Glossary of terms

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia: A fast-growing type of leukemia (a blood cancer) in which too many lymphoblasts (immature white blood cells) are found in the blood and bone marrow.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia: A fast-growing disease in which too many myeloblasts (immature white blood cells that are not lymphoblasts) are found in the bone marrow and blood.

Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in cells that line some internal organs and have gland-like/secretory properties.

Adjuvant Therapy: Cancer treatment that involves surgery followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation to decrease the risk of the cancer recurring.

Amyloidosis: A group of diseases in which protein is deposited in specific organs (localized amyloidosis) or throughout the body (systemic amyloidosis). Amyloidosis may be either primary (with no known cause) or secondary (caused by another disease, including some types of cancer). Generally, primary amyloidosis affects the nerves, skin, tongue, joints, heart, and liver; secondary amyloidosis often affects the spleen, kidneys, liver, and adrenal glands. (am-a-loy-DOE-sis)

Angiosarcoma: A type of cancer that begins in the cells that line blood vessels or lymph vessels. Cancer that begins in blood vessels is called hemangiosarcoma. Cancer that begins in lymph vessels is called lymphangiosarcoma. (AN-jee-o-sar-KO-ma)

Antibody: A substance formed by the immune system that defends the body against antigens (bacteria, viruses, toxins) or tumors.

Antigen: A substance, such as a bacteria, virus or toxin, that triggers a response by the immune system, the human body's defense mechanism. Cancer may have antigens the immune system may attack.

Aplastic Anemia: A condition in which the bone marrow is unable to produce blood cells.

Attending Physician: The doctor who is primarily responsible for a patient's care and who supervises fellows and residents. At the University of Arizona Cancer Center, attending physicians are faculty members of The University of Arizona College of Medicine.

Barrett Esophagus: A condition in which the cells lining the lower part of the esophagus have changed or been replaced with abnormal cells that could lead to cancer of the esophagus. The backing up of stomach contents (reflux) may irritate the esophagus and, over time, cause Barrett esophagus. (BA-ret ee-SAH-fuh-gus)

Basal Cell Carcinoma: A type of skin cancer that arises from the basal cells, small round cells found in the lower part (or base) of the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin. (BAY-sul SEL KAR-sih-NOH-muh)

Benign: Non-malignant; not life-threatening.

Benign Hematology: The study and treatment of blood, blood-forming tissues and blood-related diseases that are not life-threatening.

Biological Response Modifiers: Natural or man-made substances that boost or restore normal immune defenses.

Biomarker: A biochemical characteristic that can be used to measure the progress of disease or the effects of treatment.

Biopsy: Surgical removal of body tissue that will be used for identifying disease.

Blood and Marrow Transplant: A procedure to replace a patient's diseased or treatment-damaged bone marrow with healthy marrow.

Bone Marrow: The body's factory for three types of blood cells: leukocytes (white blood cells), which help fight infection; erythrocytes (red blood cells), which carry oxygen throughout the body; and thrombocytes (platelets), which cause blood clotting.

Bone Marrow Aspiration: The removal and examination of bone marrow cells.

Bone Marrow Donor: A person who donates healthy bone marrow to a patient who has had high-dose cancer treatment. The patient is given the donor's healthy marrow during a bone marrow transplant.

Bone Marrow Harvest: A procedure to collect healthy bone marrow, which will be stored and used in a future bone marrow transplant.

Bone Marrow Transplant: A procedure to replace bone marrow that has been destroyed by treatment with high doses of anticancer drugs or radiation. Transplantation may be autologous (an individual's own marrow saved before treatment), allogeneic (marrow donated by someone else), or syngeneic (marrow donated by an identical twin).

Carcinoid Tumor: A slow-growing type of tumor usually found in the gastrointestinal system (most often in the appendix), and sometimes in the lungs or other sites. Carcinoid tumors may spread to the liver or other sites in the body, and they may secrete substances such as serotonin or prostaglandins, causing carcinoid syndrome.(KAR-sih-noyd)

Castleman Disease: A rare disorder in which noncancerous growths develop in lymph node tissue.

Chemosensitizers: Drugs or chemicals that enhance the effects of anticancer drugs and improve their efficiency.

Chemotherapy: Treatment with drugs, hormones or biological agents that kill cancer cells.

Chromosome: A linear strand of DNA and proteins in the nucleus of a cell. Chromosomes carry genes and function in the transmission of hereditary information.

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia: A slow-growing type of leukemia (blood cancer) in which too many lymphoblasts (immature white blood cells) are found in the blood and bone marrow. (KRAH-nik LIM-foh-SIH-tik loo-KEE-mee-uh)

Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia: A slowly progressing disease in which too many white blood cells (not lymphocytes) are made in the bone marrow. (KRAH-nik MY-eh-LAH-jeh-nus loo-KEE-mee-uh)

Clinical Nurse Coordinator: A registered nurse knowledgeable about cancer and its treatments. Your clinical nurse coordinator works with your physician to provide continuity of care.

Clinical Trial: A study that evaluates new drugs or new types of treatment.

Colonoscopy: A medical procedure during which a long flexible tube is used to look inside the colon.

