glossary of terms
Ablative Therapy– Treatment that removes or destroys the function of the organ, as in surgical removal of the organ, or the administration of some types of chemotherapy that cause the organ, such as bone marrow, to stop functioning.
Adenocarcinoma- Cancer that begins in cells that line certain internal organs and that have gland-like (secretory) properties.
Adenopathy– Large or swollen lymph glands.
Adjuvant Therapy– This therapy is treatment that is added to increase the effectiveness of a primary therapy. Adjuvant therapy may consist of a single therapy or combination of therapies after surgery to increase the chances of curing the cancer or prolonging a remission.
Advance Directive– A legal document that states the treatment or care a person wishes to receive or not receive if he or she becomes unable to make medical decisions (for example, due to being unconscious or in a coma). Some types of advance directives are living wills and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders.
Adverse Event/Reaction– An unexpected medical problem that happens during treatment with a drug or other therapy. Adverse events do not have to be caused by the drug or therapy, and they may be mild, moderate, or severe. Also called adverse effect.
Allogeneic Transplant– Bone marrow or stem cells that come from a donor with genetically different but compatible genes.
Anemia– A decrease in red blood cells and hemoglobin (a protein that helps your blood carry oxygen.) This results in your blood being unable to carry oxygen throughout your body as well as it should.
Anticoagulant– A substance that is used to prevent and treat blood clots in blood vessels and the heart. Also called blood thinner.
Antiemetic– A drug that prevents or reduces nausea and vomiting.
Antigen– Any substance that causes the body to make a specific immune response.
Antimicrobial– A substance that kills microorganisms such as bacteria or mold, or stops them from growing and causing disease.
Antineoplastic– Blocking the formation of neoplasms (growths that may become cancer).
Aromatase Inhibitor– A drug that inhibits the aromatase enzyme, which is key to the production of the female hormone estrogen- especially after menopause. The growth of many breast cancers is fueled by estrogen.
Astrocytoma– A tumor that begins in the brain or spinal cord in small, star-shaped cells called astrocytes.
Asymptomatic– Having no signs or symptoms of disease.
Atelectasis- Failure of the lung to expand (inflate) completely. This may be caused by a blocked airway, a tumor, general anesthesia, pneumonia or other lung infections, lung disease, or long-term bed rest with shallow breathing. Sometimes called a collapsed lung.
Autologous Transplant– Tissue taken from a patient and returned to the same patient.
Axillary Lymph Node– A lymph node in the armpit region that drains lymph from the breast and nearby areas.
Basal Cell Cancer– Cancer that begins in the lower part of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin). It may appear as a small white or flesh-colored bump that grows slowly and may bleed. Basal cell cancers are usually found on areas of the body exposed to the sun. Basal cell cancers rarely metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body. They are the most common form of skin cancer. Also called basal cell carcinoma.
Baseline– An initial measurement that is taken at an early time point to represent a beginning condition, and is used for comparison over time to look for changes. For example, the size of a tumor will be measured before treatment (baseline) and then afterwards to see if the treatment had an effect.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)– A benign (not cancer) condition in which an overgrowth of prostate tissue pushes against the urethra and the bladder, blocking the flow of urine.
Benign Tumor– An abnormal mass of tissue that is not cancerous and will not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body.
Bisphosphonates for Metastatic Cancer– A class of drugs that can effectively prevent or slow down loss of bone that occurs from metastatic lesions, reduce the risk of fractures, and decrease pain. Bisphosphonate drugs work by inhibiting bone resorption, or breakdown, which may increase when cancer has metastasized to the bones.
Blood Clot– A mass of blood that forms when blood platelets, proteins, and cells stick together. When a blood clot is attached to the wall of a blood vessel, it is called a thrombus. When it moves through the bloodstream and blocks the flow of blood in another part of the body, it is called an embolus.
Blood Transfusion– A procedure in which a person is given an infusion of whole blood or parts of blood. The blood may be donated by another person, or it may have been taken from the patient earlier and stored until needed. Also called transfusion.
Bone Marrow Aspiration and Biopsy– A procedure in which a small sample of bone marrow (soft, sponge-like tissue in the center of most bones) and bone is removed. A small area of skin and the surface of the bone underneath are numbed with an anesthetic. Then a special wide needle is pushed into the bone. A sample of liquid bone marrow is removed with a syringe attached to the needle. The syringe is then removed and the needle is rotated to remove a sample of the bone and the bone marrow. Both the bone marrow and bone samples are sent to a laboratory to be looked at under a microscope.
Bone Scan– A technique to create images of bones on a computer screen or on film. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into a blood vessel and travels through the bloodstream; it collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner.
Brachytherapy– A radiation treatment that travels a very short distance.
