First Steps After Diagnosis of Cancer
to The Cancer Information Network
Medical Terms Used In Oncology
- Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
- An infectious disease caused by HIV (Human
Immunodeficiency Virus) that destroys the body's immune
cells, leaving the body susceptible to many other
diseases, such as cancer and infection.
- A cancer that develops in the lining or inner surface of
an organ. Most pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer, for
example, are adenocarcinoma.
- A tumor made up of glandular tissue. Adenoma is benign.
Its malignant counterpart is called Adenocarcinoma.
- Adjuvant Treatment
- Treatment that is added to increase effectiveness of
primary treatment. For example, chemotherapy and radiation
after surgical resection of the primary cancer.
- Adrenal glands
- Two small organs superior to the kidneys. They release
hormones such as corticosteroid, etc.
- Alkaline Phosphatase
- An Enzyme active in an alkaline medium such as blood
plasma or serum, bone, kidney, spleen, lungs, etc. which
can be used to detect bone or liver metastasis.
- Alpha Fetoprotein (AFP)
- A tumor marker found in blood. Increased AFP level may
indicate the presence of certain types of testicular
tumors, liver cancer (hepatoma), or other GI tumors.
- The loss of hair, which may include scalp hair and/or
other body hair.
- Medications that relieves pain.
- An artificial compound similar to the one manufactured
by the body.
- Androgen Hormone
- Any hormone that produces male physical characteristics.
In men the main hormone is testosterone.
- A condition in which a decreased number of red cells may
cause symptoms including fatigue (tiredness), weakness,
and/or shortness of breath.
- The loss of appetite.
- Anti-androgen Drug
- A drug that blocks the effect of an androgen hormone,
either by reducing the manufacturing from the body or by
blocking the androgen receptor sites in target organ
- A substance formed by the human immune system to help
defend it against foreign body, such as virus, bacteria,
and cancer cells.
- Antiemetic agent
- A medicine that controls nausea and vomiting. For
example, Reglan, Zofran, and Compazine.
- Antifungal agent
- A medication used to treat fungal infections.
- Any substance that causes the body to produce natural
- A condition in which the patient breath in solid or
fluid (i.e., saliva, food, drinks)
- Without obvious symptoms or signs of disease.
Cancer patients are mostly asymptomatic at early stage.
- Autoimmune disease
- A disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly
fights and rejects the body's own normal tissue. For
example, Lupus is an autoimmune disease.
- Autologous Transfusion
- When one donates blood for himself/herself before an
operation in case he/she will need it during the
- The armpit. It is a lymphatic rich area.
- Axillary nodes
- Lymph nodes found in armpits. Those nodes are commonly
involved in breast cancer and lymphoma.
- Barium enema
- The use of a special solution (barium sulfate) given by
an enema to allow X ray examination of the lower
- Barium swallow
- The use of special solution (barium sulfate) given
orally to allow X ray examination of the upper intestinal
- Benign growth/tumor
- A non-cancerous mass or growth. It will not spread
to other parts of the body.
- Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH)
- A non-cancerous condition in which the prostate grows
and pushes against the urethra and the bladder blocking
the flow of urine. BPH does not progress into prostate
- The surgical removal of tissue for pathological study to
aid in diagnosis.
- Blastic lesion
- Refers to the increased density of bone seen on X-rays
when there is extensive new bone formation due to
cancerous destruction of the bone.
- Blood cells
- Minute structures produced in the bone marrow; they
consist of white cells, red cells, and platelets.
- Blood count
- The number of white cells, red cells and platelets in a
sample of blood.
- Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)
- A blood test that helps measure kidney function.
- Bone marrow
- The spongy material found in the cavities of bones. Most
blood cells are made in the bone marrow.
- Bone marrow biopsy and aspiration
- 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 of blood cells by bone
- Bone marrow transplant
- The infusion of bone marrow into a patient who has been
treated with high dose radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
Patients may use their own marrow or bone marrow of
another genetically matched person.
- The transplant of bone marrow from one individual
(donor) to another.
- The transplant of a patient's own bone marrow previously
removed and stored.