CT Scan: A diagnostic test that uses x-rays and a computer to view organs and areas inside the body.

Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma: Any of a group of T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas that begins in the skin as an itchy, red rash that can thicken or form a tumor. The most common types are mycosis fungoides and Sézary syndrome. (kyoo-TAY-nee-us lim-FOH-muh)

Endoscopic Retrograde CholangioPancreatography: Use in diagnosis and treating problems causing jaundice (a yellowing of the whites of the eyes) or pain in the abdomen.

Endoscopic Ultrasound: Combines endoscopy and ultrasound to obtain images and information about the digestive tract and the surrounding tissue and organs.

Fibrosarcoma: A type of soft tissue sarcoma that begins in fibrous tissue, which holds bones, muscles, and other organs in place.

Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor: A type of tumor that usually begins in cells in the wall of the gastrointestinal tract. It can be benign or malignant. Also called GIST.

Gene: A gene is a hereditary unit that is located in a specific place on a chromosome. Genes determine physical characteristics, such as hair or eye color. When genes are missing or damaged, cancer may occur.

Gene Therapy: Using genes inserted into the patient's body or tumor to stimulate the immune system.

Head and Neck Cancer: Cancer that arises in the head or neck region (in the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, throat, or larynx [voice box]).

HMO: A type of medical insurance coverage that specifically states which doctors and medical institutions patients may use and which medical tests and procedures will be paid for by the HMO.

Hodgkin Lymphoma: A cancer of the immune system that is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. The two major types of Hodgkin lymphoma are classical Hodgkin lymphoma and nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma. Symptoms include the painless enlargement of lymph nodes, spleen, or other immune tissue. Other symptoms include fever, weight loss, fatigue, or night sweats. (HOJ-kin lim-FOH-muh)

Immune System: The body's natural defense system which produces antibodies to fight against foreign substances such as bacteria, viruses, toxins and cancers.

Immunotherapy: Stimulating the body's natural defense system to attack and destroy cancers.

Indemnity Plan: A type of health care insurance that generally does not restrict a patient's choice of doctors and medical institutions.

Intern: A person who has finished medical school and is in the process of completing an additional year of training before practicing general medicine.

Intraoperative Radiation Therapy: Treating the tumor site with radiation during surgery to treat localized cancers that cannot be completely removed or that have a high risk of recurring (coming back) in nearby tissues.

Intraperitoneal Therapy: Chemotherapy treatment delivered through a catheter placed directly into the intra-abdominal space, rather than by intravenous injection.

Leiomyosarcoma: A malignant (cancerous) tumor of smooth muscle cells that can arise almost anywhere in the body, but is most common in the uterus, abdomen, or pelvis. (LY-oh-MY-oh-sar-KOH-muh)

Leukemia: Cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as the bone marrow and causes large numbers of blood cells to be produced and enter the bloodstream.

Leukopenias: A condition in which there is a lower-than-normal number of leukocytes (white blood cells) in the blood. (LOO-koh-PEE-nee-uh)

Lumpectomy: Surgical removal of a small cancerous or non-cancerous tumor; generally used to refer to removal of a breast lump.

Lymphoma: Cancer that begins in cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas - Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

Lymphoproliferative Disorder: A disease in which cells of the lymphatic system grow excessively. Lymphoproliferative disorders are often treated like cancer. (LIM-foh-pruh-LIH-feh-RUH-tiv dis-OR-der)

Malignant: Cancerous; life-threatening.

Mammogram: Breast x-ray used to detect breast cancer.

Managed Care: Medical insurance coverage provided by a health maintenance organization (see HMO).

Mastectomy: Surgical removal of the entire breast. Radical mastectomy is surgical removal of the breast muscle and any number of lymph nodes; bilateral mastectomy is surgical removal of both breasts.

Matched Unrelated Donor Transplants: Refers to bone marrow transplantation procedures in which the patient and the bone marrow donor are genetically matched but not family members.

Merkel cell carcinoma: A rare type of cancer that forms on or just beneath the skin, usually in parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun. It is most common in older people and in people with weakened immune systems.

Mesothelioma: A rare type of cancer in which malignant cells are found in the lining of the chest or abdomen. Exposure to airborne asbestos particles increases one's risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.

Metastasis: Refers to a cancer which has spread to other parts of the body.

Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance: A benign condition in which there is a higher-than-normal level of a protein called M protein in the blood. Patients with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance are at an increased risk of developing cancer.

MRI Scan: A diagnostic test that uses magnetic fields to produce two- or three-dimensional images of organs inside the body.

Mycosis Fungoides: A type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that first appears on the skin and can spread to the lymph nodes or other organs such as the spleen, liver, or lungs. (my-KOH-sis fun-GOY-deez)

Myelodysplastic Syndrome: A group of diseases in which the bone marrow does not make enough healthy blood cells. (MY-eh-loh-dis-PLAS-tik SIN-dromz)

Myeloproliferative Disorder: A group of slow growing blood cancers, including chronic myelogenous leukemia, in which large numbers of abnormal red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets grow and spread in the bone marrow and the peripheral blood. (MY-eh-loh-pruh-LIH-feh-RUH-tiv dis-OR-der)

National Cancer Institute: The primary agency of the U.S. government that provides research grants to study cancer, develop new drugs and test cancer prevention strategies.