BRCA1– A gene on chromosome 17 that normally helps to suppress cell growth. A person who inherits certain mutations (changes) in a BRCA1 gene has a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian, prostate, and other types of cancer.
BRAC2- A gene on chromosome 13 that normally helps to suppress cell growth. A person who inherits certain mutations (changes) in a BRCA2 gene has a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian, prostate, and other types of cancer.
Bronchoscopy– A procedure that uses a bronchoscope to examine the inside of the trachea, bronchi (air passages that lead to the lungs), and lungs. A bronchoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease. The bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth. Bronchoscopy may be used to detect cancer or to perform some treatment procedures.
Cancer In Situ– Cancer limited to the surface of tissue with no invasion of adjacent tissue.
CAT Scan (Computerized Tomography- CT)– 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 computed tomography scan, computerized axial tomography scan, computerized tomography, and CT scan.
Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF)– The fluid that flows in and around the hollow spaces of the brain and spinal cord, and between two of the meninges (the thin layers of tissue that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord). Cerebrospinal fluid is made by tissue called the choroid plexus in the ventricles (hollow spaces) in the brain.
Chemoembolization– A procedure in which the blood supply to the tumor is blocked mechanically by injecting chemotherapy-loaded particles into the blood vessel supply with the intent of clogging blood vessels and delivering high concentration of chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy– The use of chemicals/medications to kill malignant (cancer) cells.
Colectomy– An operation to remove all or part of the colon. When only part of the colon is removed, it is called a partial colectomy. In an open colectomy, one long incision is made in the wall of the abdomen and doctors can see the colon directly. In a laparoscopic-assisted colectomy, several small incisions are made and a thin, lighted tube attached to a video camera is inserted through one opening to guide the surgery. Surgical instruments are inserted through the other openings to perform the surgery.
Colonoscopy– a procedure to look inside the colon or large intestine through a lighted, flexible tube.
Colon Polyp– An abnormal growth of tissue in the lining of the bowel. Polyps are a risk factor for colon cancer.
Colostomy– An opening into the colon from the outside of the body. A colostomy provides a new path for waste material to leave the body after part of the colon has been removed.
Complete Blood Count (CBC) – A blood test to check the number of red cells, white cells, and platelets.
Consent Form– A document with important information about a medical procedure or treatment, a clinical trial, or genetic testing. It also includes information on possible risks and benefits. If a person chooses to take part in the treatment, procedure, trial, or testing, he or she signs the form to give official consent.
Corticosteroids– Steroids produced by the cortex of the adrenal glands, the endocrine glands that sit above the kidney, or their synthetic counterparts. They may used to suppress the immune system in inflammatory or autoimmune conditions, or work against subsets of lymphocytes in various blood cancers.
Curative Therapy– Treatment aimed at permanent removal of the cancer from the body.
DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ)– A noninvasive condition in which abnormal cells are found in the lining of a breast duct. The abnormal cells have not spread outside the duct to other tissues in the breast. In some cases, DCIS may become invasive cancer and spread to other tissues. At this time, there is no way to know which lesions could become invasive. Also called ductal carcinoma in situ and intraductal carcinoma.
Dehydration– A condition caused by the loss of too much water from the body. Severe diarrhea or vomiting can cause dehydration.
DEXA Scan– An imaging test that measures bone density (the amount of bone mineral contained in a certain volume of bone) by passing x-rays with two different energy levels through the bone. It is used to diagnose osteoporosis (decrease in bone mass and density). Also called BMD scan, bone mineral density scan, DEXA, dual energy x-ray absorptiometric scan, dual x-ray absorptiometry, and DXA.
Ductal Carcinoma– The most common type of breast cancer. It begins in the cells that line the milk ducts in the breast.
Durable Power of Attorney- A type of power of attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document that gives one person (such as a relative, lawyer, or friend) the authority to make legal, medical, or financial decisions for another person. It may go into effect right away, or when that person is no longer able to make decisions for him or herself. A durable power of attorney remains in effect until the person who grants it dies or cancels it. It does not need to be renewed over time. Also called DPA.
Edema– Swelling caused by excess fluid in body tissues.
Embolization– The blocking of an artery by a clot or foreign material. Embolization can be done as treatment to block the flow of blood to a tumor.
Endocrine System– A system of glands and cells that make hormones that are released directly into the blood and travel to tissues and organs all over the body. The endocrine system controls growth, sexual development, sleep, hunger, and the way the body uses food.
Enzyme Inhibitor- A drug that restricts production of certain proteins (enzymes) in cells that allow rapid growth of cancer cells.
