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Cancer Center - Glossary of Terms

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N

nasogastric tube (Also called an NG tube) - a small tube that is passed through the nose, down the esophagus and into the stomach, where it is left so that the patient can be given nutrition.

National Cancer Institute - The US government agency for cancer research and information.

nausea - a feeling or sensation leading to the urge to vomit.

needle biopsy - use of a needle to extract tissue, cells, or fluid for microscopic examination.

neoadjuvant therapy - treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy which is given before the primary treatment.

neoplasia - abnormal cell growth.

nephrectomy - surgery to remove the kidney; the most common treatment for kidney cancer.

nephrologist - a physician who specializes in diseases of the kidneys.

neuroblastoma - cancer occurring in the nerve cells.

neuroma - a tumor that starts in the nerve cells.

neurosurgeon - a physician specializing in operations to treat disorders of the nervous system.

nodule - a growth that may be either benign or malignant.

non-Hodgkin lymphoma - a type of lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphatic system; causes the cells in the lymphatic system to abnormally reproduce, eventually causing tumors to grow. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma cells can also spread to other organs.

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O

occult - hidden.

oncogene - a proto-oncogene that has been altered (mutated) such that it can promote tumor formation or cell growth.

oncologist - a physician with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

oncology - the branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

oncology clinical nurse specialist - a registered nurse with a Master's degree in oncology nursing who specializes in the care of cancer patients.

oncology social worker - a health professional with a Master's degree in social work who is an expert in coordinating and providing non-medical care to patients.

oophorectomy - surgery to remove one or both ovaries.

ophthalmologist - a physician who specializes in diseases of the eye.

orchiectomy (Also called castration.) - the surgical removal of the testicles.

osteoid tissue - pre-bone tissue; resembling bone.

osteosarcoma (Also called osteogenic sarcoma.) - a type of cancer which affects the bone.

ostomy - an operation that makes it possible for stool or urine to leave the body through an opening made in the abdomen; necessary when part or all of the intestines or bladder are removed. Colostomy and ileostomy are types of ostomies.

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P

pain specialist - oncologists, neurologists, anesthesiologists, neurosurgeons, and other physicians, nurses, or pharmacists who are experts in pain. A team of healthcare professionals may also be available to address issues of pain control.

palliative treatment - treatment that relieves symptoms, such as pain, but is not expected to cure the disease. The main purpose is to improve the patient's quality of life.

palpation - a physical examination in which one’s hand is used to apply pressure to the surface of the body.

pancreas - gland that makes enzymes for digestion and the hormone insulin.

Pap test (Also called Pap smear.) - Test that involves microscopic examination of cells collected from the cervix, used to detect changes that may be cancer or may lead to cancer, and to show noncancerous conditions, such as infection or inflammation.

parenteral nutrition or feeding - giving nutrients to a patient by a method that does not use the digestive tract, such as by injection into a vein.

partial (segmental) mastectomy - surgery to remove the breast cancer and a larger portion of the normal breast tissue around the breast cancer. The surgeon may also remove the lining over the chest muscles below the tumor and some of the lymph nodes under the arm.

partial nephrectomy - surgery to remove part of a kidney; only the part of the kidney that contains the tumor is removed.

pathologist - a physician who specialized in the diagnosis and classification of diseases by laboratory tests such as examination of tissue and cells under the microscope. The pathologist determines whether a tumor is benign or cancerous and, if cancerous, the exact cell type and grade.

patient's rights - a list of rights to ensure that the quality of care, respect, and decision-making processes will be honored by the company, individual, or institution that is providing the care.

pediatric oncologist - a physician who specializes in cancers of children.

pediatrician - a physician who specializes in the care of children.

pedigree - a diagram of a family tree indicating the family members and their relationship to the person with an inherited disorder.

pelvic examination - an internal examination of the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum.

penetrance - a characteristic of a genotype; it refers to the chance that a clinical condition will occur when a particular genotype is present.

percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube (Also called a PEG tube.) - a tube inserted through the abdominal wall that rests on the stomach and is used to give nutrients to patients who cannot swallow.

percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC) - a needle is introduced through the skin and into the liver where the dye (contrast) is deposited and the bile duct structures can be viewed by x-ray.

perforation - hole in the wall of an organ.

perianal - area around the anus.

perineal - related to the perineum.

perineum - area between the anus and the sex organs.

peripheral stem cell transplantation - a process in which the stem cells (immature cells from which blood cells develop) are removed and frozen until they are returned to the patient after receiving high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.

physical therapist - a health professional who uses exercises and other methods to restore or maintain the body's strength, mobility, and function.

phytochemical - a chemical produced in plants.

phytoestrogen - a plant-based compound that has a weak estrogen-like activity.

plasma - the watery, liquid part of the blood in which the red blood cells, the white blood cells, and platelets are suspended.

platelet pheresis - a procedure to remove platelets from the blood.

platelets - cells found in the blood that are needed to help the blood to clot in order to control bleeding; often used in the treatment of leukemia and other forms of cancer.

pluripotent stem cell - the most primitive, undeveloped blood cell.

polymorphism - a common gene alteration seen in a certain percentage of the population, that may not be associated with disease.

polyp - a growth that projects from the lining of a mucous membrane, such as the intestine.

polyposis - an abnormal condition in which many polyps are present.

precancerous - a term referring to a condition that may become cancerous or malignant.

predictive genetic testing - determines the chances that a healthy individual with or without a family history of a certain disease might develop that disease.

preimplantation studies - used following in vitro fertilization to diagnose a genetic disease or condition in an embryo before it is implanted into the mother's uterus.

prenatal diagnosis - used to diagnose a genetic disease or condition in the developing fetus.

presymptomatic genetic testing - used to determine whether persons who have a family history of a disease, but no current symptoms, have the gene alteration associated with the disease.

primary site - the place where cancer begins. Primary cancer is named after the organ in which it starts. For example, cancer that starts in the kidney is always kidney cancer even if it spreads (metastasizes) to other organs such as bones or lungs.

primary tumor - the original tumor.

proctectomy - an operation to remove the rectum.

proctoscope - short, rigid metal tube used to look into the rectum and anus.

proctoscopy - looking into the rectum and anus with a proctoscope.

prognosis - a forecast about the probably outcome of a disease, especially the chances for recovery.

prostatalgia - pain in the prostate gland.

prostate - a gland in men that makes part of the liquid for semen. It is about the size of a walnut, and surrounds the neck of the bladder and urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. It is partly muscular and partly glandular, with ducts opening into the prostatic portion of the urethra. It is made up of three lobes: a center lobe with one lobe on each side.

prostate acid phosphatase (PAP) - an enzyme produced by the prostate that is elevated in some patients with prostate cancer.

prostatectomy - surgical procedure for the partial or complete removal of the prostate.

prostate-specific antigen (PSA) - an antigen made by the prostate gland and found in the blood; may indicate cancer in the prostate gland.

prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test - a blood test used to help detect prostate cancer by measuring a substance called prostate-specific antigen produced by the prostate.

prostatism - any condition of the prostate that causes interference with the flow of urine from the bladder.

prostatitis - an inflamed condition of the prostate gland that may be accompanied by discomfort, pain, frequent urination, infrequent urination, and, sometimes, fever.

protein - a molecule, made from amino acids, that performs activities in the cell for the body to function normally.

protein truncation studies - a way to look at gene products, rather than the gene itself; testing involves looking at the protein a gene makes to determine if it is shorter than normal.

proteinuria - high levels of protein in the urine.

protocol - a formal outline or plan, such as a description of what treatments a patient will receive and exactly when each should be given.

proto-oncogene - a normal gene responsible for promoting regulated cell growth.

pruritus - itching of the skin.

