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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  [NAY-zoh-FAIR-ingks]
The part of the throat (pharynx) that lies above and behind the soft palate, behind the structures of the nose. Compare with oropharynx, pharynx.
 Search  [nuh-CROW-sis]
The death of one or more cells of the body. Necrotic refers to tissue that has died.
 Search  [NEED-ul ASP-er-A-shun]
A procedure in which a thin, hollow needle is used to reach a cyst or tumor, and with suction, draw up (aspirate) bits of tissue or fluid (samples) to be looked at under a microscope. See also biopsy, cyst, needle biopsy, tumor.
 Search  [NEED-ul BY-op-see]
A procedure to remove fluid, cells, or tissue with a hollow needle so that it can be looked at under a microscope. The main types of needle biopsy are fine needle aspiration (FNA) and core biopsy. FNA uses a thin needle to draw up (aspirate) fluid or small tissue pieces from a cyst or tumor. A core needle biopsy uses a wider needle to remove a core of tissue from a tumor. See also biopsy, core needle biopsy, cyst, fine needle aspiration biopsy, needle aspiration, tumor.
 Search  [NEED-ul LO-cull-ih-ZAY-shun]
A procedure used to guide the surgeon to the area where the tissue or fluid (sample) needs to be taken from when the lump is hard to find or when there are areas of concern on the x-ray but there’s no distinct lump. X-rays are used to guide a needle to the suspicious area. Then either a small amount of blue dye is injected through the needle, or a thin wire is passed through the needle and left in place, and the needle is removed. The surgeon then uses the dye or the wire as a guide to find the abnormal area to be removed. See also biopsy, wire localization, x-ray.
A result from lab tests or pathology findings in which the abnormality being looked for was not found. For example, when lymph nodes or other tissues are said to be negative for cancer, it means that no cancer was found there. See also lymph nodes.
See surgical margin.
 Search  [NEE-o-AD-juh-vunt]
Treatment given before the main treatment. For example, neoadjuvant chemotherapy is sometimes used to shrink a cancer tumor before surgery so that it’s easier to remove. Compare to adjuvant therapy. See also chemotherapy, tumor.
 Search  [NEE-o-nay-TAHL-uh-jist]
A doctor who specializes in the care of newborns (until they are about 6 weeks old).
 Search  [NEE-o-PLAY-zee-uh]
Abnormal new cell growth. The growth may or may not be cancer. See also cancer, neoplasm, tumor.
 Search  [NEE-o-PLAZ-um]
An abnormal growth (tumor) that starts from a single changed (mutated) cell. A neoplasm may or may not be cancer. Such a growth may be described as a neoplastic (NEE-o-PLAS-tik) tumor. See also cancer, mutation, tumor.
 Search  [neh-FRAHL-uh-jist]
A doctor who specializes in diseases of the kidneys.
 Search  [neh-FRAHS-tuh-me]
Surgery to make an opening from the outside of the body to the part of the kidney that collects urine (called the renal pelvis). This may be done to drain urine from a blocked kidney or blocked ureter into a bag outside the body. It may also be done to look at the kidney using a thin, lighted tube attached to a camera (endoscope), to put chemotherapy drugs right into the kidney, or to remove kidney stones. See also chemotherapy, endoscopy, kidney, ureter, urine.
A structure made of one or more bundles of fibers that connects the brain and spinal cord to other parts of the body. Nerves can take signals of sensation to the brain, and send messages from the brain to make a body part move.
 Search  [PROS-tuh-TECK-tuh-me]
Surgery to remove the prostate in which the surgeon tries to save a man’s ability to have erections by leaving in the neurovascular bundles that control that function. Compare to radical prostatectomy. See also neurovascular bundle, prostate.
A complex network of nerve cells (neurons) centered in the brain and spinal cord, which is responsible for sending, receiving, and interpreting information from all parts of the body. See also central nervous system, nerve, peripheral nervous system.
 Search  [NU-ro-blas-TOE-mah]
A type of cancer seen in children and infants, made up of immature nerve cells. Most often it starts in the adrenal glands, near the spine, or in the trunk of the body (belly, chest, or pelvis). See also adrenal gland.
