specializes in the examination of normal and diseased tissue.
The study of tissue under a microscope to arrive at a diagnosis. Any tissue diagnosed as cancer has had a pathologic examination under a microscope.
Peer Review:
A scientific review by a group of experts.
Having to do with the pelvis area.
Pelvic Examination:
An internal examination of the female reproductive organs.
Also called pelvic area. The part of the body located below the waist and surrounded by the hip and pubic bones.
Administration of chemotherapy drugs directly into the blood that is going to an affected limb or body part. This allows a higher dose of drugs to reach the tumor.
: See perineum.
Also called perineal. In females, the area of the body between the vagina and the rectum, and in males, the area located between the scrotum and the rectum.
Peripheral Blood Stem Cells:
The cells from which all blood cells develop. These cells may divide to form more stem cells or mature into a variety of different blood cells. The stem cells may be collected from the blood system through a procedure called apheresis. After they are collected, they may be given to a patient as a rescue after high dose chemotherapy or in place of autologous bone marrow for transplantation.
Peritoneal Fluid:
The fluid that bathes the organs of the peritoneum or abdominal cavity, including the intestines, stomach, and liver.
Peritoneum or Peritoneal Cavity:
The lower part of the abdomen. The space in which abdominal organs are located such as the liver, spleen, kidneys, bladder, intestines, uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. All organs are bathed in peritoneal fluid.
Small areas of bleeding that appear on the skin. This can be due to low platelet counts.
A tube about five inches long that connects the back of the mouth and nose to the esophagus. Air and food pass through the pharynx on the way to the trachea (windpipe) or esophagus (food tube). The upper part of the pharynx, called the nasopharnyx, connects the nasal cavity to the area behind the soft palate of the mouth. The oropharynx, the middle part, runs from the nasopharnyx to below the tongue. The lowest part, the hypopharynx, joins with the esophagus, and/or trachea.
Phase 1-4 trials:
Clinical trials are organized into phases, with each phase answering different questions about a new treatment.
Phase I:
Phase I is the first step in evaluating a new treatment in humans. The questions being answered include: what is the best way to give the treatment? (mouth, intravenously, injection), how many times per day?, what is the maximum tolerated dose?, and what are the side effects?
Phase II:
Phase II trials focus on learning whether or not the new treatment is effective in treating tumors. For example, does the new treatment shrink the tumor in size, or improve blood test results? Which cancers is it effective against?
Phase III:
These trials compare the results of people taking the new treatment with the results of people taking standard treatment. For example, which group has better survival rates or fewer side effects?
Phase IV:
After a new treatment has been approved and marketed, a phase 4 study looks at side effects that were not apparent in earlier trials.
Inflammation of a vein, which can be quite painful.
Photodynamic Therapy:
Therapy using a certain type of light and a special chemical to kill cancer cells.
An abnormal sensitivity to and discomfort from light.
A condition where the skin becomes extremely sensitive to the effects of the sun.
Physician Data Query (PDQ):
A computer database designed and maintained by the National Cancer Institute. The database contains summaries for patients and health professionals on cancer treatment, prevention, screening, genetics, and supportive care. It also includes a listing of clinical trials from around the world and a directory of physicians and organizations that provide cancer care.
An inactive substance ("sugar pill") used in research to compare the effects of a given treatment against no treatment.
The colorless fluid part of blood that is mostly water. Plasma contains antibodies, hormones, salts, electrolytes, nutrients, wastes and blood clotting factors.
Plasma cells:
A type of white blood cell produced by the B-lymphocytes that produces antibodies.
Blood is taken from a vein and circulates through a machine, which separates the cells, platelets, and plasma. The plasma is removed and replaced with a substitute, which is returned to the body along with the blood cells.
A blood cell that assists in blood clotting. Patients are at risk to bleed if the platelet count is less than 50,000.
Platelet Count:
The number of platelets in a blood sample.
Ploidy Analysis:
A test to measure the amount of DNA contained in a cell. Most cancer cells are aneuploid, which means they contain an abnormal amount of DNA.
A surgical procedure to remove a lung.
Polycythemia Vera:
A type of myeloproliferative disorder where the number of
red blood cells in the blood is higher than normal. Some patients may also have an increased number of white blood cells and platelets.
A projecting mass or growth of tissue in a body cavity such as the nose, colon or larynx. Polyps can be benign or malignant.
The removal of a polyp.
