abdominoperineal   [AP or ab-dom-i-no-per-in-ee-al]
A surgery performed on patients with rectal cancer, in which the anus and surrounding tissues are removed. Following the surgery, a permanent colostomy is necessary. The surgery involves two incisions, one in the abdomen (belly) and the other around the anus.

ablative   [ab-lay-tive]
A treatment that stops an organ from functioning or completely removes the organ. An example of this treatment is: the removal of ovaries or testicles, or taking medicine that keeps them from functioning. This stops the release of certain hormones that can help certain cancers grow.

adenocarcinoma   [ad-no-kar-suh-NO-muh]
A type of cancer that starts in glandular tissue. This type of cancer is generally found in breast tissue and prostate tissue.

adenoma   [ad-no-muh]
A non-cancerous (benign) growth that starts in the glandular tissue.

adjuvant   [ad-juh-vunt]
A secondary treatment used in tandem with a primary treatment. Secondary treatment types include: hormone therapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy. These treatments are often used after surgery to improve the likelihood of curing the disease.

alopecia   [al-o-PEE-shuh]
Hair loss, including scalp hair, body hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes. Generally occurs in conjunction with chemotherapy or radiation therapy to the brain. Usually once treatment is completed, the hair will grow back.

anastomosis   [uh-nas-tuh-MO-sis]
The connection of two structures in the body that are naturally separate. An example is the construction of the urethra to the bladder neck following the removal of the prostate.

androgen [an-druh-jen]
Any male sex hormone, most commonly testosterone.

angiogenesis   [an-jee-o-JEN-uh-sis]
The development of new blood vessels. Certain cancer treatments use this to keep blood flow from reaching a tumor in order to keep it from growing.

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 surgeons the location of blood vessels around a tumor.

antibody [an-tie-bod-ee]
Part of the human body’s defense against foreign materials, like bacteria. Antibodies are produced by the immune system, and then released into the bloodstream to help fight off a sickness, disease or other foreign agent.

antiemetic [an-tie-eh-meh-tik]
A drug that is prescribed to relieve vomiting and nausea, normally used when patients have these side effects due to chemotherapy.

apheresis [a-fur-ee-sis]
A procedure used to remove blood from the body, filter it and return the filtered blood back to the body.

asymptomatic [a-simp-tuh-mat-ik]
Having no symptoms of disease. Many cancer patients have no symptoms in the early stages of cancer.

atypia or atypical [a-tip-ee-uh or a-tip-i-kul]
Not normal. Usually refers to the look of cancerous or pre-cancerous cells.

axillary [ax-ill-air-ee]
Removal of lymph nodes located in the armpit, in order to see if there are cancerous cells inside of them.

basal cell carcinoma [bay-sal sell kar-sin-o-mah]
A type of skin cancer that starts in the outer layer of the skin, generally where the skin is most exposed to the sun. This type of skin cancer is the most common, and usually grows slowly and does not spread to distant areas of the body.

benign [be-nine]
Not cancerous; usually refers to cells or tumors.

bilateral [bi-lat-er-ul]
Two sides, or both sides; usually refers to both sides of body.

biopsy [bi-op-see]
The removal of a small amount of tissue, usually through a needle, to test cells to determine whether they are cancerous or not.

B-lymphocytes [bee-limf-uh-sites]
White blood cells that help create antibodies.

bone marrow [mare-oh]
Located in the hollow area of bones, it is a soft tissue that makes new red blood cells.


cachexia [ka-kek-see-uh]
General poor health and weight loss due to low dietary intake.

cancer cell
A cell that crowds out healthy cells by dividing and reproducing abnormally.

carcinogen [car-sin-o-jin]
A substance that causes or helps cancer to grow.

carcinoid [car-sin-oyd]
A certain type of tumor that abnormally secretes and releases hormones. Symptoms include: fast or irregular heartbeat, diarrhea, wheezing and facial flushing, along with others.

carcinoma [car-sin-o-ma]
Cancer that starts in the lining layer of an organ. The majority of cancers begin this way.

chemotherapy [key-mo-ther-uh-pee]
Used to treat cancer that is recurring, or spread throughout the body. It is a drug therapy that destroys cancer cells, and is often used in conjunction with surgery and/or radiation.

colonoscopy [ko-lun-ah-skuh-pee]
A common procedure used to inspect the large intestine for polyps or cancer.

colorectal cancer [ko-lo-rek-tuh can-sur]
Colon cancer and rectal cancer are very similar; they are often referred to together.

complementary therapy
Treatment used in conjunction with necessary medical treatment. It is often used to relieve symptoms of cancer, or the side effects of cancer treatment.

core needle biopsy
Used to get a sample of tissue about 1/16 inch wide that is then tested for cancer cells.

cryoablation [cry-o-ah-blay-shun]
Treatment using extreme cold to destroy cancerous cells.

cyst [sist]
A mass inside the body that is filled with fluid. The fluid can be removed and tested, but is usually not cancerous.

