the part of the body between the chest and the pelvis. It contains the stomach (with the lower part of the esophagus), small and large intestines, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, and other organs. The abdomen is lined by a membrane called the peritoneum.
also called AP resection or APR. A type of surgery for rectal cancer, in which 2 cuts are made, one in the abdomen (belly), and the other around the anus. This allows removal of the anus and tissues around it. A permanent colostomy is needed after this surgery. See also abdomen, anus, colostomy, rectum.
to remove or destroy the function of an organ or body tissue. See also ablation.
also called ablative therapy (ab-lay-tive). Treatment that removes or destroys all or part of a cancer; can also be used to remove or stop the function of an organ. For example, removing the ovaries or testicles or taking medicines that cause them to stop making their hormones would be called ablation. Besides surgery and drug treatment, other ways of ablating body tissues and tumors include extreme heat, freezing, and chemicals.
a collection of pus in tissues, organs, or other parts of the body.
also called solar keratosis; the plural is keratoses (kair-uh-TOE-seez). A rough raised area of skin that can develop after years of sun exposure. They are benign (not cancer), but over time a few will develop into squamous cell cancer (a type of skin cancer). Doctors can remove them with cold, lasers, chemicals, or creams. See also squamous cell carcinoma.
cancer that starts in glandular tissue, such as in the ducts or lobules of the breast or in the gland cells of the prostate. See also glandular cells, prostate.
-muh or ad
a benign (not cancer) growth starting in the glandular tissue. See also adenomatous polyp, glands.
-muh-tus or ad
a benign (not cancer) growth made of abnormal glandular cells. These can become cancer, so they are usually removed when found. For example, 3 types of adenomas that can grow in the colon are tubular, villous, and tuberovillous. In each type, the cells are arranged differently, but there is some overlap so that an adenoma can have both tubular and villous features. See also glandular cells, hyperplastic polyp, inflammatory polyp, polyp, tubular adenoma, tubulovillous adenoma, villous adenoma.
scar tissue that forms after surgery or injury. If the scar tissue tightens, it may bind together organs that are normally separate. This can sometimes cause problems, for instance, if there is partial or total blockage of the intestine.
treatment used in addition to the main treatment. It usually refers to hormone therapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy added after surgery to increase the chances of curing the disease or keeping it in check.
a gland at the top of each kidney (each person normally has 2). Its main function is to make hormones which control metabolism (processing food for energy), fluid balance, and blood pressure. It also makes small amounts of hormones (androgens, estrogens, and progesterone).
legal documents that tell the doctor and family what a person wants for future medical care if the person later becomes unable to make decisions for him or herself. This may include whether to start or when to stop life-sustaining treatments. Another type of advance directive lets you choose a person to make decisions for you if you become unable to do it for yourself. See also durable power of attorney for health care, living will.
a general term describing stages of cancer in which the disease has spread from where it started (the primary site) to other parts of the body. When the cancer has spread only to the nearby areas, it is called locally advanced cancer. If it has spread to distant parts of the body, it is called metastatic cancer. See also metastasis, metastasize.
American Joint Committee on Cancer staging system (also called the TNM system), which describes the extent of a cancer’s spread in Roman numerals from 0 through IV. See also staging.
any one of the different genes that may occupy a specific location on a given chromosome. See also chromosome, gene.
-ick or al
uses bone marrow or stem cells from a donor whose tissue type closely matches the patient’s to replace blood-forming cells that have been destroyed by disease or cancer treatment. This can be from a related donor or an unrelated donor. See also hematopoietic stem cell transplant, stem cells.
hair loss, which can include body hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes as well as scalp hair. This often happens with chemotherapy treatment or radiation therapy. In most cases, the hair grows back after treatment ends.
a drug that relaxes smooth muscle tissue. Alpha blockers are sometimes used to help men who have trouble passing urine because of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or other causes. See also benign prostatic hyperplasia.
an unproven therapy that is used instead of standard (proven) medical treatment. Some alternative therapies are known to cause harmful or even life-threatening side effects. With others, the main danger is that the patient may lose the chance to benefit from standard treatment. The American Cancer Society recommends that patients thinking about using any alternative or complementary therapy discuss it first with a member of their health care team to be sure that they know all their options. See also complementary therapy.
