abdomen [ab-duh-men]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.
abdominoperineal resection [ab-dah-muh-no-pair-uh-NEE-uhl re-sek-shun]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.
ablate [ab-late]to remove or destroy the function of an organ or body tissue. See also ablation.
ablation [ab-lay-shun]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.
abscess [ab-ses]a collection of pus in tissues, organs, or other parts of the body.
actinic keratosis [ak-tin-ick kair-uh-TOE-sis]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.
adenocarcinoma [ad-no-kar-suh-NO-muh]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.
adenoma [ad-no-muh or ad-uh-NO-muh]a benign (not cancer) growth starting in the glandular tissue. See also adenomatous polyp, glands.
adenomatous polyp [ad-no-muh-tus or ad-uh-NO-muh-tus pa-lip]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.
adhesions [ad-hee-zhunz]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.
adjuvant therapy [ad-juh-vunt]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.
adrenal gland [uh-dree-nul]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).
advance directiveslegal 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.
advanced cancera 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.
AJCC Staging SystemAmerican 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.
allele [al-eel]any one of the different genes that may occupy a specific location on a given chromosome. See also chromosome, gene.
allogeneic stem cell transplant [al-o-jen-NEE-ick or al-o-jen-NAY-ick]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.
alopecia [al-o-PEE-shuh]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.
alpha blocker [al-fuh]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.
alternative therapyan 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.
alveoli [al-vee-o-lie]air sacs in the lungs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged.
ambulatory [AM-byou-luh-tor-ee]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.
Amsterdam criteria [am-stir-dam cry-teer-ee-uh]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.
analog [an-uh-log]a man-made version of a naturally occurring substance. See also LHRH analogs.
anastomosis [uh-nas-tuh-MO-sis]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.
androgen [an-druh-jen]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.
androgen ablationsee androgen blockade, androgen deprivation therapy.
androgen blockadeuse of drugs to disrupt the actions of androgens or male hormones. See also androgen, androgen deprivation therapy, combined hormone therapy, hormone therapy.
androgen deprivation therapyalso 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.
androgen-dependenta 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.
androgen-independentterm for prostate cancer cells that no longer respond to hormone therapy; also known as hormone-refractory. See also androgen-dependent.
anecdotal [an-neck-DOE-tul]individual or personal report, an incomplete description from one or more patients.
anemia [uh-nee-me-uh]low red blood cell count.
anesthesia [an-es-THEE-zhuh]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.
anesthesiologist [an-es-thee-zee-AHL-uh-jist]a doctor who specializes in giving medicines or other agents that prevent or relieve pain, especially during surgery.
aneuploid [AN-you-ploid]see ploidy.
angiogenesis [an-jee-o-JEN-uh-sis]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.
angiography [an-jee-AH-gruh-fee]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.
angiosarcoma [an-jee-o-sar-KO-muh]a form of cancer that starts from cells that line blood vessels or lymph vessels.
anorexia [an-uh-REK-see-uh]loss of appetite, which may be caused by either the cancer itself or treatments such as chemotherapy.
anterior [an-teer-ee-yer]at or near the front.
anti-androgens [an-tee-AN-druh-jens or an-tie-AN-druh-jens]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.
anti-angiogenesis agent [an-tee-an-jee-o-JEN-uh-sis or an-tie-an-jee-o-JEN-uh-sis]a drug that stops a tumor from forming blood vessels, cutting off its blood supply. See also angiogenesis.
anti-emetic [an-tee-ih-MEH-tik or an-tie-ih-MEH-tik]a drug that prevents or relieves nausea and vomiting.
anti-estrogen [an-tee-ES-tro-jen or an-tie-ES-tro-jen]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.
antibiotic [an-tee-by-AH-tick or an-tie-by-AH-tick]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.
antibody [AN-tih-bah-dee]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.
antigen [an-tuh-jen]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.
antimetabolites [an-tee-muh-TAB-o-lites or an-tie-muh-TAB-o-lites]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.
antioxidants [an-tee-OX-uh-dunts or an-tie-OX-uh-dunts]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.
anus [a-nus]the end of the digestive tract, through which waste passes out of the body. See also digestive system.
APC genea 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.
apheresis [a-fur-REE-sis]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.
apoptosis [a-pop-TOE-sis]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.
areola [ah-ree-uh-luh or air-ee-o-la]the dark area of skin that surrounds the nipple of the breast.
aromatase inhibitorsdrugs 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.
artificial sphincter [sfink-ter]an inflatable cuff implanted to squeeze the urethra or anus shut and help a person control their urine or stool. See also incontinence, sphincter.
ascending colon [as-send-ing ko-lun]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.
aspiration [asp-er-A-shun]to draw out a liquid, gas, or tissue fragments using suction. See also fine needle aspiration biopsy.
Astler-Coller staging systemone 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.
asymptomatic [a-simp-tuh-MAT-ik]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.
ataxia-telangiectasia mutation [a-tax-ee-yuh tel-an-jee-eck-TAY-zhuh]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.
ATMsee ataxia-telangiectasia mutation.
atypia [a-tip-ee-yuh]not normal; atypical. Often refers to the appearance of cancerous or pre-cancerous cells. See also atypical, hyperplasia.
atypical [a-tip-uh-kul]not usual; abnormal. See also atypia.
atypical small acinar proliferation [a-tip-uh-kul small uh-see-nar pruh-lih-fuh-RAY-shun]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.
autologous [aw-tahl-uh-gus]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.
autologous stem cell transplant [aw-tahl-uh-gus]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.
axilla [ax-ill-uh]the armpit.
axillary dissection [ax-ill-air-ee di-sek-shun]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.
B lymphocytes [limf-uh-sites]also called B cells. White blood cells that help make antibodies. See also antibody, immune system, white blood cells.
barium enema [bear-ee-um en-uh-muh]a method sometimes used to help diagnose colorectal cancer. Barium sulfate, a chalky liquid, is used to enlarge and partly fill the colon (large intestine). When the colon is about half-full of barium, air is pushed in to cause the colon to expand further. This allows good x-ray films to be taken. This procedure may be called a double contrast barium enema. See also barium sulfate, colon, colorectal cancer.
barium sulfate [bear-ee-um sul-fate]a substance made into a chalky liquid that is used to outline the digestive tract for x-rays. It can be taken by mouth, as part of upper gastrointestinal (GI) series, or put into the rectum as a barium enema (as part of a lower GI series). See also barium enema, gastrointestinal tract.
basal cell carcinoma [bay-sul or bay-zul sell car-sin-O-ma]the most common type of skin cancer. It begins in the lowest layer of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin), called the basal cell layer. It usually develops on sun-exposed areas, especially the head and neck. Basal cell cancer grows slowly and is not likely to spread to distant parts of the body.
basic sciencealso called pure science, provides the knowledge and background required for later research into human health problems. In cancer research, this is often lab study in fields like biochemistry, cell biology, or genetics that are not aimed at treating a specific cancer, but may be used later as part of the basis for a treatment.
behavioral researchresearch into what motivates people to act the way they do. The results of such research can be used to help encourage people to adopt healthy lifestyles and follow life-saving screening and treatment guidelines.
benign [be-nine]not cancer; not malignant. Compare with malignant.
benign prostatic hyperplasia [be-nine pros-tat-tick hi-per-PLAY-zhuh]also called BPH. Non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate. This sometimes makes it harder for a man to empty his bladder – causing trouble starting and stopping urine flow, weak flow of urine, and dribbling.
benign tumor [be-nine too-mer]an abnormal growth that is not cancer and does not spread to other areas of the body. See also tumor.
beta carotene [bay-tuh KAIR-uh-teen]a form of vitamin A that is found mainly in yellow and orange vegetables and fruits. It functions as an antioxidant, but high doses of beta carotene supplements in smokers may increase lung cancer risk. See also antioxidants.
Bethesda criteria [beth-ez-duh cry-teer-ree-yuh]a set of conditions common in people with hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC). Most people who meet these criteria actually do not have HNPCC, but might want to consider genetic testing for it. Compare to Amsterdam criteria. See also hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer, genetic testing.
bilateral [by-lat-er-ul]on both sides of the body; for example, bilateral breast cancer is cancer in both breasts. Compare to unilateral.
biochemical failure [by-o-KEM-ih-kull]a term sometimes used by doctors to describe a significant rise in PSA (prostate-specific antigen) after prostate cancer treatment, which is a sign that cancer may have come back. There may be many years between a rise in PSA and being able to find the cancer by other means. See also primary therapy, prostate-specific antigen, recurrence.
biologic response modifiers [by-o-LA-jick re-spons MOD-uh-fie-urs]substances that boost the body’s immune system to fight against cancer; for instance, the drug interferon. This type of treatment is sometimes called biologic therapy. See also immunotherapy.
biomarkers [BY-o-mar-kers]see tumor markers.
biopsy [by-op-see]the removal of a sample of tissue to see if cancer cells are present. There are several kinds of biopsies. In some, a very thin (fine) needle is used to take out fluid and cells from a lump. In a core biopsy, a larger needle is used to remove more tissue. See also core needle biopsy, fine needle aspiration biopsy, sextant biopsy, surgical biopsy.
biopsy gun [by-op-see]an instrument used to take core biopsy samples, often used for prostate biopsies. See also biopsy, core needle biopsy.
bisphosphonates [bis-FAHS-fun-ates]drugs that slow down the action of bone-eating cells called osteoclasts, which helps slow the spread of cancer in the bones. Bisphosphonate drugs are commonly used in breast cancer and multiple myeloma (a type of bone cancer). They are also approved for use in men with prostate cancer that has spread to the bones.
bladder [blad-uhr]a hollow organ in the pelvis with flexible, muscular walls. The bladder stores urine as it is made by the kidneys. See also kidney.
blood counta count of the number of cells in a given sample of blood.
body imagethe way a person thinks about their body and how they think it looks to others.
bone marrowthe soft, spongy tissue in the hollow middle of certain bones of the body. This is where new blood cells are made. See also platelet, red blood cells, white blood cells.
bone marrow aspiration and biopsy [asp-er-A-shun and by-op-see]a procedure in which a needle is put into the center of a bone, usually the hip or breast bone, to take out a small amount of bone marrow so that it can be looked at under a microscope. See also bone marrow.
bone marrow transplanta treatment that replaces blood-forming stem cells that have been destroyed by high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. The bone marrow may come from the patient (autologous) or a donor (allogeneic). Bone marrow transplants (BMTs) were the first way stem cells in the bone marrow were replaced. See also allogeneic stem cell transplant, autologous stem cell transplant, umbilical cord blood transplant, hematopoietic stem cell transplant, stem cells.
bone scanan imaging test that gives important information about the bones, including the location of cancer that may have spread to the bones. It uses a small amount of radioactive contrast material (radioisotope) which is given by vein. This material settles in areas of the bone to which the cancer may have spread. The radioactive substance can be seen in pictures as it collects in the problem areas (“hot spots”). See also imaging studies, radioisotope.
bone surveyalso called a skeletal survey. An x-ray of all the bones of the body; it may be done when looking for cancer that has spread to the bones.
bowelthe intestines, from the end of the stomach (pylorus) to the anus. The small bowel is the part of the intestine that goes from the bottom of the stomach to the large bowel. The large bowel goes from there to the anus, and is also called the colon. See also anus, colon, gastrointestinal tract, intestines.
