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Glossary - Cancer Center


| A || B || C || D || E || F || G || H || I || J || K || L || M || N || O || P || Q || R || S || T || U || V || W || X || Y || Z |

A

Abdomen - area between the chest and the hips that contains the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and spleen.

Ablative therapy - treatment that removes or destroys the function of an organ, such as surgical removal of an organ or some types of chemotherapy or hormone therapy.

Abnormality - a health problem or feature not normally present in a healthy individual.

Acquired mutations - mutations in somatic cells that we are not born with, but that occur by chance over time. Acquired mutations are not present in all cells of the body, are not inherited, and are not passed on to children.

Actinic keratosis - a precancerous condition of thick, scaly patches of skin.

Acupressure - a type of massage in which finger pressure is applied to particular points on the body.

Acupuncture - a pain relief technique of traditional Chinese medicine in which thin needles are inserted in the skin at particular points.

Acute - severe; sharp; begins quickly.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) - a rapidly progressing cancer of the blood in which too many immature (not fully formed) lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, are found in the bone marrow, blood, spleen, liver, and other organs.

Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) - a rapidly progressing cancer of the blood in which too many immature (not fully formed) granulocytes, a type of white blood cell, are found in the bone marrow and blood.

Adenocarcinoma - a cancer that develops in the lining or inner surface of some organs and have secretory characteristics, such as in the ducts or lobules of the breast.

Adenoma - benign (noncancerous) growths that often appear on glands or in glandular tissue.

Adjuvant therapy - treatment used in addition to the primary treatment. Adjuvant therapy usually refers to hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy added after surgery to increase the chances of curing the disease or minimizing symptoms.

Advance directives - documents that a person can complete to ensure that healthcare choices are respected.

Allogeneic bone marrow transplant - a procedure in which a person receives stem cells from a matched donor.

Alopecia - a partial or complete loss of hair that may result from radiation therapy to the head, chemotherapy, skin disease, drug therapy, and natural causes.

Alternative therapy - a term referring to practices and products that are not considered to be part of conventional medicine and are used instead of conventional medicine.

Amplification - the production of many copies of a region of DNA.

Anemia - a blood disorder caused by a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells).

Anesthesia - lack of normal sensation, especially the awareness of pain, which may be brought on by drugs. General anesthesia causes loss of consciousness or puts you into a deep sleep; local or regional anesthesia causes loss of feeling only to a certain area.

Anesthesiologist - a physician who specializes in administering medications or other agents that prevent or relieve pain, especially during surgery.

Angiogenesis - the natural body process of growing new blood vessels.

Angiogram - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses X-rays and a special dye to visualize all of the blood vessels that supply a tumor.

Angioma - a benign (non-cancerous) tumor in the skin, which is made up of blood or lymph vessels.

Anomaly - a health problem or feature not normally present in a healthy individual; a deviation from the normal.

Antacids - medications that balance acids and gas in the stomach.

Antibiotic - chemical substances that are either produced from cultures of microorganisms or produced artificially for the purpose of killing other organisms that cause disease. Antibiotics may be needed along with the cancer treatment to prevent or treat infections.

Anticholinergics - medications that calm muscle spasms in the intestine.

Anticipatory grief - the deep emotional distress that occurs when someone has a prolonged illness and death is expected often by the patient as well as the family. Anticipatory grief can be just as painful and stressful as the actual death of the person.

Antidiarrheals - medications that help control diarrhea.

Antiemetics - medications that prevent and control nausea and vomiting.

Antigen - a substance that can trigger an immune response causing the production of antibodies as part of the body's defense against infection and disease.

Antioxidant - a substance that protects the body cells from damage caused by free radicals (by-products of the body's normal chemical processes).

Antispasmodics - medications that help reduce or stop muscle spasms in the intestines.

Apheresis - a procedure in which a patient's own blood is removed, certain fluid and cellular parts are removed from the blood, then the blood is returned to the patient.

Aplastic anemia - one type of anemia that occurs when the bone marrow produces too few of all three types of blood cells: red cells, white cells, and platelets.

Aspiration - the withdrawal of fluid from the body.

Asymptomatic - to be without noticeable symptoms of disease.

Atypical - not usual; often refers to the appearance of precancerous or cancerous cells.

Autologous bone marrow transplant - a procedure in which stem cells from a patient's own bone marrow are removed, the patient is treated with chemotherapy or radiation, and the stem cells are then returned to the patient.

Autopsy - an examination of the organs and/or tissues of the body after death. An autopsy is often used to determine the cause of death, but may also be done to research the fatal disease for future diagnosis, treatment, and prevention strategies.

Autosomal dominant inheritance - a mutation or alteration in a gene that lies on one of the first 22 pairs of chromosomes, which, when present in one copy, causes a trait or disease to be expressed.

Autosomal recessive inheritance - a mutation or alteration in a gene that lies on one of the first 22 pairs of chromosomes, which must be present in both copies for a trait or disease to be expressed.

Autosome - any chromosome other than a sex chromosome; there are 22 pairs of these chromosomes.

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B

Barium - a metallic, chemical, chalky, liquid used to coat the inside of organs so that they will show up on an X-ray.

Barium enema (also called lower GI, or gastrointestinal, series) - a procedure that examines the rectum, the large intestine, and the lower part of the small intestine. A fluid called barium (a metallic, chemical, chalky, liquid used to coat the inside of organs so that they will show up on an X-ray) is given into the rectum as an enema. An X-ray of the abdomen shows strictures (narrowed areas), obstructions (blockages), and other problems.

Basal cell carcinoma - the most common form of skin cancer; characterized by small, shiny, raised bumps on the skin that may bleed.

Basal cells - type of cells that are found in the outer layer of skin. Basal cells are responsible for producing the squamous cells in the skin.

