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Cancer Glossary

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Browse the glossary by selecting a letter or by entering a cancer-related term:

See detection.
 Search  [uh-DEEM-uh]
Swelling caused by build-up of fluid in body tissues. See also lymphedema.
 Search  [EF-ih-KUH-see]
Effectiveness. The ability of a treatment to produce the desired result.
 Search  [ih-JACK-you-LATE]
To release semen during male orgasm. See also retrograde ejaculation, semen.
 Search  [e-LEK-tro-FUL-ger-A-shun]
Also known as electrocautery (e-LEK-tro-CAW-tuh-ree). A type of treatment that destroys cells by burning with an electrical current; may also be used to control bleeding during surgery or after an injury.
 Search  [EM-buh-li-ZAY-shun]
A type of treatment that reduces the blood supply to a tumor by injecting materials to plug up the artery that supplies it.
 Search  [EM-bree-oh]
Early stage in the development of a plant or an animal. In humans, this stage lasts from shortly after fertilization until all major body parts appear, or from about 2 weeks after fertilization until the end of the seventh or eighth week of pregnancy.
 Search  [EM-eh-sis]
Vomit or vomiting.
 Search  [END-oh-KAV-uh-TERR-ee]
Radiation for cancer delivered from a handheld device that’s placed inside a body opening. It may be given alone or with external beam radiation therapy. See also external beam radiation therapy, radiation therapy.
 Search  [EN-duh-krin]
Glands that release hormones into the bloodstream. The ovaries, testicles, thyroid, and adrenals are all examples of endocrine glands. See also adrenal gland, glands, hormones, ovary, pancreas, pituitary, testicles, thyroid.
 Search  [EN-duh-krin]
Treatment that adds, blocks, or removes hormones to treat a disease or condition. See also hormone therapy.
 Search  [EN-duh-kruh-NAHL-uh-jist]
A doctor who specializes in diseases related to the glands of the endocrine system, such as the thyroid, pancreas, and adrenal glands. See also adrenal gland, endocrine glands, pancreas, thyroid.
 Search  [en-doe-ME-tree-ul]
Related to the endometrium. See also endometrium.
 Search  [EN-doe-ME-tree-um]
The lining of the womb (uterus). See also uterus.
 Search  [EN-doe-REK-tuhl]
A probe that is placed and left in the rectum during an MRI, which helps get a more accurate picture of the prostate area. See also magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), prostate, rectum.
 Search  [EN-doe-REK-tuhl]
A test that uses sound waves from a probe placed in the rectum to see how far through the wall a rectal cancer may have spread, and if it has spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes. See also lymph node, rectum, transrectal ultrasound, ultrasound.
 Search  [en-DAHS-kuh-pee]
Inspection of the inner linings of hollow body organs or cavities by inserting a thin, flexible, lighted tube called an endoscope through a body opening such as the mouth or anus. Compare to laparoscopy.
 Search  [EN-ter-oh-STO-mal THER-uh-pist]
Also called an ostomy nurse or a wound care nurse. A health professional, often a nurse, who teaches people how to care for ostomies (surgically created openings such as a colostomy) and wounds. See also colostomy, stoma.
 Search  [ee-NOO-klee-AY-shun]
Surgical removal of something (for instance, an organ or tumor) without cutting into it.
 Search  [EN-zime]
A protein that starts, helps, or speeds up the rate of chemical reactions in living cells.
 Search  [EP-ih-DEEM-ee-AHL-uh-jee]
The study of diseases in large groups of people from the general population who share a common factor such as age, sex, or health condition by collecting and analyzing statistical data. In the field of cancer, epidemiologists look at things like how many people have cancer, who gets certain types of cancer, and what factors (such as environment, job hazards, family patterns, and personal habits) are linked to developing cancer.
 Search  [EP-ih-DERM-uhl]
Hormone-like substances linked to certain types of cancer that are known to make cells grow. Some cancer cells grow faster because they contain more growth factor receptors than normal cells. See also hormone.
 Search  [EP-ih-DID-uh-mus]
A tiny tube inside the scrotum that sits coiled on top of and behind each testicle. Sperm travel through these tubes after forming and are stored there until they mature. The tubes lead into the vas deferens. See also scrotum, sperm, testicles, vas deferens.