BPHsee benign prostatic hyperplasia.
brachytherapy [brake-ee-THER-uh-pee]internal radiation treatment given by putting radioactive seeds or pellets right into the tumor or close to it. Also called interstitial radiation therapy or seed implantation. Can be used along with external beam radiation therapy. See also high-dose rate brachytherapy, permanent (low-dose rate or LDR) brachytherapy, external beam radiation therapy, ionizing radiation.
brainenclosed in the cranium (the bones of the head) and connected to the spinal cord, the brain is the main center for regulating and coordinating body activities. It is the seat of thought, feeling, memory, speech, vision, hearing, movement, and much more. Different parts of the brain control different different functions in the body. See also spinal cord.
brain scanan imaging method used to find anything that isn’t normal in the brain, including brain cancer and cancer that has spread to the brain from other places in the body. This scan can be done in an outpatient clinic. It is painless, except for the needle stick when a radioactive substance (radioisotope) is put into a vein. The radioactive substance can be seen in pictures as it collects in abnormal areas. See also outpatient, radioisotope.
BRCA1a gene which, when damaged (mutated), puts a person at higher risk of developing breast, ovarian, prostate, and other types of cancer, compared to people who do not have the mutation. See also gene, mutation.
BRCA2a gene which, when damaged (mutated), puts a person at higher risk of developing breast, ovarian, prostate, and other types of cancer when compared to people who do not have the mutation. See also gene, mutation.
BRCAPROa tool used to help health professionals estimate a woman’s breast cancer risk. It estimates breast cancer risk based on certain risk factors.
breast augmentationsurgery to increase the size of the breast. See also breast implant, mammoplasty.
breast cancercancer that starts in the breast. The most common types of breast cancer are ductal carcinoma in situ, invasive ductal carcinoma, invasive lobular carcinoma, medullary carcinoma, and Paget disease of the nipple (see definitions under these headings). Lobular carcinoma in situ is sometimes listed as a non-invasive type of cancer, even though it is not a true cancer.
breast conservation therapy or breast-conserving therapysurgery to remove a breast cancer and a small margin of normal tissue around the cancer without removing any other part of the breast. The lymph nodes under the arm may be removed, and radiation therapy is often given after the surgery. This method is also called lumpectomy, segmental excision, limited breast surgery, or tylectomy.
breast implanta sac used to increase breast size or restore the shape of a breast after mastectomy (surgical removal of the breast). The sac is filled with silicone gel (a synthetic material) or sterile saltwater (saline). See also mastectomy, prosthesis.
breast reconstructionsurgery that rebuilds the breast after mastectomy (surgical removal of the breast). A breast implant or the woman’s own tissue may be used. If desired, the nipple and areola might also be re-created. Reconstruction can be done at the time of mastectomy or any time later. See also mastectomy.
breast self-examalso called BSE. A way to check your own breasts for lumps or suspicious changes. Women over age 20 might choose to do BSE, usually at a time other than the days before, during, or right after their menstrual periods. The goal with BSE is to know what your breast tissue feels and looks like and to be able to report any breast changes to a doctor or nurse right away.
breast specialista health care professional who has a dedicated interest in breast health. While he or she may have specialized knowledge in this area, medical licensing boards do not certify a specialty in breast care.
bronchi [brong-ki]the 2 main air passages in the lungs leading from the windpipe (trachea). The bronchi provide a passage for air to move in and out of the lungs. See also bronchiole, trachea.
bronchiole [brong-key-ol]one of the smaller subdivisions or branches of the bronchi. See also bronchi.
bronchoscopy [brong-kah-skuh-pee]looking at the bronchi using a thin, flexible, lighted tube that goes down the throat. This instrument is called a bronchoscope. See also bronchi.
CA 19-9a tumor marker sometimes produced by colorectal, stomach, bile duct, and pancreatic cancers. It may also be produced in non-cancer conditions. See also tumor markers.
CABcombined androgen blockade. See combination hormone therapy.
cachexia [ka-kek-see-uh]a profound state of general poor health and malnutrition (poor food intake and/or poor food absorption).
calcifications [kals-if-ik-A-shuns]tiny calcium deposits within the breast, seen alone or in clusters. They are often found on a mammogram. Very small deposits may be called microcalcifications. They are a sign of changes within the breast that may need to be followed by more mammograms, or by a biopsy. See also biopsy, mammogram.
cancera group of diseases which cause cells in the body to change and grow out of control. Most types of cancer cells form a lump or mass called a tumor. (Not all tumors are cancer. A tumor that is not cancer is called benign, while a cancerous tumor is called malignant.) A cancerous tumor can invade and destroy healthy tissue. Cells from the cancer can break away and travel to other parts of the body. There they can continue to grow. This spreading process is called metastasis. When cancer spreads, it is still named after the part of the body where it started. For example, if colon cancer spreads to the liver, it is still colon cancer, not liver cancer.
Benign tumors do not grow and spread the way cancer does. They are usually not a threat to life. Note that some types of cancer, such as blood cancers, do not form tumors. They can still threaten life by crowding out normal cells. See also benign, malignant, metastasis, tumor.
cancer care teamthe group of health care professionals who work together to find, treat, and care for people with cancer. The cancer care team may include any or all of the specialists listed. Whether the team is linked formally or informally, there is usually one person who takes the job of coordinating the team. See also medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, pathologist, oncology clinical nurse specialist, oncology social worker, neurosurgeon, surgeon, gynecologist, gynecologic oncologist, urologist.
cancer cella cell that divides and reproduces abnormally and can spread throughout the body, crowding out normal cells and tissue. Cancer cells develop because of damage to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). See also cancer, deoxyribonucleic acid, mutation.
cancer screening testssee screening.
cancer susceptibility genesgenes (the basic unit of heredity) inherited from one’s parents that greatly increase the risk of a person’s developing cancer. About 5% to 15% of all cancers are caused by these genes. See also gene.
cancer vaccinea vaccine used to help the body fight cancer cells. So far, a vaccine has been approved to help treat cancer (not prevent it). It is made for each patient using pieces of their tumor and works by causing their immune system to recognize and attack the cancer cells. There are also researchers trying to develop vaccines to prevent certain types of cancer, although none have yet been approved for use. Another type of vaccine that is already in use reduces cancer risk indirectly, by helping the body fight cancer-causing viruses such as the human papilloma virus (HPV) and the hepatitis B virus. See also human papilloma virus.
cancer-related check-upa routine health exam for cancer in people without signs or symptoms of cancer. The goal of the cancer-related check-up is to find the disease, if it exists, at an early stage, when chances for cure are greatest. Depending on the person’s sex and age, this check-up may include health counseling and exams for cancers of the thyroid, mouth, skin, lymph nodes, testicles, and ovaries. See also detection, screening.
cancer-related fatiguean unusual and ongoing tiredness that can occur with cancer or cancer treatments. It can be overwhelming, last a long time, and interfere with everyday life. Rest does not always relieve it.
cannulaa narrow tube-like device. Different kinds may be used to hold open tissues during laparoscopy, or to give IV medicines and fluids. See also intravenous (IV), laparoscopy.
capsule formationscar tissue that may form around an implant as the body reacts to the foreign object. See also adhesions.
carcinoembryonic antigen [car-sin-o-em-bre-ON-ic an-tuh-jin]a substance normally found in certain fetal tissues. If found in an adult, it may suggest that a cancer, especially one starting in the digestive system, may be present. Tests for this substance may help doctors find out if a colorectal cancer has come back after treatment. The test is not helpful for screening for colorectal cancer because of the large number of false positives and false negatives. See also digestive system, false negative, false positive, screening, tumor marker, colorectal cancer.
carcinogen [car-sin-o-jin]any substance that causes cancer or helps cancer grow. For example, tobacco smoke contains many carcinogens that greatly increase the risk of lung cancer, and many other types of cancer.
carcinoid syndrome [car-sin-oyd sin-drom]A group of symptoms produced by cancer cells that release large amounts of hormones, which cause facial flushing, wheezing, diarrhea, a fast heartbeat, and other symptoms. See also carcinoid tumors, hormone.
carcinoid tumors [car-sin-oyd]also called carcinoids. Tumors that develop from neuroendocrine (nerve and endocrine) cells, usually in the digestive tract or lung. The cancer cells from these tumors release certain hormones into the bloodstream. In about 10% of people, the hormone levels get high enough to cause facial flushing, wheezing, diarrhea, a fast heartbeat, and other symptoms. See also carcinoid syndrome, endocrine glands, hormone.
carcinoma [car-sin-O-ma]a cancer that begins in the lining layer (epithelial cells) of organs. At least 80% of all cancers are carcinomas.
carcinoma in situ [car-sin-O-ma in sy-too]an early stage of cancer in which the tumor is confined to the organ where it first developed. The disease has not invaded other parts of the organ or spread to distant parts of the body. Most in situ carcinomas are highly curable. See also carcinoma.
case managerthe member of a cancer care team, usually a nurse or oncology nurse specialist, who coordinates the patient’s care throughout diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. The case manager acts as a guide through the complex system of health care by getting responses to questions, managing crises, and connecting the patient and family to people or groups that can offer needed help. See also cancer care team.
castration [cass-tray-shun]surgery to remove the testicles; the medical term is orchiectomy. See also androgen deprivation therapy, testicles.
catheter [cath-it-ur]a thin, flexible tube through which fluids enter or leave the body; for example, a tube to drain urine is a Foley catheter.
causal association or causal link [kaw-zul]a relationship in which one factor is thought to be responsible for or cause an outcome; for instance, smoking has a causal link to lung cancer.
CDH1a gene that makes a protein called epithelial cadherin. A mutation in this gene can cause hereditary diffuse gastric cancer (a rare type of stomach cancer) to develop at an early age. Women who inherit changes in this gene also have a higher risk of lobular breast cancer. See also inherited disease, lobular carcinoma in situ, mutation.
CEAsee carcinoembryonic antigen.
cecum [see-kum]a blind pouch near where the small intestine empties into the large intestine, at the start of the colon. See also colon, gastrointestinal tract.
cellthe basic building unit of all living things. Cells replace themselves by splitting and forming new cells (this process is called mitosis). The processes that control the formation of new cells and the death of old cells are disrupted in cancer. See also cancer.
cell cyclethe series of steps that a cell must go through to divide; some chemotherapy drugs work by interfering with the cell cycle. See also chemotherapy.
centigray [cent-uh-gray]a unit for measuring radiation transfer. See also radiation dose.
centimeter [SIN-tuh-me-ter]also written as cm. Metric measure of length, 1/100 of a meter. It takes about 2½ cm to equal 1 inch. See also meter, millimeter.
cerebrospinal fluid [suh-REE-bro-spy-nuhl]also called CSF. A special clear liquid that surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord. See also brain, spinal cord.
cervix [ser-vix]the lower part, or neck, of the womb (uterus), which connects the uterus to the vagina. See also uterus, vagina.
cGySee Gray under radiation dose.