Benign - cell growth that is not cancerous, does not invade nearby tissue, or spread to other parts of the body.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (also called BPH or benign prostatic hypertrophy) - an enlargement of the prostate caused by the overgrowth of prostate cells. It is not cancer, but its symptoms are often similar to those of prostate cancer.

Bereavement - the state of being bereaved; to be in a sad or lonely state due to a loss or death.

Bilateral - affecting both sides of the body. Bilateral breast cancer is cancer occurring in both breasts at the same time.

Bile - fluid made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Bile helps break down fats and gets rid of wastes in the body.

Bile acids - acids made by the liver that work with bile to break down fats.

Bile ducts - tubes that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder for storage and to the small intestine for use in digestion.

Bilirubin - a yellow-green colored substance formed when red blood cells break down. Bilirubin gives bile its color. Bilirubin is normally passed in stool. Too much bilirubin causes jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes).

Biochemical genetic testing - a test to study specific enzymes or biochemical products (for example amino acids, organic acids) in the body.

Biofeedback - a form of mind control over the body that helps a person to reduce sensations of pain.

Biologic response modifiers (also called biologic therapy) - substances that boost the body's immune system to fight against cancer (for example, Interferon).

Biological therapy (also called immunotherapy, biotherapy, or biological response modifier therapy) - a therapy that uses the body's immune system, either directly or indirectly, to fight cancer or to lessen side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments (for example, Interferon).

Biopsy - the removal of tissue for examination under a microscope.

Birth defect - a health problem present at birth.

Bladder - a triangle-shaped, hollow, muscular organ located in the lower abdomen that holds urine. It is held in place by ligaments that are attached to other organs and the pelvic bones. The bladder's walls relax and expand to store urine, and contract and flatten to empty urine through the urethra.

Blasts - immature blood cells.

Blood - the life-maintaining fluid that is made up of plasma, red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes), and platelets; blood circulates through the body's heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries; it carries away waste matter and carbon dioxide, and brings nourishment, electrolytes, hormones, vitamins, antibodies, heat, and oxygen to the tissues.

Blood banking - the process that takes place in the laboratory to ensure that the donated blood or blood products are safe, before they are used in blood transfusions and other medical procedures. Blood banking includes typing and cross matching the blood for transfusion and testing for infectious diseases.

Blood plasma - the fluid part of blood that contains nutrients, glucose, proteins, minerals, enzymes, and other substances.

Bone marrow - the soft, spongy tissue found inside bones. It is the medium for development and storage of most of the body's blood cells.

Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy - a test to look for cancer cells or other problems in the bone marrow. The marrow may be removed by aspiration or a needle biopsy under local anesthesia. In aspiration biopsy, a fluid specimen is removed from the bone marrow. In a needle biopsy, marrow cells (not fluid) are removed. These methods are often done at the same time.

Bone marrow transplant (BMT) - the transfusion of healthy bone marrow cells into a person, after their own unhealthy bone marrow has been destroyed.

Bone scans - pictures taken of the bone after a radioactive dye has been injected that is absorbed by bone tissue. These are used to detect tumors and bone abnormalities.

Bone survey (skeletal) - an X-ray of all the bones of the body; sometimes done when looking for metastasis (cancer spread) to the bones.

Bowel - another word for the small and large intestines.

Bowel movement - body waste passed through the rectum and anus.

Bowel prep - process used to clean the colon with enemas and/or a special drink; used before surgery of the colon, colonoscopy, or barium X-ray.

Brain scan - an imaging method used to find abnormalities in the brain, including brain cancer and cancer that has spread to the brain from other places in the body.

BRCA1 - a gene (on chromosome 17), which, when altered, indicates an inherited susceptibility to breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer.

BRCA2 - a gene (on chromosome 13) which, when altered, indicates an inherited susceptibility to breast, ovarian, prostate cancer, and other cancer types.

Breast self-examination (BSE) - a method in which a woman examines her breasts and the surrounding areas for lumps or changes. Some doctors recommend that a BSE should be performed once a month, usually at a time other than the days before, during, or immediately after the menstrual period.

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C

CAM - Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Cancer - abnormal cells that divide without control and can invade nearby tissues or spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.

Cancer care team - the group of healthcare professionals who work together to find, treat, and care for people with cancer.

Cancer cell - a cell that divides and multiplies uncontrollably and has the potential to spread throughout the body, crowding out normal cells and tissue.

Cancer susceptibility gene - a gene, that when mutated (altered), gives a person a risk for developing certain types of cancer(s) that is greater than the general population risk.

Carbohydrates - one of the three main classes of food and a source of energy. Carbohydrates are the sugars and starches found in breads, cereals, fruits, and vegetables. During digestion, carbohydrates are changed into a simple sugar called glucose. Glucose is stored in the liver until cells need it for energy.

Carcinogen - an agent (chemical, physical, or viral) that may increase the risk of cancer. Examples include tobacco smoke and asbestos.

Carcinoma - cancer found in the epithelial tissue (tissue that covers the surfaces of organs, glands, or body structures).

Carcinoma in situ - cancer that is confined to the cells in which it first developed, and has not invaded the surrounding tissues or metastasized.

Carotenoids - substances found in yellow and orange vegetables and fruits and in dark, green vegetables.

Carrier testing - testing performed to determine whether a person carries one copy of an altered gene for a particular recessive disease.

Catheter - a flexible tube inserted into body passageways or cavities to inject medication, withdraw fluids, or keep a passage open.

Cells - basic working units of living systems, which contain DNA.

Cervix - the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb) located between the bladder and the rectum. It forms a canal that opens into the vagina, which leads to the outside of the body.

