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Cancer Glossary

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

 Search  [LAY-be-uh]
Lips or lip-like structures, such as the lips at the opening of the mouth or the folds on either side of the vagina. The singular is labium. See also vulva.
 Search  [lack-TAY-shun]
Production of milk in the breast.
 Search  [LAP-uh-ruh-SCOPE]
A long, flexible, thin tube with a lens on the end that’s put into the belly (abdomen) through a very small cut. The laparoscope lets the surgeon see organs and lymph nodes inside the abdomen, and remove them using special surgical tools that fit through the laparoscope. See also abdomen, laparoscopic surgery, lymph node.
 Search  [LAP-uh-ruh-SKAH-pick LIMF-ad-uh-NECK-tuh-me]
Removal of lymph nodes with a laparoscope. See also laparoscope, lymph node.
 Search  [LAP-uh-ruh-SKAH-pick RAD-ick-uhl PROS-tuh-TECK-tuh-me]
A surgical procedure in which the prostate is removed using a laparoscope. See also laparoscope, prostate.
 Search  [LAP-uh-ruh-SKAH-pick]
Surgery using a narrow tube-like instrument called a laparoscope that’s put into the body through a small cut (incision). Other tubes are put in other nearby incisions to allow the surgeon to work inside the body. A surgeon might use this method to remove tissue or an organ while watching the procedure on a TV screen. The small incisions led to the name “keyhole surgery” or minimally invasive surgery. See also incision, laparoscope.
 Search  [LAP-uh-RAHS-kuh-pee]
An examination of the inside of the belly (abdomen) using an instrument called a laparoscope that’s put in through a small cut (incision). Compare with endoscopy. See also abdomen, incision, laparoscope.
See non-small cell lung cancer.
The lower part of the intestine, running from the small intestine to the anus, which absorbs most of the fluid from the poop (stool). It’s wider (but not longer) than the small intestine. The large intestine contains the cecum, colon, and rectum. See also anus, cecum, colon, rectum, small intestine.
 Search  [LAIR-en-JEK-tuh-me]
Surgery to remove the voice box (larynx), usually because of cancer. See also larynx.
 Search  [luh-RIN-jo-FAIR-ingks]
Also called the hypopharynx (HI-po-FAIR-ingks). The lower part of the pharynx (throat), extending downward from the voice box (larynx) to the swallowing tube (esophagus). See also esophagus, larynx, pharynx.
 Search  [LAIR-ingks]
Also called the voice box. The organ of voice production that sits below the root of the tongue, at the top of the windpipe (trachea). See also trachea.
 Search  [la-TISS-ih-mus DORS-eye]
A method of breast reconstruction in which a long flat muscle of the back and the attached skin are moved into the breast area. This method almost always uses a breast implant. See also breast reconstruction, breast implant.
 Search  [LACK-suh-tiv]
A medicine that helps make poop (stool) easier to pass and promotes bowel movements. Many are taken by mouth, but some come as a suppository which is put in the rectum. Laxatives work in different ways; for example, by pulling fluid into the intestine or irritating the bowel to stimulate movement. Others add bulk (such as fiber), soften the stool, or lubricate it for easier passage.
 Search  [LIE-o-my-O-muh]
Also called a fibroid (FI-broyd). A smooth muscle tumor that’s not cancer. When it occurs in the womb (uterus), it’s called a uterine fibroid tumor or a fibroma. See also tumor, uterine fibroid tumor, uterus.
 Search  [LEP-toh-meh-NIN-jee-ul]
Also called leptomeningeal carcinoma (CAR-sin-O-ma), leptomeningeal metastasis (meh-TAS-tuh-sis), and carcinomatous meningitis (car-sin-O-muh-TOE-sis MEH-nin-JIE-tis). A serious problem that occurs when cancer cells spread from the original tumor (primary site) to the thin layers of tissue that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord (the meninges). See also brain, spinal cord.
 Search  [LEE-zhun]
An area of abnormal body tissue. May be used to describe a lump, mass, or tumor; also a spot or change in the way the skin looks or feels. See also mass, tumor.
 Search  [loo-KEY-me-uh]
Cancer of the blood or blood-forming organs. Leukemias are often classified based on the types of cells in which they start (myeloid versus lymphoid) and by how quickly they are likely to grow (acute versus chronic). People with leukemia often have a very high number of white blood cells (leukocytes). See also lymphoid leukemia, myeloid leukemia, white blood cells.
 Search  [LOO-ko-SITE]
White blood cell. See also white blood cells.
 Search  [LOO-ko-sy-TOE-sis]
Having more white blood cells than normal. See also white blood cells.
 Search  [LOO-ko-PEE-nee-uh]
Having too few white blood cells, which is common in people with cancer and is often a side effect of chemotherapy. See also chemotherapy, white blood cells.