A device that is surgically placed in the body. It is used to administer intravenous fluids and chemotherapy. Blood tests can be withdrawn through the device also.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan:
A computerized scan that studies the metabolic activity of body tissue to see if there is disease present.
Abnormal cellular changes that have the potential to become malignant (cancerous).
Another word for Myelodysplastic Syndromes.
The percentage of the population that is affected by a certain disease (such as cancer) at a specific time.
Reducing the number of cases of cancer by avoiding the substances or habits that are known to cause cancer.
Primary Tumor:
The place where a cancer started. A patient may have cancer that started in the breast and spread to the bone, but the primary tumor is still the breast.
Principal Investigator (PI):
In a clinical trial, the PI is the person, usually a doctor, who is in charge of the trial.
An abbreviation for sigmoidoscopy. A procto is an examination of the rectum and lower colon with a hollow lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope.
A female hormone produced by the ovaries.
Progesterone-Receptor Assay:
A test done on a breast cancer tissue specimen to determine if it is dependent on female hormones for growth.
The prediction of survival from a disease.
Progressive Disease:
Cancer that continues to increase in size or severity.
The use of medicine or medical or surgical procedures to prevent the onset of disease.
One of the male sex glands that is located at the base of the bladder. It produces fluid that becomes part of the semen, or the fluid that contains sperm.
A surgical procedure to remove the prostate gland.
Prostatic Acid Phosphatase:
Also called PAP. An enzyme produced by the prostate. The level in the blood increases in some men who have prostate cancer.
An artificial device used to replace a missing part of the body.
The outline or plan which specifies times and dosages for treatment methods such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Various tests at specific times may also be part of the protocol.
P.S.A. (Prostatic Specific Antigen):
A tumor marker blood test that measures the level of the prostatic specific antigen, a protein, made by prostate cells. This test is used to monitor or diagnose either benign or malignant prostate disease.
Pubic Bone:
Also called pubis. The smallest of the three bones that make up the hipbone. It is located in the lower abdomen.
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A term used to describe energy in the form of waves or particles. Radiation can be used in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Radiation Fibrosis:
The formation of scar tissue as a result of radiation therapy.
Radiation Oncologist:
A doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer using high dose x-rays.
Radiation Therapy:
Treatment of cancer with high energy x-rays which kills cancerous cells.
Radical Maxillectomy:
Surgical removal of the upper jaw, nasal bone, and part of the sinuses. This surgery may be recommended for advanced cases of cancer in the sinus or upper jaw.
Radical Neck Dissection:
A surgical procedure removing tissue from the collarbone to the jaw, and from the front of the neck to the back. The muscle on the side of the neck is removed, along with the major vein, the spinal accessory nerve, and all of the cervical lymph nodes.
Radical Prostatectomy:
Surgery to remove the prostate gland and the two seminal vesicle glands attached to the prostate.
Radioactive Implant:
A material that gives off high-dose radiation and is placed directly into the body to destroy cancerous cells.
Radioactive Iodine:
A radioactive form of iodine that is used for imaging studies or as a treatment for cancer.
An unstable element that releases radiation as it breaks down. Radioisotopes can be used in imaging studies or in cancer treatments.
A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases using x-ray examinations.
Drugs that make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation therapy.
Another term used to describe radiation therapy or the use of radiation to treat cancer.
In a clinical trial, the human subjects are assigned by chance to separate groups that compare different treatments. A computer generates the treatment assignments in order to avoid bias.
A molecule inside or on a cell surface that binds to a substance and causes a specific action in the cell. For example, in breast cancer, doctors test for estrogen and progesterone receptors.
A short muscular tube that forms the last five to six inches of the colon or large intestine.
The return of a cancer at its original site after a period of remission.
Red Blood Cells (Erythrocyte):
The blood cells that carry oxygen and are responsible for the red color of blood.
Red Blood Count:
A blood test to count the number of red blood cells.
Reed-Sternberg Cells:
A particular type of cell that appears in people with Hodgkinís Disease.
Resistant to therapy.
A treatment plan that specifies the drug and dosage, the schedule of treatments, and how long the treatments will last.
Regional Involvement:
The spread of cancer from its original site to nearby surrounding areas. Regional cancers are confined to one location in the body.
Reduction in the size of a tumor.
A program that assists a sick/disabled person to regain as many normal life activities as possible.
A reappearance of cancer after it had disappeared for a period of time. The disease is active again and causing symptoms.