Chaplain - a member of the healthcare team who provides spiritual counseling, support, and pastoral care. The hospital chaplain can also act as a liaison to local clergy.

Chemotherapy - the use of anticancer drugs to treat cancerous cells. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell's ability to grow or reproduce. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells.

Child life specialist - a hospital staff member who has special training in the growth and development of children. A child life specialist can help your child with play activities, relaxation and pain management skills, and help meet the educational and emotional needs of the entire family.

Cholecystectomy - operation to remove the gallbladder.

Chromosome - a structure in the nucleus of cells that contains genes. Humans usually have 23 pairs of chromosomes.

Chronic - referring to a disease or disorder that usually develops slowly and lasts for a long period of time.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) - a slowly progressing cancer of the blood in which too many lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, are produced by the bone marrow and by organs of the lymph system.

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) - a slowly progressing cancer of the blood in which too many white blood cells are produced in the bone marrow.

Clinical trial - organized research studies that provide clinical data aimed at finding better ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, or treat diseases.

Codon - a coding unit in a DNA sequence to make specific amino acids (the building blocks of proteins).

Cold knife cone biopsy - a procedure in which a laser or a surgical scalpel is used to remove a piece of tissue from the cervix.

Colectomy - an operation to remove all or part of the colon (large intestine).

Colon polyps - small, fleshy, abnormal growths in the colon (large intestine).

Colonoscope - a long, flexible lighted tube used to examine the entire length of the colon (large intestine).

Colonoscopic polypectomy - removal of tumor-like growths (polyps) using a device inserted through a colonoscope.

Colonoscopy - a procedure that allows the physician to view the entire length of the large intestine, and can often help identify abnormal growths, inflamed tissue, ulcers, and bleeding. It involves inserting a colonoscope, a long, flexible, lighted tube, in through the rectum up into the colon. The colonoscope allows the physician to see the lining of the colon, remove tissue for further examination, and possibly treat some problems that are detected.

Colorectal cancer - cancer of the colon (large intestine) or rectum (where the large intestine ends).

Colostomy - an operation that makes it possible for stool to leave the body (usually through an opening in the abdomen) after the rectum has been removed.

Colposcopy (also called colposcopic biopsy) - a procedure that uses an instrument with magnifying lenses, called a colposcope, to examine the cervix for abnormalities. If abnormal tissue is found, a biopsy is usually performed.

Complete blood count (CBC) - a measurement of size, number, and maturity of different blood cells in a specific volume of blood.

Complementary therapy - a term referring to practices and products that are not considered to be part of conventional medicine, but can be used along with conventional medicine.

Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce both horizontal and vertical cross-sectional images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.

Cone biopsy (also called conization) - a biopsy in which a larger cone-shaped piece of tissue is removed from the cervix by using the loop electrosurgical excision procedure or the cold knife cone biopsy procedure. The cone biopsy procedure may be used as a treatment for precancerous lesions and early cancers.

Congenital - present at birth.

Congenital anomaly - a health problem present at birth (not necessarily genetic).

Cyst - a closed sac or pouch that is filled with fluid or other contents.

Cytokines - proteins produced by the cells of the immune system that are involved in the immune response.

Cystoscope - a thin, flexible lighted tube used to examine and treat the bladder.

Cystoscopy (also called cystourethroscopy) - an examination in which a scope, a flexible tube and viewing device, is inserted through the urethra to examine the bladder and urinary tract for structural abnormalities or obstructions, such as tumors or stones. Samples of the bladder tissue (called a biopsy) may be removed through the cystoscope for examination under a microscope in the laboratory.

Cystourethrogram (also called a voiding cystogram) - a specific X-ray that examines the urinary tract. A catheter (hollow tube) is placed in the urethra (tube that drains urine from the bladder to the outside of the body) and the bladder is filled with a liquid dye. X-ray images will be taken as the bladder fills and empties. The images will show if there is any reverse flow of urine into the ureters and kidneys.

Cytogenetics - the study of chromosomal material.

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D

De novo - new, not present previously in a family.

Deletion - when a part of a chromosome is missing, or part of the DNA code is missing.

Diagnosis - identifying a disease by its signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings.

Diagnostic mammogram - an X-ray of the breast used to diagnose unusual breast changes, such as a lump, pain, nipple thickening or discharge, or a change in breast size or shape. A diagnostic mammogram is also used to evaluate abnormalities detected on a screening mammogram.

Diagnostic testing - used to identify or confirm the diagnosis of a disease or condition in a person or a family.

Dialysis - a medical procedure to remove wastes and additional fluid from the blood after the kidneys have stopped functioning.

Diarrhea - frequent, loose, and watery bowel movements.

Digestants - medications that aid or stimulate digestion.

Digestion - process the body uses to break down food into simple substances for energy, growth, and cell repair.

Digestive tract - the organs through which food and liquids pass during digestion, including the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine.

Digital rectal exam (DRE) - a procedure in which the physician inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to examine the rectum and the prostate gland for signs of cancer.

Dilation and curettage (also called D & C) - a minor operation in which the cervix is dilated (expanded) so that the cervical canal and uterine lining can be scraped with a curette (spoon-shaped instrument).

direct DNA studies - studies that look directly at the gene in question for an error (mutation).

Distention - bloating or swelling; usually referring to the abdomen.

DNA - deoxyribonucleic acid, the molecules in cells that carry genetic information.

Do not resuscitate (DNR) order - a formal request by a person or a person's family to not take extreme measures to save his/her life. A DNR order is usually reserved for a person near death or with a terminal illness that, even if resuscitated, would not have a high quality of life or a long period before death would occur despite resuscitative efforts. DNR orders can specify how much intervention is desired prior to death (i.e., do not use cardiac drugs, oxygen, chest compressions, etc.).