 Search  [LOO-ko-PLAY-key-uh]
An abnormal white patch inside the mouth or in other parts of the body. These may become cancer.
See luteinizing hormone.
See luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone.
See luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogs.
See luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogs.
See luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone antagonists.
 Search  [lih-BE-doe or lih-BY-doe]
Sex drive.
Also called lumpectomy, segmental excision, and tylectomy. Surgery to remove the breast cancer and a margin of normal tissue around the cancer, but leaving most of the breast. It’s almost always combined with removal of one or more axillary (underarm) lymph nodes, and is usually followed by radiation therapy. See also axillary dissection, lymph node, mastectomy, radiation therapy, surgical margin.
Also called a linac. A machine used to create high-energy radiation beams for use in external-beam radiation therapy to treat cancer. See also external-beam radiation therapy.
 Search  [lie-PO-muh or lip-OH-muh]
A tumor of fatty tissue that’s not cancer. See also tumor.
The organ that cleans blood and makes bile to help digest foods. It’s located on the upper right side of the belly (abdomen). See also abdomen, digestive system.
A legal document that allows a person to decide what should be done if he or she becomes unable to make health care decisions; a type of advance directive. Compare to durable power of attorney for health care. See also advance directives.
 Search  [low-BEK-tuh-me]
Surgery to remove a lobe of an organ – usually the lung.
 Search  [LOB-yuh-lur CAR-sin-O-ma in SY-too]
Often shortened to LCIS, also called lobular neoplasia. Although not a true cancer or pre-cancer, it’s sometimes listed as a non-invasive type of breast cancer. It starts within the milk-producing glands (lobules) of the breast but does not grow through the wall of the lobules. It’s not a true pre-cancer because it’s not thought to go on to become an invasive cancer. But if a woman has LCIS, she is at higher risk of developing an invasive cancer in either breast later in life. See also invasive lobular carcinoma, pre-cancerous.
 Search  [LOB-youl]
A small, usually round, part of a larger body structure, such as the glands in a woman’s breasts that produce milk.
See anesthesia.
 Search  [LO-kul eck-SIH-zhun]
Surgery to remove small superficial (surface) cancers or polyps. See also lesion, polyp.
See recurrence.
Treatment of cancer at its site, so that the rest of the body is not affected. Surgery and radiation are examples of local therapy. Compare to systemic therapy.
 Search  [LO-kul tranz-A-nuhl re-SEK-shun]
Surgery for some small, early rectal cancers that is done with instruments put in through the anus, without cutting the belly (abdomen). The surgeon cuts through all layers of the rectum to remove invasive cancers as well as some normal rectal tissue, and then closes the hole in the rectal wall. Compare to low anterior resection. See also abdomen, anus, invasive cancer, rectum.
Also called local cancer. A cancer that has not spread to distant parts of the body. It’s still only in the organ where it started. Compare with distant cancer, metastasis.
 Search  [low an-TEER-ee-yer re-SEK-shun]
A surgical approach used for some cancers in the upper third of the rectum, close to where it connects to the colon. The cut (incision) is made through the belly (abdomen), and the cancer is removed along with a margin of normal tissue, lymph nodes, and fatty and fibrous tissue around the rectum. The colon is re-attached to the part of the rectum that’s left so that a colostomy is not needed. See also colo-anal anastomosis, colon, colostomy, lymph node, rectum, surgical margin.
 Search  [BRAKE-ee-THER-uh-pee]
Often shortened to LDR brachytherapy. Treatment in which pellets or seeds of radioactive material are placed inside cylinders or thin needles, and put into the cancerous area. They are left in place for days at a time, and sometimes permanently. Compare to high-dose rate brachytherapy. See also brachytherapy, permanent brachytherapy.
A series of x-rays of the colon and rectum taken after a barium enema is given. See also barium enema, colon, rectum, x-ray.
Often shortened to LP. A procedure in which a thin, hollow needle is placed between the bones of the spine (vertebrae) and into the spinal canal to withdraw a small amount of spinal fluid for testing or to give medicine into the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) through the spinal fluid. Sometimes called a spinal tap. See also cerebrospinal fluid, spinal cord, vertebra.
Any kind of mass in the body, especially on the body surface. See also mass, tumor.
 Search  [lump-ECK-tuh-me]
Surgery to remove a breast lump and a margin of normal tissue. See also breast conservation therapy, surgical margin.
cancer that starts in tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages. There are 2 main types of lung cancer: non- small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. See also non- small cell lung cancer, small cell lung cancer.
 Search  [LOO-tee-uh-NY-zing]
Often shortened to LH. A hormone made by the pituitary that stimulates the testicles to make testosterone in men and the ovaries to make estrogen and progesterone in women. See also estrogen, hormone, ovary, pituitary, testicles, testosterone.