cytokine [sy-toe-kine]
A natural substance produced by the immune system that affects immune response. Cytokines can also be produced in a lab and then introduced into the body to help the immune response against cancer.

debulk [dee-bulk]
To surgically remove as many cancerous cells as is safe, reducing the volume of cancer.

depot injection [dee-poh]
An injection that can be given once a month, or every couple of months, that slowly releases a certain drug into the bloodstream.

dissection [di-sek-shun]
Surgery that separates, or completely removes tissues.

distant cancer 
Cancer that has spread into lymph nodes or organs far from the original site.

drug resistance
Happens when the cancer cells become resistant to the treatment being used to treat the cancer.

dysphagia [dis-fay-zhe-uh]
Having trouble eating or swallowing.

dysplasia [dis-play-zhuh]
Abnormal changes to a group or groups of cells that can lead to cancer.

edema [uh-deem-uh]
Swelling caused by the buildup of fluid in the tissue.

electrofulguration [e-lek-tro-ful-ger-a-shun]
Cancer treatment using an electric current that burns and destroys cancer cells.

embolization [em-bo-li-zay-shun]
Cancer treatment that reduces blood supply to cancer cells,by blocking the artery that supplies blood to the tumor.

endoscopy [en-dahs-kuh-pee]
Use of an endoscope (a thin, flexible, lighted tube) to examine organs and tissues inside the body.

enzyme [en-zime]
Proteins produced by the body that raise the rate of chemical reactions in cells.

etiology [ee-tee-ahl-uh-jee]
The cause of a disease. When referring to cancer, there can be many different causes.

fascia [fash-uh]
Fibrous tissue that covers muscles and a few organs in the body.

fibrocystic [fi-bro-sis-tik]
Changes in the tissue of the breast that are not cancerous. Symptoms include swelling of the breast and/or pain.

fibrosis [fie-bro-sis]
Scar-like tissue that can form anywhere in the body.

fistula [fist-chu-luh]
An abnormal connection between two organs, or from an organ to the surface of the body.

gastric [gas-trick]
Refers to the stomach.

gastrointestinal [gas-tro-in-test-in-uhl]
The GI tract, made up of all organs that process food and nutrients.

A specific group of cells that make substances for the body to use or to be released from the body. Examples are prostate, breast, thyroid and sweat glands.

The system for how abnormal cancer cells look under a microscope. The different grades range from the most abnormal cells to the least abnormal cells.

hematocrit [him-at-uh-krit]
The percentage of red blood cells in the blood. The normal range is from 37% to 52%; however, in people with cancer, the number can drop lower.

hematoma [he-muh-toe-muh]
Blood that has leaked out of a blood vessel due to a tear or injury, generally seen in the form of a bruise.

hemoglobin [he-muh-glo-bin]
The oxygen-carrying part of a red blood cell. Certain types of cancer treatments can cause the oxygen levels in the blood to drop.

hesitancy [hez-i-ten-see]
The inability to start urinating right away.

histology [hiss-tal-uh-jee]
The look of cells or tissues under a microscope.

hyperalimentation [hi-per-al-ih-men-tay-shun]
Liquid nutrition through a vein, also known as intravenous or IV.

hyperplasia [hi-per-play-zhuh]
Too much growth of cells or tissue in one area of the body.

immune system 
The system that protects the body from germs, helps fight certain cancers, and rejects foreign substances, including transplant tissues and organs.

immunosuppression  [im-yuh-no-suh-preh-shun]
A condition that decreases the immune system’s ability to respond. This condition can be caused by certain infections, or can be present from birth. Some cancer treatments (chemotherapy, radiation and bone marrow transplant) can also cause immunosuppression.

incontinence [in-kon-tuh-nence]
Partial or complete loss of bowel and/or urinary control.

inherited disease
A disease carried by genes from generation to generation. It makes certain people more likely to get certain diseases.

internal radiation
A radioactive substance is placed inside the body to target cancer, as opposed to external radiation that is a physical beam.

intramuscular [in-tra-musk-u-lur]
Injection into a muscle.

intravenous [in-tra-veen-us]
Injection directly into a vein. Generally, used to deliver medicine or fluids to the entire body.

laparoscope [lap-uh-rah-scope]
A long, thin, flexible tube inserted into the body through a small incision. This tube can be used to house a camera to look at tissues, organs, lymph nodes etc. and can also be used to remove certain tissues, nodes etc. by pushing tools through the tube to the area of interest.

leiomyoma [lie-o-my-o-muh]
A benign tumor of the uterus. There are usually no symptoms of this sort of tumor. Some women may experience irregular bleeding.

lesion [lee-zhun]
Describes a change in body tissue. Can be related to a cut, bruise or scar, as well as a tumor or mass inside the body.

lobectomy [lob-bek-tuh-me]
Surgery that removes a “lobe” of an organ, usually referring to the lung.

local excision [lo-kul eck-si-zhun]
Outpatient surgery that removes superficial (surface) cancers, usually referring to skin cancer.

lymph [limf]
Fluid that transports cells called lymphocytes, which help fight infections, including cancer.

lymph nodes [limf nodes]
Small areas of immune system tissue that remove cell waste, germs and other substances that are damaging to the body.

lymphatic system [limf-at-ik sis-tum]
The entire system of tissues and organs that produce lymphocytes and house lymphatic vessels.

lymphocyte [limf-o-site]
One type of white blood cell that assists in helping fight infections throughout the body.

macrophage [ mack-ro-faj]
A type of white blood cell that destroys foreign material by completely engulfing it.

malignant [mal-ig-nent]
Cancerous, generally used to describe a tumor.