Estrogen Receptor Negative (ER-)– Describes cells that do not have a protein to which the hormone estrogen will bind. Cancer cells that are estrogen receptor negative do not need estrogen to grow, and usually do not stop growing when treated with hormones that block estrogen from binding.
Estrogen Receptor Positive (ER+)– Describes cells that have a receptor protein that binds the hormone estrogen. Cancer cells that are estrogen receptor positive may need estrogen to grow, and may stop growing or die when treated with substances that block the binding and actions of estrogen.
Fibrocystic Breast Disease– A common condition marked by benign (not cancer) changes in breast tissue. These changes may include irregular lumps or cysts, breast discomfort, sensitive nipples, and itching. These symptoms may change throughout the menstrual cycle and usually stop after menopause. Also called benign breast disease, fibrocystic breast changes, and mammary dysplasia.
Gamma Knife Therapy– A treatment using gamma rays, a type of high-energy radiation that can be tightly focused on small tumors or other lesions in the head or neck, so very little normal tissue receives radiation. The gamma rays are aimed at the tumor from many different angles at once, and deliver a large dose of radiation exactly to the tumor in one treatment session. This procedure is a type of stereotactic radiosurgery. Gamma Knife therapy is not a knife and is not surgery.
Gastric Feeding Tube (Nasogastric and NG Tube)– A tube that is inserted through the nose, down the throat and esophagus, and into the stomach. It can be used to give drugs, liquids, and liquid food, or used to remove substances from the stomach. Giving food through a gastric feeding tube is a type of enteral nutrition.
Glaucoma– A condition in which there is a build-up of fluid in the eye, which presses on the retina and the optic nerve. The retina is the layer of nerve tissue inside the eye that senses light and sends images along the optic nerve to the brain. Glaucoma can damage the optic nerve and cause loss of vision or blindness.
Glioblastoma (GBM, Glioblastoma Multiforme)– A fast-growing type of central nervous system tumor that forms from glial (supportive) tissue of the brain and spinal cord and has cells that look very different from normal cells. Glioblastoma usually occurs in adults and affects the brain more often than the spinal cord..
Glioma– A general term for many types of primary brain tumors, all which arise from cells that perform supportive functions for neurons, called glial cells.
Graft-Versus-Host-Disease (GVHD)– A disease caused when cells from a donated stem cell graft attack the normal tissue of the transplant patient. Symptoms include jaundice, skin rash or blisters, a dry mouth, or dry eyes.
Growth Factor– A substance made by the body that functions to regulate cell division and cell survival. Some growth factors are also produced in the laboratory and used in biological therapy.
Gynecomastia– The abnormal growth of breast gland tissue in males. Gynecomastia in infants and boys may be caused by an imbalance in certain hormones. It may also be caused by conditions that affect hormones, such as tumors; malnutrition; kidney, liver, or thyroid disease; or treatment with certain drugs. It can occur at any age.
Hairy Cell Leukemia- A rare type of leukemia in which abnormal B-lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) are present in the bone marrow, spleen, and peripheral blood. When viewed under a microscope, these cells appear to be covered with tiny hair-like projections.
Hand and Foot Syndrome (Palmar-Plantar Erythrodysesthesia)– This is a side effect of some types of chemotherapy. It is characterized by peeling, itching, burning, and reddened skin on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.
Hemoglobin– The red pigmentation in red blood cells which permits the carrying of oxygen.
HER1– The protein found on the surface of some cells and to which epidermal growth factor binds, causing the cells to divide. It is found at abnormally high levels on the surface of many types of cancer cells, so these cells may divide excessively in the presence of epidermal growth factor. Also called EGFR, epidermal growth factor receptor, and ErbB1.
HER2 Positive– Describes cancer cells that have too much of a protein called HER2 on their surface. In normal cells, HER2 helps to control cell growth. When it is made in larger than normal amounts by cancer cells, the cells may grow more quickly and be more likely to spread to other parts of the body. Checking to see if a cancer is HER2 positive may help plan treatment, which may include drugs that kill HER2 positive cancer cells. Cancers that may be HER2 positive include breast, bladder, pancreatic, ovarian, and stomach cancers. Also called c-erbB-2 positive and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 positive.
HER2/neu– A gene that carries the genetic code (recipe) for the HER2 protein. HER2 is found on the surface of some normal cells and plays a role in controlling cell growth. Abnormally high amounts of HER2 may be present on the surface of breast cancer cells in one out of four women, mostly due to increased gene-copy number in the nucleus. This causes the cancer cells to grow rapidly.
HIPAA- A 1996 U.S. law that allows workers and their families to keep their health insurance when they change or lose their jobs. The law also includes standards for setting up secure electronic health records and to protect the privacy of a person’s health information and to keep it from being misused. Also called Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Kassebaum Kennedy Act.