 Search  [LOO-tee-uh-NY-zing]
Also called LHRH or gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). A hormone made by the hypothalamus, a tiny gland in the brain, which causes the pituitary to make and release luteinizing hormone (LH). See also hormone, luteinizing hormone, pituitary.
 Search  [LOO-tee-uh-NY-zing]
Also called LHRH analogs, LHRH agonists, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogs, or GnRH agonists. Man-made hormones that keep the testicles and ovaries from making sex hormones by blocking other hormones that are needed to make them. In men, they stop the testicles from making testosterone and are sometimes used to treat prostate cancer. See also androgen deprivation therapy, chemical castration, hormone, hormone therapy, luteinizing hormone, luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone antagonists, testicles, ovary.
 Search  [LOO-tee-uh-NY-zing]
Also called LHRH antagonists or gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) antagonists. A type of drug thought to work in a way much like the LHRH analogs, but which lower testosterone levels more quickly and without causing the tumor symptoms to worsen (known as tumor flare). See also androgen deprivation therapy, chemical castration, luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone, luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogs, testosterone.
 Search  [LIE-kuh-peenz]
Vitamin-like antioxidants that help prevent damage to DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). These substances are found in certain fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon. Some studies have suggested they might help lower the risk of some cancers (especially prostate cancer), but other studies have not found a link between lycopene and cancer risk. Research in this area continues. See also antioxidants, deoxyribonucleic acid.
 Search  [limf]
Clear fluid that flows through the lymphatic vessels and contains white blood cells called lymphocytes. These cells are important in fighting infections. See also lymph node, lymphatic system, lymphocyte, immune system.
 Search  [limf node]
A small, bean-shaped collection of immune system tissue found throughout the body along lymphatic vessels. They remove cell waste, germs, and other harmful substances from lymph. Cancers often spread to nearby lymph nodes before reaching other parts of the body. Sometimes called “lymph glands.” See also immune system, lymph, lymphatic system.
A test in which all or part of a lymph node is removed and looked at under a microscope to find out if cancer has reached the lymph nodes. See also biopsy, lymph node.
See lymphadenectomy.
 Search  [LIM-fad-uh-NECK-tuh-me]
Also called lymph node dissection. Surgical removal of one or more lymph nodes. After removal, the lymph nodes are looked at under a microscope to see if cancer has spread to them. See also lymph, lymph node, lymphatic system.
 Search  [lim-FAD-uh-NAH-pu-thee]
See adenopathy.
 Search  [lim-FAT-ick]
The tissues and organs (including lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, and bone marrow) that produce and store lymphocytes (white blood cells that fight infection) and the channels or vessels that carry the lymph fluid. This is an important part of the body’s immune system. Invasive cancers sometimes get into the lymphatic vessels and spread (metastasize) to lymph nodes. See also bone marrow, invasive cancer, lymph, lymph node, lymphocyte, metastasize, thymus, spleen.
 Search  [LIM-fuh-DEE-muh]
A complication in which fluid collects in the arms, legs, or other part of the body. This can happen after the lymph nodes and vessels are removed by surgery, injured by radiation, or blocked by a tumor that slows the normal fluid drainage. Lymphedema can happen even years after treatment and can become a life-long problem. See also lymph, lymph node, lymphatic system.
 Search  [LIM-fo-site]
A type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection. See also white blood cells.
 Search  [LIM-fo-sy-TOE-sis]
Having an excess of lymphocytes. See also lymphocyte.
 Search  [LIM-foid loo-KEY-me-uh]
Also called lymphoblastic (LIM-fo-BLAS-tik) leukemia and/or lymphocytic (LIM-fo-SIH-tik) leukemia. A type of cancer that starts in the white blood cells (lymphocytes) in the bone marrow. Lymphoid leukemia can be chronic (CLL) or acute (ALL). Compare to myeloid leukemia. See also bone marrow, leukemia, lymphocyte, white blood cells.
 Search  [LIM-fo-kine]
See cytokine.
 Search  [lim-FOAM-uh]
A cancer of immune system cells called lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). It often affects the lymphatic system, a network of thin vessels and nodes throughout the body that helps to fight infection. The 2 main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin disease and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. See also Hodgkin disease, lymph node, lymphatic system, lymphocyte, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, white blood cells.
 Search  [lim-FOH-muh-tus MEH-nin-JY-tis]
Also called lymphomatous leptomeningitis (lim-FOH-muh-tus LEP-toe-MEH-nin-JY-tis). A serious problem that occurs when lymphoma cells spread from the original tumor (primary site) to the thin layers of tissue that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord (the meninges). See also brain, lymphoma, spinal cord.
Another term for hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC); an inherited tendency to develop certain cancers. See also hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, inherited disease.