air sacs in the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged.
walking or able to walk. Ambulatory care centers work with outpatients, that is, people who are not in hospitals. Short procedures or treatments are often done in such centers.
a set of conditions common in people with hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC). Only about 60% of people who meet all of this criteria actually have HNPCC, but people who meet the criteria may want to consider genetic testing. Compare to Bethesda criteria. See also hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer, genetic counseling, genetic testing.
a man-made version of a naturally occurring substance. See also LHRH analogs.
the site where 2 structures are surgically joined together, such as the bladder neck and the urethra after the prostate has been removed, or the 2 ends of bowel put back together after a section has been removed.
hormones found in men and women but with much higher levels in men; commonly called male sex hormones. The major androgen is testosterone. See also hormone therapy, testosterone.
see androgen blockade, androgen deprivation therapy.
use of drugs to disrupt the actions of androgens or male hormones. See also androgen, androgen deprivation therapy, combined hormone therapy, hormone therapy.
also called ADT. Treatment to reduce levels of androgens (male hormones) in the body. For example, since androgens stimulate prostate cancer to grow, ADT often makes prostate cancers shrink or grow more slowly. See also anti-androgens, chemical castration, hormone therapy, luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone antagonists, luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone agonists, orchiectomy, testosterone.
a term used to describe prostate cells that are stimulated by male hormones to grow and multiply, and are suppressed by drugs that stop or disrupt the action of male hormones. Androgen-dependent cells may be normal or cancer. See also androgen-independent.
term for prostate cancer cells that no longer respond to hormone therapy; also known as hormone-refractory. See also androgen-dependent.
individual or personal report, an incomplete description from one or more patients.
low red blood cell count.
the loss of feeling or sensation as a result of drugs or gases. General anesthesia causes loss of consciousness (puts you into a deep sleep so you don’t feel pain). Local or regional anesthesia numbs only a certain area.
a doctor who specializes in giving medicines or other agents that prevent or relieve pain, especially during surgery.
the formation of new blood vessels. Some cancer treatments work by blocking angiogenesis, which helps keep blood from reaching (“feeding”) the tumor. See also anti-angiogenesis agent.
a test in which a contrast dye is injected directly into a blood vessel that goes to the area that is being studied. A series of x-rays are then taken to show doctors the blood vessels around a tumor.
a form of cancer that starts from cells that line blood vessels or lymph vessels.
loss of appetite, which may be caused by either the cancer itself or treatments such as chemotherapy.
at or near the front.
-druh-jens or an
drugs that block the body’s ability to use androgens (male hormones). They are taken as pills, up to 3 times a day. Anti-androgens are usually used along with orchiectomy (surgery) or LHRH analogs (medicines) to help treat prostate cancer. See also androgen, androgen deprivation therapy, luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogs, orchiectomy.
-uh-sis or an
a drug that stops a tumor from forming blood vessels, cutting off its blood supply. See also angiogenesis.
-tick or an
drugs used to kill micro-organisms (germs) that cause disease. Antibiotics may be made naturally by living organisms or they may be created in the lab. Since some cancer treatments can reduce the body’s ability to fight infection, antibiotics may be used to treat or prevent these infections.
a protein made by immune system cells and released into the blood. Antibodies defend the body against foreign agents, such as bacteria. These agents contain certain substances called antigens. Each antibody works against one certain antigen. See also antigen, immune system.
-tik or an
a drug that prevents or relieves nausea and vomiting.
-tro-jen or an
a substance (for example, the drug tamoxifen) that blocks the effects of estrogen on tumors. Anti-estrogens are used to treat breast cancers that depend on estrogen for growth. See also estrogen, hormone therapy, selective estrogen receptor modulator.
a foreign substance that causes the body’s immune system to respond by making antibodies. For example, the immune system responds to antigens that are part of bacteria and viruses to help people resist infections. Certain cancer cells have antigens that can be found by lab tests. They can help in diagnosing those cancers and in watching response to treatment. Other cancer cell antigens play a role in immune reactions that may help the body resist cancer. See also antibody, immune system.
