Medical glossary’s can
sometimes be more confusing than helpful. We have tried to make ours as
pertinent as possible regarding the terminology you, or a loved one, may
encounter with a diagnosis/treatment of cancer.
we could not cover every word, but if you ever come across a word and/or term
that your doctor/physician/oncologist uses that you do not understand, ask them
to explain it.
tips to navigating cancer terminology –
what the word means
the explanation down
back what you have written to make sure you have got it right
- listen, ask, write and repeat.
is not uncommon to be overwhelmed with the information being presented, but it
is necessary to ensure that you and/or your loved one understand it.
cancer originating from the epithelium of a glandular organ.
therapy - post-surgical
therapy to prevent a cancer’s recurrence and destroy any cancer cells that
have metastasized; may also include palliative therapy.
acid - a
peptide; the basic building block of proteins (or polypeptides).
protein (immuno-globulin) molecule, produced by the immune system, that
recognizes a particular foreign antigen and binds to it; if the antigen is on
the surface of a cell, this binding leads to cell aggregation and subsequent
destruction. Antibodies attack viruses, bacteria, and other foreign substances
in the body.
molecule (typically found in the surface of a cell) whose shape triggers the
production of antibodies that will bind to it.
a chemical found in some fruits and vegetables that is thought to reduce the
damage caused by free radicals.
genetically programmed cell death; the natural mechanism used by the body to
eliminate cells that are no longer needed.
tumor - a
marrow transplantation/BMT - a
procedure used in the treatment of cancer in which a patient’s diseased bone
marrow is destroyed with radiation or chemotherapy, and then replaced with
marrow transplantation, allogeneic - BMT
using bone marrow from a donor.
marrow transplantation, autologous - BMT
using bone marrow from the patient.
radiation treatment in which tiny radioactive pellets are surgically placed in
or near a tumor, giving the tumor a high dose of radiation
malignant tumor of potentially unlimited growth that expands locally by invasion
and systematically by metastasis.
substance that increases the risk of cancer.
originating from epithelial tissue which covers the body’s surface and lines
internal organs and glands; most common type of cancer.
membrane-bounded compartment filled with a concentrated aqueous solution of
chemicals; the building blocks of all living creatures.
treatment or control of cancer using drugs.
linear end-to-end arrangement of genes and other DNA, sometimes with associated
protein and RNA.
trials - the
systematic evaluation of new medical treatments which have shown promise in
animal and laboratory tests.
acid/DNA - the
chemical found in the nucleus of most cells that is the fundamental substance of
which genes are composed; a double chain of linked nucleotides (having
deoxyribose as their sugars).
of various abnormal conditions characterized by the secretion and excretion of
excessive amounts of urine.
protein that functions as a catalyst, to speed up a chemical-specific reaction.
study of incidence, distribution and control of disease in a population and the
relationship between lifestyle, environment and disease.
outside layer of cells.
fundamental physical and functional unit of heredity that carries information
from one generation to the next; a segment of DNA composed of a transcribed
region and a regulatory sequence that makes transcription possible; genes code
mutation - a
point mutation that results from changes within the structure of a gene.
therapy - techniques
that introduce new genetic material into a patient, correcting genetic defects
that are causing disease.
the genetic information necessary to build a living creature (i.e., the human
genome contains all the information necessary to build a human being).
disease - cancer
of the lymphatic system; symptoms include enlargement of the lymph nodes, spleen
and liver, as well as progressive anemia.
substance secreted by an organ or gland into the bloodstream to be carried to
other organs and glands where it has a specific effect; there are two types of
hormone: steroid hormones (e.g., estrogen, testosterone) composed of cholesterol
are fat soluble and can easily cross the cell membrane; nonsteroid hormones
(e.g., insulin) composed of amino acids are water soluble, and cannot cross the
system - the
animal cells and tissues involved in recognizing and attacking foreign
substances within the body.
study of the immune system.
for disease through enhancement or stimulation of the immune system.
group of proteins with antiviral and anti-tumor properties that is created by
infected cells in response to viruses and foreign nucleic acids; it can also be
created synthetically; the three types of inter-feron help immunocompromised
patients: alpha, made by leukocytes; beta, made by fibroblasts; and gamma, made
cancer - cancer
which has spread to surrounding tissue.
of the blood-forming tissues, leukocytes or the cells which give rise to
blood cells or corpuscles, including neutrophils, basophils, eosinophils,
lymphocytes and monocytes.
cancer - cancer
which has not spread beyond the origination site.
of a breast tumor only leaving behind the rest of the breast tissue; the
standard procedure for tumors less than one inch in diameter.
glands/nodes - nodules
or rounded bodies, varying in size from a pinhead to an olive, found clustered
in the neck, armpit, crotch and along the great vessels of the abdomen.
of the lymphatic system.
surgical removal of the breast.
malignant - the
most serious form of skin cancers; originates in the pigment cells of the skin,
eye and mucous membranes.
spread of cancer cells to parts of the body distant from the origination site;
only cancerous tumors can metastasize.
genetics - the
study of the molecular processes underlying gene structure and function.
antibody/MAB - a
laboratory-made, highly specific antibody used to detect predetermined proteins
or portions of proteins.
agent that is capable of increasing the mutation rate.
Mutation - 1) the process that produces a gene or a chromosome set
differing from the wild-type; 2) the gene or chromosome set that results from
such a process.
cancer of the bone marrow.
cancer - the
earliest stage of cancer when it is located only in the origination site, before
study and treatment of cancer.
protein coded for by an oncogene, capable of causing tumor formation; can be
either a mutated form of a normal cellular protein or a normal cellular protein
expressed at an inappropriate time.
tumor suppressor gene.
- the collection of cervical cells using a cotton swab; the cells are then
examined under a microscope to determine if there are cancer cells present.
- an organism that causes disease in another organism.
amino acid; the basic building block of polypeptides (or proteins).
inactive substance given to satisfy a patient’s psychological need for
medication or used in studies testing the efficacy of a new drug.
cells in the bloodstream responsible for clotting.
chain reaction/PCR - a
technique that amplifies nucleic acid sequences exponentially.
linear polymers of amino acids joined head to tail by a peptide bond between the
carboxylic acid group of one amino acid and the amino group of the next;
proteins determine the shape and structure of the cell and also serve as
instruments of molecular recognition.
to follow in a clinical trial; outlines how a study is to be conducted, who may
participate, how to administer treatment and how outcomes are to be recorded.
therapy/radiotherapy - the
use of radiation (high energy penetrating rays or subatomic particles) such as
X-rays and gamma rays to treat or control disease.
mastectomy - the
surgical removal of the breast along with the underlying muscle, axillary lymph
nodes and fat tissue.
prostatectomy - the
surgical removal of the prostate and surrounding tissue.
of a disease after a period without symptoms or signs of the disease.
acid/RNA - a
single-stranded nucleic acid similar to DNA, but having ribose sugar rather than
deoxyribose sugar, and uracil rather than thymine as the bases.
arising from connective tissue (bone, cartilage, muscle); also affects liver,
lungs, spleen, kidneys and bladder.
tumor - a
metastatic tumor, not the original tumor.
cell carcinoma - skin
cancer arising from the squamous "scaly" epithelium of the skin.
cell - a
cell that gives rise to other cells; usually less differentiated than the cells
of the tissue.
cells/T lymphocytes - lymphocytes
responsible for the cell-mediated immune response; mature in the thymus gland.
of a piece of one chromosome and reattachment to another chromosome during
segregation; can cause abnormally long and short chromosomes.
abnormal mass of cells; can be benign or malignant.
suppressor gene - a
gene whose loss of function leads to cell transformation and the development of