Your gateway to the world of medicine
Cancer News
About Us
Health Professionals
Patients and public
Contact Us

Terms commonly used in cancer descriptions

From Terms commonly used in cancer descriptions

Imaging techniques History of cancer Cancer main  

  A B C D H I L M O P R S T

  • Acute: A sudden onset of a disease or a problem. Example: Mr. C had an acute episode of fever.
  • Adjuvant: Adjuvant is a term for describing a form of treatment in which the idea is to prevent the recurrence of cancer. For example breast cancer patients who had surgery for the tumor may be offered adjuvant chemotherapy and adjuvant radiation therapy, even though there is no evidence of breast in that patient. Adjuvant therapy is aimed at decreasing the risk of cancer recurrence. See breast cancer treatment page for details on adjuvant therapy of breast cancer.
  • Alopecia: Loss of hair. When the doctor says “this chemotherapy has less chance of alopecia” it means that that particular chemotherapy drug has lower chance of causing hair loss.
  • Anemia: Red cells of the blood contain a substance called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to different parts of the body. When the hemoglobin is low the condition is called anemia. Anemia may cause symptoms like fatigue, tiredness and weakness.
  • Anorexia: Lack of appetite. Example: Since the diagnosis stomach cancer, Mr. D is having severe anorexia. He has lost about 20 pounds of weight over the last few months because of severe anorexia.
  • Antibody: A substance formed by the body cells that guard against invading organisms or substances. Example: It is rare for someone to get two attacks of chicken pox. With the first episode of chickenpox the body cells creates antibodies that defends the body against a second attack of chickenpox.
  • Axilla: Armpit. Example: The lymph nodes of the axilla may be involved in some patients with breast cancer. Surgery is often undertaken to determine if the lymph nodes in the axilla are involved.
  • Axillary lymph node dissection: This term refers to surgical exploration and removal of lymph nodes from the armpit as a part of treatment for breast cancer. See surgical treatment of breast cancer for more details.
  • Axilllary nodes: Lymph glands in the armpit. Example: Axillary node removal is a standard practice of surgical treatment of breast cancer.
  • Benign: Something like a growth or ulcer that is not cancer. If the doctor tells “your tumor is benign”, that means the tumor is not cancer. See section on what is cancer for more details.
  • Biopsy: Example: Ms. B is having a biopsy of the breast at the site of abnormality today. This means removal of a small part of the tumor or abnormality to determine the nature of the condition the patient is having. This removed piece is studied under microscope, to determine if the abnormality is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Biopsy also give further information as to the exact nature of the condition, for example if the abnormality is determined to be cancer, examination of the specimen can often determine from which type of cell and what type of tissue the cancer is originating. This is important to make treatment decisions.
  • Bone scan: Obtaining a picture of the bone using radioactive materials. A radioactive substance is injected in to the blood stream, and a picture of the bone is obtained using sensors that sense radioactivity. This technique is often used to find out the presence of bone metastasis from cancer. See section on medical imaging techniques for details.
  • Cancer: Abnormal growth of cells that tend to invade in to the surrounding structures and to distant organs. See section on what is cancer? for more details.
  • Carcinogen: Any substance or any other thing that may increase the risk of development of cancer. Nicotine in the cigarette is a carcinogen. Even sunlight can be considered as a carcinogen.
  • Carcinoma: A subtype of cancer that develops from tissues covering or lining organs or glands of the body, such as skin, colon, lung, or breast. Most of the cancers are carcinomas. Some cancers that arise from connective tissues like bone are called sarcomas. Cancer arising from the white blood cells are called leukemia.
  • CEA: A tumor marker that may be increased in patients with colorectal cancer. An increasing level of CEA is more important than a single high value of CEA.
  • Diagnosis: Diagnosis is the identification of the exact disease that is causing the patients problem. Various laboratory tests are often used depending on the symptoms to determine the correct diagnosis. After laboratory investigations, a physician my tell a patient that the tumor in the breast is diagnosed as lipoma and is not a cancer.
  • Hematology: Branch of medicine that deals with disorders of blood.
  • Hematologist: A hematologist is a physician who is specialized in the diseases of blood.