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Q

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R

radiation colitis - damage to the colon from radiation therapy.

radiation enteritis - damage to the small intestine from radiation therapy.

radiation oncologist - a physician who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.

radiation therapy - treatment with high-energy rays (such as x-rays) to kill or shrink cancer cells. The radiation may come from outside of the body (external radiation) or from radioactive materials placed directly in or near the tumor (internal or implant radiation).

radical mastectomy - surgery to remove the entire breast (including the nipple, the areola, and the overlying skin), the lymph nodes under the arm, also called the axillary lymph glands, and the chest muscles.

radical prostatectomy - surgery to remove the prostate along with the two seminal vesicle glands attached to the prostate.

radical retropubic prostatectomy - an operation to remove the entire prostate gland and seminal vesicles through the lower abdomen.

radioisotopes - materials that produce radiation.

radiologist - a physician with special training in diagnosing diseases by interpreting x-rays and other types of imaging studies, for example, CT scans and magnetic resonance imaging.

rectum - lower end of the large intestine, leading to the anus.

red blood cells (Also called erythrocytes or RBCs.) - blood cells that mainly help transport oxygen to all the tissues in the body.

reduced penetrance - when a person has a mutation but does not show any signs of disease.

reflux - an abnormal backward flow of a fluid.

regimen - a strict, regulated plan (such as diet, exercise, or other activity) designed to reach certain goals. In cancer treatment, a plan to treat cancer.

relapse - reappearance of cancer after a disease-free period.

remission - complete or partial disappearance of the signs and symptoms of cancer in response to treatment; the period during which a disease is under control. A remission may not be a cure.

renal angiography (Also called renal arteriography.) - a series of x-rays of the renal blood vessels after the injection of a contrast dye into a catheter, which is placed into the blood vessels of the kidney; to detect any signs of blockage or abnormalities affecting the blood supply to the kidneys.

renal ultrasound - a non-invasive test in which a transducer is passed over the skin above the kidney, producing sound waves which bounce off of the kidney, transmitting a picture of the organ on a video screen. The test is used to determine the size and shape of the kidney, and to detect a mass, kidney stone, cyst, or other obstruction or abnormalities.

retinoblastoma - cancer of the retina (back of the eye).

rhabdomyosarcoma - a cancerous tumor that originates in the soft tissues of the body such as muscle, tendons, and connective tissue.

right to refuse treatment - options for treatment are offered that may extend the person's life but not provide a cure; the person or family has the right to refuse this type of treatment.

risk factor - anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease, such as cancer.

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S

salpingectomy - surgical removal of one or both fallopian tubes.

salpingo-oophorectomy - surgery to remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries.

sarcoma - a malignant tumor growing from connective tissues, such as cartilage, fat, muscle, or bone.

screening - a process of checking for a disease when there are no symptoms present.

screening mammogram - an x-ray of the breast used to detect breast changes in women who have no signs of breast cancer.

scrotum - the bag of skin that holds the testicles.

secondary tumor - a tumor that forms as a result of spread (metastasis) of cancer from the place where it started.

second-degree relative - a relative with whom you share one-fourth of your genes, such as your half-siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and grandparents.

sex chromosomes - the 23rd pair of human chromosomes which determine gender; females have two X chromosomes; males have one X and one Y chromosome.

sibling - brother or sister.

side effects - unwanted effects of treatment such as hair loss caused by chemotherapy and fatigue caused by radiation therapy.

sigmoidoscope - a short, lighted tube used to examine the sigmoid colon and rectum.

small intestine - the section of the digestive tract between the stomach and the large intestine. Most of digestion occurs here as nutrients are absorbed from food.

social worker - a member of the healthcare team who provides counseling services and support. A social worker helps individuals and their families deal with various problems which arises from coping with a difficulty, illness, or hospitalization. A social worker can provide information and referral to various agencies who can assist with many issues such as counseling, housing, legal, and financial aid.

somatic mutation - a DNA change present in body cells other than the egg or sperm (germ cells).