Hodgkin Disease– A cancer of the immune system that is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. The two major types of Hodgkin disease are classical Hodgkin lymphoma and nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma. Symptoms include the painless enlargement of lymph nodes, spleen, or other immune tissue. Other symptoms include fever, weight loss, fatigue, or night sweats. Also called Hodgkin lymphoma.
Hormonal Therapy– Treatment with drugs that help to shrink or kill hormone-dependent tumors. It is also the surgical removal of hormone-producing glands.
Hormone Receptor– A cell protein that binds a specific hormone. The hormone receptor may be on the surface of the cell or inside the cell. Many changes take place in a cell after a hormone binds to its receptor.
Hospice- A program that provides special care for people who are near the end of life and for their families, either at home, in freestanding facilities, or within hospitals.
Hyperplasia– An abnormal increase in the number of normal cells in an organ or tissue.
Hypoxemia– A condition in which there is not enough oxygen in the blood.
Hypoxia- A condition in which there is a decrease in the oxygen supply to a tissue. In cancer treatment, the level of hypoxia in a tumor may help predict the response of the tumor to the treatment.
Immunotherapy– Treatment to boost or restore the ability of the immune system to fight cancer, infections, and other diseases. Also used to lessen certain side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments. Agents used in immunotherapy include monoclonal antibodies, growth factors, and vaccines. These agents may also have a direct antitumor effect. Also called biological response modifier therapy, biological therapy, biotherapy, and BRM therapy.
Induction Therapy– The first treatment given for a disease. It is often part of a standard set of treatments, such as surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation. When used by itself, induction therapy is the one accepted as the best treatment. If it doesn’t cure the disease or cause severe side effects, other treatment may be added or used instead. Also called first-line therapy, primary therapy, and primary treatment.
Infiltrating Cancer- Cancer that has spread beyond the layer of tissue in which it developed and is growing into surrounding, healthy tissues. Also called invasive cancer.
Informed Consent– A process in which patients are given important information, including possible risks and benefits, about a medical procedure or treatment, a clinical trial, or genetic testing. This is to help them decide if they want to be treated, tested, or take part in the trial. Patients are also given any new information that might affect their decision to continue. Also called consent process.
Infusion– A continuous drip of fluids or medications into the blood, usually through a vein.
Intrathecal– Describes the fluid-filled space between the thin layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord. Drugs can be injected into the fluid or a sample of the fluid can be removed for testing.
Invasive Cancer– Cancer that has spread beyond the layer of tissue in which it developed and is growing into surrounding, healthy tissues. Also called infiltrating cancer.
Investigational– In clinical trials refers to a drug (including a new drug, dose, combination, or route of administration) or procedure that has undergone basic laboratory testing and received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be tested in human subjects. A drug or procedure may be approved by the FDA for use in one disease or condition, but be considered investigational in other diseases or conditions. Also called experimental.
Irradiation– The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons, 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). Systemic irradiation uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that travels in the blood to tissues throughout the body. Also called radiation therapy and radiotherapy.
Islet of Langerhans Cell– A pancreatic cell that produces hormones (e.g., insulin and glucagon) that are secreted into the bloodstream. These hormones help control the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Also called endocrine pancreas cell and islet cell.
Kidney Failure– A condition in which the kidneys stop working and are not able to remove waste and extra water from the blood or keep body chemicals in balance. Acute or severe kidney failure happens suddenly (for example, after an injury) and may be treated and cured. Chronic kidney failure develops over many years, may be caused by conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes, and cannot be cured. Chronic kidney failure may lead to total and long-lasting kidney failure, called end-stage renal disease (ESRD). A person in ESRD needs dialysis (the process of cleaning the blood by passing it through a membrane or filter) or a kidney transplant. Also called renal failure.
Kidney Function Test– A test in which blood or urine samples are checked for the amounts of certain substances released by the kidneys. A higher- or lower-than-normal amount of a substance can be a sign that the kidneys are not working the way they should. Also called renal function test.
Laparoscopy– The insertion of a thin, lighted tube through the abdominal wall to directly view the organs of the abdomen and to perform a biopsy.
Lesion– An area of abnormal tissue. A lesion may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).
Leukemia– 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 bloodstream.
Leukocyte-A type of immune cell. Most leukocytes are made in the bone marrow and are found in the blood and lymph tissue. Leukocytes help the body fight infections and other diseases. Granulocytes, monocytes, and lymphocytes are leukocytes. Also called WBC and white blood cell.
Leukopenia- A condition in which there is a lower-than-normal number of leukocytes (white blood cells) in the blood.
