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Cancer Term Glossary | Cancer Terms | Personalized Cause

The first steps to understanding cancer and cancer therapy are to understand the most commonly used terms by the health care community.

Cancer Glossary Terms

The language of cancer prevention, early detection and treatment can be confusing. This glossary of cancer terms and their meanings serves to reduce the confusion and helps you better understand what you read and hear about cancer.

A - Cancer Terms

Adenocarcinoma: A malignant or cancerous tumor arising from glandular tissue.
Adenoma: A benign tumor made up of glandular tissue.
Alopecia: The loss of hair in response to chemotherapy.
Analgesic: Any drug that is a pain reliever.
Anemia: A decreased number of red blood cells may cause fatigue and weakness.
Anorexia: The loss of appetite.
Antiemetic: A drug that prevents or controls nausea and vomiting.
Antineoplastic agent: A drug that prevents, kills, or blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Aspiration: The process of removing fluid/tissue from a specific area.

B - Cancer Terms

Benign: A swelling or growth that is not cancerous and does not spread from one part of the body to another.
Biopsy: The surgical removal of tissue for examination under a microscope for diagnosis.
Blood count: The number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in a sample of blood.
Bone marrow: The spongy material found inside bones. Most blood cells are made in the bone marrow.
Bone marrow aspirate: The procedure by which a needle is inserted into a bone to withdraw a sample of bone marrow.
Bone marrow suppression: A decrease in the production or number of blood cells.
Bone scan: A picture of the bones using a very small amount of a radioactive substance that shows bone damage from cancer, injury or other disease.

C - Cancer Terms

Cancer: A group of diseases in which malignant cells grow out of control and spread to other parts of the body.
Carcinomas: A kind of cancer that starts in the skin or the lining of organs.
CT/CAT scan: A test using computers and X-rays to create images of various parts of the body.
Chemotherapy: The treatment of cancer with drugs.
Cystitis: An inflammation of the bladder.

E - Cancer Terms

Effusion: A collection of fluid in a body cavity, usually between two adjoining tissues. For example, a pleural effusion is the collection of fluid between two layers of the pleura (the covering of the lungs.)
Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG): A test that makes recording of the electrical activity of the heart.
Endoscopy: A procedure looking at the inside of body cavities, such as the esophagus (food pipe) or stomach.
Esophagitis: Inflammation of the esophagus (food pipe).
Excision: Surgical removal of a tumor or growth.
Extravasation: The inadvertent leaking of injectable medication into tissue surrounding the infusion site.

F - Cancer Terms

Fine needle aspirate: A procedure in which a needle is inserted into tissue to obtain a sample to examine under a microscope for a specific diagnosis.

G - Cancer Terms

Grade: Determination of how benign or malignant a tumor is based on microscopic evaluation.

H - Cancer Terms

Hematocrit (Hct): The percentage of red blood cells in the blood. A low hematocrit indicates anemia (similar to PCV or packed cell volume).
Hematuria: Blood in the urine.

I - Cancer Terms

Immunity (Immune system): The body's ability to fight infections and disease.
Immunosuppression: Weakening of the immune system causing a lowered ability to fight infections and disease.
Immunotherapy: An artificial stimulation of the body's immune system to treat or fight disease (also known as biological response modifier).
Infusion: The delivery of fluids or medications into the bloodstream over a period of time.
Injection: Pushing a medication into the body with the use of a syringe and needle.

L - Cancer Terms

Lesion: A lump or abscess that may be caused by injury or disease, such as cancer.
Leukemia: Cancer of the blood. White blood cells may be produced in excessive amounts and are unable to work properly.
Leukopenia: A low number of white blood cells.
Lymphatic system: A network that includes lymph nodes and lymph and lymph vessels that serves as a filtering system for the blood.
Lymph nodes: Tissue in localized areas that are part of the immune defense system. Lymph nodes act as our first line of defense against infections and cancer.
Lymphocytes: White blood cells that kill viruses and defend against the invasion of foreign materials.
Lymphoma: A cancer of lymph nodes and white blood cells known as lymphocytes.

M - Cancer Terms

Malignant tumor: A tumor made up of cancer cells of the type that would spread to other parts of the body.
Mastectomy: The surgical removal of the breast.
A) Lumpectomy: Removal of the lump and a small amount of surrounding breast tissue.
B) Simple mastectomy (modified mastectomy): Removal of the entire breast.
C) Radical mastectomy: Removal of the entire breast along with underlying muscle and possibly lymph nodes.
Melanoma: A cancer of the pigment-forming cells of the skin or the retina of the eye.
Metastasize: To spread from the first cancer site, such as bone cancer spreading to the lungs.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): A sophisticated test that provides in-depth images of organs and structures in the body using magnetic energy.
Myeloma: A malignant tumor of the bone marrow associated with the production of abnormal proteins (known as multiple myeloma or plasma cell myeloma).
Myelosuppression: A decrease in the number of red blood cells, platelets and some white blood cells. When myelosuppression is severe, it is called myeloablation.

N - Cancer Terms

Neoplasm: A new growth of tissue or cells; a tumor that is generally malignant.
Neutropenia: A decreased number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell.

O - Cancer Terms

Oncologist: A physician who specializes in oncology.
Oncology: The study and treatment of cancer.

P - Cancer Terms

Palliative treatment: Treatment aimed at the relief of pain and symptoms of disease but not intended to cure the disease.
Pathology: The study of disease by the examination of tissues and body fluids under the microscope. A physician who specializes in pathology is called a pathologist.
Platelet (Plt): Cells in the blood that are responsible for clotting.
Platelet count: The number of platelets in a blood sample.
Polyp: A growth of tissue protruding into a body cavity, such as a nasal or rectal polyp. It may be benign or malignant.
Primary tumor: The original cancer site.
Prognosis: The outcome of a disease; the life expectancy.
Protocol: The cancer treatment plan that may involve one or more of the following: radiation, chemotherapy, surgery and supportive care.

R - Cancer Terms

Radiation therapy: X-ray treatment that damages or kills cancer cells.
Recurrence: The reappearance of cancer after a period of remission.
Red blood cells (Erythrocyte): Cells in the blood that bring oxygen to tissues and take carbon dioxide from them.
Relapse: The reappearance of cancer.
Remission: Complete or partial disappearance of the signs and symptoms of disease.

S - Cancer Terms

Sarcoma: A malignant tumor of muscles or connective tissue such as bone or cartilage.
Side effects: Undesirable adverse effects of cancer treatment.
Staging: Determination of extent of the cancer in the body.
Systemic disease: A disease that affects the whole body instead of a special organ.

T - Cancer Terms

Thoracentesis (Pleural tap): A procedure to remove fluids from the area between the two layers (pleura) covering the lungs.
Thrombocytopenia: An abnormally low number of platelets. If platelets are low, bleeding can occur.
Tumor: An abnormal overgrowth of cells. Tumors can be either benign or malignant.

U - Cancer Terms

Ultrasound examination: The use of high-frequency sound waves for the purpose of diagnosis.

V - Cancer Terms

Venipuncture: Puncturing the vein in order to obtain blood samples, to start an intravenous drip or to give a medication.

W - Cancer Terms

White Blood Cells (WBC): A general term for a variety of cells responsible for fighting invading germs. Specific white blood cells include granulocytes and lymphocytes.
White Blood Count (WBC): The actual number of white blood cells seen in a blood sample.

X - Cancer Terms

X-ray: Radiation used to diagnose and treat disease.