CHEK2a gene that if damaged or mutated, can increase the risk of breast and other types of cancer. This damaged gene can be inherited. See also gene, inherited disease, mutation.
chemical castration [KEM-ih-kul cast-ray-shun]the use of hormone therapy drugs to achieve very low levels of testosterone without surgical removal of the testicles. See also androgen deprivation therapy, castration, testicles.
chemo brain [key-mo brain]also written chemobrain or chemo-brain; sometimes called chemo fog. The mental cloudiness people with cancer sometimes notice before, during, and after chemotherapy.. Despite the name, researchers are finding other factors that also seem to be linked to this problem.
chemoprevention [key-mo-pre-VEN-shun]prevention or reversal of disease using drugs, chemicals, or other substances. This idea is not ready for widespread use in cancer care, but it is a promising area of study. For instance, the drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene are approved to help reduce breast cancer risk among women at very high risk of the disease.
chemotherapy [key-mo-THER-uh-pee]treatment with drugs that kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used, either alone or with surgery and/or radiation, to treat cancer that has spread or come back (recurred), or when there is a strong chance that it could come back. Often called chemo.
chromogenic in situ hybridization or CISH [kro-mo-JEN-ick in sy-too hi-brid-ih-ZA-shun]a lab test that uses small deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) probes to count the number of HER2 genes in breast cancer cells. See also deoxyribonucleic acid, gene, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.
chromosome [KROM-uh-som]strand of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) inside a cell that carries genes, the basic units of heredity. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, one member of each pair from the mother, the other from the father. Each chromosome can contain hundreds or thousands of individual genes. See also deoxyribonucleic acid, gene.
chronic inflammatory bowel diseasesee inflammatory bowel disease.
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD [kron-ick ob-struck-tiv PULL-muh-nerr-ee]lung disease such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis, that harms the lungs and makes it harder to breathe. More common in smokers.
chyme [kime]the thick, nearly liquid mixture of partly digested food and digestive juices found in the stomach and small intestine.
Claus modela tool used to help health professionals estimate a woman’s breast cancer risk. It gives an estimate of breast cancer risk based on certain risk factors.
clavicle [klav-ih-kuhl]the collarbone. One sits above each breast and is joined to the breastbone (sternum). Lymph nodes are above and below this bone. See also lymph node, infraclavicular, supraclavicular.
clinical breast examination [CBE]an examination of the breasts done by a health professional such as a doctor or nurse. Clinical breast exams are recommended every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s, and every year for women age 40 and older.
clinical stagesee staging.
clinical trialsresearch studies that use human volunteers to test new drugs or other treatments to compare current, standard treatments with others that may be better. They may also test new ways to diagnose or prevent a disease. Before a new treatment or test is used on people, it is studied in the lab. If lab studies suggest it will work, the next step is to test it in patients. There are 3 main questions the researchers want to answer.
- Does this treatment or test work better than what we use now?
- What side effects does it cause?
- Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
colectomy [kuh-lek-tuh-me]surgery that removes all (total colectomy) or part (partial colectomy or hemicolectomy) of the colon. See also colon, bowel, colostomy, segmental resection, anastomosis.
colitis [kuh-lie-tis]a general term for inflammation of the large intestine (colon). Colitis can be intermittent (it comes and goes) or chronic (long-lasting, as in ulcerative colitis). See also colon, inflammatory bowel disease.
colo-anal anastomosis [ko-lo-A-nuhl uh-nas-tuh-MO-sis]surgery for rectal cancer in which the rectum is removed and the colon is attached to the anus. Sometimes a small pouch is made to take the place of the rectum, by doubling back a short segment of colon (colonic J-pouch) or enlarging a segment (coloplasty). A temporary colostomy is needed while the pouch heals. See also anus, colon, colostomy, low anterior resection, rectum.
colon [ko-lun]the major part of the large intestine. The colon is a muscular tube about 5 feet long. It is divided into 4 sections, starting with the ascending, transverse, descending, and ending with the sigmoid colon. It continues the process of absorbing water and mineral nutrients from food that was started in the small intestine. The cecum and the rectum mark the beginning and end of the colon, though they are not actually part of it. See also rectum, cecum.
colon wallseveral layers of muscle and mucous membrane make up the colon wall. Starting with the inside layer and moving outward, they are called the mucosa, muscularis mucosae, submucosa, muscularis propria, subserosa, and serosa. Cancers that start inside the colon and grow outward may grow through all these layers and invade other organs. These same layers are present in most of the intestines (digestive tube).
colonoscope [ko-LAHN-uh-scope]a thin, flexible, hollow lighted tube about the thickness of a finger. It is put in through the rectum and moved up into the colon. The colonoscope is connected to a video camera and monitor screen so the doctor can look closely at the inside of the entire colon. Compare to sigmoidoscope. See also colon, colonoscopy, rectum.
colonoscopy [ko-lun-AH-skuh-pee]a procedure that lets a doctor see inside the large intestine, including the colon, to find polyps or cancer. See also colon, colorectal cancer screening, colonoscopy preparation.
colonoscopy preparation [ko-lun-AH-skuh-pee]also called colonoscopy prep. The use of a liquid diet along with laxatives and enemas to clean out the entire colon before the colonoscopy or virtual colonoscopy is done. This preparation is usually started 1 or 2 days before the colonoscopy. See also colon, colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy.
colony-stimulating factors [CSF]types of growth factors that promote growth and division of blood-producing cells in the bone marrow. CSFs are naturally produced in the body. Extra amounts may be given to reduce or prevent certain side effects of chemotherapy that may be caused by not having enough blood cells. They may also be given before harvesting stem cells from a donor for peripheral blood stem cell transplant. See also bone marrow, chemotherapy, hematopoietic stem cell transplant, stem cells.
color Doppler ultrasounda type of ultrasound that uses a computer to convert sounds into colors to represent blood flow within an organ. It may be used to help find cancers in the prostate, since tumors often have more blood flow than normal tissue. See also prostate, transrectal ultrasound, ultrasound.
colorectal cancer [ko-lo-REK-tuhl]colon or rectal cancer. Since colon cancer and rectal cancer have many features in common they are often referred to together as colorectal cancer. See also colon, rectum.
colorectal cancer screening [ko-lo-REK-tuhl]testing done to find abnormalities early, before signs and symptoms start. This allows cancer to be found earlier, when it is most curable. Some types of screening allow doctors to find and remove polyps, which can even prevent cancer from developing. See also screening, barium enema, colonoscopy, fecal occult blood test, fecal immunochemical test, polyp, sigmoidoscopy.
colostomy [kuh-lahs-tuh-me]an operation in which the end of the colon is attached to an opening created in the belly (abdominal wall) to get rid of body waste (stool). A colostomy is sometimes needed after surgery for cancer of the rectum. People with colon cancer sometimes have a temporary colostomy but they rarely need a permanent one. See also colon, rectum.
colposcopy [kol-pa-skuh-pee]a close examination of the inside of the vagina and the cervix (bottom of the womb) using a colposcope, a lighted magnifying device. See also cervix, vagina.
combination hormone therapyuse of multiple ways to affect the body’s hormones. For example, complete blockage of androgen (male hormone) production that may include castration or use of LHRH analogs, plus the use of anti-androgens can be used to treat prostate cancer. This is also called combined androgen blockade (CAB), total hormonal ablation, total androgen blockade, or total androgen ablation. See also androgen, androgen deprivation therapy, castration, hormone therapy, luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogs.
combined androgen blockade [CAB]see combination hormone therapy.
combined modality therapy [mo-dal-ih-tee]2 or more types of treatment used alternately or together to get the best results. For example, surgery for cancer is often followed by chemotherapy to kill any cancer cells that may have spread from the original site. See also adjuvant therapy, neoadjuvant therapy, chemotherapy.
comedocarcinoma [kom-id-o-car-sin-NO-muh]ductal carcinoma in situ that has dead or dying cancer cells in its center. See also ductal carcinoma in situ.
complementary therapya non-standard treatment (often self-prescribed) used along with standard medical treatment. Some complementary therapies may help relieve certain symptoms of cancer, relieve side effects of standard cancer therapy, or improve a patient’s sense of well-being. These can include herbs, meditation, massage or touch, and many other types of treatments. The ACS recommends that patients thinking about using any alternative or complementary therapy discuss it first with a member of their health care team, since many of these treatments are unproven and some can be harmful. Compare with alternative therapy.
complexed PSAthe amount of PSA (prostate-specific antigen) in the blood that is bound to other proteins (the portion of PSA that is not “free”). This test is done instead of checking the total and free PSA, and it could give the same amount of information as the other two done separately. Studies are now under way to see if this test provides the same level of accuracy. See also percent-free PSA, prostate-specific antigen.
computed tomography scan [toe-mahg-ruh-fee]also called a CT scan or CAT scan. An imaging test in which many x-rays are taken from different angles of a part of the body. These images are combined by a computer to make cross-sectional pictures of internal organs. Except for the injection of a dye (needed in some but not all cases), this is a painless procedure that can be done in an outpatient clinic. See also outpatient, imaging studies, ionizing radiation.
computer-aided detection or diagnosis [CAD]a process in which a radiologist uses a computer program to help interpret a mammogram or other imaging test. See also imaging studies, mammogram.
concurrent treatmenttreatment or therapy that is given at the same time as another treatment.
conditioning treatmentchemotherapy and/or radiation therapy used to destroy the bone marrow or reduce its function in order to prepare for a hematopoietic stem cell transplant. See also hematopoietic stem cell transplant, myeloablative treatment, reduced-intensity conditioning.
conformal proton beam therapya technique for giving radiation therapy that uses proton beams rather than standard radiation. (Protons are parts of atoms.) Unlike standard radiation beams, which release energy both before and after hitting the target, proton beams cause less damage to tissues they pass through. They release their energy after traveling a certain distance. Proton beam therapy is still fairly new and not offered in all treatment centers. It has not been directly compared to standard radiation methods, but the hope is that it may be able to deliver more radiation to the cancer with less damage to normal tissues. See also conformal radiation therapy, external beam radition therapy, ionizing radiation.
conformal radiation therapya newer type of radiation treatment that uses a special computer which helps shape the beams of radiation to the shape of the tumor. It also delivers the beams from several different directions rather than all going in from one angle. This cuts down the amount of exposure that any one section of healthy tissue gets by spreading out the entry points. See also external beam radiation therapy, ionizing radiation, photon beam radiation therapy.
control groupin research or clinical trials, the group that does not get the treatment being tested. In cancer research, this group most often gets standard treatment (which has already been tested and is in general use). If no standard treatment exists, the control group may get a placebo or sham treatment. Sometimes called the comparison group. See also clinical trials.
conventional therapy or treatmentsee standard therapy.
COPDsee chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
cord blood transplantsee umbilical cord blood transplant.
core needle biopsya procedure used to get tissue samples. The needles remove a small cylinder of tissue, about 1/16 inch across. A pathologist looks at these samples under a microscope to see if cancer is present. See also biopsy, biopsy gun, pathologist.
corpora cavernosa [kor-puh-ruh kav-er-NO-suh]two chambers that run along on each side of the length of the penis, which fill with blood during an erection. A smaller third chamber called the corpus spongiosum also fills during a normal erection. See also corpus spongiosum.
corpus spongiosum [kor-pus spun-jee-OH-sum]the chamber that runs along the length of the penis (around the urethra) that fills with blood during an erection. The 2 larger chambers on each side of the penis called the corpora cavernosa also fill during a normal erection. See also corpora cavernosa, urethra.
corticosteroid [kor-tih-ko-STEER-oyd]any of a number of steroid substances that come from the cortex (outer layer) of the adrenal glands. They are sometimes used as cancer treatments or to reduce nausea. They are also used to relieve bone pain in patients with cancer in the bones.
cranium [cray-nee-um]the part of the skull bones that enclose and protect the brain, and support the structures of the face. See also brain.