-o-lites or an
substances that interfere with the body’s chemical processes, such as those that create proteins, such as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and other chemicals needed for cell growth and reproduction. In treating cancer, antimetabolite drugs disrupt DNA production, which in turn prevents cell division and tumor growth. See also deoxyribonucleic acid.
-uh-dunts or an
compounds that hold back chemical reactions with oxygen (oxidation). Some vitamins, such as vitamins C and E and beta-carotene are antioxidants. Antioxidants that are found in foods are thought to reduce the risk of some cancers. But taking certain antioxidants as supplements has been linked to higher cancer risk in some people.
the end of the digestive tract, through which waste passes out of the body. See also digestive system.
a gene that slows the growth of cells in the body. Changes in this gene can cause familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Gardner syndrome. People who have a mutation (change) in this gene can develop hundreds of polyps in the colon. See also familial adenomatous polyposis, Gardner syndrome, gene, polyp.
may also be called pheresis (fur-ree-sis). A procedure in which blood is taken out of the body, part of the blood is removed, and the rest of the blood is infused back into the body. May be called plasmapheresis if plasma is removed, leukaphoresis if white blood cells are removed, or platelet pheresis when platelets are removed.
programmed cell death. Apoptosis is controlled by genes that cause cells to die at certain times, for example, when DNA is damaged. This type of cell death is different from the process of cell death by decay. Some drugs used to treat cancer cause apoptosis.
-uh-luh or air-ee-o
the dark area of skin that surrounds the nipple of the breast.
drugs that keep the adrenal glands from making estrogens. They are used to treat hormone-sensitive breast cancer in women after menopause. Examples include anastrozole (Arimidex®), letrozole (Femara®), and exemestane (Aromasin®). Aromatase inhibitors are being tested to find out if they can also be used to reduce breast cancer risk in women after menopause. See also chemoprevention, estrogen, hormone therapy, menopause.
an inflatable cuff implanted to squeeze the urethra or anus shut and help a person control their urine or stool. See also incontinence, sphincter.
the first of the 4 sections of the colon. The ascending colon begins at the end of the small intestine and extends upward on the right side of the abdomen to connect with the transverse colon. See also abdomen, colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon.
to draw out a liquid, gas, or tissue fragments using suction. See also fine needle aspiration biopsy.
one of the staging systems for colorectal cancer. In this system, the letters A through D are used for the different stages. See also staging, colorectal cancer.
not having any symptoms of a disease. Many cancers can develop and grow without causing symptoms, especially in the early stages. Screening tests such as mammograms and colonoscopies help find these early cancers before symptoms start, when the chances for cure are usually highest. See also screening.
also called ATM. An inherited mutation in a certain gene responsible for repairing damaged deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). If this mutation is present, the carrier may have a higher risk of several types of cancer. See also deoxyribonucleic acid, gene, genetic testing, mutation.
see ataxia-telangiectasia mutation.
not normal; atypical. Often refers to the appearance of cancerous or pre-cancerous cells. See also atypical, hyperplasia.
not usual; abnormal. See also atypia.
-uh-kul small uh-see
also called ASAP. These are prostate cells that look like they might be cancer, but there are too few cells in the biopsy sample to be sure. With ASAP, there’s about a 40% to 50% chance of prostate cancer, so many doctors advise a repeat biopsy within a few months. See also biopsy, prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia.
use of the patient’s own blood or tissue in a medical procedure; for example, using a woman’s own tissue to rebuild her breast is called autologous tissue construction.
a complex and sometimes risky treatment that may be used when cancer is advanced or has come back, or as the main treatment in some types of leukemia or lymphoma. Either bone marrow or stem cells harvested from the patient’s bloodstream is removed, cleaned, and stored. The patient is then given high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation to kill the cancer cells. This also destroys the remaining bone marrow, making the body unable to fight infection. The saved stem cells are then given by transfusion (transplanted) to restore the patient’s immune defenses. The best place to have a transplant is at a comprehensive cancer center or other facility that has the technical skill and experience to perform it safely. Compare to allogeneic stem cell transplant. See also bone marrow, hematopoietic stem cell transplant, immune system.
removal of the lymph nodes in the armpit (the axillary nodes). They are looked at under a microscope to see if they contain cancer. See also lymph node, lymph node biopsy.