Any type of lump, which may or may not be cancerous.

melanoma [mel-uh-no-ma]
Cancer that begins in the cells that create skin color. Generally curable when caught at the early stages, before it spreads to other areas of the body.

metastasis [meh-tas-tuh-sis]
Cancer cells that have spread through the body to one or more sites from the primary site.

mucosa [myoo-ko-suh]
Mucous membrane: the inner lining of the mouth, throat, eyelids, nose, urethra, vagina and digestive system.

mutation [myoo-tay-shun]
When the DNA of a cell changes. Generally, mutations do not cause cancer, but some cancers are believed to be caused by mutations that damage DNA.

necrosis [nuh-crow-sis]
The death of living tissue.

neoadjuvant [nee-oh-ad-juh-vant]
Treatment given before the main treatment.

neuropathy [nur-ah-puth-ee]
Problems involving nerve damage, or abnormality caused by injury, infection or disease.

oncogenes [on-kuh-jeenz]
The genes in DNA that cause cells to grow and divide at a steady pace. If these genes are damaged or changed in any way, they may cause the cells to grow and divide too quickly, creating a tumor.

ostomy [os-tuh-me]
An opening, usually explaining an opening created through surgery.

palliate [pal-ee-ate]
Relief of symptoms, like pain or nausea.

peripheral [per-if-er-uhl]
Outer edges.

physiologic [fiz-ee-o-la-jick]
Used to describe the processes in the body, or in the systems within the body.

placebo [ pluh-see-bo]
Used in studies or trials that compares the effects of no treatment vs. treatment.

platelet [plate-let]
A part of the make-up of blood that creates blood clots in broken blood vessels.

pleura [plur-uh]
The membrane surrounding the chest cavity, including lungs and lining of lungs.

polyp [pah-lip]
A cancerous or benign growth that forms from a mucous membrane, like the nose, uterus or rectum.

primary site
The origin of cancer, or where it begins.

prosthesis [pros-thee-sis]
An artificial body part replacement.

radiation therapy
Treatment using beams of high-energy rays that kill cancer cells and help shrink tumors.

Re-growth of cancer after treatment is finished.

refractory [re-frack-tuh-re]
The point at which the body is no longer responsive to a certain treatment.

relapse [re-laps]
The re-occurrence of cancer after the patient has been cancer-free for a period of time.

remission [re-mish-un]
When the cancer is under control; meaning, the signs and symptoms of cancer have completely disappeared as a result of treatment.

resection [re-sek-shun]
The removal of part or all of an organ or tissue.

sarcoma [sar-ko-muh]
A malignant tumor that is growing from connective tissues, including the bone, muscle, cartilage or fat.

secondary tumor
A tumor that develops from the spread of cancer cells from another site.

squamous [skway-mus]
Cancer that starts in flat, non-glandular cells, such as the skin or lining of organs.

stem cells
A type of cell that as it grows and matures, could become a different kind of cell.

stenosis [steh-no-sis]
Narrowing of a duct or canal in the body.

A small tube that is placed into a tube-shaped organ to hold it open.

stoma [sto-muh]
An opening created to allow the body to get rid of waste.

synergistic [sin-er-jis-tick]
When two individual agents act together to create a greater effect than what they normally would.

systemic [sis-tem-ick]
Cancer has spread from the primary site to secondary sites that are not distant from each other.

testosterone [tes-toss-ter-own]
The male hormone that causes growth in certain tissues and stimulates blood flow. It can also cause a tumor in the prostate to grow.

toxicity [tock-sis-i-tee]
Refers to the harmful effects of certain medical treatments on the body.

A part of DNA or chromosome that is out of place.

A lump or mass of tissue that is not normal for the body. Can be cancerous or non cancerous.

A test using sound waves to create images that outline areas of the body.

unilateral [yoo-ni-lat-uh-ral]
Affects one side. Generally referring to one side of the body. For example, unilateral breast cancer affects one breast.

vaccine [vack-seen]
A germ or substance that has been modified and released into the body to force the immune system to create a resistance to that disease.

virus [vy-rus]
Organisms that cause infections and can only reproduce in living cells.

white blood cells
Help defend the body against infections. There are different types of white blood cells, and some cancer treatments can reduce the number of white blood cells, resulting in the patient being more susceptible to infections.

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