 Search  [EP-ih-DUR-uhl an-es-THEE-zhuh]
Injection of anesthetic drugs into the space around the spinal cord. This is used to numb the lower part of the body while allowing the patient to stay awake. See also anesthesia, spinal cord.
 Search  [EP-uh-GLOT-is]
A thin, valve-like, cartilage structure at the root of the tongue that covers the the vocal cord area (glottis) when you swallow. This keeps food and drink from getting into the windpipe (trachea).
also called ED or impotence. Not being able to have or keep an erection of the penis adequate for penetration during sex.
 Search  [eh-SOF-uh-JEE-uhl]
A special way to speak used by some people after the voice box (larynx) has been removed. Air is swallowed to produce a “belching” type of speech.
 Search  [ih-SOF-uh-gus]
A hollow, muscular tube through which food passes from the mouth to the stomach. It lies behind the windpipe (trachea) and in front of the spine.
A hormone found in both men and women, but at higher levels in women. Often called the female sex hormone, it’s made mostly by the ovaries, and in smaller amounts in fat tissue. In girls, estrogen helps to regulate puberty, such as growth of breasts. In women, estrogen levels normally cycle on a monthly schedule to regulate menstruation and prepare the body for fertilization and reproduction. Estrogen may promote the growth of cancer cells in breast cancer. In men, estrogen is sometimes used to treat advanced prostate cancer by countering the action of testosterone. See also estrogen receptor assay, estrogen therapy, hormone, hormone therapy, ovary, testosterone.
A lab test done on a sample of breast cancer cells to see whether they have estrogen receptors. The growth of normal breast cells and some breast cancers is stimulated by estrogen. Estrogen receptors are molecules that function as a cell’s “welcome mat” for estrogen circulating in the blood. Breast cancer cells without these receptors (called estrogen-receptor negative or ER-negative) are unlikely to respond to hormone therapy. Estrogen-receptor positive or ER-positive cancers are more likely to respond to hormone therapy. See also estrogen, hormone therapy.
Sometimes called estrogen replacement therapy. The use of estrogen from other sources after a woman’s ovaries stop making it. This type of hormone therapy is sometimes used for short periods to relieve symptoms of menopause. Estrogen alone can raise the risk of cancer of the lining of the womb (endometrial cancer), so a women who still has a womb (uterus) is usually also given progesterone to lower this risk. It might also increase breast cancer risk slightly in some women. See also estrogen, menopausal hormone therapy, menopause, ovary, progesterone.
 Search  [EE-tee-AHL-uh-jee]
The cause of a disease. There are many possible causes of cancer. Research is showing that both genetics (genes passed on from your parents) and lifestyle (including exposures to carcinogens) are major factors in many cancers. See also carcinogen, gene.
 Search  [YU-ing sar-KO-muh]
A type of cancer, usually starting in bone, that’s seen most often in children and teens. Most start in the pelvis or hip bones, the chest wall (such as ribs and shoulder blades), or the long bones of the legs.
 Search  [ex-SIH-zhun]
Removal by cutting the body (surgery). This can mean cutting out a tumor or cutting off a body part.
Also called active surveillance or watchful waiting. Close monitoring that’s done in some cases of prostate cancer, instead of starting active treatment right away. This may be a reasonable choice for older men with small tumors that might grow very slowly, allowing them to avoid or delay the side effects from treatment. Because the man is being watched carefully, changes are noted quickly, and treatment can be started right away if needed.
Often shortened to EBRT. Radiation from a source outside the body that’s focused on the cancer. Each treatment is much like getting an x-ray, but the radiation doses are much higher. Compare to brachytherapy. See also radiation therapy.
 Search  [EX-tra-CAP-su-lur ex-TEN-shun]
Cancer in a lymph node that’s growing through the layer of connective tissue (the capsule) that covers the outside of the node. See also lymph node.
 Search  [ex-tra-OS-ee-us YU-ing]
Also called extraskeletal Ewing sarcoma. Most often seen in children and teens, these tumors start in soft tissues around bones. They look and act a lot like Ewing sarcomas in bones and are treated in similar ways. See also Ewing sarcoma.