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Cancer Glossary

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

H
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see high-dose rate (or temporary) brachytherapy.
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see durable power of attorney for health care.
 Search  [he-muh-toe-KEEZ-ee-uh or hem-at-uh-KEEZ-ee-uh]
bright red blood in the stool.
 Search  [hem-at-uh-krit]
the percentage of the blood volume made up of red blood cells, which is often measured as part of a complete blood count. This can get low in people with cancer, either as a result of problems from the cancer itself (such as bleeding) or from treatments such as chemotherapy. The normal range varies by lab, but typically is around 37% to 52% of the blood volume.
 Search  [he-muh-TAHL-uh-jist]
a doctor who specializes in diseases of the blood and blood-forming tissues.
 Search  [he-muh-TOE-muh]
a collection of blood outside a blood vessel caused by a leak or an injury. A bruise is an example of a hematoma.
 Search  [he-muh-toe-poi-ET-ick]
procedure used to restock the stem cells in the bone marrow when it has been destroyed by chemotherapy, radiation, or disease. Stem cells can be taken from bone marrow or circulating (peripheral) blood to be transfused into the patient. Stem cells may be the patient’s own (autologous), or may come from someone else (allogeneic), such as a matched donor or the banked umbilical cord blood of a newborn. See also autologous stem cell transplant, allogeneic stem cell transplant, bone marrow, stem cells.
 Search  [he-muh-TUR-ee-uh]
blood in the urine.
 Search  [hem-ee-ko-LEK-tuh-me]
surgical removal of part of the colon.
 Search  [HE-muh-glo-bin]
the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen, which is often measured as part of a complete blood count. Hemoglobin can get very low in people with cancer, either as a result of problems from the cancer itself (such as bleeding) or from treatments such as chemotherapy. Normal ranges vary by lab, but typically are around 12-18 gm/dL.
 Search  [hem-uh-royds]
enlarged or swollen veins inside the rectum or colon. They don’t cause cancer or become cancer, but they can cause pain, itching, and irritation. They can also cause slight bleeding, which can result in a positive fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test even when no cancer is present. See also colon, colorectal cancer screening, fecal immunochemical test, fecal occult blood test, rectum.
 Search  [heh-pat-ick]
having to do with the liver.
 Search  [heh-pat-o-MEG-uh-lee]
enlargement of the liver.
 Search  [sometimes called HER2/neu]
see human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.
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cancer caused by an inherited gene mutation (about 5% to 10% of all cancers). See also hereditary cancer syndrome, inherited disease, mutation.
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a condition linked with a higher risk of cancer that occurs in several family members because of an inherited, mutated gene; for example, familial adenomatous polyposis. See also hereditary cancer, familial adenomatous polyposis, mutation, gene.
 Search  [huh-RED-ih-ter-ee non-pah-lih-PO-sis]
also called HNPCC or Lynch syndrome. An inherited condition that greatly increases a person’s risk for developing colorectal cancer, as well as endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus), ovarian cancer, and some other cancers. People with this condition tend to develop cancer at a young age, often without first having many polyps. See also hereditary cancer syndrome, polyp.
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any of a number of genes that are linked to prostate cancer. Inherited changes in these genes may make prostate cancer more likely to develop in some men. Research on these genes is still in early stages, and genetic tests for most of them are not yet available. See also gene, prostate.
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see urinary hesitancy.
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a person’s chance of developing a disease such as cancer when it’s much greater than that normally seen in the general population. People may be at higher risk of cancer from many factors, including heredity, personal habits (such as smoking), the environment (such as overexposure to sunlight), and many others. See also risk factor.
 Search  [brake-ee-THER-uh-pee]
also called HDR brachytherapy. A form of treatment that puts a radioactive source into small plastic tubes or applicators near the cancer. The radioactive source is put in the applicators and taken out a few minutes later. The applicator may be left in place. This is usually repeated for a few days to a few weeks and may be used along with external beam radiation therapy. This is different from low-dose rate brachytherapy, which uses lower doses of radiation over a longer period of time and sometimes leaves the radioactive seeds in the body. Compare to low-dose rate brachytherapy. See also brachytherapy, external beam radiation therapy, permanent brachytherapy.
 Search  [hiss-tah-luh-jee]
how cells or tissues look under a microscope. The histologic examination of cells and tissues is done by a doctor called a pathologist. See also pathologist.
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a type of lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) that is often curable. Formerly called Hodgkin’s disease. See also lymph node, lymphatic system, lymphoma.