- The transplant of bone marrow from one identical twin
- Bone scan
- A picture of the bones using a radioactive dye that
shows any injury, disease, or healing. This is a valuable
test to determine if cancer has metastasized to the bone.
- The insertion of a flexible, lighted tube through the
mouth into the lungs to examine the lungs and airways.
- A group of diseases in which malignant cells grow out of
control. These cells have tendency of spreading to other
parts of the body.
- Carcinoma in situ
- The earliest stage of cancer where the cancer is still
confined to the tissue in which it started.
- A common fungal infection.
- A substance that causes cancer.
- Basal cell carcinoma
- The most common type of skin cancer.
- Bronchogenic carcinoma
- A cancer originating in the lungs or airways.
- Cervical carcinoma
- A cancer of the uterine cervix (the neck of the uterus).
- Endometrial carcinoma
- A cancer of the lining of the uterus.
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Cancer arising from the skin or the surfaces of other
structures, such as the mouth, cervix, or lungs.
- An enlargement of the heart.
- CT scan (CAT scan)
- An X-ray procedure that uses a computer to produce a
detailed picture or cross section of the body.
- CEA (Carcinoembryonic antigen)
- A blood tumor marker. Used widely to follow up
colorectal carcinoma and other type of cancers.
- The inflammation of soft tissue or skin (epithelial
- Central venous catheter
- A special intravenous tubing that is surgically placed
into a large vein near the heart and exits from the chest
or abdomen. The catheter allows medications, fluids, or
blood products to be given and blood samples to be taken.
- Cervical nodes
- Lymph nodes in the neck. There are five levels of
these lymph nodes, level I is upper in the neck and level
V is down in the super clavicular area.
- The treatment of cancer with drugs.
- Adjuvant chemotherapy
- Chemotherapy given to kill any remaining cancer cells,
usually after all detectable tumor is removed by surgery
- Persisting over a long period of time (usually 6
- Clinical trial
- A study conducted using patients, usually to evaluate a
- A procedure to look at the colon or large bowel through
a lighted, flexible tube.
- Colony-stimulating factor (CSF)
- A compound used to stimulate the bone marrow to produce
- A surgical procedure by which a connection is created
between the colon and the skin of the abdomen to allow
stool to be emptied into a collection bag.
- Examination of the vagina and cervix with an instrument
called a colposcope.
- Congestive heart failure
- A buildup of fluid in the lungs or extremities, or both
(especially the legs). This occurs if the heart cannot
pump the blood adequately.
- A blood test involving normal metabolic waste in the
body to indicate kidney function.
- Cryosurgery or Cryoprostatectomy
- Freezing of the prostate transperineally through the use
of liquid nitrogen probes guided by transrectal ultrasound
of the prostate. This procedure is still investigational.
- An accumulation of fluid or semisolid material within a
- An inflammation of the bladder.
- Cystoscopic examination
- An examination of the urethra and urinary bladder with a
cystoscope. A cystoscope is an instrument having a narrow
tube with light at one end of an opening so the physician
can observe what the light reveals.
- Digital Rectal Examination (DRE)
- A procedure in which a physician inserts a finger in the
rectum of a patient to examine the area and the prostate
for signs of mass or enlargement.
- A nucleic acid found in cell nucleus that is the carrier
- Double-blind study
- A controlled experiment in which neither the patient nor
the physician knows whether the patient is getting one or
another drug or dose.
- Drug interaction
- A mechanism by which one drug may interact with the
effect(s) of another drug.
- Drug resistance
- The result of cells' ability to resist the effects of a
- Difficulty in swallowing.
- Shortness of breath.
- Difficult or painful urination.
- The accumulation of fluid in a part of the body.
- Efficacious (Efficacy)
- The capability of producing the desired effect.
- 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 lung's covering).
- Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
- A test that takes recordings of the electrical activity
of the heart.
- A procedure looking at the inside of body cavities, such
as the esophagus or colon.
- A protein that acts as a catalyst, increasing the rate
at which chemical change occurs in the body.
- Redness of the skin.
- The red blood cells. They carry oxygen to tissue.
- Inflammation of the esophagus.
- A female hormone produced primarily by the ovaries.
- Estrogen receptor assay (ER assay)
- A test that determines if breast cancer is stimulated by
- Surgical removal.