Drug resistance - refers to the ability of cancer cells to become resistant to the effects of the chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer.

Dysphagia - problems in swallowing food or liquid, usually caused by blockage or injury to the esophagus.

Dysplasia - abnormal development of tissue.

Dyspnea - difficult or painful breathing.

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E

Edema - swelling due to buildup of fluid.

Electrochemotherapy - uses a combination of chemotherapy and electrical pulses to treat cancer.

Electrolyte - an element that breaks up into ions when it is dissolved in water. Examples of electrolytes include: sodium, potassium, chloride, and calcium. Monitoring the correct levels of electrolytes in the blood and replacement of fluids and electrolytes are part of care for many conditions.

Endometrial biopsy - a procedure in which a sample of tissue from the lining of the uterus is obtained through a tube that is inserted into the uterus.

Endometrial hyperplasia - abnormal thickening of the endometrium (lining of the uterus) caused by excessive cell growth.

Endoscope - a lighted tube used to examine the interior of a body cavity or organ.

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) - a procedure that allows the physician to diagnose and treat problems in the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas. The procedure combines X-ray and the use of an endoscope -- a long, flexible, lighted tube. The scope is guided through the patient's mouth and throat, then through the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. The physician can examine the inside of these organs and detect any abnormalities. A tube is then passed through the scope, and a dye is injected that will allow the internal organs to appear on an X-ray.

endoscopy - use of a very flexible tube with a lens or camera (and a light on the end), which is connected to a computer screen, allowing the physician to see inside the hollow organs, such as the uterus. Biopsy samples can be taken through the tube.

Enteral nutrition or feeding - using oral or tube feeding through the digestive tract to give nutrients to a patient who cannot take in, chew, or swallow food, but who can digest and absorb nutrients.

Enteroscopy - examination of the small intestine with an endoscope.

Enterostomy - ostomy, or opening, that brings the end of the intestine through the abdominal wall.

Enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) - replacing the enzyme that is missing or defective in a genetic disease.

Epithelial cells - cells found in the tissues that cover organs, glands, or body structures.

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (also called EGD or upper endoscopy) - a procedure that allows the physician to examine the inside of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. A thin, flexible, lighted tube, called an endoscope, is guided into the mouth and throat, then into the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. The endoscope allows the physician to view the inside of this area of the body, as well as insert instruments through a scope for the removal of a sample of tissue for biopsy (if necessary).

Esophagus - the muscular tube that connects the mouth to the stomach.

Excisional - cutting away cancerous tissue with a scalpel or other instruments to completely remove it and possibly some surrounding tissue. There are many types of excisional surgeries, each named for the particular area of the body in which they are performed or the particular purpose for which they are performed.

Expectant management or therapy - "watchful waiting" or close monitoring of cancer (for instance, prostate cancer) by a physician instead of immediate treatment.

Extended banding chromosome study - a study that involves stretching out the chromosomes to a greater length than usual allowing more detail of each small piece (band) of the chromosome material to be seen.

External radiation (external beam therapy) - a treatment that precisely sends high levels of radiation directly to the cancer cells. The machine is controlled by the radiation therapist. Since radiation is used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors, special shields may be used to protect the tissue surrounding the treatment area. Radiation treatments are painless and usually last a few minutes.

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F

False negative - a test result that indicates a normal result when there actually is a problem.

False positive - a test result that indicates there is a problem when, in fact, there is not a problem.

Familial - a clustering of disease in a family, with no specific inheritance pattern, but more cases than chance alone would predict.

Familial cancer - when there is a clustering of cancer cases in a family, but the features of hereditary cancer may not be present.

Familial polyposis - an inherited disease that causes polyps in the colon. These polyps can lead to cancer.

Fecal - relating to the feces, the body's waste matter that is discharged from the intestines through the anus.

Fecal occult blood test - a test to check for hidden blood in stool.

First-degree relative - a relative with whom you share one-half of your genes -- such as your parents, children, and siblings.

Founder effect - when a particular gene mutation is present in a population at increased frequency because it was present in a small isolated group of "founders," ancestors who gave rise to most of the individuals in the present day population.

Free radicals - highly reactive oxygen-free compounds created during normal body cell processes that can damage cells and cause DNA changes that may result in cancer.

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G

Gastrectomy - an operation in which part (subtotal or partial) or all (total) of the stomach is removed.

Gastric - relating to the stomach.

Gastroenterologist - a physician who specializes in digestive diseases.

Gastroenterology - the field of medicine concerned with the function and disorders of the digestive system.

Gastrointestinal - relating to the stomach and the intestines.

Gastroscope - a flexible lighted tube used to examine the stomach.

Gastrostomy - an artificial opening from the stomach to a hole (stoma) in the abdomen where a feeding tube is inserted.

Gene - a segment of DNA that produces a protein product; genes determine traits that are passed from one generation to the next.

Genetic - determined by genes or chromosomes.

Genetic counseling - providing an assessment of inherited risk factors and information to patients and their relatives concerning the consequences of a disorder, the chance of developing or transmitting it, how to cope with it, and ways in which it can be prevented, treated, and managed.

Germline mutation - a DNA change present in the egg or sperm (germ cells) from which a person was conceived, and therefore usually present in all cells of the body.

Gene therapy - a new type of treatment that is used to correct a genetic defect.

Genetic testing - tests performed to determine if a person has certain gene changes (mutations) or chromosome changes that are either known to increase cancer risk or that may be present in cells from a tumor.

Germ cell - the reproductive cells of the body (ova, or eggs, and sperm).

Germ cell tumors - tumors that are comprised of germ cells (cells that develop into the reproductive system).

Grade - the grade of a cancer reflects how abnormal it looks under the microscope. There are several grading systems for different types of cancer.