  • Humanized Monoclonal antibodies: See monoclonal antibodies below. Monoclonal antibodies are usually created in animals. These monoclonal antibodies are further processed and most parts of the antibodies except the antigen binding sites are replaced with human antibody parts to create humanized monoclonal antibodies. This avoids destruction of the monoclonal antibody by the patient's own immune system. Rituximab is a humanized monoclonal antibody directed against CD20 antigen see on th lymphoma cells.
  • Immunity: Ability of the body to attack and destroy invading microorganisms or other substances. This is achieved with the help of various cells, which uses various chemical substances as well as physical contact to destroy the invading organisms or substances. Immunity is not specific to outside substances and some time can occur against one’s own cells including cancer cells that are markedly abnormal from other cells of the body. Example: Hepatitis vaccination will increase your immunity to the hepatitis virus.
  • Immune cells: Cells that contribute to immunity by the production of chemical substances or by actual physical contact with the invader are called immune cells. (See immunity).
  • Invasive: Invading to surrounding tissues. A cancer is said to be invasive if it breaks the normal boundaries and invade to the surrounding tissues. Example an invasive cancer or carcinoma is a cancer or carcinoma that has broken down the normal surrounding boundaries.
  • In vitro: In vivo is something that is done in a test tube or laboratory. Cancer cells are often grown in tissue cultures on plates or test tubes. Studies are done on these cells to see how they grow and react. If some one says “drug A has been found effective in preventing multiplication in vitro” that means drug A was found to do this on cells growing in some laboratory.
  • In vivo: This is the counter part of in vitro. This means something that is happening inside the body. If someone say “The metabolism of drug B is studied in vivo” that means the metabolism was studied by administering the drug to an man or experimental animal.
  • Latissimus flap: This is skin and muscle flap used for reconstruction of breast. Otherwise called latissimus dorsi myocutaneous flap. This flap consisting of tissue from the back rotated around to the area of the breast for reconstruction.
  • LCIS: This term represents lobular carcinoma in situ. This is a noninvasive breast cancer and is limited to the ducts lobules with no extension beyond the limiting membrane into the surrounding tissue.
  • Local recurrence: See "Recurrence" above. A cancer or disease that has returned at the previous site of disease. Example: Mrs. D had breast cancer in the left breast in the year 2001. Now she is having a local recurrence (means that she is having recurrence of cancer in the same site as previous breast cancer)
  • Lump: A thickness, bump or growth in any part of the body that can be felt by fingers. Development of a new lump in a patient with cancer is suspicious for reccurrence (return) of cancer. Most lumps that occur in a patient, who did not have cancer in the past, are not cancerous.
  • Lumpectomy: This term refers to removal of lump from any part of the body, but with usage it has become synonymous with removal of breast lump. Lumpectomy and mastectomy are the common surgical options available for a patient with breast cancer. See section on surgical treatment of breast cancer for more details.
  • Lymphatic system: The glands that enlarge in the neck, when you get a fever or infection are called lymph glands. Our body has lymph glands located in many parts of the body including neck, armpit, groin, inside chest, and inside abdomen. The network of lymph glands and the lymphatic vessels that interconnect them constitute the lymphatic system. Lymphatic system plays a very important role in body’s defense against invading organisms and spread of cancer.
  • Lymph node dissection: This term refers to removal of lymph nodes from any part of the body. The term axillary lymph node dissection refers to surgical exploration and removal of lymph nodes fro the armpit area, as a part of breast cancer surgery. See section on surgical treatment of breast cancer for more details.
  • Malignant: Cancer or cancerous. When the doctor tells someone that the tumor is malignant, it means the tumor is cancer.
  • Metastasis: Cancer cells may travel through the blood stream or lymphatic system to organs that are far away from the initial tumor growth and may start a secondary growth. This phenomenon of cancer cells growing in places far away from the original tumor is called metastasis. For example breast cancer may progress with development of metastasis in the lungs, liver, bone or brain. See section on what is cancer for more details.
  • Mammogram: This is an X-ray technique for visualization of the soft tissues of the breast. The machine works similar to the X-ray machine used for doing chest X-rays. Breast tumors because of its higher density compared to normal tissues, are seen as abnormalities on a mammogram. Mammogram is able to detect tumors larger than approximately 1-2 mm if calcification is present. If a suspicious spot is identified on a mammogram, your doctor will recommend a biopsy.See section on medical imaging techniques for details.
