GLOSSARY OF TERMS
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.