SPF - Sun Protection Factor.

spinal tap (Also called lumbar puncture.) - a special needle is placed into the lower back, into the spinal canal. This is the area around the spinal cord. The pressure in the spinal canal and brain can then be measured. A small amount of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) can be removed and sent for testing to determine if there is an infection or other problems. CSF is the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord.

splenectomy - surgery to remove the spleen.

sporadic cancer - term that is sometimes used to differentiate cancers occurring in people who do not have a mutation that confers increased susceptibility to cancer from cancers occurring in people who are known to carry a mutation. Cancer developing in people who do not carry a high-risk mutation is referred to as sporadic cancer. Sporadic is also sometimes used to describe cancer occurring in individuals without a family history of cancer.

sputum - mucus coughed up from the lungs.

squamous cell carcinoma - a form of skin cancer that affects about 20 percent of patients with skin cancer. This highly treatable cancer is characterized by red, scaly skin that becomes an open sore.

squamous cells (Also called keratinocytes.) - the primary cell types found in the epidermis, the outer layer of skin.

staging - the process of determining whether cancer has spread and, if so, how far. There is more than one system for staging.

stem cells - formative cells; cells that replicate themselves when they divide and also create cells that turn into other types of cells. It is the stem cells that are needed in bone marrow transplant.

stomatitis (Also called mucositis.) - an irritation or ulceration of the lining (mucosa) of the digestive tract - particularly the tongue, mouth, and throat. Mucositis is often caused by chemotherapy.

stricture - a narrowed area.

subcutis - the deepest layer of skin; also known as the subcutaneous layer.

surgical oncologist - a physician who specializes in using surgery to treat cancer.

syndrome - a collection of traits, symptoms, and/or abnormalities in an individual which usually has a single underlying cause.

syngeneic bone marrow transplantation - an allogeneic transplant from an identical twin.

systemic treatment or therapy - treatment or therapy that reaches and affects cells throughout the body.

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T

tamoxifen - a drug used in hormone therapy to treat breast cancer by blocking the effects of estrogen.

testis (Also called testicle.) - one of the pair of male gonads that produce semen; suspended in the scrotum by the spermatic cords.

testosterone - male sex hormone produced mostly by the testicles, although a small amount is made by the adrenal glands.

third-degree relative - a relative with whom you share one-eighth of your genes such as your first cousins.

threshold - a term used to describe the level of liability genes and environmental triggers needed to cause expression of a multifactorial disorder; the level may differ between males and females.

thrombosis - coagulation (clotting) of the blood within the circulatory system; the blocking of blood flow.

tissue - a group or layer of cells that together perform specific functions.

topical chemotherapy - chemotherapy given as a cream or lotion placed on the skin to kill cancer cells.

total (or simple) mastectomy - surgery to remove the entire breast (including the nipple, the areola, and most of the overlying skin).

total hysterectomy - the removal of the uterus, including the cervix; the fallopian tubes and the ovaries remain.

total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy - the entire uterus, fallopian tubes, and the ovaries are surgically removed.

total parenteral nutrition (TPN) - persons undergoing treatment for cancer sometimes need TPN to help meet their nutritional needs. TPN is a special mixture of glucose, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals that are given through an intravenous line (IV) into the veins. Many people call this "intravenous feedings."

transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation ( Also called TENS.) - a procedure in which electrodes placed on a person’s skin give off an electric signal that stimulates nerve cells through the skin. The numb-like feeling that results can help some people overcome pain.

transrectal ultrasound of the prostate - a test using sound wave echoes to create an image of an organ or gland to visually inspect for abnormal conditions like gland enlargement, nodules, penetration of tumor through capsule of the gland and/or invasion of seminal vesicles. It may also be used for guidance of needle biopsies of the prostate gland and guiding the nitrogen probes in cryosurgery.

transurethral hyperthermia - an investigative procedure that uses heat, usually provided by microwaves, to shrink the prostate.