Grading - a process for classifying cancer cells to determine the growth rate of the tumor. The cancer cells are measured by how closely they look like normal cells.

Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) - the condition that results when the immune cells of a transplant (usually of stem cells) react against the tissues of the person receiving the transplant.

Granulocytes - a type of white blood cells. The different types of granulocytes include: basophils, eosinophils, and neutrophils.

Grief - the process that occurs as a result of a loss. Similar to bereavement, the loss may be a death of a loved one or of an ideal (divorce, job, home, etc.). Grief is the emotional and objective reactions to a loss of any type.

Growth factor - a naturally occurring protein that causes cells to grow and divide.

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H

Hematocrit - the measurement of the percentage of red blood cells found in a specific volume of blood.

Hematologist - a physician who specializes in the functions and disorders of the blood.

Hematology - the scientific study of blood and blood-forming tissues.

Hematopoiesis - the process of producing and developing new blood cells.

Hemoglobin - a type of protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues of the body.

Hepatic - related to the liver.

Hepatobiliary scintigraphy - an imaging technique of the liver, bile ducts, gallbladder, and upper part of the small intestine.

Hepatoblastoma - a type of childhood cancer that originates in the liver.

Hepatologist - a physician who specializes in liver diseases.

Hepatology - field of medicine concerned with the functions and disorders of the liver.

Hematuria - blood in the urine.

Hereditary cancer family - a family where multiple family members have the same or related cancers, often developing at a younger age than average, and showing a vertical pattern of inheritance. Hereditary cancer is due to a mutation in a cancer susceptibility gene that may or may not be identifiable with current technology.

Hodgkin disease - A type of lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphatic system; Hodgkin disease causes the cells in the lymphatic system to abnormally reproduce, eventually making the body less able to fight infection. Steady enlargement of lymph glands, spleen, and other lymphatic tissue occurs.

Hospice - literal meaning "a place of shelter." Today it refers to supportive care of a terminally ill patient.

Human Genome Project - A government-funded research and technology project to sequence and map (identify) all of the human genes (about 25,000) on the 46 chromosomes.

Hyperplasia - an abnormal or unusual increase in the number of cells present.

Hysterectomy - surgery to remove the uterus, and sometimes the cervix.

Hysteroscopy - visual examination of the canal of the cervix and the interior of the uterus using a viewing instrument (hysteroscope) inserted through the vagina.

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I

Ileostomy - an operation that makes it possible for stool to leave the body after part of the intestine is removed in which an opening is made in the abdomen and the bottom of the small intestine (ileum) is attached to it.

Ileum - lower end of the small intestine.

Imaging studies - methods used to produce a picture of internal body structures. Some imaging methods used to detect cancer include X-rays, CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound.

Immune system - the system composed of the lymphatic system and white blood cells that are responsible for protecting the body against infection and disease.

Immunocompromised - an abnormal condition where one's ability to fight infection is decreased. This can be due to a disease process, certain medications, or a condition present at birth.

Immunosuppression - a state in which the ability of the body's immune system to respond is decreased. This condition may be present at birth, or it may be caused by certain infections (such as human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV), cancers (such as leukemia), or certain cancer therapies, such as cancer cell killing (cytotoxic) drugs, radiation, and bone marrow transplantation.

Immunotherapy - treatments that promote or support the body's immune system response to a disease such as cancer.

Implant - putting something into the body; for example, a small amount of radioactive material placed in or near a cancer cell is called implant radiation.

Impotence (also called erectile dysfunction) - the inability to achieve or maintain an erection.

Incontinence - the inability to control bowel and/or urine elimination.

Indirect DNA studies - studies that look at markers around the gene in question rather than looking directly at the gene itself; also called "linkage studies."

Informed consent - a process that explains a course of treatment, as well as the risks, benefits, and possible alternatives to a patient before he or she decides to treatment.

Inheritance - used to describe how a trait or gene is passed from one generation to the next.

Inherited cancer syndrome - a description of the clinical symptoms associated with a mutation in a particular cancer susceptibility gene.

Inflammation - the response of the tissues of the body to irritation or injury. The signs of inflammation are redness, heat, swelling, and pain.

Interferon - a biological response modifier that stimulates the growth of certain disease-fighting blood cells in the immune system.

Interleukin-2 - a biological response modifier that stimulates the growth of certain blood cells in the immune system that can fight cancer.

Internal radiation (brachytherapy, implant radiation) - radiation is given inside the body as close to the cancer as possible. Substances that produce radiation, called radioisotopes, may be swallowed, injected, or placed directly into or near the tumor. Some of the radioactive implants are called "seeds" or "capsules." Internal radiation involves giving a higher dose of radiation in a shorter time span than with external radiation. Some internal radiation treatments stay in the body for a short time. Other internal treatments stay in the body permanently, though the radioactive substance loses its radiation over time.

Intracranial pressure (ICP) - pressure of the fluid inside the skull and on the brain.

Invasive cancer - cancer that begins in one area and then spreads into the nearby tissues.

Intravenous pyelogram (IVP) - a series of X-rays of the kidney, ureters, and bladder with the injection of a contrast dye into the vein -- to detect tumors, abnormalities, kidney stones, or any obstructions.

Isoflavone - phytochemical found in soy protein.

Isolated - refers to an individual who is the only affected member of his/her family, either by chance or through a new (de novo) mutation.

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J

Jaundice - yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes.

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K

Karyotype - a picture of an individual's 46 chromosomes, lined up into 23 pairs, showing the number, size, and shape of each chromosome type.

Kidney transplantation - a procedure that places a healthy kidney from one person into a recipient's body.

Kidneys - a pair of bean-shaped organs located below the ribs toward the middle of the back.

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L

Large intestine - part of the intestine that goes from the cecum to the anus; includes the colon and the rectum.

