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First Steps After Diagnosis of Cancer

•  Understanding Prognosis and Cancer Statistics - answers the most important question, "What is my prognosis?"

•  Cancer Patients: Know Your Rights.

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Cancer Books written for newly diagnosed cancer patients and their caregivers. 

Anal Cancer
Bladder Cancer
Brain Tumor
Breast Cancer
Cervical Cancer
Colorectal Cancer
Endometrial Cancer
Esophageal Cancer
Hodgkin's Disease
Kidney Cancer
Laryngeal Cancer
Liver Cancer
Lung Cancer
Lymphoma (NHL)
Mouth and Tongue
Multiple Myeloma
Oral Pharynx
Ovarian Cancer
Pancreatic Cancer
Prostate Cancer
Skin Cancer
Stomach Cancer
Testicular Cancer
Thyroid Cancer
Wilms Tumor
Other Cancers
Pediatric Cancers


Welcome to The Cancer Information Network

 Everyone's Guide to Cancer Therapy: How Cancer Is Diagnosed, Treated, and Managed Day to Day - "This book is a one stop guide to so many things involving therapies that it is hard to know where to start. Cancer patients feel this is the best consumer book out there. Information is in plain English, simple terms, with lots of illustrations."

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 cells.
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 antibodies.
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 operation.
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 intestinal tract.
Barium swallow
The use of special solution (barium sulfate) given orally to allow X ray examination of the upper intestinal tract.
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 cancer, generally.
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 marrow.
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 into another.
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 layer). 
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 or radiation.
Persisting over a long period of time (usually 6 months).
Clinical trial
A study conducted using patients, usually to evaluate a new treatment.
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 more cells.
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 sac.
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 of gene.
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 specific drug.
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 the estrogen.
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 nature.
False Positive Report
A positive result when in reality it is negative in nature.
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 microscope.


Gleason score

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.
Groshong® catheter
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 bone marrow.
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 called shingles.
Hickman® catheter
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 solution.


A surgical opening in the abdomen connected to the small intestine to allow stool to be emptied into a collection bag. 
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 completely
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 work properly.
White blood cells.
Deficiency of white blood cells.
A surgical procedure in which a section of the breast is removed.
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 and cancer.
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.


Malignant tumor

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 breast tissue. 
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 extension.
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 treatment purposes.
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 gastrointestinal tract.
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 generally malignant.
A decreased number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cells.
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 radioactive tracer.


OCN (Oncology certified nurse)
A registered nurse who has met the requirements and successfully completed a certification examination in oncology.
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 patients.
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 cervix.
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 force.
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 pelvis.
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 stop bleeding.
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, Infusaport, Lifeport.
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 Estrogen-receptor assay.
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 remission. 
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 cessation.
Complete or partial disappearance of the signs and symptoms of disease. A remission does not necessarily mean a cure.
Risk factor
Anything that increases a person's chances of developing cancer, for example, smoking is a risk factor of lung and head/neck cancer.


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 specific organ.


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 malignant.
"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 Zoladex injection.


Ultrasound examination
The use of high frequency sound waves to aid in diagnosis.
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 agents.
White blood count (WBC)
The actual number of white blood cells seen in a blood sample.


High-energy electromagnetic radiation used to diagnose and treat disease. Diagnostic test using high energy to visualize internal body organs. 

® Groshong and Hickman are registered trademarks of C.R. Bard, Inc and its related company BCR, Inc.


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