Crohn’s disease or Crohn’s colitis [kronz]a type of chronic inflammatory bowel disease. In this condition, the small bowel or, less often, the colon is inflamed over a long period of time. This increases a person’s risk of developing colon cancer. Colorectal cancer screening should be started earlier and done more often in people with Crohn’s. See also colon, colorectal cancer screening, inflammatory bowel disease, small intestine.
cryoablation [cry-o-ah-BLAY-shun]use of extreme cold to freeze and kill cancer cells.
cryosurgery [cry-o-SUR-juh-ree]see cryoablation.
CT colonographysee virtual colonoscopy.
CT scan or CAT scansee computed tomography.
CT-guided needle biopsya procedure that uses special x-rays to show a tumor while the doctor advances a biopsy needle toward it. The images are repeated until the doctor is sure the needle is in the tumor or mass. A biopsy is then taken from it to be looked at under the microscope. See also biopsy.
curative treatment [kur-uh-tiv]treatment aimed at producing a cure. Compare with palliative treatment.
cyst [sist]a fluid-filled mass that is usually not cancer. The fluid can be removed to be tested. See also needle aspiration.
cystoscope [SIS-tuh-skop]a thin, flexible tube with a lens and a light. It is put into the bladder through the urethra, allowing the doctor to see the insides of these organs. See also bladder, cystoscopy, urethra.
cystoscopy [sis-tah-skuh-pee]a procedure that looks at the inside of the urethra and bladder with a thin, flexible, lighted tube called a cystoscope. See also bladder, cystoscope, urethra.
cytogenetics [sy-toe-juh-NET-icks]tests that look for abnormal changes (mutations) in whole chromosomes. Also called chromosome analysis, it is one of many different types of genetic tests available today. It is often done on bone marrow samples in patients with leukemia. See also bone marrow, chromosome, mutation, genetic testing.
cytokine [sy-toe-kine]A substance that is made by cells of the body’s immune system that can affect the immune response. Cytokines can also be made in the lab and given to people to help the body’s immune responses against cancer. See also immune system.
cytology [sy-tahl-uh-jee]the branch of science that deals with the structure and function of cells. Also refers to tests to diagnose cancer and other diseases by looking at cells under the microscope. See also cell.
cytometry [sy-tahm-uh-tree]the counting and measuring of cells using a machine called a flow cytometer. See also cells.
cytotoxic [sy-tuh-TOK-sick]toxic to cells; cell-killing. See also cells.
D & Csee dilation and curettage.
debulk [de-bulk]to surgically reduce the volume or amount of cancer, usually by removing all that can be safely taken out.
deoxyribonucleic acid [dee-ok-see-ri-bo-noo-KLEE-ick]also called DNA. The genetic “blueprint” found in the nucleus (center) of each cell. DNA holds genetic information on cell growth, division, and function. See also mutation.
depot injection [dee-poe or dep-oh]an injection (shot) of a drug in a form that allows it to enter the bloodstream slowly over time. These drugs can often be given every month or even once every few months.
dermatologist [der-muh-TAHL-uh-jist]a doctor who specializes in skin diseases.
descending colon [de-send-ing ko-lun]the third section of the colon. This section starts at the end of the transverse (crosswise) section and continues downward on the left side of the abdomen (belly) before connecting with the sigmoid colon. See also colon, ascending colon, transverse colon, sigmoid colon.
detectionfinding disease. Early detection usually means that the disease is found at an early stage, when it is easier to treat, before it has grown large or spread. Certain tests are used before a person has any symptoms to try to find cancer early. This can help because many forms of cancer can reach an advanced stage without causing symptoms. See also screening.
diagnosis [die-ug-NO-sis]identifying a disease by its signs or symptoms, and by using imaging tests, lab tests, or biopsy. For most types of cancer, the earlier a diagnosis of cancer is made, the better the chance for long-term survival. See also biopsy, imaging studies, sign, symptom.
diaphragm [DIE-uh-fram]a dome-shaped muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen (belly). The diaphragm moves down to pull air into the lungs, and up to push it out.
dietary supplementa product, such as a vitamin, mineral, or herb, intended to improve health but not to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Because dietary supplements are not legally considered drugs, their manufacturers can sell them without having to prove they are safe or effective.
diethylstilbestrol [die-ETH-ul-still-bes-trahl]a man-made form of estrogen which can increase risk of certain cancers for anyone who was exposed to it during gestation (as an embryo or fetus if the mother took it during pregnancy). Women who took this drug while pregnant may be at a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. It is no longer available in the United States. See also estrogen.
dietitian or registered dietitian [die-uh-TISH-un]an expert in the area of food and diet. A registered dietitian (RD) has at least a bachelor’s degree and has passed a national competency exam. The term nutritionist is also used, but there are no licensing or educational requirements for using this title in most states.
differentiation [dif-uhr-en-she-A-shun]the normal process through which cells mature so they can do the jobs they were meant to do. Cancer cells are less differentiated than normal cells. Pathologists (doctors who diagnose diseases by looking at or testing samples in the lab) grade the cells to evaluate and report the degree of a cancer’s differentiation.
digestive systemthe collection of organs (some of which make up the gastrointestinal tract, or GI tract) that processes food for energy and rids the body of solid waste matter.
digital mammographya way of storing an x-ray picture of the breast as a computer image rather than on the usual x-ray film. Digital mammography can be combined with computer-assisted detection or diagnosis (CAD), a process in which the radiologist uses the computer to help interpret or “read” the mammogram. See also radiologist, mammogram.
digital rectal exam [DRE]an exam in which the doctor puts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for anything that isn’t normal. This simple test, which is generally not painful, can find many rectal cancers and some prostate cancers. See also prostate, rectum.
dihydrotestosterone [die-hi-dro-tes-TOSS-ter-own]a powerful form of male hormone produced by the action of 5-alpha reductase (a prostate enzyme) on testosterone. See also 5-alpha reductase, testosterone.
dilation and curettage [die-lay-shun and cure-uh-TAZH]also called D & C. A procedure in which the cervix is opened slightly so that tissue from the lining of the uterus (womb) can be removed. This is often used to get tissue for biopsy. In some cases, all of the contents of the uterus are removed. See also biopsy, cervix, uterus.
dimplinga pucker or indentation of the skin. On the breast, it might be a sign of cancer.
disease-free survival ratethe percentage of people with a certain cancer who are still living and have no evidence of cancer at a certain period of time (usually 5 years) after treatment. Compare to five-year survival rate, five-year relative survival rate.
dissection [di-sek-shun]surgery to divide, separate, or remove tissues. See also axillary dissection.
distant cancercancer that has spread far from its original location or primary site to distant organs or lymph nodes. Sometimes called distant metastases. Compare to localized cancer. See also primary site, metastasis.
diverticulitis [die-ver-tick-you-LIE-tis]small pouches that form at weak points in the colon wall, which can cause slight bleeding and positive results on fecal occult blood tests (FOBTs) and fecal immunochemical tests (FITs). See also colon, fecal occult blood tests, fecal immunochemical tests.
DNAsee deoxyribonucleic acid.
DNA repairthe process of correcting the genetic mistakes that are made each time a cell divides. If the repair process does not go right, it can increase the chances of a person having some forms of cancer. See also deoxyribonucleic acid, mutation.
dopamine [dope-uh-meen]a chemical messenger in the brain and nervous system. Dopamine is thought to control balance, movement, and other body functions. It also affects mood, memory, and attention and is linked to feelings of pleasure.
dose-dense chemotherapygiving the usual doses of chemo closer together (usually every 2 weeks rather than every 3-weeks). This aggressive schedule requires drugs called growth factors to be given to prevent low blood counts. This approach can lead to more side effects and be harder to take, so it is only used to treat patients who have a higher chance of the cancer coming back after treatment. See also growth factors
dosimetrist [doe-sim-uh-trist]a person who plans and calculates the correct radiation dose for each patient’s cancer treatment. See also radiation.
double contrast barium enematest used to help diagnose colorectal cancer. Barium sulfate, a chalky substance, is put in through the rectum to partly fill and open up the colon. When the colon is about half-full of barium, air is put in to expand the colon. Abnormal changes in the colon can then show up on x-ray films. Also called DCBE and barium enema with air contrast. See also barium enema, colon, colorectal cancer screening, rectum.
doubling timefor cancer in general, the time it takes for a cell to divide or for a cancer to double itself in size. Cancers vary in doubling time from 8 to 600 days, averaging 100 to 120 days. Thus, a cancer may be present for many years before it can be found. Compare to PSA doubling time.
DREsee digital rectal exam.
drug resistancethe ability of cancer cells to resist the effects of the chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer.
ducta hollow passage through which fluids such as bile or saliva to leave the glands where they are made. In the breast, milk passes from the lobule (which makes the milk) through ducts to the nipple. See also glands.
duct ectasia [ek-tay-zhuh]widening of the ducts of the breast, often related to breast inflammation called periductal mastitis. Duct ectasia is benign (not cancer). Symptoms of this condition are a nipple discharge, swelling, retraction of the nipple, or a lump that can be felt.
ductal carcinoma in situ [duck-tul car-sin-O-ma in sy-too]also called DCIS and intraductal carcinoma. Cancer cells that start in the milk passages (ducts) but have not grown through the duct walls into the nearby tissue. This is a highly curable form of breast cancer that is treated with surgery, or surgery plus radiation therapy.
ductogram [DUCK-tuh-gram]a test in which a fine plastic tube is put into the nipple of the breast and a contrast dye is injected to outline the shape of the duct. X-rays are then taken to see if there is a mass. Also called a galactogram. See also nipple, duct.