Lactase - an enzyme in the small intestine needed to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products.

Lactase deficiency - lack of an enzyme made by the small intestine called lactase, which prevents the body from digesting lactose (a sugar found in milk and milk products) properly.

Lactose - sugar found in milk, which the body breaks down into galactose and glucose.

Lactose intolerance - inability to digest lactose, the sugar in milk, because the body does not produce the lactase enzyme.

Lactose tolerance test - a test that checks the body's ability to digest lactose (a sugar found in milk and milk products).

Laparoscope - a long, thin flexible tube with a camera lens attached that allows the physician to examine the organs inside the abdominal cavity -- to check for abnormalities and operate through small incisions.

Laparoscopy - use of a viewing tube with a lens or camera (and a light on the end), which is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen to examine the contents of the abdomen and remove tissue samples.

Laparotomy - a surgical incision into a cavity in the abdomen, usually performed using general or regional anesthesia.

Lesion - an abnormal change in the structure of an organ or body part due to injury or disease.

Leukemia - a cancer of the blood-forming tissue. Leukemic cells look different than normal cells and do not function properly.

Liver - a large organ in the body that has many important functions, such as making bile, making important plasma proteins, and cleaning alcohol and poisons from the blood.

Liver biopsy - a procedure in which tissue samples from the liver are removed (with a needle or during surgery) for examination under a microscope.

Liver enzyme tests (also called liver function tests) - blood tests to determine how well the liver and biliary system are functioning.

Locally invasive tumor - a tumor that can invade the tissues surrounding it by sending out "fingers" of cancerous cells into normal tissue.

Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) - a procedure that uses an electric wire loop to obtain a piece of tissue.

Lower GI (gastrointestinal) series (also called barium enema) - a procedure that examines the rectum, the large intestine, and the lower part of the small intestine. A fluid called barium (a metallic, chemical, chalky, liquid used to coat the inside of organs so that they will show up on an X-ray) is given into the rectum as an enema. An X-ray of the abdomen shows strictures (narrowed areas), obstructions (blockages), and other problems.

Lumbar puncture (also called spinal tap.) - a special needle is placed into the lower back, into the spinal canal. This is the area around the spinal cord. The pressure in the spinal canal and brain can then be measured. A small amount of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) can be removed and sent for testing to determine if there is an infection or other problems. CSF is the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord.

Lumpectomy - surgery to remove the cancerous lump and a portion of normal tissue around the breast cancer lump. The surgeon may also remove some of the lymph nodes under the arm to determine if the cancer has spread.

Lycopene - a carotenoid phytochemical that is found in ripe fruits, especially tomatoes.

Lymph - part of the lymphatic system; a thin, clear fluid that circulates through the lymphatic vessels and carries blood cells that fight infection and disease.

Lymphedema - a disorder in which lymph accumulates in the soft tissues, resulting in swelling. Lymphedema may be caused by inflammation, obstruction, or removal of the lymph nodes during surgery.

Lymphoma - cancer growing in the lymphatic system (which produces white cells and cleans body fluids).

Lymph nodes - part of the lymphatic system; small, bean-shaped organs, found throughout the body, that act as filters for the lymph fluid as it passes through them.

Lymph vessels - part of the lymphatic system; thin tubes that carry lymph fluid throughout the body.

Lymphangiogram (LAG) - an imaging study that can detect cancer cells or abnormalities in the lymphatic system and structures. It involves a dye being injected to the lymph system.

Lymphatic system - part of the immune system; includes lymph, ducts, organs, lymph vessels, lymphocytes, and lymph nodes, whose function is to produce and carry white blood cells to fight disease and infection.

Lymphocytes - part of the lymphatic system; white blood cells that fight infection and disease.

Lymphocytic leukemia - a type of leukemia in which the cancer develops in the white blood cells called lymphocytes (lymphoid cells).

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M

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

Malignant - a term used to describe cancerous tumors that tend to grow rapidly, can invade and destroy nearby normal tissues, and can spread to other parts of the body.

Malignant melanoma - a rare, but sometimes deadly skin cancer that may begin as a mole that turns cancerous.

Mammogram - low-dose X-ray of the breast used to detect small growths.

Markers - known DNA sequences used to track a gene in a family.

Medical oncologist - a physician who is specially trained to diagnose and treat cancer with chemotherapy and other medications.

Meiosis - the cell division process that eggs and sperm go through which halves the chromosome number from 46 to 23.

Mendel - An Austrian monk who performed experiments on garden peas to understand inheritance patterns.

Metabolism - a term used to describe how the body converts food to energy, and then gets rid of waste products.

Metastasis - the spread of tumor cells to other areas of the body.

Microsatellites - repeated, set lengths of sequences of DNA present in everyone.

Microsatellite instability (MSI) - when microsatellites accumulate DNA errors in somatic cells, leading to a change in length (number of repeats).

Mismatch-repair gene - a gene whose job is to correct naturally occurring "spelling" errors in DNA.

Modified radical mastectomy - the removal of the entire breast (including the nipple, the areola, and the overlying skin), some of the lymph nodes under the arm (also called the axillary lymph nodes), and the lining over the chest muscles. In some cases, part of the chest wall muscles is also removed.

Monoclonal antibodies - manufactured versions of immune system proteins that can locate and bind to specific antigens, such as those on cancer cells, wherever they are in the body.

Molecule - a chemical made of atoms, the basis for proteins and DNA.

Molecular heterogeneity - when a disorder is caused by mutations in more than one gene, it is said to be molecularly heterogeneous.

Moles - small skin marks caused by pigment-producing cells in the skin.

Mucous membrane - a thin, moist, layer of tissue that covers or lines some parts of the body, such as the mouth, nose, and lungs.