  • Margin: This term refers to the edge of surgical specimen. When a tumor is surgically removed the cut edge is called margin. If the margin is involved with cancer, your surgeon may suggest repeat surgery to remove any possible remaining cancer, that may be present at the other cut edge of the surgically removed tissue.
  • Mastectomy: This term refers to surgical removal of breast as a part of treatment for breast cancer. Mastectomy may be a simple mastectomy or a radical mastectomy. See the section on surgical treatment of breast cancer for more details.
  • Microcalcification: This refers to deposit of tiny amount of calcium in the tissue. If this occurs in the breast, it is visible as tiny spots on mammogram. Some patterns of micorcalcification in the mammogram are suggestive of cancer.
  • Micrometastasis: This term refers to very small metastasis in a tissue. Usually this is found only by special techniques and often involves only few cells. The significance of micrometastasis is not as well characterized as regular larger metastasis
  • Monoclonal antibodies: Laboratory produced antibodies that can locate and bind to specific substances in the body. These types of antibodies are widely used in cancer treatment. Example is Herceptin, which is a monoclonal antibody directed against human epidermal growth factory receptor 2 or Her2.
  • Mutation: During the process of cell division, DNA undergoes duplication. Sometimes errors are made on this process, but most of the time body is able to repair or remove these errors. If the body is not able to remove the error, it is sustained in the cell. This is called mutation. If this cell divides, it passes the mutation to daughter cells.
  • Oncology: Oncology is the branch of medicine that specializes in the treatment of cancer." for more details.
  • Oncologist: Physician or surgeon who had specialized in the treatment of cancer. Medical oncologists usually treat patients with chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and biological therapy, radiation oncologists treat cancer with radiation therapy and surgical oncologists treat patients with surgery.
  • Prognosis: Prognosis is a term used to describe the expected outcome of the disease. When the doctor says "this patients prognosis is good", that means the long term outlook is good.
  • Recurrence: Return of cancer after a period of remission. Example: Ms. B had breast cancer in 1990 and had undergone surgery. For about 14 years she had no evidence of breast cancer. Now Ms. B is having a recurrence of breast cancer. Recurrence can be local recurrence if cancer had recurred at the original site, and is said to have distant recurrence if the cancer comes back at a different place from its original appearance.
  • Recurrent:See "Recurrence" above. A cancer that has recurred or returned after an intervel period of inactivity. Example: Mr. B had colon cancer in the year 2000, and had surgery. He had no evidence of cancer until April of 2005 when he had a recurrence of colon cancer.
  • Relapse: Relapse is used interchangeably with recurrence. See "Recurrence" above
  • Remission: Partial or complete disappearance of tumor and cancer symptoms. Partial remission refers to decrease in the size of a tumor with partial relief of symptoms, while complete remission refers to complete disappearance of tumor and symptoms. Example: Mr. B had a large tumor, with three chemotherapy treatments, he had a partial remission and with six treatments he had complete remission.
  • Systemic recurrence: See "Recurrence" above. A cancer or disease that has returned at a site that is away from previous site of disease. Example: Mrs. D had breast cancer in the left breast in the year 2001. Now she is having a systemic recurrence in the liver.
  • Tissue: A tissue is a group of similar cells, specialised to perform a particular function (or functions). Examples of tissue include, heart mucslce, skin, bone etc.
  • Tumor: An abnormal growth of cells in one place, giving rise to a mass that can be felt or seen. Example: Mr. A was diagnosed with a small tumor in his brain. This tumor was seen in an MRI that was taken because of severe headache he was having.

Did you know? Breast cancer ranks second as the leading cause of cancer deaths in American women. Terms commonly used in cancer descriptions

Cancer terms| History of cancer| Imaging techniques| Cancer Main| Bladder cancer news| Cervix cancer news| Colon cancer news| Esophageal cancer news| Gastric cancer news| Health news| Lung cancer news| Breast cancer news| Ovarian cancer news| Cancer news| Pancreatic cancer news| Prostate cancer news| Endometrial cancer news| General info| What is cancer?| Cancer causes| Is cancer hereditary?| Types of cancer| Cancer statistics| Breast cancer main| Breast cancer symptoms| Colon cancer main| Anal cancer| Bladder cancer main| Lung cancer general| Lung cancer main| Non small cell| Small cell| Ovarian cancer main| Treatment of ovarian cancer| Prostate cancer main| Updates in oncology|

Copyright statement
The contents of this web page are protected. Legal action may follow for reproduction of materials without permission.