Dukes staging systemone of the staging systems for colorectal cancer, which uses the letters A through C. See also staging, colorectal cancer.
durable power of attorney for health carea legal document that allows you to appoint a person to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to do so for yourself in the future. This is a type of advanced directive. Compare to living will. See also advance directives.
dysphagia [dis-fay-zhe-uh]trouble swallowing or eating.
dysplasia [dis-play-zhuh]abnormal changes of groups of cells that may lead to cancer.
early detectionsee detection.
edema [uh-deem-uh]build-up of fluid in the tissues, causing swelling. See also lymphedema.
efficacy [EF-ih-kuh-see]effectiveness. The ability of a treatment to produce the desired result.
ejaculate [ih-JACK-you-late]to release semen during male orgasm. See also retrograde ejaculation, semen.
electrofulguration [e-lek-tro-ful-ger-A-shun]also known as electrocautery. A type of treatment that destroys cancer cells by burning with an electrical current.
embolization [em-buh-li-ZAY-shun]a type of treatment that reduces the blood supply to the cancer by injecting materials to plug up the artery that supplies blood to the tumor.
emesis [em-eh-sis]vomit or vomiting.
endocavitary radiation therapy [end-oh-KAV-uh-terr-ee]radiation for cancer delivered from a handheld device that is placed inside a body opening. It may be given alone or with external beam radiation therapy. See also external beam radiation therapy, radiation therapy.
endocrine glands [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, testicles, thyroid.
endocrine therapy [en-duh-krin]manipulation of hormones to treat a disease or condition. See also hormone therapy.
endocrinologist [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.
endometrium [en-doe-ME-tree-um]the lining of the womb (uterus). See also uterus.
endorectal coil [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.
endorectal ultrasound [en-doe-REK-tuhl]a test that uses sound waves from a probe placed in the rectum; also called transrectal ultrasound. It can be used 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, ultrasound.
endoscopy [en-dahs-kuh-pee]inspection of the inner linings of hollow body organs or cavities using a thin, flexible, lighted tube called an endoscope.
enterostomal therapist [en-ter-oh-STO-mal ther-uh-pist]a health professional, often a nurse, who teaches people how to care for ostomies (surgically created openings such as a colostomy) and other wounds. See also stoma.
enucleation [ee-noo-klee-AY-shun]surgical removal of something without cutting into it. Sometimes used to describe removal of a whole tumor; also may describe removing the whole eyeball while leaving eye muscles and other contents of the eye socket.
enzyme [en-zime]proteins that start, help, or speed up the rate of chemical reactions in living cells.
epidemiology [ep-ih-deem-ee-AHL-uh-jee]the study of diseases in populations (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 how many people have cancer; who gets certain types of cancer; and what factors (such as environment, job hazards, family patterns, and personal habits, like smoking and diet) are linked to developing cancer.
epidermal growth factor [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.
epididymis [ep-ih-DID-uh-mus]tiny tubes inside the scrotum that sit 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.
epidural anesthesia [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.
epiglottis [ep-uh-GLOT-is]a thin, valve-like, cartilage structure at the root of the tongue that covers the glottis (the vocal cord area) when you swallow. This keeps food and drink from getting into the windpipe (trachea).
erectile dysfunctionalso called ED or impotence. Not being able to have or keep an erection of the penis.
esophageal speech [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 and a “belching” type of speech can be produced. New devices, improved surgery, and the use of chemotherapy and radiation therapy instead of surgery have reduced the need to learn esophageal speech.
esophagus [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.
estrogena hormone found in both men and women, but with higher levels in women. Often called the female sex hormone, it is made mostly by the ovaries, and in smaller amounts by the adrenal cortex. 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 adrenal gland, estrogen receptor assay, estrogen therapy, hormone, hormone therapy, ovary.
estrogen receptor assaya lab test done on a sample of the cancer to see whether estrogen receptors are present. 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 cancers are more likely to respond to hormone therapy. See also estrogen, hormone therapy.
estrogen therapythe use of estrogen from other sources after a woman’s ovaries stop making it. This type of hormone therapy is used for short periods to relieve symptoms of menopause. Estrogen alone can raise the risk of endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the womb), so a women who still has a uterus (womb) is usually also given progesterone to lower this risk. Sometimes called estrogen replacement therapy, it can also increase breast cancer risk in some women. See also estrogen, menopausal hormone therapy, menopause, progesterone.
etiology [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.
excision [ex-sih-zhun]removal by cutting the body (surgery). This can mean cutting out a tumor or cutting off a body part.
expectant managementalso called watchful waiting. In some cases of prostate cancer, close monitoring that is done instead of starting active treatment right away. This may be a reasonable choice for older men with small tumors that might grow very slowly. Because the man is being watched carefully, changes are noted quickly, and treatment can be started right away when needed.
external beam radiation therapyalso called EBRT. Radiation from a source outside the body that is focused on the cancer. It is much like getting an x-ray, but for a longer time. Compare to brachytherapy. See also radiation therapy.
false negativetest result implying a condition does not exist when in fact it does.
false positivetest result implying a condition exists when in fact it does not.
familial adenomatous polyposis [fa-mil-e-uhl ad-no-muh-tus or ad-uh-NO-muh-tus pa-lih-PO-sis]also called FAP. An inherited condition that puts a person at risk for getting colorectal cancer when they are young. People with this syndrome develop many polyps in the colon and rectum as well as tumors in other parts of the body. Usually one or more of these polyps becomes cancer if it is not removed. FAP is caused by changes in the APC gene. See also APC gene, colon, gastrointestinal tract, polyp, rectum, tumor.
fascia [fash-uh]a sheet or thin band of fibrous tissue that covers muscles and some organs of the body.
fat necrosis [nuh-crow-sis]the death of fat cells, usually following injury. Fat necrosis is not cancer, but it can cause lumps and pulling of the tissues. When this happens in the breast, it can be confused with breast cancer.
fatigue [fuh-teeg]a common symptom during cancer treatment, a bone-weary tiredness that doesn’t get better with rest. For some people, this can last for a long time after treatment.
fecal immunochemical test [fee-kuhl im-you-no-KIM-uh-kuhl test]also called FIT. A test to look for hidden blood in the stool, which could be a sign of cancer. The test is not affected by vitamins or foods, though it still requires 2 or 3 stool samples to give accurate results. See also colorectal cancer screening, false positive, fecal occult blood test.
fecal occult blood test or FOBTa test for hidden blood in the feces (stool). This may be a sign of cancer, or it could be blood from other sources. See also colorectal cancer screening, fecal immunochemical test.
feces [fee-sees]solid waste matter; stool.
femur [fee-mer]the thigh bone, which is the longest, largest, and strongest bone in the body. It extends from the hip (pelvis) to the knee.
fiber, dietaryincludes a wide variety of plant carbohydrates that are not digested by humans. Fibers are grouped as soluble (like oat bran) and insoluble (like wheat bran). Beans, vegetables, whole grains, and fruits are good sources of fiber. Links between fiber intake alone and risk of cancer are not proven, but eating these foods is still recommended because they contain other substances that may help prevent cancer. They also have other health benefits.
fibroadenoma [fi-bro-ad-uh-NO-muh]a breast tumor made of fibrous and glandular tissue that is not cancer. On a clinical breast exam or breast self-exam, it usually feels like a firm, round, smooth lump. These usually occur in young women. See also glandular tissue.
fibrocystic changes [fie-bro-SIS-tick]a term that describes certain changes in the breast that are not cancer. Symptoms of this condition are breast swelling or pain. The doctor or nurse will look for nodules, lumpiness, or a discharge from the nipples. Because these symptoms or other signs can sometimes look like breast cancer, a mammogram or a biopsy of breast tissue may be needed to show that there is no cancer. See also biopsy, mammogram.
fibrosis [fie-bro-sis]formation of scar-like (fibrous) tissue. This can happen anywhere in the body.
fibula [fib-yuh-luh]a bone in the calf; the thinner, outside bone of the 2 bones in lower leg that go from the knee to the ankle. See also tibia.
fine needle aspiration biopsy [asp-er-A-shun by-op-see]also called FNA or FNAB. A procedure in which a thin needle is used to draw up (aspirate) samples to look at under a microscope. See also aspiration, biopsy.
first-degree relativea genetically related (blood-related) parent, sibling (brother or sister), or child.
FISHsee fluorescent in situ hybridization.
fistula [fist-chu-luh]an abnormal passage, opening, or connection between 2 internal organs or from an internal organ to the outside of the body.
five-year relative survival ratefive-year relative survival rates compare the number of people who are still alive 5 years after their cancer was found to the survival of others the same age who don’t have cancer. This helps correct for other causes of death and is a better way to see the impact that cancer can have on survival. Still, these survival rates are not helpful in predicting any one person’s outcome. Five-year survival rates are based on the most recent information available, but they may include information from patients treated several years earlier. These numbers do not take into account advances in treatment that have often occurred. See also five-year survival rate.
five-year survival ratethe percentage of people with a given cancer who are alive 5 years or longer after diagnosis. Five-year survival rates are based on the most recent information available, but they may include information from patients treated several years earlier. These numbers do not take into account advances in treatment that have often occurred. They only paint a very general picture of how people in the past have done with the same type of cancer. Note that the 5-year survival rate counts survivors only, regardless of the cause of death (so some non-survivors will have died from causes other than cancer). These survival rates are not helpful in predicting any one person’s outcome. See also five-year relative survival rate.
flexible sigmoidoscopysee sigmoidoscopy.
flow cytometry [sy-tahm-uh-tree]a test of tumor tissue to see how fast the tumor cells are growing and if the tumor cells contain a normal or abnormal amount of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). This test is used to help predict how fast a cancer is likely to grow and spread. See also deoxyribonucleic acid, ploidy, s-phase fraction.
fluorescent in situ hybridization [floo-res-uhnt in sy-too hi-brid-ih-ZAY-shun]a test that can help look at chromosomes. It uses special fluorescent dyes that only attach to certain parts of chromosomes and can find specific deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequences. It can be used to diagnose, to evaluate prognosis (disease outlook), or to look at the remission of a disease. See also chromosome, cytogenetics, deoxyribonucleic acid, remission.
focus [fo-kus]a point at which rays of light or radiation beams come together. Also used to describe a region of disease in the body. The plural can be focuses or foci (fo-sy).
follicle [fah-lick-uhl]a sac or pouch-like structure. There are many types of follicles of all sizes in the body; for example, in the scalp, around the teeth, in lymph cells, in the thyroid, and in the ovaries. See also follicular.
follicular [fah-lick-yuh-ler]relating to a follicle or follicles. In medicine, may refer to a type of cell in the thyroid, or to a type of cancer that starts in these follicular cells. It can also refer to a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (see also follicle, non-Hodgkin lymphoma).
fracture [frack-chur]a partial or complete break, usually in bone.
free-PSA ratiosee percent-free PSA.
frozen sectiona very thin slice of body tissue that has been quick-frozen for the pathologist to look at under a microscope while the patient is still in surgery. This method is sometimes used because it gives a quick diagnosis, and can tell a surgeon whether or not to continue with the procedure. The diagnosis is confirmed in a few days by a more detailed study called a permanent section. See also biopsy, permanent section, pathologist.
galactocele [guh-lack-tuh-seal]a clogged milk duct; a cyst filled with milk. It may occur in the breast during breast-feeding. See also cyst, duct.