transurethral incision of the prostate (TUIP) - a procedure that widens the urethra by making some small cuts in the bladder neck, where the urethra joins the bladder, and in the prostate gland itself.

transurethral laser incision of the prostate (TULIP) - the use of laser through the urethra that melts the tissue.

transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) - a surgical procedure by which portions of the prostate gland are removed with a device inserted through the penis.

transurethral surgery - surgery in which no external incision is needed. For prostate transurethral surgery, the surgeon reaches the prostate by inserting an instrument through the urethra. See above for different types of transurethral surgery.

transvaginal ultrasound (Also called ultrasonography.) - an ultrasound test using a small instrument, called a transducer, that is placed in the vagina.

tumor - an abnormal lump or mass of tissue. Tumors can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

tumor marker - a substance that may be found in elevated amounts in the blood, urine, or body tissues that may indicate cancer is present.

tumor suppressor genes - genes that slow down cell division or cause cells to die at the appropriate time. Alterations of these genes can lead to too much cell growth and development of cancer.

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U

ulceration - a process in which the skin or mucous membrane has been broken, tissue has disintegrated, and pus may have formed.

ulcerative colitis - a condition in which the lining of the colon is inflamed.

ultrasound (Also called sonography.) - a diagnostic imaging technique which uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function, and to assess blood flow through various vessels.

ultraviolet radiation - invisible rays that come from the sun. UV radiation can damage the skin and cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

umbilical cord blood transplant - a bone marrow transplant using stem cells from cord blood.

unilateral - affecting one side of the body. For example, unilateral kidney cancer occurs in one kidney only.

upper GI (gastrointestinal) series (Also called barium swallow.) - a diagnostic test that examines the organs of the upper part of the digestive system: the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). A fluid called barium (a metallic, chemical, chalky, liquid used to coat the inside of organs so that they will show up on an x-ray) is swallowed. X-rays are then taken to evaluate the digestive organs.

upper GI endoscopy - looking into the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum with an endoscope inserted through the mouth.

urea - the nitrogen part of urine produced from the breakdown of protein.

ureters - two narrow tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

urethra - narrow channel through which urine passes from the bladder out of the body.

urinalysis - laboratory examination of urine for various cells and chemicals, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, infection, or excessive protein.

urinary incontinence - the loss of bladder control.

urologist - a physician who specializes in treating problems of the urinary tract in males and females.

urology - the branch of medicine concerned with the urinary tract in both genders, and with the genital tract or reproductive system in the male.

uterus - also called the womb, the uterus is a hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman's lower abdomen, between the bladder and the rectum.

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V

vagina (Also called the birth canal.) - the passageway through which fluid passes out of the body during menstrual periods. The vagina connects the cervix (the opening of the womb, or uterus) and the vulva (the external genitalia).

vaginal hysterectomy - the uterus is removed through the vaginal opening.

variable expression - when a gene does not produce the same clinical features in all people; some people have milder or more severe symptoms than others.

ventriculoperitoneal shunt (Also called VP shunt.) - a tube used to drain excess fluid from around the brain into the abdomen in order to reduce pressure.

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W

watchful waiting - close monitoring of cancer by a physician instead of immediate treatment. Also called expectant management.

white blood cells (Also called leukocytes or WBCs.) - blood cells involved in the destruction of viruses, bacteria, and fungi which cause infection.

Wilms tumor - A cancerous tumor originating in the cells of the kidney.

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X

X chromosome - One of the two sex chromosomes, X and Y.

X-linked inheritance - Pattern of inheritance associated with a mutation or alteration of a gene that lies on the X chromosome, one of the sex chromosomes. If the mutation is recessive, the condition is seen more commonly in males (who only have one X) than females. Often you see a pattern of unaffected females having affected sons and maternal uncles.

x-ray - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.

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Y

Y chromosome - One of the two sex chromosomes, X and Y.

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Z

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