A state or period of time during which the symptoms of a disease have disappeared.
The organs in the woman and man that enable them to produce a child. In women, the organs include the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, and vagina. In men, the organs include the prostate, testes, and penis.
The surgical removal of part of an organ or structure.
Respiratory Tract:
The organs that carry oxygen from the air to the bloodstream and then expel carbon dioxide. It includes the nose, nasal passages, nasopharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, and lungs. The upper respiratory tract includes the nose, nasal passages, and nasopharynx. The lower respiratory tract includes the larynx, trachea, bronchi and lungs.
Retropubic Prostatectomy:
A surgery to remove the prostate through an incision in the abdominal wall.
Rickham Reservoir:
A port placed into the brain through a neurosurgical procedure. It can be used for repeated taps into the Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) for drainage or medication administration.
Risk Factor:
Something, such as a lifestyle habit, that increases the risk or chance that cancer will develop. Examples are eating a diet high in fats or cigarette smoking.
RNA: Ribonucleic Acid.
One of the two types of nucleic acids found in cells. The other is DNA. RNA helps send information from the DNA to the proteins produced by each cell. This is how the DNA controls the function of the cell.
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Surgery to remove a fallopian tube. It is done because of tubal pregnancy, infection, or cancer.
Salpingo-Oophorectomy, Right and/or Left (RSO or LSO):
Surgery to remove a fallopian tube and ovary. It is done to remove pelvic abscesses, cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, or endometriosis.
Sample Size:
In a clinical trial, the sample size is the total number of people participating in the trial.
A form of cancer that originates in the supportive or connective tissues, such as bone, cartilage, fat or muscle.
Testing for the presence of disease in persons who are having no symptoms.
In males, the sac of skin below the penis which contains the testicles.
Secondary Malignancy:
A tumor that develops as a result of treatment for a cancer, such as leukemia after treatment for Hodgkinís Disease.
Second-look Surgery:
A surgery performed after the primary treatment to see if tumor cells are still present.
Segmented Neutrophils:
A type of white blood cell that fights bacterial infections. Also called segs or neutrophils. If the seg count is less than 1,000, the patient is at great risk for infection.
Another word that is sometimes used for neutrophils or segmented neutrophils. If the seg count is less than 1,000, the patient is at great risk for infection.
The fluid that is released through the penis during sexual orgasm. It is made up of sperm from the testicles, and fluid from the prostate and other male reproductive organs.
Seminal Vesicle Glands:
Pouch-like glands in the male reproductive system, which form a secretion that is released into the semen during ejaculation.
Sentinel Lymph Node:
The lymph node a cancer is most likely to spread to first from the primary tumor.
Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy:
A procedure where a dye or radioactive substance is injected near the primary tumor and then flows to the lymph nodes. The first node the dye or substance flows to is the sentinel lymph node. A surgeon looks for the dye or uses a scanner to identify the sentinel node, and removes it to check for the presence of cancer cells.
A condition caused by a virus that settles around certain nerves causing blisters, swelling and pain.
Side Effects:
A secondary effect of medications or cancer treatments.
A thin, lighted tube used to examine the lower portion of the inside of the colon.
Examination of the lower colon using a lighted, hollow tube called a sigmoidoscope.
Simple Mastoidectomy:
A surgical procedure performed to enlarge and clean the mastoid cavity, a cavity in the bone behind the ear.
In a clinical trial, this method is used to prevent bias. The patient is not told if he/she is receiving the standard treatment or the new treatment being studied.
Skin Graft:
A surgical procedure where the doctor removes a piece of healthy skin from one part of the body to replace skin that was removed because of a cancer or burn area. New cells grow from the transplanted skin to cover the exposed area.
Small Intestine:
Part of the gastrointestinal system that is a long tube in the abdomen connecting the stomach to the large intestine or the colon.
Soft Palate:
The soft tissue at the back of the roof of the mouth.
The male sex cell produced in the testes that is responsible for fertilizing the female egg.
Sperm Banking:
Freezing of sperm for future use. This procedure can allow men to father children who may lose their fertility due to cancer treatments.
Material made up of secretions from the lungs and coughed up from the breathing passages.
Squamous Cell:
Squamous cells are found on the surface of the skin, in the lining of the hollow organs, and in all the passages of the respiratory, digestive, and genitourinary tracts. Squamous cells have a flat, scale-like appearance.
Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion (SIL):
A term used to describe the abnormal growth of squamous cells on the cervix.
The determination of the extent of a cancer. The staging helps determine appropriate treatment and prognosis.
Standard Treatment:
A currently accepted or widely used treatment for a certain type of cancer.
Statistically Significant:
Describes a mathematical measure between groups. The figure is significant if it is larger than what might happen by chance alone.
Stem Cell:
The cells from which all blood cells develop. These cells may divide to form more stem cells or mature into a variety of different blood cells. The stem cells may be collected from the blood system through a procedure called apheresis. After they are collected, they may be given to a patient as a rescue after high dose chemotherapy or in place of autologous bone marrow for transplantation.
A type of biopsy that uses a computer and a three dimensional scanning device to find a tumor site and guide the removal of suspicious tissue for examination by a pathologist.
Use of a computer and scanning devise to create 3-dimensional pictures. It can be used during biopsies, external beam radiation therapy, or during the insertion of radioactive implants.
A type of hormone used to reduce swelling and inflammation.
A surgically created opening in the body.
The organ that breaks down food mechanically and chemically so that it can be digested and absorbed into the body.
Inflammation and soreness of the mucus membranes in the mouth.
Stool Blood Test:
The use of a chemical to determine if occult (hidden) blood is present in a bowel movement. It is used to detect early signs of digestive tract conditions, such as polyps and cancers of the colon and rectum.
In a clinical trial, stratification allows the principal investigator to separate patients into different groups with similar characteristics. An example would be separating those whose cancer has spread, from those whose cancer has not spread. At the end of the clinical trial, researchers can study the differences between the subgroups.
The lowest part of the larynx.
Sun Protection Factor (SPF):
A scale for rating how effective sunscreen is in preventing sunburn. The higher the SPF, the more protection it provides.
A substance that protects the skin from the sunís ultraviolet rays and overexposure to the sun, the leading cause of skin cancer.
Supportive Care:
Treatment given to prevent, control or relieve side effects and improve the comfort and quality of life of people who have cancer.
Supraglottic Laryngectomy:
Surgical removal of the glottis, or the tissue of the larynx in the area above the vocal cords.
The upper part of the larynx.
An operation.
A sign that a person may have a condition or disease.
Affecting the entire body.
Systemic Disease:
Disease that affects the whole body instead of just one organ.
Systemic Treatment:
Treatment affecting the cells throughout the whole body.
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Total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, or the removal of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.
A cancer drug that has anti-hormonal effects on cells. Tamoxifen blocks the effects of the hormone estrogen in the body. It is often used to treat breast cancer to prevent recurrence or spread of disease. In women at high risk, it can be used as a chemoprevention drug.
Taste Alteration:
A change in how things taste.
Total body irradiation. This type of radiation therapy is given to some patients undergoing a bone marrow transplant where another person donates the marrow.
T Cell Depletion:
Removal of T lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, from bone marrow donated by another person to prevent graft versus host disease.
T-cell Lymphoma:
A type of cancer where cells of the lymph system (T lymphocytes) become malignant and affect the skin.
Also called testicles. The two male reproductive organs suspended in a sac, called the scrotum, below the penis.
Also called testes. The two male reproductive organs suspended in a sac, called the scrotum, below the penis.
Testicular Self-Examination:
A simple manual examination of the testicles.
A male hormone, produced mostly by the testicles.
Thoracentesis (Pleural Tap):
A procedure to remove fluid from the area between the two layers (pleura) covering the lung.
Having to do with the chest.
A procedure that uses a lighted scope to visualize the pleural space in the lung and allows for less invasive thoracic surgical procedures.
An examination of the inside of the chest using a thin, lighted tube called an endoscope.
A surgery to open the chest.
Platelets or cells needed for the blood to clot.
An abnormally low number of platelets. Too few platelets can allow bleeding to occur.
Elevated platelet count.
Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia Purpura or TTP:
A disorder of severe thrombocytopenia or abnormally low platelets that can affect multiple organs in the body.
A surgical procedure to remove benign or malignant tumors of the thyroid gland.
A group or layer of cells that are alike and work together to perform a specific job in the body.
Tissue Typing:
Examining and comparing the body tissue of a potential donor and patient before an organ transplant. This test is performed to find people with similar combinations of Human leukocyte antigens (HLA) in the body tissue.
Tonsillectomy and/or Adenoidectomy:
Surgical removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids.