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a nurse who gives treatment or medicines in the home, teaches patients how to care for themselves, and assesses their condition to see if further medical attention is needed.
 Search  [home-uh-JEE-ne-us]
cells or tissue that look the same throughout when seen under a microscope. See also histology.
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a chemical substance released in the body by the endocrine glands such as the thyroid, adrenals, or ovaries. Hormones travel through the bloodstream and set in motion various body functions. Testosterone and estrogen are examples of male and female hormones. See also adrenal gland, endocrine glands, hormone therapy, ovary, thyroid.
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a protein on a cell’s surface or within the cell cytoplasm that binds to a hormone. Some tumors can be tested for hormone receptors to see if they can be treated with hormones or anti-hormones. See also hormone therapy, hormone receptor assay, estrogen receptor assay, progesterone receptor assay.
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a test to see if a breast cancer is likely to be affected by hormones or if it can be treated with hormones. See also estrogen receptor assay, progesterone receptor assay.
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see menopausal hormone therapy.
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cancer treatment using drugs that interfere with hormone production or hormone action, or the surgical removal of hormone-producing glands. Hormone therapy may help kill or slow the growth of cancer cells that depend on hormones to grow. For example, it is a common form of treatment for certain breast and prostate cancers. See also androgen deprivation therapy, hormone receptor, hormone receptor assay.
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a term used to describe any type of cancer that depends on hormones for growth and survival, such as some breast and prostate cancers. See also hormone therapy, androgen-dependent, hormone receptor, hormone receptor assay.
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not responsive to hormone treatments. See also androgen-independent, hormone therapy.
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a special kind of care for people in the final phase of illness, as well as their families and caregivers. The care usually takes place in the patient’s home or in a home-like facility. See also palliative treatment.
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sudden brief feeling of body warmth, along with flushing of the skin and sweating; common during menopause and some types of hormone therapy. See also androgen deprivation therapy, hormone therapy, menopause.
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also called HER2 or HER2/neu. A protein that is present in very small amounts on the outer surface of normal cells. HER2 stimulates cell growth, and cancers that produce too much of this protein tend to grow and spread faster. Drugs that attach to the HER2 protein can be used to treat cancers with too much HER2.
 Search  [pap-uh-LO-muh vy-rus]
also called HPV. A common virus with more than 100 types, some of which cause changes in cells that can grow into cancer or warts. Some of these types, called genital HPV, can live in the mucous membranes such as those of the vagina, cervix, and anus. Nearly all cervical cancers are related to HPV, as are some cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, vulva, and urethra and some head and neck cancers (mostly the tongue and tonsils). Vaccines can now help the body fight the 2 main cancer-causing types. There is also a test for HPV that can be done along with a woman’s Pap test. See also Pap test.
 Search  [hyoo-mer-us]
the long bone in the upper arm that goes from the shoulder to the elbow.
 Search  [hi-per-al-ih-men-TAY-shun]
liquid nutrition given into a vein (intravenously or IV). Also called parenteral nutrition.
 Search  [hi-per-PLAY-zhuh]
too much growth of cells or tissue in a specific area, such as the lining of the prostate. See also benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostate.
 Search  [hi-per-PLAS-tick pa-lip]
a type of growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum that is unlikely to become cancer. Some doctors think that certain hyperplastic polyps can become pre-cancerous, or may mean a risk of developing adenomatous polyps and cancer later, especially if the polyps are in the ascending colon. See also adenomatous polyp, ascending colon, polyp.
 Search  [hi-per-TEN-shun]
high blood pressure.
 Search  [hi-per-THERM-ee-uh]
high body temperature or fever. Hyperthermia is sometimes an intentional part of cancer treatment, either by raising body temperature or raising the temperature only in the affected body part. It can be used to damage and kill cancer cells directly or to make them more sensitive to the effects of radiation or anti-cancer drugs.
 Search  [hi-per-truh-fee]
the enlargement of an organ or body tissue due to an increase in the size of its cells, rather than an increase in the number of cells. Compare to hyperplasia.
 Search  [hiss-ter-EK-tuh-me]
an operation to remove the uterus. This can be done through an incision (cut) in the abdomen (belly), through a few small cuts in the lower belly (called laparoscopic hysterectomy), or through the vagina. The ovaries may be removed (oophorectomy) at the same time, as may the fallopian tubes (salpingectomy). See also uterus, oophorectomy, ovary, vagina.