Glossary of Cancer Terms

The following glossary includes many terms you will be hearing regularly and may be helpful to you throughout your cancer treatment.

Alopecia - Partial or complete loss of hair resulting from radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

Anemia - A condition in which the body does not have enough red blood cells. This may be due to bleeding or lack of blood production by the bone marrow. Symptoms include tiredness, shortness of breath and weakness.

Antiemetics - Drugs given to minimize or prevent nausea and vomiting.

Ascites - An accumulation of fluid within the abdomen that can occur in women with noncancerous conditions and with different types of cancers.

Benign - Noncancerous.

Biopsy - A surgery performed to remove tissue for examination in order to determine whether cancer is present.

CA-125 - A blood protein that can be measured and is an important tumor marker in ovarian cancer.

CBC (Complete Blood Count) - A series of tests including red and white blood cell and platelet counts, hemoglobin and cell volume measurement.

Cancer - Any group of diseases whose symptoms are due to the unrestrained growth of cells in one of the body organs or tissues.

Carcinogens - Substances known to cause and/or promote cancer.

Carcinoma - Cancer that begins in the internal tissues.

Chemotherapy - The treatment of cancer by chemicals (drugs) designed to destroy cancer cells or stop them from growing.

CT or CAT Scan (Computerized Axial Tomography) - A diagnostic procedure that combines an x-ray with a computer to produce highly-detailed cross-sectional, three-dimensional pictures of the entire body. These tests are generally 100 times more sensitive than x-rays.

Cyst - A fluid-filled sac.

Diagnosis - The act of identifying a disease from its signs and symptoms.

Edema - Swelling due to the accumulation of fluid within the tissues.

Epithelial - Type of tissue lining the skin and hollow organs.

Estrogen - Female sex hormone secreted primarily by the ovaries that is responsible for the secondary sex characteristics such as the growth of breasts.

Estrogen Receptor Test - A test done during the biopsy of cancerous tissue to determine if its growth depends on estrogen.

Hematologist - A physician (internist) who specializes in blood diseases.

Hormones - Naturally-occurring substances that are released by the endocrine organs and circulated in the blood. Hormones control growth, metabolism, reproduction and other functions.

Hysterectomy - Surgical removal of the uterus.

Infusion - Slow intravenous delivery of a drug or fluids.

Intraperiteonal - Situated within or administered by entering the peritoneum, the serous membrane which lines the abdominal cavity and folds inward to enclose the viscera.

Intravenous (IV) - Administration of drugs or fluids directly into a vein.

Malignant - A term used to describe a cancerous tumor.

Metastasis - The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) - A new, sophisticated technique to examine the body using powerful electromagnets, radio frequency waves and a computer to produce internal pictures of the body.

Oncologist - A physician who specializes in cancer therapy and handles general medical problems that arise during the disease.

Peripheral Neuropathy - A possible side effect of chemotherapy that affects the nervous system. Symptoms include tingling, burning, weakness or numbness of the hands or feet.

Prognosis - A statement about the likely outcome of disease in a particular patient.

Protocol - A formalized plan for treatment.

Recurrence - Reappearance of cancer.

Remission - A temporary or permanent stage when cancer is not active and symptoms disappear.

Scan - A study using x-rays to produce images of internal body organs.

Staging - The stages that describe how far a cancer has progressed, based on the size of the primary tumor and on whether and where it has spread.

Thrombocytopenia - An abnormally low number of platelets due to disease, reaction to a drug, or toxic reaction to treatments.

Transfusion - The administration of donated blood.

Tumor - A lump, mass or swelling. A tumor can be either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

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