Gardner syndromelike familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), Gardner syndrome is an inherited condition in which polyps develop at a young age and often lead to cancer. It can also cause benign (not cancerous) tumors of the skin, soft connective tissue, and bones. See also APC gene, familial adenomatous polyposis, polyp.
gastric [gas-trick]of or referring to the stomach.
gastroenterologist [gas-tro-en-ter-AHL-uh-jist]a doctor who specializes in diseases of the digestive (gastrointestinal) tract, such as the esophagus (swallowing tube), stomach, small intestine, and large intestine, as well as the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. See also esophagus, large intestine, liver, pancreas, small intestine, stomach.
gastrointestinal stromal tumors [gas-tro-in-TEST-uh-nul stro-muhl too-mers]also called GISTs. Tumors that grow from special cells on the intestinal wall known as the interstitial cells of Cajal. These tumors may or may not be cancer. GIST cancers are very different from other more common types of GI tract cancers in treatment and outlook. See also gastrointestinal tract.
gastrointestinal tract [gas-tro-in-TEST-uh-nul trakt]also called the GI tract or the digestive tract. It is made up of those organs and structures that process and prepare food to be used for energy; for example, the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine.
genea piece of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that has information on inherited traits such as hair color, eye color, and height, as well as susceptibility to certain diseases. See also deoxyribonucleic acid, mutation.
gene therapya type of treatment being studied in which defective genes would be replaced with normal ones. The new genes could be delivered into the cells by viruses or proteins. See also gene.
genetic counselingthe process of counseling people who might have a gene that makes them more likely to develop cancer. The purpose of counseling is to explore what the genetic test results might mean, help them decide whether they wish to be tested, and support them before and after the test. See also gene, genetic counselor, genetic testing.
genetic counselora specially trained health professional who helps people as they consider genetic testing, as they adjust to the test results, and as they consider whatever screening and preventive measures are best for them. They can also help a person understand what their results may mean for other family members, See also genetic counseling, genetic testing.
genetic testingtests that can be done to see if a person has certain gene changes known to increase cancer risk. Such testing is not recommended for everyone, but for people with certain types of family history. Genetic counseling should be part of the genetic testing process. See also genetic counseling.
genome [jee-nome]the total deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and sometimes ribonucleic acid (RNA) in a single cell, representing all of the genetic information of the organism. The term genome can also refer to certain types of genetic material, such as that in the cell’s nucleus (nuclear genome) or mitochondria (mitochondrial genome). See also deoxyribonucleic acid, gene, ribonucleic acid.
germ cellthe reproductive cells of the body, that is, ova (eggs) or sperm. See also ova, sperm.
GI tractsee gastrointestinal tract.
glandsa cell or group of cells that make and release substances to be used by the body or sent outside of it. The sweat glands are some examples of organs that make and release substances. See also duct, endocrine glands.
glandular cells [glan-juh-luhr]the cells in a gland that make substances. For example, glandular cells in the prostate make the milky fluid which becomes part of the semen.
glandular tissue [glan-juh-luhr tish-oo]tissue that makes and secretes a substance. For instance, the lobules of the breast are glandular tissue because they make breast milk. See also lobules.
glansthe head of the penis.
Gleason gradea number describing how abnormal prostate cancer cells look based on the Gleason system. A pathologist assigns a grade number from 1 through 5 based on how much the cancer cells under the microscope look like normal prostate cells. Those that look a lot like normal cells are graded 1, while those that look the least like normal cells are graded 5. See also Gleason score, grade, pathologist, prostate.
Gleason score or Gleason sumthe sum of the 2 Gleason grades used classify prostate cancer based on how the cells look under the microscope. Because prostate cancers often have areas with different grades, a grade is assigned to the 2 areas that make up most of the cancer. These 2 grades are added to give a Gleason score between 2 and 10. This is used along with other information to stage the cancer. The higher the Gleason score, the faster the cancer is likely to grow and the more likely it is to spread beyond the prostate. See also Gleason grade, prostate, staging.
gradethe grade of a cancer tells how abnormal its cells look under the microscope. There are different grading systems for different types of cancers. Each grading system divides cancer into those that look the most normal, the least normal, and those in between. Grading is done by a pathologist who looks at sample tissue from the biopsy. Cancers with more abnormal-looking cells tend to grow and spread more quickly and have a worse prognosis (outlook). See also biopsy, pathologist, staging.
graft-versus-host disease [GVHD]the condition that results when the immune cells of a transplant (usually a bone marrow or other type of stem cell transplant) from a donor attack the tissues of the person receiving the transplant. See also allogeneic stem cell transplant, bone marrow, hematopoietic stem cell transplant, stem cells, umbilical cord blood transplant.
gray [Gy]a unit for measuring radiation transfer. See also radiation dose.
growth factorsnaturally occurring proteins that make cells grow and divide. Too much growth factor production by some cancer cells helps them grow quickly. New treatments to block these growth factors are being tested in clinical trials. Other growth factors are sometimes used to help normal cells recover from side effects of chemotherapy.
guaiac [gwi-ack]substance used to test stool to see if it contains blood. See also fecal occult blood test.
gynecologic oncologist [guy-nuh-kuh-LA-jik on-kahl-uh-jist]a doctor who specializes in cancers of the female reproductive (sex) organs. See also cancer care team.
gynecologist [guy-nuh-KAHL-uh-jist]a doctor who specializes in women’s health.
gynecomastia [guy-nuh-ko-MAST-tee-uh]male breast enlargement, sometimes with breast tenderness; a possible side effect of some hormone treatments. See also hormone therapy.
HDR brachytherapysee high-dose rate brachytherapy.
health care power of attorneysee durable power of attorney for health care.
hematochezia [he-muh-toe-KEEZ-ee-uh or hem-at-uh-KEEZ-ee-uh]bright red blood in the stool.
hematocrit [he-mat-uh-krit]the percentage of the blood volume made up of red blood cells. This can get low in people with cancer. The normal range varies by lab, but typically is around 37% to 52% of the blood volume.
hematologist [he-muh-TAHL-uh-jist]a doctor who specializes in diseases of the blood and blood-forming tissues.
hematoma [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.
hematopoietic stem cell transplant [he-muh-toe-poi-ET-ick]procedure used to restock 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). Allogeneic stem cell transplants can come from a matched donor or from the banked umbilical cord blood of a newborn. See also autologous stem cell transplant, allogeneic stem cell transplant, bone marrow, stem cells.
hematuria [he-muh-TUR-ee-uh]blood in the urine.
hemicolectomy [hem-ee-ko-LEK-tuh-me]surgical removal of part of the colon.
hemoglobin [HE-muh-glo-bin]the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen, which is often measured in a complete blood count. Hemoglobin can get very low in people with cancer, especially during certain kinds of treatment. Normal ranges vary by lab, but typically are around 12-18 gm/dL.
hemorrhoids [hem-uh-royds]large varicose 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.
hepatomegaly [hep-at-o-MEG-uh-lee]enlargement of the liver.
HER2 gene [sometimes called HER2/neu]see human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.
hereditary cancer syndromeconditions linked with cancers that occur in several family members because of an inherited, mutated gene. See also mutation, gene.
hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer [huh-RED-ih-ter-ee non-pah-lih-PO-sis]also called HNPCC. 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, small bowel cancer, and cancer of the lining of the kidney or the ureters. People with this condition tend to develop cancer at a young age without first having many polyps. See also polyp.
hereditary prostate cancer genesany of a number of genes that are linked to prostate cancer. Inherited deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) 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 deoxyribonucleic acid, gene, prostate.
hesitancybeing unable to start the stream of urine right away.
high riskwhen the chance of developing a disease such as cancer is much greater than that normally seen in the general population. People may be at high risk from many factors, including heredity (such as a family history of breast cancer), personal habits (such as smoking), age (older people get cancer more often), the environment (such as overexposure to sunlight), and many others.
high-dose rate or temporary brachytherapy [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 leaves the radioactive seeds in the body. Compare to low dose rate brachytherapy. See also brachytherapy, external beam radiation therapy.
histology [hiss-tah-luh-jee]how cells or tissues look when studied under a microscope. The histologic examination of cells and tissues is done by a pathologist. See also pathologist.
Hodgkin diseasean often curable type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system. Formerly called Hodgkin’s disease. See also lymph node, lymphatic system.
home health nursea 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.
homogeneous [home-uh-JEE-ne-us]cells or tissue that look the same throughout. See also histology.
hormonea chemical substance released into the body by the endocrine glands such as the thyroid, adrenal, 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.
hormone receptora protein located on a cell’s surface or within the cell cytoplasm that binds to a hormone. 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.
hormone receptor assaya test to see if a breast tumor is likely to be affected by hormones or if it can be treated with hormones. See also estrogen receptor assay, progesterone receptor assay.
hormone replacement therapysee menopausal hormone therapy.
hormone therapycancer 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.
hormone-dependentany type of cancer that depends on hormones for survival, such as some breast and prostate cancers. See also hormone therapy, androgen-dependent, hormone receptor, hormone receptor assay.
hormone-refractorynot responsive to hormone treatments. See also androgen-independent, hormone therapy.
hospicea 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.
hot flush or hot flashsudden brief feeling of body warmth, along with flushing of the skin and sweating; common during menopause and androgen deprivation therapy. See also androgen deprivation therapy, menopause.
human epidermal growth factor receptor 2a 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 used to treat cancers that produce HER2 attach to the HER2 protein to slow the growth of the cancer cells.
human papilloma virus or human papillomavirus [pap-uh-LO-muh vy-rus]also called HPV. A common virus with many types, some of which cause changes in the body’s cells that can grow into cancer. Of the more than 100 types of HPV, about 40 HPV types can live in the mucous membranes such as those of the vagina, cervix, and anus. Called genital HPV, a few of these types cause most cervical cancers. Genital HPV is spread mainly during vaginal, oral, or anal sex, from one person to another during skin-to-skin contact. In most cases, the body gets rid of the HPV infection, but for some people HPV can cause warts or cancer. Besides cervical cancer, some cancers of the penis, vagina, vulva, and urethra and some head and neck cancers (mostly the tongue and tonsils) may be related to HPV. The types most often linked to cancer include HPV-16, HPV-18, HPV-31, HPV-35, HPV-39, HPV-45, HPV-51, HPV-52, and HPV-58. About 70% of HPV-related cancers are caused by types 16 or 18. Vaccines can now help the body fight these 2 types, as well as 2 other types mainly known for causing warts. There is also a test for HPV that can be done along with a woman’s Pap test. See also Pap test.
humerus [hyoo-mer-us]the long bone in the upper arm that goes from the shoulder to the elbow.
hyperalimentation [hi-per-al-ih-men-TAY-shun]liquid nutrition given into a vein (intravenously or IV).
hyperplasia [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.
hyperplastic polyp [hi-per-PLAS-tick pa-lip]a growth found in the colon (large intestine) 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.
hypertension [hi-per-TEN-shun]high blood pressure.
hyperthermia [hi-per-THERM-ee-uh]high body temperature or fever. Treatments using hyperthermia treat disease or improve treatment outcomes by raising body temperature, or by raising the temperature of the affected body part.
hypertrophy [hi-per-truh-fee]the enlargement of an organ or part due to an increase in the size of its cells.
hysterectomy [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. See also uterus, oophorectomy, ovary, vagina.
iFOBTsee fecal immunochemical test.
