Con­cepts and the lan­guage that come in can­cer re­lated dis­cus­sions can seem for­eign to most. Get familiar with some ba­sic terms to help un­der­stand the “lingo” used:

C.A.R.E. - - Cancer - For­more terms to know visit: www.can­­cer/can­cer­glos­sary/in­dex


The loss of feel­ing or sen­sa­tion as a re­sult of drugs or gases. Gen­eral anes­the­sia puts you into a deep sleep so you don’t feel po­ten­tial pain dur­ing a surgery. Lo­cal or re­gional anes­the­sia numbs only a cer­tain area.


A pro­ce­dure that re­moves a piece of tis­sue from a per­son’s body so that a doc­tor can look at it un­der a mi­cro­scope to see if a per­son has can­cer/what kind.


A can­cer that be­gins in the lining layer of or­gans. Most can­cers are car­ci­no­mas.

Com­plete Blood Count (CBC)

A count of the num­ber of cells in a given sam­ple of blood. Red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are most of­ten counted for this lab test.


Iden­ti­fy­ing a dis­ease by its signs or symptoms, and by us­ing imag­ing tests, lab tests, or biopsy. For most types of can­cer, a biopsy is needed to be sure of the di­ag­no­sis.

Ge­netic testing

Tests that can be done to see if a per­son has cer­tain gene changes known to in­crease the risk of can­cer or other dis­eases. Such testing is not rec­om­mended for ev­ery­one, but for peo­ple with cer­tain types of fam­ily his­tory. Ge­netic coun­sel­ing should be part of the ge­netic testing process.

Imag­ing tests

Meth­ods used tomake pic­tures of in­ter­nal body struc­tures. Some imag­ing tests used to help de­tect or stage can­cer are x-rays, CT scans, MRI, PET scans and ul­tra­sound.

Im­mune sys­tem

The com­plex sys­tem by which the body re­sists in­fec­tion by germs, such as bac­te­ria or viruses, and re­jects trans­planted tis­sues or or­gans. The im­mune sys­tem may also help the body fight some can­cers.


An area of ab­nor­mal body tis­sue, which­may be a lump, mass, tu­mor, spot or change in the way the skin looks or feels.

Lymph node

A small, bean-shaped col­lec­tion of im­mune sys­tem tis­sue found through­out the body along lym­phatic ves­sels. Lymph nodes re­move cell waste, germs and other harm­ful sub­stances from the body. Can­cers of­ten spread to nearby lymph nodes be­fore reach­ing other parts of the body. Some­times called “lymph glands.”


The process of can­cer cells spread­ing to other parts of the body where they can grow and form new tu­mors.


A small, solid lump that can be felt or seen on an imag­ing test.


The branch of medicine con­cerned with the di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment of can­cer.

Pho­to­co­ag­u­la­tion or photo ab­la­tion

Use of a laser beam to heat up and kill can­cer cells. Most of­ten used to re­lieve blockages caused by tu­mors rather than to cure can­cers.


A pre­dic­tion of the course of the dis­ease; the out­look for the chances of sur­vival.


A de­tailed, stan­dard plan that doc­tors fol­low when treat­ing peo­ple with can­cer.


The re­turn of can­cer cells and signs of can­cer af­ter a re­mis­sion.


A pe­riod of time when the can­cer is re­spond­ing to treat­ment or is un­der con­trol. In com­plete re­mis­sion, all the signs and symptoms of the dis­ease go away and can­cer cells can’t be found with any of the tests. Par­tial re­mis­sion is when the can­cer shrinks but does not com­pletely go away. Re­mis­sion can last any­where from many weeks to many years, and one per­son could have many re­mis­sion pe­ri­ods if there is a re­cur­ring can­cer.


Surgery to re­move part or all of an or­gan or other struc­ture.


A lump or swelling that’s caused by a build-up of clear fluid and is not can­cer.


Not gen­er­ally used as a med­i­cal term, sur­vivor can have dif­fer­ent mean­ings when ap­plied to peo­ple with can­cer. Some peo­ple use the word to re­fer to any­one who has ever been di­ag­nosed with can­cer. Some peo­ple use the term to re­fer to some­one who has com­pleted can­cer treat­ment. Oth­ers call a per­son a sur­vivor if he or she has lived sev­eral years past a can­cer di­ag­no­sis. The Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety be­lieves that each per­son has the right to de­fine his or her own ex­pe­ri­ence with can­cer and con­sid­ers a can­cer sur­vivor to be any­one who de­scribes him­self or her­self this way, from di­ag­no­sis through­out the rest of his or her life.


In medicine, gen­er­ally un­der­stood to mean that the dis­ease can no longer be ef­fec­tively treated or cured.


Also called treat­ment. Any mea­sures taken to fight or treat a dis­ease.


Blood or blood prod­ucts that are given into a vein (in­tra­venous or IV). Most such prod­ucts are taken from un­re­lated donors and tested for dis­ease be­fore use, but a per­son can do­nate their own blood ahead of time to be given dur­ing cer­tain planned surg­eries or pro­ce­dures.


An ab­nor­mal lump or col­lec­tion of cells, which can be be­nign (non-can­cer­ous) or ma­lig­nant (can­cer­ous).

Ul­tra­sound or Ul­tra­sonog­ra­phy

A test in which high-fre­quency sound waves are used to make pic­tures of the in­side of the body. The sound wave echoes are picked up and dis­played on a com­puter screen.

Qual­ity of life

Over­all en­joy­ment of life, which in­cludes a per­son’s sense of well-be­ing and abil­ity to do the things that are im­por­tant to him or her.

White blood cells

Blood cells that help de­fend the body against in­fec­tions. There are many types of white blood cells. Cer­tain can­cer treat­ments, such as chemo­ther­apy, can re­duce the num­ber of th­ese cells and make a per­son more likely to get in­fec­tions.


One form of ra­di­a­tion that can be used at low lev­els to make an im­age of the body or at high lev­els to kill can­cer cells.

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