Linear Accelerator– A machine that uses electricity to form a stream of fast-moving subatomic particles. This creates high-energy radiation that may be used to treat cancer. Also called linac, mega-voltage linear accelerator, and MeV linear accelerator.
Lipoma- A benign (not cancer) tumor made of fat cells.
Liposarcoma– A rare cancer of the fat cells.
Living Will– A type of legal advance directive in which a person describes specific treatment guidelines that are to be followed by health care providers if he or she becomes terminally ill and cannot communicate. A living will usually has instructions about whether to use aggressive medical treatment to keep a person alive (such as CPR, artificial nutrition, use of a respirator).
Lobectomy– The surgical removal of one lobe of the lung.
Lumbar Puncture– A procedure in which a thin needle called a spinal needle is put into the lower part of the spinal column to collect cerebrospinal fluid or to give drugs. Also called spinal tap.
Lumpectomy– Surgical excision of a tumor without removing large amounts of surrounding tissue.
Lymphadenectomy– A surgical procedure in which the lymph nodes are removed and examined to see if they contain cancer.
Lymphedema– Swelling in the arm or leg caused when too much lymph fluid collects in tissue. It can happen after lymph nodes and vessels are removed by surgery or treated by radiation. An infrequent complication of lumpectomy.
Lymphoma– Cancer that begins in cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas. One kind is Hodgkin lymphoma, which is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. The other category is non-Hodgkin lymphomas, which includes a large, diverse group of cancers of immune system cells. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can be further divided into cancers that have an indolent (slow-growing) course and those that have an aggressive (fast-growing) course. These subtypes behave and respond to treatment differently. Both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas can occur in children and adults, and prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and the type of cancer.
Lymph Nodes– Small, bean-shaped structures that are part of the immune system and store special cells that can trap cancer cells or bacteria travelling through the body.
Lynch Syndrome– An inherited disorder in which affected individuals have a higher-than-normal chance of developing colorectal cancer and certain other types of cancer, often before the age of 50. Also called hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer and HNPCC.
Lytic Lesions- Destruction of an area of bone due to a disease process, such as cancer.
Macroglobulinemia– A condition in which the blood contains high levels of large proteins and is too thick to flow through small blood vessels. One type is Waldenström macroglobulinemia, which is a type of cancer.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)– 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. Magnetic resonance imaging makes better images of organs and soft tissue than other scanning techniques, such as computed tomography (CT) or x-ray. Magnetic resonance imaging is especially useful for imaging the brain, the spine, the soft tissue of joints, and the inside of bones. Also called MRI, NMRI, and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.
Maintenance Therapy– Treatment that is given to help prevent relapse in patients whose cancer is in remission.
Malignancy– A term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and can invade nearby tissues. Malignant cells can also spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems. There are several main types of malignancy. Carcinoma is a malignancy that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs. Sarcoma is a malignancy that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue. Leukemia is a malignancy 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 blood. Lymphoma and multiple myeloma are malignancies that begin in the cells of the immune system. Central nervous system cancers are malignancies that begin in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord. Also called cancer.
Malignant Tumor– Cancerous or life threatening, tending to become progressively worse. Cancer can invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
Mammogram– An x-ray of the breast
MammoSite- A system used to deliver internal radiation therapy to breast cancer patients after surgery to remove their cancer. MammoSite targets only the part of the breast where the cancer was found. After a patient has had a lumpectomy to remove the cancer, a small balloon on the end of a catheter (thin tube) is inserted into the empty space left by the surgery. The balloon is then filled with liquid and left in place. Using the catheter, radioactive seeds are put into the balloon twice a day for five days and removed each time. Once treatment has ended, the catheter and balloon are removed. MammoSite is a type of intracavitary brachytherapy and partial breast irradiation therapy (PBRT). Also called balloon catheter radiation.
Margin– The edge or border of the tissue removed in cancer surgery. The margin is described as negative or clean when the pathologist finds no cancer cells at the edge of the tissue, suggesting that all of the cancer has been removed. The margin is described as positive or involved when the pathologist finds cancer cells at the edge of the tissue, suggesting that all of the cancer has not been removed.
Mastectomy– Surgery to remove part or the entire breast. There are different types of mastectomy that differ in the amount of tissue and lymph nodes removed.
Mediastinum– The area between the lungs. The organs in this area include the heart and its large blood vessels, the trachea, the esophagus, the thymus, and lymph nodes but not the lungs.
Melanoma– A form of cancer that begins in melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin). It may begin in a mole (skin melanoma), but can also begin in other pigmented tissues, such as in the eye or in the intestines.
Menopause– The time of life when a woman’s ovaries stop producing hormones and menstrual periods stop. Natural menopause usually occurs around age 50. A woman is said to be in menopause when she hasn’t had a period for 12 months in a row. Symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, vaginal dryness, trouble concentrating, and infertility.