IGF-1see insulin-like growth factor-1.
ileostomy [ill-ee-OSS-tuh-me]an operation in which the end of the small intestine, the ileum, is brought out through an opening called a stoma on the abdomen (belly). Stool that leaves the body through this opening tends to be unformed or liquid because it hasn’t been through the large intestine.
ileum [ill-ee-uhm]the lower part of the small intestine. See also ileostomy.
image cytometrya method that uses computers to analyze digital pictures of the cells from a microscope slide to check the number of sets of chromosomes in the cell. See also chromosome, ploidy.
imaging studiesmethods used to make pictures of internal body structures. Some imaging tests used to help diagnose or stage cancer are x-rays, CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), PET scans, and ultrasound.
immune systemthe complex system by which the body resists infection by germs, such as bacteria or viruses, and rejects transplanted tissues or organs. The immune system may also help the body fight some cancers.
immunocytochemistry [im-yuh-no-sy-toe-KEM-iss-tree]lab tests that use antibodies to detect specific chemical antigens in specially-prepared cells viewed under a microscope. These tests can be used to help detect and classify cancer cells. See also antibody, antigen, monoclonal antibodies.
immunohistochemistry [im-yuh-no-his-toe-KEM-iss-tree]lab tests that use antibodies to detect specific chemical antigens in tissues viewed under a microscope. It is the most common method used for estrogen receptor assays and progesterone receptor assays on breast cancer tissue. See also antibody, antigen, monoclonal antibodies, estrogen receptor assays, progesterone receptor assays.
immunology [im-yuh-NAHL-uh-jee]study of how the body resists infection and certain other diseases. Knowledge gained in this field is important to those cancer treatments that use the immune system and/or substances that behave like parts of the immune system to help fight cancer. See also immune system, immunotherapy.
immunosuppression [im-yuh-no-suh-PREH-shun]a state in which the immune system is weak and unable to respond the way it should. This condition may be present at birth, or it may be caused by some infections (such as human immunodeficiency virus or HIV), cancer, or cancer treatments (such as chemotherapy and radiation). See also immune system.
immunotherapy [im-yuh-no-THER-uh-pee]treatments that use the body’s immune system to fight cancer. This is done by boosting the patient’s own immune system or giving man-made versions of the immune system. See also immune system.
implantcan refer to a small amount of radioactive material placed in or near a cancer. Also, can mean an artificial form used to restore the shape of an organ after surgery, for example, a breast implant. See also brachytherapy, prosthesis.
impotence [im-puh-tense]not being able to have or keep an erection of the penis; also called erectile dysfunction (ED).
IMRTsee intensity-modulated radiation therapy.
in situ [in sy-too]in place; localized and confined to one area. A very early stage of cancer.
incidence [in-sih-dens]the number of new cases of a disease that occur in a certain number of people each year. Compare to prevalence.
incision [in-sih-zhun]cut made during surgery.
inconclusiveuncertain finding; a result that cannot say for certain whether a disease or condition is present; neither positive nor negative.
incontinence [in-kon-tuh-nence]partial or complete loss of urinary or bowel control. See also urinary incontinence.
indigent [in-dij-ent]not having enough money to meet one’s needs.
infiltrating ductal carcinomasee invasive ductal carcinoma.
infiltrating lobular carcinomasee invasive lobular carcinoma.
inflammatory bowel disease or IBDa chronic condition (either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease) in which the colon is inflamed over a long period of time and might have ulcers in its lining; IBD increases a person’s risk of colorectal cancer. Starting colorectal cancer screening earlier and doing the tests more often is recommended for people with IBD. (Note that IBD is not the same as IBS, or inflammatory bowel syndrome.) See also colon, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, colorectal cancer screening.
inflammatory breast cancera type of invasive breast cancer with spread to lymphatic vessels in the skin covering the breast. The skin of the affected breast is red, feels warm, and may thicken to look and feel like an orange peel. About 1% of invasive breast cancers are inflammatory breast cancers. Also called inflammatory carcinoma or IBC. See also invasive cancer, lymphatic system.
inflammatory polyppolyps that commonly occur with some type of irritation or inflammation of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis. They do not seem to increase the risk of colorectal cancer, though the underlying condition can. See also colon, Crohn’s disease, polyp, ulcerative colitis.
informed consenta full explanation of the course of treatment, the risks, benefits, and possible alternatives. After this process, the patient signs a form stating that they have received this information and that they agree to the procedure, surgery, or treatment.
infraclavicular [in-fruh-kluh-VICK-yuh-ler]lymph nodes located under the collar bone (clavicle). See also clavicle, lymph node, supraclavicular.
ingest [in-jest]to take in by mouth; to eat, drink, or swallow.
inherited diseaseillness to which a person is susceptible because of a gene passed from his or her parents at birth. See also gene, genetic testing, mutation.
inpatienta person whose treatment requires staying in the hospital. Compare to outpatient.
insulin-like growth factor-1 [IGF-1]hormone-like substance thought to affect growth hormone activity. Some studies have shown men with high blood levels of IGF-1 seemed more likely to develop prostate cancer, but not all studies agree. More research is needed.
integrated PET/CTa scan that combines the cross-section x-rays of the CT with the ability to detect areas of high energy use. See also computed tomography scan, positron emission tomography scan.
intensity-modulated radiation therapy [IMRT]an advanced method of conformal radiation therapy in which the beams are aimed from several directions, while the intensity (strength) of the beams is controlled by computers. This lets more radiation reach the treatment area while reducing the radiation to healthy tissues; in some cases, total radiation dose can be higher with IMRT. See also conformal radiation therapy, three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy.
interferon [in-ter-FEAR-on]a protein produced by cells. Interferon helps regulate the body’s immune system, boosting activity when a threat, like a virus, is found. Scientists have learned that interferon helps fight against cancer, so it is used to treat some types of cancer. See also immune system, immunotherapy.
interleukins [IN-ter-loo-kins]a group of chemical messengers (called cytokines) that can carry signals between cells. One type of interleukin-2 (IL-2) has been approved by the FDA to treat advanced kidney cancer and metastatic melanoma. It may be used alone or along with other forms of immunotherapy. IL-2 helps immune system cells grow and divide more quickly. Using IL-2 with chemotherapy or with other cytokines (such as interferon-alfa) may make these treatments work better against some cancers. See also chemotherapy, cytokine, immunotherapy, interferon.
intermittent hormone therapya type of prostate cancer treatment in which hormone drugs are stopped after a man’s blood prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level drops to a very low level and remains stable for a while. If the PSA level begins to rise, the drugs are started again. Another form of intermittent hormone therapy uses androgen suppression for fixed periods of time – for example, 6 months on followed by 6 months off. While this treatment approach may help reduce side effects, it is too soon to say whether it is better or worse than continuous hormonal therapy. See also androgen deprivation therapy, hormone therapy, prostate-specific antigen.
internal radiationtreatment in which a radioactive substance is implanted in the body. Compare to external beam radiation therapy. See also brachytherapy, implant.
interstitial radiation therapy [in-ter-STIH-shul]a type of radiation treatment in which a radioactive implant is put right into the tissue (not in a body cavity). See also brachytherapy, radiation therapy.
intervertebral disc [IN-ter-ver-tuh-bruhl disk]a gel-filled disc of cartilage that sits between bones of the spine (vertebrae) and allows them to move more easily. Discs also act as shock absorbers and have ligaments to hold the vertebrae together. See also vertebra, spinal cord.
intestines [in-test-ins]the part of the digestive tract from the end of the stomach to the anus. This section absorbs nutrients and water from food into the bloodstream. It includes the small intestine, (small bowel), and the large intestine (large bowel), which includes the colon. See also anus, colon, digestive system, gastrointestinal tract, small intestine.
intraductal papillomas [in-truh-DUCK-tul pap-uh-LO-muhs]small, finger-like, non-cancerous growths in the breast ducts that may cause a clear or bloody nipple discharge. These are most often found in women 45 to 50 years of age. A woman who has had papillomas has a slightly increased risk of breast cancer. See also duct.
intramucosal carcinomasee carcinoma in situ.
intramuscular [IM]injected into a muscle.
intraoperative ultrasounda test done with sound waves after surgery has started and the abdomen (belly) is opened up. For example, the probe can be placed on the surface of the liver to see if cancer has spread inside it. See also ultrasound.
intravenous [in-truh-VEEN-us]also called IV. A method of giving fluids and medicines using a needle or a thin tube (called a catheter) that is put into a vein.
intravenous pyelogram [in-truh-VEEN-us pile-uh-gram]also called IVP. A special kind of x-ray procedure in which a dye is put into the bloodstream. The dye travels to the kidneys, ureters, and bladder and helps to clearly outline these organs on the x-rays. See also bladder, kidney, ureters.
invasive cancercancer that has spread beyond the layer of cells where it first began and has grown into nearby tissues. Compare to carcinoma in situ. See also malignant, metastasis.
invasive ductal carcinomaalso called infiltrating ductal carcinoma. A cancer that starts in the milk passages (ducts) of the breast and then breaks through the duct wall, where it invades the fatty tissue of the breast. When it reaches this point, it can spread (metastasize) elsewhere in the breast, as well as to other parts of the body through the bloodstream and lymphatic system. Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer, accounting for about 80% of all breast cancers. See also lymphatic system, metastasize.
invasive lobular carcinomaalso called infiltrating lobular carcinoma. A cancer that starts in the milk-producing glands (lobules) of the breast and then breaks through the lobule walls and grows into the nearby fatty tissue. From there, it may spread elsewhere (metastasize). About 15% of invasive breast cancers are invasive lobular carcinomas. This type of cancer is often hard to detect by physical exam or even on a mammogram. See also mammogram, metastasize.
investigationalunder study. Often used to describe drugs or treatments used in clinical trials that are not yet available to the general public. See also clinical trials.
ionizing radiationhigh-energy particles or rays which can cause electrons to split off atoms. Certain types of ionizing radiation (such as x-rays) are used in medical diagnosis to make pictures of what is inside the body. Carefully controlled radiation doses are used in cancer treatment to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Large doses of ionizing radiation can also cause cancer. See also radiation dose, x-ray.
IVPsee intravenous pyelogram.
K-rasa gene that can mutate into a cancer accelerator and allow the growth of colorectal cancer. This is not an inherited mutation (passed on from a parent), which would be in every cell in the body from birth. It is a spontaneous mutation that starts in a single cell which then grows and multiplies. See also colorectal cancer, gene, mutation.