 Search  [nur-AH-puth-ee]
Nerve abnormality or damage which causes numbness, tingling, pain, muscle weakness, and/or swelling. It may be caused by injury, infection, disease, or by drugs. Peripheral (per-IF-er-uhl) neuropathy is a type of neuropathy that starts in nerves farthest away from the brain, such as the hands and feet.
 Search  [NUR-o-SUR-jun]
A doctor specializing in operations to treat nervous system disorders, which includes problems in the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. See also nervous system, spinal cord.
 Search  [NUR-o-VAS-kyu-lur]
Groups of nerves and blood vessels that run together. In men, bundles of nerves and vessels run along each side of the prostate and help the penis become erect. Removal or injury of these bundles during surgery, or damage from radiation therapy, can lead to impotence. Women also have these bundles, which run along both sides of the vagina and affect erectile tissue in the genital area. See also impotence, nerve-sparing prostatectomy, prostate, vagina.
 Search  [NEW-trow-PEEN-ee-uh]
A decrease in the number of white blood cells that respond quickly to infection (neutrophils), which increases a person’s risk of infection. If a person has less than 1,500 cells/mm3 neutrophils, he or she is neutropenic (NEW-trow-PEEN-ik). With fewer than 500 cells/mm3 the risk of infection is very high and gets higher the longer the neutropenia lasts. See also neutrophil, white blood cells.
 Search  [NEW-trow-fill]
A type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infections. See also white blood cells.
The tip of the breast; the pigmented projection (bump) in the center of the areola. The nipple contains the opening of milk ducts from the breast. See also areola, duct.
Any fluid of any color coming from the nipple.
An inward turning of the nipple of the breast.
 Search  [nok-TOOR-ee-uh]
Waking up often during the night to pass urine. See also urine.
Indicates whether cancer has spread to lymph nodes (node-positive) or has not spread to lymph nodes (node-negative). See also lymph node.
A small mass of tissue; often used to refer to a lymph node. See also lymph node.
 Search  [NOD-yool]
A small, solid lump that can be felt or seen on an imaging test. See also imaging tests, tumor.
Formerly called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A large group of cancers that start in immune system cells called lymphocytes. It often affects the the lymphatic system (a network of thin vessels and nodes that’s part of the immune system). Compare to Hodgkin disease. See also immune system, lymphatic system, lymphoma.
Often shortened to NSCLC. One of the main classes or categories of lung cancer, based on how the cells look under the microscope. Non-small cell lung cancer includes 3 major types: squamous cell (or epidermoid) carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell (undifferentiated) carcinoma of the lung. Compare to small cell lung cancer. See also carcinoma.
 Search  [NON-steer-OYD-uhl AN-tie-in-FLAM-uh-tor-ee or AN-tee-in-FLAM-uh-tor-ee]
Often shortened to NSAIDs. Pain relievers and fever reducers in the family of aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®), naproxen (Aleve®), and many others.
A branch of medicine that uses radioactive substances (radioisotopes) to diagnose and treat illnesses. See also radioisotope.
Also called a radionuclide scan. A type of imaging test in which small amounts of a radioactive substance (called a radioisotope) are put into the bloodstream to look for diseases such as cancer. The radioisotope collects in certain cells or tissues, including cancer cells, and a special camera is used to make a picture of the parts of the body where the radioisotope collects. Bone scans and positron emission tomography (PET) scans are types of nuclear medicine scans. See also bone scan, imaging tests, positron emission tomography, radioisotope.
 Search  [NEW-klee-us]
The center of a cell where the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is found and where it reproduces. Studying the size and shape of a cell’s nucleus under the microscope can help pathologists tell cancer cells from non-cancer cells. See also cell, deoxyribonucleic acid, pathologist.
 Search  [nuh-LIP-uh-rus]
Never having given birth to a child.
 Search  [nurs prak-TIH-shun-er]
A registered nurse with a master’s or doctoral degree and special certification. Nurse practitioners diagnose and manage illness and disease, usually working closely with doctors.