Meninges– The three thin layers of tissue that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord.
Mesothelioma– A benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer) tumor affecting the lining of the chest or abdomen. Exposure to asbestos particles in the air increases the risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.
Metastasis– The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. Cells in the metastatic (secondary) tumor are like those in the original (primary) tumor.
Metastasize– When cancer has spread from where it started to another are of the body.
Mohs Surgery– A surgical procedure used to treat skin cancer. Individual layers of cancer tissue are removed and examined under a microscope one at a time until all cancer tissue has been removed.
Monoclonal Antibody– A type of protein made in the laboratory that can bind to substances in the body, including tumor cells. There are many kinds of monoclonal antibodies. Each monoclonal antibody is made to find one substance. Monoclonal antibodies are being used to treat some types of cancer and are being studied in the treatment of other types. They can be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive materials directly to a tumor.
Muscosa– The moist, inner lining of some organs and body cavities (such as the nose, mouth, lungs, and stomach). Glands in the mucosa make mucus (a thick, slippery fluid). Also called mucous membrane.
Mucous Membrane– The moist, inner lining of some organs and body cavities (such as the nose, mouth, lungs, and stomach). Glands in the mucous membrane make mucus (a thick, slippery fluid). Also called mucosa.
Mucositis– Inflammation of the lining of the mouth or gastrointestinal tract.
Multiple Myeloma– A type of cancer that begins in plasma cells (white blood cells that produce antibodies). Also called Kahler disease, myelomatosis, and plasma cell myeloma.
Myelodysplasia– An abnormal maturation of bone marrow cells that results in low blood cell counts. Occasionally, myelodysplasia can transform into leukemia.
Needle Biopsy– Removal of fluid, cells, or tissue with a needle for examination under a microscope. There are two types: fine needle aspiration (FNA) and core biopsy.
Necrosis– Refers to the death of living tissues.
Neoadjuvant Therapy– Treatment given before the primary treatment, usually surgery, to shrink the tumor. It can be chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy.
Neuropathy– Damage to nerves; usually in the context of treatment related damage.
Neutropenia– An abnormally low count of infection-fighting white blood cells in the body. A common side effect of many chemotherapy drugs.
Nodule- A growth or lump that may be malignant (cancer) or benign (not cancer).
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma– Any of a large group of cancers of lymphocytes (white blood cells). Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can occur at any age and are often marked by lymph nodes that are larger than normal, fever, and weight loss. There are many different types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These types can be divided into aggressive (fast-growing) and indolent (slow-growing) types, and they can be formed from either B-cells or T-cells. B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas include Burkitt lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL), diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, immunoblastic large cell lymphoma, precursor B-lymphoblastic lymphoma, and mantle cell lymphoma. T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas include mycosis fungoides, anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and precursor T-lymphoblastic lymphoma. Lymphomas that occur after bone marrow or stem cell transplantation are usually B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and type of disease. Also called NHL.
Nurse Practitioner (APN and NP)– A registered nurse who has additional education and training in how to diagnose and treat disease. Nurse practitioners are licensed at the state level and certified by national nursing organizations. In cancer care, a nurse practitioner may manage the primary care of patients and their families, based on a practice agreement with a doctor.
Observation– In medicine, watching a patient’s condition but not giving treatment unless symptoms appear or change.
Osteopenia– A condition in which there is a lower-than-normal bone mass or bone mineral density (the amount of bone mineral contained in a certain amount of bone). Osteopenia is a less severe form of bone loss than osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis– A condition that is marked by a decrease in bone mass and density, causing bones to become fragile.
Ostomy– An operation to create an opening (a stoma) from an area inside the body to the outside. Colostomy and urostomy are types of ostomies.
Pack Years– A way to measure the amount a person has smoked over a long period of time. It is calculated by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years the person has smoked. For example, 1 pack year is equal to smoking 1 pack per day for 1 year, or 2 packs per day for half a year, and so on.
Palliative Therapy– Treatment given to relieve the symptoms and reduce the suffering caused by cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Palliative cancer therapies are given together with other cancer treatments, from the time of diagnosis, through treatment, survivorship, recurrent or advanced disease, and at the end of life.
Paresthesia- An abnormal touch sensation, such as burning or prickling, that occurs without an outside stimulus.
Patient Advocate– A person who helps a patient work with others who have an effect on the patient’s health, including doctors, insurance companies, employers, case managers, and lawyers. A patient advocate helps resolve issues about health care, medical bills, and job discrimination related to a patient’s medical condition. Cancer advocacy groups try to raise public awareness about important cancer issues, such as the need for cancer support services, education, and research. Such groups work to bring about change that will help cancer patients and their families.