- The leaking of intravenous fluids or medications into
tissue surrounding the infusion site. Extravasation may
cause tissue damage.
- False Negative Report
- A negative result when in reality it is positive in
- False Positive Report
- A positive result when in reality it is negative in
- Fine-needle aspiration
- A procedure in which a thin needle is inserted to obtain
a sample for the evaluation of suspicious tissue.
- An abnormal opening between two areas of the body.
- Flutamide (Eulexin)
- An anti-androgen medicine that may be prescribed with an
LHRH analog or an orchietomy in combination hormonal
therapy for prostate cancer.
- Frozen section
- A technique in which tissue is removed and then
quick-frozen and pathologically examined under a
A subjective method of measuring
the differentiation of cells to classify tumors by their
microscopic appearance and how aggressively cell of prostate
cancer may multiply. The lowest score is 2 and the highest
score is 10.
- A type of white cell that kills bacteria.
- See Central venous catheter.
- Guaiac test
- A test that checks for hidden blood in the stool.
- A tender enlargement of the breasts in male patients.
- Hematocrit (Hct)
- The percentage of red cells in the blood. A low
hematocrit measurement indicates anemia.
- A doctor who specializes in the problems of blood and
- The science that studies the blood.
- Blood in the urine.
- Hemoccult (Guaiac) test
- A test that checks for hidden blood in the stool.
- Herpes simplex
- The most common virus that causes sores often seen
around the mouth, commonly called cold sores.
- Herpes zoster
- Avirus that settles around certain nerves causing
blisters, swelling, and pain. This condition is also
- A special intravenous tubing that is surgically
inserted into a large vein near the heart.
- Hodgkin's disease
- A cancer that affects the lymph nodes.
- Substances secreted by various organs of the body that
regulate growth, metabolism, and reproduction.
- Hormonal therapy
- The use of medication or surgery to prevent cancer cells
from getting the hormones needed to grow.
- A concept of supportive care to meet the special needs
of patients and family during the terminal stages of
illness. The care may be delivered in the home or hospital
by a specially trained team of professionals.
- Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- The virus that causes AIDS.
- Human leukocyte antigen test (HLA)
- A special blood test used to match a blood or bone
marrow donor to a recipient for transfusion or transplant.
- The intravenous administration of a highly nutritious
- A surgical opening in the abdomen connected to the small
intestine to allow stool to be emptied into a collection
- Immunity (Immune system)
- The body's ability to fight infection and disease.
- Weakening of the immune system that causes a lowered
ability to fight infection and disease.
- The artificial stimulation of the body's immune system
to treat disease.
- Inability to hold urine in the bladder. May be a result
of radiation therapy, surgical procedure of the prostate,
or the disease process.
- The leaking of fluid or medicines into tissues, which
can cause swelling.
- Informed consent
- Consent given by a patient after learning about and
understanding fully the purpose and other aspects of a
clinical trial or procedure.
- Delivering fluids or medications into the bloodstream
over a period of time.
- Infusion pump
- A device that delivers measured amounts of fluids or
medications into the bloodstream over a period of time.
- Pushing a medication into the body with the use of a
syringe and needle.
- Intramuscular (IM) injection
- Into the muscle.
- Intravenous (IV) injection
- Into the vein.
- Subcutaneous injection
- Into the fatty tissue under the skin.
- A naturally produced chemical released by the body in
response to viral infections. Interferon can be
artificially produced and used as a form of immunotherapy.
- A protein substance in the blood that helps the body's
immune system fight infection and cancer.
- The surgical removal of the larynx, partially or
- A lump or abscess that may be caused by injury or
disease, such as cancer.
- Cancer of the blood. Certain types of white cells
may be produced in excessive amounts and are unable to
- White blood cells.
- Deficiency of white blood cells.
- A surgical procedure in which a section of the breast is
- A procedure in which lymph nodes are taken from the body
for purposes of diagnosing or staging cancer.
- A test to look at the flow of the lymphatic system.
- Lymphatic system
- A network that includes lymph nodes, lymph, and lymph
vessels that serves as a filtering system for the blood.
- Swelling either from obstructed cancerous lymph nodes or
from surgically removed lymph nodes.