Mucositis (also called stomatitis) - an irritation or ulceration of the lining (mucosa) of the digestive tract -- particularly the tongue, mouth, and throat. Mucositis is often caused by chemotherapy.

Multifactorial - an inheritance pattern involving both genetic and environmental factors.

Mutations - a change in the usual DNA sequence of a particular gene that prevents the gene from working normally. Not all changes in genes are mutations. Some changes are beneficial, neutral, or normal variants (such as the changes that lead to different eye colors).

Myelogenous leukemia - a type of leukemia in which the cancer develops in the white blood cells called granulocytes or monocytes (myeloid cells).

Myelogram - an X-ray of the spine, similar to an angiogram.

Myeloma - cancer that starts in the plasma cells.

Myeloproliferative disorders - diseases in which the bone marrow produces too many of one of the three types of blood cells: red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all the tissues in the body; white blood cells, which fight infection; and platelets, which makes blood clot.

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N

Nasogastric tube (also called an NG tube) - a small tube that is passed through the nose, down the esophagus and into the stomach, where it is left so that the patient can be given nutrition.

National Cancer Institute - The US government agency for cancer research and information.

Nausea - a feeling or sensation leading to the urge to vomit.

Needle biopsy - use of a needle to extract tissue, cells, or fluid for microscopic examination.

Neoadjuvant therapy - treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy that is given before the primary treatment (usually surgery).

Neoplasia - abnormal cell growth.

Nephrectomy - surgery to remove the kidney or part of the kidney (partial nephrectomy); the most common treatment for kidney cancer.

Nephrologist - a physician who specializes in diseases of the kidneys.

Neuroblastoma - cancer occurring in the nerve cells that mainly affects infants and young children.

Neuroma - a tumor that starts in the nerve cells.

Neurosurgeon - a physician specializing in operations to treat disorders of the nervous system.

Nodule - a growth that may be either benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma - a type of lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphatic system; causes the cells in the lymphatic system to abnormally reproduce, eventually causing tumors to grow. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma cells can also spread to other organs.

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O

Occult - hidden.

Oncogene - a proto-oncogene that has been altered (mutated) such that it can promote tumor formation or cell growth.

Oncologist - a physician with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Oncology - the branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Oncology clinical nurse specialist - a registered nurse with a Master's degree in oncology nursing who specializes in the care of cancer patients.

Oncology social worker - a health professional with a Master's degree in social work who is an expert in coordinating and providing non-medical care to patients.

Oophorectomy - surgery to remove one or both ovaries.

Ophthalmologist - a physician who specializes in diseases of the eye.

Orchiectomy (also called castration) - the surgical removal of the testicles.

Osteoid tissue - pre-bone tissue; resembling bone.

Osteosarcoma (also called osteogenic sarcoma) - a cancer that affects the bone; most commonly occurs in young people.

Ostomy - an operation that makes it possible for stool or urine to leave the body through an opening made in the abdomen; necessary when part or all of the intestines or bladder are removed. Colostomy and ileostomy are types of ostomies.

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P

Pain specialist - oncologists, neurologists, anesthesiologists, neurosurgeons, and other physicians, nurses, or pharmacists who are experts in pain. A team of healthcare professionals may also be available to address issues of pain control.

Palliative treatment - treatment that relieves symptoms, such as pain, but is not expected to cure the disease. The main purpose is to improve the patient's quality of life.

Palpation - a physical examination in which one's hand is used to apply pressure to the surface of the body to feel for abnormalities.

Pancreas - gland that makes enzymes for digestion and the hormone insulin.

Pap test (also called Pap smear) - Test that involves microscopic examination of cells collected from the cervix, used to detect changes that may be cancer or may lead to cancer, and to show noncancerous conditions, such as infection or inflammation.

Parenteral nutrition or feeding - giving nutrients to a patient by a method that does not use the digestive tract, such as by injection into a vein.

Partial (segmental) mastectomy - surgery to remove the breast cancer and a larger portion of the normal breast tissue around the breast cancer than is taken with lumpectomy. The surgeon may also remove the lining over the chest muscles below the tumor and some of the lymph nodes under the arm.

Partial nephrectomy - surgery to remove only the part of the kidney that contains the tumor.

Pathologist - a physician who specialized in the diagnosis and classification of diseases by laboratory tests such as examination of tissue and cells under the microscope. The pathologist determines whether a tumor is benign or cancerous and, if cancerous, the exact cell type and grade.

Patient's rights - a list of rights to ensure that the quality of care, respect, and decision-making processes will be honored by the company, individual, or institution that is providing the care.

Pediatric oncologist - a physician who specializes in cancers of children.

Pediatrician - a physician who specializes in the care of children.

Pedigree - a diagram of a family tree indicating the family members and their relationship to the person with an inherited disorder.

Pelvic examination - an internal examination of the uterus, cervix, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and rectum.

Penetrance - a characteristic of a genotype; it refers to the chance that a clinical condition will occur when a particular genotype is present.

Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (also called a PEG tube) - a tube inserted through the abdominal wall that rests in the stomach and is used to give nutrients to patients who cannot swallow.

Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC) - a needle is introduced through the skin and into the liver where the dye (contrast) is deposited so the bile duct structures can be viewed by X-ray.

Perforation - hole in the wall of an organ.

Perianal - area around the anus.

Perineal - related to the perineum.

Perineum - area between the anus and the sex organs.

Peripheral stem cell transplant - a process in which the stem cells (immature cells from which blood cells develop) are removed from the blood and frozen until they are given to the patient after receiving high doses of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Physical therapist - a health professional who uses exercises and other methods to restore or maintain the body's strength, mobility, and function.

Phytochemical - a chemical in plants that protects the plants against bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Phytoestrogen - a compound in a plant that has a weak estogenic activity.

