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Glossary of Cancer Related Terms

Adjuvant therapy: Treatment used in addition to and following the primary treatment to cure, reduce, or control the cancer.

Alopecia: Partial or complete loss of hair, often caused by chemotherapy. Analgesic: A drug that relieves pain.

Anemia: A deficiency of red blood cells. Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, and weakness.

Antibodies: Proteins produced by the immune system to fight infection.

Aspiration: Removal of fluid or tissue, usually with a needle or tube.

Barium enema: A liquid barium mixture given to a patient before an X-ray of the digestive system.

Benign: A non-cancerous tumor that does not have the tendency to grow.

Biopsy: The removal of a piece of tissue to see if it is malignant.

Blood Counts: A low red blood cell count (HGB) can cause a tired and listless feeling. A low white blood cell count (WBC) can increase your risk of infection. A low platelet count (PLT) can put you at risk for bruising and bleeding.

Bone scan: A non-painful test performed by injecting a tracer radioactive substance and in a few hours, taking pictures as you lie on a table. “Hot spots” on the scan could be an indication of cancer.

Brachytherapy: The use of a radioactive “seed” that is implanted directly into a tumor.

Carcinoma: A form of cancer that develops in the tissue or lining of the body such as the breast, lung, skin, or uterus. More than 80% of all cancers are carcinomas.

CT scan: A specialized type of X-ray that produces cross-sectional scans of your body. The test does not hurt, but you may receive an injection of a radioactive substance.

CEA: A “tumor marker” that may be in your blood indicating the presence of cancer. CEA is monitored to assess the progress of your treatment.

Chemotherapy: Drugs that are used to stop or slow down the growth of cancer cells.

Colonoscopy: A procedure to inspect the rectum and colon using a long fiber- optic telescope. It is mostly done on an outpatient basis after giving a local anesthesia.

Endoscope: A flexible lighted instrument that enables examination within the organs.

Fine-needle aspiration: A simple and almost always painless way to get a sample of tissue for diagnosis.

Grading: One means of classifying a tumor depending on whether the cells are differentiated.

Hope: What living with cancer demands. To expect with confidence, and to remember that every cancer, at every stage, has been survived by someone.

Hormonal therapy: Treatment that prevents cancer cells from growing by taking advantage of the hormonal needs of these cells.

Hospice: A special care program that provides medical, spiritual, and psychological care to patients and their families when life expectancy is short.

Immune system: The components of the body that are responsible for fighting and resisting infection, primarily white blood cells but also antibodies and the lymphatic system.

In-situ: An early stage of cancer that is localized in one area.

Interferon: Proteins that activate the immune system. Used to fight cancer as a biological therapy.

Invasive cancer: A stage of cancer in which the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body.

Lobectomy: Partial removal of the lung.

Lumpectomy: Removal of a cancerous breast lump without removing the entire breast.

Lymph nodes: Pea-sized organs located throughout the body that filter out cancer cells and other foreign substances and produce infection-fighting antibodies.

Lymphedema: Swelling that can occur in any part of the body that becomes long term, often related to lymph node removal or lymphatic vessel damage.

Malignant: Cancerous with a tendency to spread to other organs.

Mastectomy: Surgical removal of the breast as a treatment of cancer.

Metastasis: Spread of cancer from one part of the body to another.

MRI (Magnet Resonance Imaging): A test using magnetic fields to produce structural images of the inside of the body. This test doesn’t hurt, but some people may feel claustrophobic or be affected by the loud noise of the machine.

Nadir: The lowest point at which your platelets and white cells drop after chemotherapy.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy: Chemotherapy given before surgery or radiation therapy.

Neuropathy: Numbness or tingling, sometimes caused by anticancer drugs.

Oncologist: A doctor whose specialty is cancer and its treatments.

Palliative treatment: Medical treatment to relieve pain or symptoms when a cure is no longer the object.

Platelets: One of three types of blood cells. Platelets promote blood clotting.

Prognosis: The attempt to predict the outcome of the disease.

Primary tumor: The location where the cancer first started to grow. Also known as the “place of origin.”

Protocol: The outline or plan for a treatment program.

Radiation therapy: The use of a beam of energy to kill cancer cells.

Red blood cells: Blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs throughout the body.

Remission: The decrease or disappearance of the disease.

Thrombosis: Formation of a blood clot.

TNM classification: A complex system doctors use to describe the stage of development of most cancers.

Tumor: An abnormal tissue growth or mass that can be benign or malignant.

Tumor marker: Proteins and other substances in the blood that indicate the presence of cancer cells somewhere else in the body.

Ultrasound: A testing technique that uses sound waves to make pictures of the inside of the body.

White blood cells: A general term for the cells in the body that play a major role in battling infection.