- Lymph nodes
- Hundreds of small oval bodies that contain lymph. Lymph
nodes act as our first line of defense against infections
- A type of white cells that kill viruses and defend
against the invasion of foreign material.
- Cancer of the lymphatic system. Include Hodgkin's
lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
- Lytic lesion
- As seen on X-rays, rarefied areas of bone that have been
the site of destruction by cancer cells.
- Cancerous tumors.
- Mammogram (Mammography)
- A low-doseX-ray picture of the breasts to determine
whether abnormal growths or cysts are present.
- The surgical removal of the breast.
- Mastectomy - Segmental (lumpectomy)
- Removal of the lump and a small amount of surrounding
- Mastectomy - Simple (modified mastectomy)
- Removal of the entire breast.
- Mastectomy - Radical
- Removal of the entire breast along with underlying
muscle and lymph nodes of the armpit.
- Cancer of the pigment-forming cells of the skin or the
retina of the eye.
- The spread of cancer cells from one part of the body to
another by way of the lymph system, blood stream or direct
- Metastron (Strontium 89)
- A recently FDA approved non-narcotic radiopharmiceutical
medication designed for the relief of bone pain associated
with metastatic cancer.
- Monoclonal antibodies
- Artificially manufactured antibodies specifically
designed to find targets on cancer cells for diagnostic or
- Relates to becoming less healthy or sick resulting from
a treatment or disease.
- MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging)
- A picture produced by a computer and a high powered
magnet that shows a detailed X-ray type image of a
particular body part or region. Very useful to evaluate
the soft tissue of the body.
- Mucosa (Mucous membranes)
- The lining of the mouth and gastrointestinal tract.
- Inflammation of the lining of the mouth or
- An X-ray procedure by which a dye is injected into the
spinal column to show any change of the spinal cord.
- A malignant tumor of the bone marrow associated with the
production of abnormal proteins.
- See bone marrow suppression.
- A new growth of tissue or cells; a tumor that is
- A decreased number of neutrophils, a type of white blood
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- A cancer of the lymphatic system. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
is related to Hodgkin's disease but is made up of
different cell types.
- A condition where an individual must get up several
times during the night to urinate.
- Nuclear Scan
- A procedure in which a weak radioactive material called
a radioactive tracer is injected in the blood. The
material is taken up by the body, and a machine moves over
the area being tested to collect the emission of the
- OCN (Oncology certified nurse)
- A registered nurse who has met the requirements and
successfully completed a certification examination in
- A doctor who specializes in cancer.
- The study of cancer.
- Oncology clinical nurse specialist
- A registered nurse with a master's degree who
specializes in the education and treatment of cancer
- Orchiectomy (Castration)
- The surgical removal of the testicles.
- Palliative treatment
- Treatment aimed at the relief of pain and symptoms of
disease but not intended to cure the disease.
- Pap (Papanicolaou) smear
- A test to detect cancer or cancerous change of the
- Removing fluid from the abdomen using local anesthesia
and needle and syringe.
- Decreased white cells, red cells, and platelet.
- Pathological fracture
- A break in a bone usually caused by disease rather than
- A doctor who specializes in pathology.
- The study of disease by the examination of tissues and
body fluids under the microscope.
- A database available to physicians supported by NCI on
the latest information on standard treatments and ongoing
clinical trials for each type and stage of cancer.
- Pelvic node dissection
- Removal of possible cancer carrying lymph nodes in the
- Tiny areas of bleeding under the skin, usually caused by
a low platelet count.
- A painful inflammation of the veins.
- Extreme sensitivity to the sun, leaving the patient
prone to sunburns.
- A substance that has no real therapeutic pharmacological
value. They are often given to patients who require a pill
for psychological reasons, but mostly as part of clinical
trials to test the effectiveness of new drugs.
- Cells in the blood that are responsible for clotting and
- Platelet count
- The number of platelets iin a blood sample.
- A growth of tissue protruding into a body cavity, such
as a nasal or rectal polyp.