Topical Chemotherapy:
The use of anticancer drugs in a cream or lotion that is applied to the skin.
Total Laryngectomy:
A surgical procedure to remove the larynx, resulting in the loss of normal speech and a permanent tracheostomy.
Undesirable side effects of a drug or treatment. The toxicity of drugs is carefully studied in clinical trials.
Also called the windpipe, this is the airway that connects the larynx or voice box to the lungs.
A surgical procedure to create an opening in the trachea to allow breathing when the trachea is blocked.
The process in a cell as it changes from normal to malignant.
Transrectal Ultrasound, a test using sound waves to create an image of the prostate gland. It is used to detect tumors and take biopsy samples.
An abnormal mass of tissue that serves no purpose. It may be either benign or malignant.
Tumor Debulking:
A surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible.
Tumor Lysis Syndrome:
A syndrome where cancer treatment causes massive cell death resulting in the build up of uric acid crystals and other chemicals such as sodium, and potassium in the bloodstream. This can be a life-threatening situation. It is most commonly seen in patients treated with chemotherapy for leukemia or lymphoma.
Tumor Marker:
Chemical substances found in the body fluids, which may indicate the presence of either a benign or malignant disease. Tumor marker tests may be helpful but cannot provide a definite diagnosis of cancer. They may also be used to monitor the progress of treatment or to detect a possible recurrence after treatment.
Tumor Necrosis Factor:
A type of biological therapy that causes cancer cells to die.
Tumor Suppressor Gene:
Genes that can block or stop the growth of cancer. The P53 gene is a tumor suppressor gene.
Transurethral Resection of the Prostate: A surgical procedure where an instrument is inserted through the penis to remove tissue from the prostate.
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Ulcerative Colitis:
A disease that causes chronic inflammation in the lining of the colon.
Ultrasound Examination:
The use of sound waves to diagnose disease or evaluate certain conditions in the body. Also called ultrasonography.
One side of the body.
Unproven Methods of Cancer Treatment:
Untested or unproven ways of treating cancer.
A surgical procedure consisting of cutting the ureters from the bladder and connecting them to an opening on the abdomen allowing urine to drain into a collection pouch.
Tubes that carry urine from each kidney to the bladder.
The tube that carries urine and/or semen in men to the outside of the body.
Urinary Tract:
The organs through which urine passes. It includes the kidneys, the ureters, the bladder, and the urethra.
A pale, yellow fluid produced by the kidneys and excreted from the body. It carries waste products and excessive water from the body.
A doctor who specializes in diseases of the urinary organs in women and the urinary and sex organs in men.
A surgery to create an opening from inside the body to the outside, making a new way to pass urine.
The hollow, muscular organ in females where a fertilized egg can become embedded and a baby develops and grows. It is part of the female reproductive system. Also called the womb.
The small piece of fleshy tissue that hangs down in the back of the throat.
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UP3):
A surgical procedure removing the tonsils, part of the soft palate (the roof of the mouth), and the uvula, (the small piece of fleshy tissue, which hangs down in the back of the throat).
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A substance when injected into the body can stimulate resistance to a specific disease.
A female reproductive organ. Also called the birth canal.
Piercing a vein with a needle to obtain blood samples or to administer medication or fluids.
A very small infectious organism.
The fatty folds of tissue that surround the opening of the vagina.
Surgery to remove the vulva, the fatty folds of tissue surrounding the opening of the vagina. It is done to remove a tumor growing in the vulvar area.
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Waldenströmís Macroglobulinemia:
A rare disease that starts in the bone marrow and causes a rapid growth of B lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.
Warning Signs:
Symptoms that can suggest the possibility of cancer.
Watchful Waiting:
Active observation and regular monitoring of a patient without actual treatment.
Whipple Procedure:
A surgery used to treat pancreatic cancer. The head of the pancreas, duodenum, a part of the stomach and other surrounding tissues are removed.
White Blood Cells:
A type of blood cell, which is responsible for fighting germs, infections, and cancer.
White Blood Count:
A blood test that counts the number of white blood cells in a given blood sample.
WOC Nurse:
A Wound, Ostomy, Continence Nurse. Like an enterostomal therapy nurse. A nurse specially trained to help patients with stomas, wounds, skin care concerns, or continence problems.
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Dry mouth. It occurs when the body is not able to make enough saliva.
Energy used to produce images or pictures of internal body structures to diagnose disease.

Cancer Information Service