Pathologic Fracture– A broken bone caused by disease, often by the spread of cancer to the bone.
Perimenopausal- Describes the time in a woman’s life when menstrual periods become irregular as she approaches menopause. This is usually three to five years before menopause and is often marked by many of the symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, vaginal dryness, trouble concentrating, and infertility.
Physician Assistant (PA)– A health professional who is licensed to do certain medical procedures under the guidance of a doctor. A physician assistant may take medical histories, do physical exams, take blood and urine samples, care for wounds, and give injections and immunizations.
Placebo– An inert, inactive substance that is not distinguishable in appearance from the active substance that may be used in clinical trials to compare the effects of a given treatment with no treatment.
Pleura- A thin layer of tissue that covers the lungs and lines the interior wall of the chest cavity. It protects and cushions the lungs. This tissue secretes a small amount of fluid that acts as a lubricant, allowing the lungs to move smoothly in the chest cavity while breathing.
Pleural Effusion– An abnormal collection of fluid between the thin layers of tissue (pleura) lining the lung and the wall of the chest cavity.
Port-A-Cath– An implanted device through which blood may be withdrawn and drugs may be infused without repeated needle sticks. Also called port.
Postmenopausal– Having to do with the time after menopause. Menopause (“change of life”) is the time in a woman’s life when menstrual periods stop permanently.
Power of Attorney– A power of attorney is a legal document that gives one person (such as a relative, lawyer, or friend) the authority to make legal, medical, or financial decisions for another person. It may go into effect right away, or when that person is no longer able to make decisions for him or herself.
Prognosis– The probable outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery.
Progression– In medicine, the course of a disease, such as cancer, as it becomes worse or spreads in the body.
Prophylactic- In medicine, something that prevents or protects.
Prophylactic Surgery- Surgery to remove an organ or gland that shows no signs of cancer, in an attempt to prevent development of cancer of that organ or gland. Prophylactic surgery is sometimes chosen by people who know they are at high risk for developing cancer.
Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)– A protein made by the prostate gland and found in the blood. Prostate-specific antigen blood levels may be higher than normal in men who have prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or infection or inflammation of the prostate gland.
Quality of Life– The overall enjoyment of life. Many clinical trials assess the effects of cancer and its treatment on the quality of life. These studies measure aspects of an individual’s sense of well-being and ability to carry out various activities.
Radiation Therapy– The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons, 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). Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that travels in the blood to tissues throughout the body. Also called irradiation and radiotherapy.
Recurrence– Cancer that has recurred (come back), usually after a period of time during which the cancer could not be detected. The cancer may come back to the same place as the original (primary) tumor or to another place in the body. Also called recurrent cancer.
Red Blood Cells (RBC)– Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body by using a red pigment called hemoglobin.
Regimen– A treatment plan that specifies the dosage, the schedule, and the duration of treatment.
Relapse- The return of a disease or the signs and symptoms of a disease after a period of improvement. Relapse also refers to returning to the use of an addictive substance or behavior.
Remission– Disappearance of the signs and symptoms of cancer. When this happens, the disease is said to be “in remission.” Remission can be temporary or permanent, partial, or complete.
Resection– Surgical removal or excision of tissue.
Residual Disease– Cancer cells that remain after attempts to remove the cancer have been made.
Risk Factor– Something that increases the chance of developing a disease. Some examples of risk factors for cancer are age, a family history of certain cancers, use of tobacco products, being exposed to radiation or certain chemicals, infection with certain viruses or bacteria, and certain genetic changes.
Salvage Therapy- Treatment that is given after the cancer has not responded to other treatments.
Sarcoidosis- An inflammatory disease marked by the formation of granulomas (small nodules of immune cells) in the lungs, lymph nodes, and other organs. Sarcoidosis may be acute and go away by itself, or it may be chronic and progressive. Also called sarcoid.
Sarcoma- A cancer of the bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue.
Sentinel Lymph Node– The lymph note that is first in the drainage system of an organ to entrap cancer cells. If the sentinel lymph node is found free of cancer, the likelihood of other nodes being full of cancer goes down tremendously, eliminating the need for their surgical removal.
Sepsis– The presence of bacteria or their toxins in the blood or tissues.
Septicemia– Disease caused by the spread of bacteria and their toxins in the bloodstream. Also called blood poisoning and toxemia.
Sjögren Syndrome– An autoimmune disease that affects the tear glands and salivary glands, and may affect glands in the stomach, pancreas, and intestines. The disease causes dry eyes and mouth, and may cause dryness in the nose, throat, air passages, skin, and vagina. It may also cause inflammation in the joints, muscles, and skin; pneumonia; tingling in the fingers and toes; and fatigue. It often occurs with rheumatoid arthritis or other connective tissue diseases.