Kegel exercisesexercises to strengthen certain muscles in the bottom of the pelvis. These exercises may help men and women with certain forms of urinary incontinence. See also urinary incontinence.
kidneyan organ that filters the blood to remove excess water, salt, and waste in the form of urine. A person normally has 2 kidneys. See also ureter, bladder, urethra.
lactation [lack-tay-shun]production of milk in the breast.
laparoscope [LAP-uh-ruh-scope]a long, flexible, thin tube put into the body through a very small cut. The laparoscope lets the surgeon see organs and lymph nodes inside the body. The lymph nodes, or even organs, can be removed using special surgical instruments that fit through the laparoscope. See also laparoscopic surgery, lymph node.
laparoscopic lymphadenectomy [lap-uh-ruh-SKAH-pick limf-ad-uh-NECK-tuh-me]removal of lymph nodes with a laparoscope. See also laparoscope, lymph node.
laparoscopic radical prostatectomy [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. As of late 2011, long-term studies are not yet available comparing survival for men who had this procedure with those who had open surgery to remove their prostates. See also laparoscope, prostate.
laparoscopic surgery [lap-uh-ruh-SKAH-pick]surgery using a narrow tube-like instrument called a laparoscope that is put through a small incision (cut). 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 part of the colon or other organ while watching the procedure on a TV monitor. The small incisions led to the name “keyhole surgery” or minimally invasive surgery. This surgery is more difficult than traditional surgery, and requires a skilled surgeon who has done a lot of them. See also colon, laparoscope.
laparoscopy [lap-uh-RAHS-kuh-pee]examination of a body cavity with an instrument called a laparoscope. See also laparoscope.
large cell lung cancersee non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
large intestinethe lower part of the intestine, into which the small intestine empties. The large intestine contains the cecum, colon, and rectum. See also cecum, colon, rectum.
laryngectomy [lair-en-JEK-tuh-me]surgery to remove the voice box (larynx), usually because of cancer.
laryngopharynx or hypopharynx [luh-rin-jo-FAIR-ingks or hi-po-FAIR-ingks]the lower part of the pharynx. This is the part of the throat that extends downward from the voice box to the swallowing tube (esophagus).
latissimus dorsi flap procedure [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.
laxative [lack-suh-tiv]a medicine that helps make stool (feces) easier to pass (promotes defecation) to prevent or treat constipation. 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.
leiomyoma [lie-o-my-O-muh]also called uterine fibroid tumor or fibroma, a benign (not cancer) fibrous tumor of the uterus (womb). About 40% of women have leiomyomas by age 40. Usually there are no symptoms, but the tumors can cause abnormal uterine bleeding and other symptoms depending on their size and location in the uterus. See also tumor, uterus.
lesion [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 appearance or texture of skin, such as an open sore, scab, bump, or discolored area. See also mass, tumor.
leukemia [loo-key-me-uh]cancer of the blood or blood-forming organs. There are 2 major classes of leukemia, myeloid and non-myeloid types. People with leukemia often have a very high number of white blood cells (leukocytes). See also leukocytosis, myeloid leukemia, non-myeloid cancers, white blood cells.
leukocyte [LOO-ko-site]white blood cell. See also white blood cells.
leukocytosis [loo-ko-sy-TOE-sis]having more than the usual number of white blood cells. See also white blood cells.
leukopenia [loo-ko-PEE-nee-uh]decrease in the white blood cell count, common in people with cancer, and often a side effect of chemotherapy. See also chemotherapy, white blood cells.
leukoplakia [loo-ko-PLAY-key-uh]white patches on the tongue or inside the cheeks. These are often pre-cancers.
LHsee luteinizing hormone.
LHRHsee luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone.
LHRH agonistssee luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogs.
LHRH analogssee luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogs.
LHRH antagonistssee luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone antagonists.
libido [lih-be-doe or lih-by-doe]sex drive.
limited breast surgeryalso called lumpectomy, segmental excision, and tylectomy. Surgery to remove the breast cancer and a small amount of tissue around the cancer, but keep most of the breast. It is almost always combined with axillary (underarm) lymph node removal and is usually followed by radiation therapy. See also axillary dissection, lymph node, radiation therapy.
linear acceleratoralso called a linac. A machine used for external-beam radiation therapy to treat cancer. It gives off gamma rays (or gamma photons) and electron beams. See also external-beam radiation therapy.
lipomaa tumor made of fatty tissue. It is not cancer. See also tumor.
living willa 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.
lobectomy [low-bek-tuh-me]surgery to remove a lobe of an organ – usually the lung.
lobular carcinoma in situ [lob-yuh-lur car-sin-O-ma in sy-too]also called LCIS. Although not a true cancer, it is 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 does not become an invasive cancer very often, but having LCIS places a woman at somewhat higher risk of developing an invasive breast cancer later in life. Women need a yearly mammogram and clinical breast exam after LCIS. Women with LCIS might also want to ask their doctors about the benefits and limits of yearly screening with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). See also clinical breast examination, invasive lobular carcinoma, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), mammogram.
lobules [lob-youlz]the glands in a woman’s breasts that produce milk.
local anesthesiasee anesthesia.
local excision [lo-kul eck-si-zhun]surgery to remove small superficial (surface) cancers or polyps. See also polyp.
local recurrencesee recurrence.
local therapytreatment 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.
local transanal resection [lo-kul tranz-a-nuhl re-sek-shun]rectal cancer surgery that is done with instruments put in through the anus, without cutting the abdomen (belly). It can be used to cut through all layers of the rectum to remove invasive cancers as well as some normal rectal tissue. Compare to low anterior resection. See also anus, invasive cancer, rectum.
localized canceralso called local cancer. A cancer that is confined to the organ where it started; that is, it has not spread to distant parts of the body. Compare to distant cancer, metastasis.
low anterior resection [low an-teer-ee-yer re-sek-shun]a surgical approach used for cancers in the upper two-thirds of the rectum, close to where it connects to the colon. The incision (cut) is made through the abdomen (belly) only, and the cancer is removed along with a margin (edge) 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 is left so that a colostomy is not needed. See also colo-anal anastomosis, colon, colostomy, lymph node, rectum.
low-dose rate brachytherapy [brake-ee-THER-uh-pee]also called LDR brachytherapy or permanent brachytherapy. Treatment in which pellets or seeds of radioactive material are placed inside thin needles, and put into the cancerous area. The needles are removed and the pellets (seeds) are left in place and give off low doses of radiation for weeks or months. Often used for prostate cancer, in which the pellets are put through the skin of the perineum (behind the scrotum) into the prostate. Compare to high-dose rate brachytherapy. See also perineum, prostate.
lower GI seriesa series of x-rays of the intestines taken after a barium enema is given. See also barium enema, x-ray.
lumbar puncture or LPprocedure in which a thin needle is placed between the bones of the spine (vertebrae) and into the spinal canal to withdraw a small amount of spinal fluid or to give medicine into the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) through the spinal fluid. Sometimes called a spinal tap. See also vertebra, spinal cord.
lumpany kind of mass in the body. See also mass, tumor.
lumpectomy [lump-eck-tuh-me]surgery to remove a breast lump and a small amount of nearby normal tissue. See also breast conservation therapy.
luteinizing hormone [LOO-tee-uh-ny-zing]also called LH. Pituitary hormone that stimulates the testicles to make testosterone. See also hormone, pituitary, testicles, testosterone.
luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone [LOO-tee-uh-ny-zing]also called LHRH or gonadotropin-releasing hormone. A hormone made by the hypothalamus, a tiny gland in the brain that affects levels of luteinizing hormone in the body and therefore affects testosterone levels. See also luteinizing hormone, testosterone.
luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogs [LOO-tee-uh-ny-zing]also called LHRH analogs; sometimes called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogs. Man-made hormones, chemically similar to luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH). They stop the body from making the male hormone testosterone and are sometimes used to treat prostate cancer.. See also androgen deprivation therapy, luteinizing hormone, luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone antagonists, prostate.
luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone antagonists [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, which may be able to lower testosterone levels more quickly without causing the tumor symptoms to worsen (this is called tumor flare). See also androgen deprivation therapy, luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone, luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogs, testosterone.
lycopenes [lie-kuh-peenz]vitamin-like antioxidants that help prevent damage to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Once thought to help lower prostate cancer risk, more recent studies have found no link between lycopene levels and prostate cancer risk. These substances are found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon. See also antioxidants, deoxyribonucleic acid.
lymph [limf]clear fluid that flows through the lymphatic vessels and contains white blood cells called lymphocytes. These cells are important in fighting infections and may also have a role in fighting cancer. See also lymph node, lymphatic system, lymphocyte, immune system.
lymph node [limf node]Small bean-shaped collection of immune system tissue, such as lymphocytes, found throughout the body along lymphatic vessels. They remove cell waste, germs, and other harmful substances from lymph. They help fight infections and also have a role in fighting cancer, although cancers can spread through them. Sometimes called lymph glands. See also immune system, lymph, lymphatic system.
lymph node biopsya 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.
lymph node dissectionsee lymphadenectomy.
lymphadenectomy [limf-ad-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, lymphocyte.
lymphatic system [limf-at-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. The entire lymphatic system 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, thymus, spleen.
lymphedema [limf-uh-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 may be a life-long problem. See lymph, lymph node, lymphatic system.
lymphocyte [limf-o-site]a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection. See also white blood cells.
lymphocytosis [limf-o-sy-TOE-sis]having an excess of lymphocytes. See also lymphocyte.
lymphokine [limf-o-kine]see cytokine.
lymphoma [lim-foam-uh]a cancer of the lymphatic system, a network of thin vessels and nodes throughout the body that helps to fight infection. Lymphoma involves the type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. 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.
Lynch syndromean old term used to describe hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC); an inherited tendency to develop certain cancers. See also hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer.
macroglobulinemia [mack-row-glob-yuh-lin-EE-mee-uh]a condition with abnormally large proteins in the blood, which may reduce or clog blood flow in the smaller blood vessels. Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma with such proteins. See also non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia.
macrophage [mack-ro-faj]a type of white blood cell that engulfs and destroys foreign materials. See also white blood cells.
magnetic resonance imaging [MRI]a method of taking pictures of the inside of the body. Instead of using x-rays, MRI uses a powerful magnet to send radio waves through the body. The images appear on a computer screen as well as on film. Like x-rays, the procedure is physically painless, but some people may feel confined inside the MRI machine. See also imaging studies, x-ray.
malignant [muh-lig-nunt]cancerous; dangerous or likely to cause death if untreated. Compare with benign. See also cancer.
malignant tumor [muh-lig-nunt too-mer or tyoo-mer]a mass of cancer cells that may invade nearby tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. Not all cancers form tumors. See also malignant, tumor.
mammary lymph nodeslymph nodes that are inside the chest near the sternum or breastbone. See also lymph nodes.
mammogram, mammography [MAM-uh-gram, mam-ah-gruff-ee]an x-ray of the breast; a method of finding breast cancer that can’t be felt using the fingers. Mammograms are done with a special type of x-ray machine used only for this purpose. A mammogram can show a developing breast tumor before it’s big enough to be felt by a woman or even by a highly skilled health care professional. Screening mammography is used to help find breast cancer early in women who don’t have any symptoms. Diagnostic mammography helps the doctor learn more about breast masses or the cause of other breast symptoms. See also screening, x-ray.
mammoplastyany plastic surgery to rebuild the breast or to change the shape, size, or position of the breast. Reduction mammoplasty reduces the size of the breast. Augmentation mammoplasty enlarges a woman’s breast, usually with implants. See also breast reconstruction, implants.
margin [mar-jin]in cancer surgery or biopsy, the tissue beyond the visible edge of the tumor or abnormal tissue that is removed along with the tumor or abnormality, in an effort to get all of the cancer. See also surgical margin.
massany sort of lump, which may or may not be cancer. See also tumor.
mastectomy [mas-tek-tuh-me]surgery to remove all or part of the breast and sometimes other tissue. There are several types of mastectomies.
- Modified radical mastectomy removes the breast, skin, nipple, areola, and most of the axillary lymph nodes on the same side, leaving the chest muscles intact.
- Partial or segmental mastectomy removes only the part of the breast that has the cancer and a margin of healthy breast tissue surrounding the tumor.
- Prophylactic mastectomy is a mastectomy done before any evidence of cancer can be found, for the purpose of preventing cancer.
- Quadrantectomy (quad-runt-EK-tuh-me) is a partial mastectomy in which the quarter of the breast that has a tumor is removed.
- Simple mastectomy or total mastectomy removes only the breast and areola.