Neoadjuvant Therapy: Cancer treatment that involves giving chemotherapy to reduce the size of a tumor before surgery is done to remove the tumor.

Neuroendocrine Tumor: A tumor that forms from cells that release hormones in response to a signal from the nervous system. Some examples of neuroendocrine tumors are carcinoid tumors, islet cell tumors, medullary thyroid carcinomas, pheochromocytomas, and neuroendocrine carcinomas of the skin (Merkel cell cancer). These tumors may secrete higher-than-normal amounts of hormones, which can cause many different symptoms.(NOOR-oh-EN-doh-krin TOO-mer)

Neurologic Oncology: The study and treatment of cancers of the brain and nervous system.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: Any of a large group of cancers of the immune system. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can occur at any age and are often marked by enlarged lymph nodes, fever, and weight loss. There are many different types of non-Hodgkin lymphomas which can be divided into aggressive (fast-growing) and indolent (slow-growing) types and can be classified as either B-cell or T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas include Burkitt lymphoma, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, immunoblastic large cell lymphoma, precursor B-lymphoblastic lymphoma, and mantle cell lymphoma. T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas include mycosis fungoides, anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and precursor T-lymphoblastic lymphoma. Lymphomas related to lymphoproliferative disorders following bone marrow or stem cell transplantation are usually B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and type of disease. (non-HOJ-kin lim-FOH-muh)

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: A group of lung cancers that are named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer and how the cells look under a microscope. The three main types of non-small cell lung cancer are squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma. Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common kind of lung cancer.

Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer: Skin cancer that forms in basal cells or squamous cells but not in melanocytes (pigment-producing cells of the skin).

Octreoscan: Involves having a small injection in your arm and then having some pictures taken. The injection contains a small amount of radioactivity. This will help your doctor understand your illness.

Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in treating cancer patients.

Pancreatic Cancer: A disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the tissues of the pancreas. (pan-kree-AT-ic KAN-ser)

Parathyroid Cancer: A rare cancer that forms in tissues of one or more of the parathyroid glands (four pea-sized glands in the neck that make parathyroid hormone, which helps the body store and use calcium). (PAYR-uh-THY-royd KAN-ser)

Peripheral Stem Cell Harvest: The same as a bone marrow transplant, except the source of the cells used to replace diseased or treatment-damaged bone marrow is the blood rather than bone marrow. Stem cells are seed cells capable of regrowing bone marrow. They can be harvested either from circulating blood or bone marrow.

Polycythemia Vera: A disease in which there are too many red blood cells in the bone marrow and blood, causing the blood to thicken. The number of white blood cells and platelets may also increase. The extra blood cells may collect in the spleen and cause it to become enlarged. They may also cause bleeding problems and make clots form in blood vessels. (PAH-lee-sy-THEE-mee-uh VAYR-uh)

Positron Emission Tomography: Measures important body functions, such as blood flow, oxygen use and sugar (glucose) metabolism, to help doctors evaluate how well organs and tissues are functioning.

Prostate-Specific Antigen: A substance produced by the prostate. It may be found in higher levels in the blood of men who have prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia, infection or inflammation of the prostate. Also called PSA.

Radioactive Seed Implants: A treatment option for men with early stage prostate cancer. Radioactive seeds are implanted into the prostate gland. The seeds emit low- energy x-rays, which destroy cancer cells.

Radiosurgery: A technique for treating brain tumors that cannot be reached with surgery. The doctor uses CT scans to target the tumor with high doses of radiation.

Resident: A medical doctor who has completed medical school and an internship and is receiving additional training for a specialized branch of medicine.

Rhabdomyosarcoma: Cancer that forms in the soft tissues in a type of muscle called striated muscle. Rhabdomyosarcoma can occur anywhere in the body. (RAB-doh-MY-oh-sar-KOH-muh)

Risk Factor: Something that may increase the chance of developing a disease. Some examples of risk factors for cancer include age, a family history of certain cancers, use of tobacco products, certain eating habits, obesity, lack of exercise, exposure to radiation or other cancer-causing agents, and certain genetic changes.

Schwannoma: A tumor of the peripheral nervous system that arises in the nerve sheath (protective covering). It is almost always benign, but rare malignant schwannomas have been reported. (shwah-NO-ma)

Small Cell Lung Cancer: An aggressive (fast-growing) cancer that forms in tissues of the lung and can spread to other parts of the body. The cancer cells look small and oval-shaped when looked at under a microscope.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Cancer that begins in squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales. Squamous cells are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body, and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts. (SKWAY-mus sel KAR-sih-NOH-muh)

Ultrasound: A diagnostic test that uses sound waves to create images of organs and other areas inside the body.

Urology: The study and treatment of diseases that affect the urinary system.

White Blood Cells: Cells that help fight infections; also called leukocytes.


Source: The Web site of the National Cancer Institute (http://www.cancer.gov)