- Port - Implanted
- A catheter connected to a quarter-sized disc that is
surgically placed just below the skin in the chest or
abdomen. The tube is inserted into a large vein or artery
directly into the bloodstream. Fluids, drugs, or blood
products can be infused, and blood can be drawn through a
needle that is stuck into the disc. Examples: Port-o-cath,
- Port - Peritoneal
- A catheter connected to a quarter-sized disc that is
surgically placed in the abdomen. The catheter is inserted
to deliver drug to the abdominal cavity.
- Primary tumor
- The original tumor site.
- One of the female hormones produced by the ovaries.
- Progesterone-receptor assay
- A test that determines if breast cancer cells are
stimulated by the progesterone. A similar test is the
- The projected outcome of a disease; the life expectancy.
- PSA (Prostate-specific antigen)
- A marker used to determine prostate disease. Usually,
the level is <4.0 ng/ml for normal person.
- Artificial replacement of a missing body part.
- A treatment plan, either standard or investigational.
- Radiation therapy
- X-ray treatment that damages or kills cancer cells.
- A doctor who specializes in the utilizing of X-ray to
diagnose and treat disease.
- The reappearance of a disease after a period of
- Red blood cells (Erythrocytes)
- Cells in the blood that deliver oxygen to tissues and
take carbon dioxide from them.
- Red blood count (RBC)
- The number of red blood cells seen in a blood sample.
- A term commonly used to describe a situation where the
disease is no longer controlled by current therapy.
- The shrinkage of a mass.
- The reappearance of a disease after its apparent
- Complete or partial disappearance of the signs and
symptoms of disease. A remission does not necessarily mean
- Risk factor
- Anything that increases a person's chances of developing
cancer, for example, smoking is a risk factor of lung and
- A malignant tumor of soft tissue or bone.
- Cancer of cartilage that usually occurs near the ends of
the long bones.
- Ewing's sarcoma
- A cancer starting in bone, affecting the bones of
extremities. It often appears before the age of 20.
- Herpes Zoster.
- Side effects
- Secondary effects of drugs used for disease treatment.
- The visual examination of the rectum and lower colon
using a tubular instrument called a sigmoidoscope.
- Secretions produced by the lungs.
- A medical term for the process of determining if a known
cancer is still confined within the primary site, or if it
has spread outside of the original area. The staging
system that is most widely used is the AJCC system. It
includes the tumor size (T), lymph node status (N) and
metastatic status (M).
- An artificial opening between two cavities or between a
cavity and the surface of the body.
- Temporary inflammation and soreness of the mouth.
- Systemic disease
- A disease that affects the entire body instead of a
- Testicular self-examination (TSE)
- A simple manual self-examination of the testes.
- A male sex hormone produced by the testicles with a
small amount produced by adrenal glands. It is
associated with the activity and growth of the prostate
gland and other sex organs.
- Thoracentesis (Pleural tap)
- A procedure to remove fluids from the area between the
two layers (pleura) covering the lung.
- An abnormally low number of platelets. (thrombocytes).
This condition may indicate the risk of bleeding.
- A surgical opening through the trachea in the neck to
provide an artificial airway.
- An abnormal overgrowth of cells, either benign or
- "Tumor flare"
- Usually used for patient with prostate cancer who are
treated with LHRH. LHRH may temporarily stimulate tumor
growth and symptoms. To prevent this, doctors usually
recommend taking the antiandrogen flutamide every 8 hours
beginning at least two days before the first Lupron or
- Ultrasound examination
- The use of high frequency sound waves to aid in
- The tube that carries urine from each kidney to bladder.
- A surgical procedure consisting of cutting the ureters
from the bladder and connecting them to an opening on the
abdomen, allowing urine to flow into a collection bag.
- A doctor who specializes in diseases of the urinary and
sex organs of humans.
- Puncturing a vein in order to obtain blood samples, to
start an IV drip, or to give medication.
- A medication or agent that may cause blistering.
- A tiny infectious agent that is smaller than bacteria.
- White blood cells (WBC)
- General term for a variety of cells responsible for
fighting invading germs, infection, and allergy-causing
- White blood count (WBC)
- The actual number of white blood cells seen in a blood
- High-energy electromagnetic radiation used to diagnose
and treat disease. Diagnostic test using high energy to
visualize internal body organs.
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