Squamous Cells- Flat cell that looks like a fish scale under a microscope. These cells cover inside and outside surfaces of the body. They are found in the tissues that form the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body (such as the bladder, kidney, and uterus), and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts.
Stable Disease– Cancer that is neither decreasing nor increasing in extent or severity.
Staging– 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.
Standard of Care- Treatment that is accepted by medical experts as a proper treatment for a certain type of disease and that is widely used by healthcare professionals. Also called best practice, standard medical care, and standard therapy.
Steroid Therapy– Treatment with corticosteroid drugs to reduce swelling, pain, and other symptoms of inflammation.
Stoma– A surgically created opening from an area inside the body to the outside.
Supportive Care– Care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease. The goal of supportive care is to prevent or treat as early as possible the symptoms of a disease, side effects caused by treatment of a disease, and psychological, social, and spiritual problems related to a disease or its treatment. Also called comfort care, palliative care, and symptom management.
Survivorship- In cancer, survivorship focuses on the health and life of a person with cancer post treatment until the end of life. It covers the physical, psychosocial, and economic issues of cancer, beyond the diagnosis and treatment phases. Survivorship includes issues related to the ability to get health care and follow-up treatment, late effects of treatment, second cancers, and quality of life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also considered part of the survivorship experience.
Symptom Management- Care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease. The goal of symptom management is to prevent or treat as early as possible the symptoms of a disease, side effects caused by treatment of a disease, and psychological, social, and spiritual problems related to a disease or its treatment. Also called comfort care, palliative care, and supportive care.
Systemic Therapy– Treatment that reaches and affects cells throughout the body.
Tachycardia– Rapid beating of the heart usually defined as greater than 100 beats per minute.
Tachypnea- Rapid breathing.
Targeted Therapy– A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances, such as monoclonal antibodies, to identify and attack specific cancer cells. Targeted therapy may have fewer side effects than other types of cancer treatments.
Thoracentesis- Removal of fluid from the pleural cavity through a needle inserted between the ribs.
Thrombocytopenia– A condition in which there is a lower-than-normal number of platelets in the blood. It may result in easy bruising and excessive bleeding from wounds or bleeding in mucous membranes and other tissues.
Thrush– A condition in which Candida albicans, a type of yeast, grows out of control in moist skin areas of the body. It is usually a result of a weakened immune system, but can be a side effect of chemotherapy or treatment with antibiotics. Thrush usually affects the mouth (oral thrush); however, rarely, it spreads throughout the entire body. Also called candidiasis and candidosis.
Treatment Cycle– In medicine, a course of treatment that is repeated on a regular schedule with periods of rest in between. For example, treatment given for one week followed by three weeks of rest is one treatment cycle.
Tumor– An abnormal mass of tissue caused by excessive cell growth and division. Tumors perform no useful body function and are either benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Tumor Markers– Substances found in abnormal amounts in the blood, in other body fluids, or in tumor tissue of some patients with certain types of cancer.
Ulceration– The formation of a break on the skin or on the surface of an organ. An ulcer forms when the surface cells die and are cast off. Ulcers may be associated with cancer and other diseases.
Ultrasound– Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves, and their echoes to create an image.
Unresectable– Unable to be surgically removed.
Vaccines– Vaccines stimulate your immune system to mount your own defense against cancer cells. The first cancer vaccine- for cervical cancer is now being used. There are many other cancer vaccines currently in the clinical trial stage.
Venous Catheter– A thin, flexible tube that is inserted into a large vein, usually in the arm, chest, or leg. It is used to give intravenous fluids, blood transfusions, and chemotherapy and other drugs, and for taking blood samples. It avoids the need for repeated needle sticks.
Vertebroplasty-A procedure used to repair a bone in the spine that has a break caused by cancer, osteoporosis (a decrease in bone mass and density), or trauma. Bone cement is injected into the broken bone to make it stronger.
Waldenströms Macroglobulinemia– An indolent (slow-growing) type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma marked by abnormal levels of IgM antibodies in the blood and an enlarged liver, spleen, or lymph nodes. Also called lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma.
White Blood Cell Count (WBC) – One of the subtypes of blood cells that helps fight infection.
- Aches and Pains
- Anorexia – Decreased Appetite
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Oral Care
- What to Expect After Chemotherapy
- Infection Precautions
- Nutritional Guidelines for Chemotherapy
- Nutritional Information
- Recommended Recipes
- Safety Precautions
- Safe Management of Chemotherapy in the Home
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Glossary of Terms