Plasma - the watery, liquid part of the blood in which the red blood cells, the white blood cells, and platelets are suspended.

Platelet pheresis - a procedure to remove platelets from the blood.

Platelets - parts of cells found in the blood that are needed to help the blood to clot in order to control bleeding.

Pluripotent stem cell - the most primitive, undeveloped blood cell.

Polymorphism - a common gene alteration seen in a certain percentage of the population, that may not be associated with disease.

Polyp - an abnormal growth that often projects from the lining of a mucous membrane, such as the intestine.

Polyposis - an abnormal condition in which many polyps are present.

Precancerous - a term referring to a condition that may become cancerous or malignant.

Predictive genetic testing - determines the chances that a healthy individual with or without a family history of a certain disease might develop that disease.

Preimplantation studies - used following in vitro fertilization to diagnose a genetic disease or condition in an embryo before it is implanted into the mother's uterus.

Prenatal diagnosis - used to diagnose a genetic disease or condition in the developing fetus.

Presymptomatic genetic testing - used to determine whether people who have a family history of a disease, but no current symptoms, have the gene alteration associated with the disease.

Primary site - the place where cancer begins. Primary cancer is named after the organ in which it starts. For example, cancer that starts in the kidney is always kidney cancer even if it spreads (metastasizes) to other organs such as bones or lungs.

Primary tumor - the original tumor.

Proctectomy - an operation to remove the rectum.

Proctoscope - short, rigid metal tube used to look into the rectum and anus.

Proctoscopy - looking into the rectum and anus with a proctoscope.

Prognosis - a forecast about the probable outcome of a disease, especially the chances for recovery.

Prostatalgia - pain in the prostate gland.

Prostate - a gland in men that produces part of the fluid in semen. It is about the size of a walnut, and surrounds the neck of the bladder and urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. It is partly muscular and partly glandular, with ducts opening into the prostatic portion of the urethra. It is made up of three lobes: a center lobe with one lobe on each side.

Prostate acid phosphatase (PAP) - an enzyme produced by the prostate that is elevated in some patients with prostate cancer.

Prostatectomy - surgical procedure for the partial or complete removal of the prostate.

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) - an antigen made by the prostate gland and found in the blood; elevated levels may indicate cancer in the prostate gland.

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test - a blood test used to help detect prostate cancer by measuring a substance called prostate-specific antigen produced by the prostate.

Prostatism - any condition of the prostate that causes interference with the flow of urine from the bladder.

Prostatitis - an inflamed condition of the prostate gland that may be accompanied by discomfort, pain, frequent urination, infrequent urination, and, sometimes, fever.

Protein - a molecule, made from amino acids, that performs activities in the cell for the body to function normally.

Protein truncation studies - a way to look at gene products, rather than the gene itself; testing involves looking at the protein a gene makes to determine if it is shorter than normal.

Proteinuria - high levels of protein in the urine.

Protocol - a formal outline or plan, such as a description of what treatments a patient will receive and exactly when each should be given.

Proto-oncogene - a normal gene responsible for promoting regulated cell growth.

Pruritus - itching of the skin.

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Q

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R

Radiation colitis - damage to the colon from radiation therapy.

Radiation enteritis - damage to the small intestine from radiation therapy.

Radiation oncologist - a physician who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.

Radiation therapy - treatment with high-energy rays (such as X-rays) to kill or shrink cancer cells. The radiation may come from outside of the body (external radiation) or from radioactive materials placed inside the body (internal or implant radiation).

Radical mastectomy - surgery to remove the entire breast (including the nipple, the areola, and the overlying skin), the lymph nodes under the arm, also called the axillary lymph glands, and the chest muscles. This operation is rarely used today.

Radical prostatectomy - surgery to remove the prostate along with the two seminal vesicle glands attached to the prostate.

Radical retropubic prostatectomy - an operation to remove the entire prostate gland and seminal vesicles through the lower abdomen.

Radioisotopes - materials that produce radiation.

Radiologist - a physician with special training in diagnosing diseases by interpreting X-rays and other types of imaging studies, for example, CT scans and magnetic resonance imaging.

Rectum - lower end of the large intestine, leading to the anus.

Red blood cells (also called erythrocytes or RBCs) - blood cells that mainly help transport oxygen to all the tissues in the body.

reduced penetrance - when a person has a mutation but does not show any signs of disease.

Reflux - an abnormal backward flow of a fluid.

Regimen - a strict, regulated plan (such as diet, exercise, or other activity) designed to reach certain goals. In cancer treatment, a plan to treat cancer.

Relapse - reappearance of cancer after a disease-free period.

Remission - complete or partial disappearance of the signs and symptoms of cancer in response to treatment; the period during which a disease is under control. A remission may not be a cure.

Renal angiography (also called renal arteriography) - a series of X-rays of the renal (kidney) blood vessels with the injection of a contrast dye into a catheter, which is placed into the blood vessels of the kidney to detect any signs of blockage or abnormalities affecting the blood supply to the kidneys.

Renal ultrasound - a non-invasive test in which a transducer is passed over the kidney producing sound waves that bounce off of the kidney, transmitting a picture of the organ on a video screen. The test is used to determine the size and shape of the kidney, and to detect a mass, kidney stone, cyst, or other obstruction or abnormalities.

Retinoblastoma - cancer of the retina (back of the eye) that is most often seen in young children.

Rhabdomyosarcoma - a cancerous tumor that originates in the skeletal muscles; most often occurs in children.

Right to refuse treatment - options for treatment are offered that may extend the child's life but not provide a cure; the family has the right to refuse this type of treatment.

Risk factor - anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease, such as cancer.

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S

Salpingectomy - surgical removal of one or both fallopian tubes.

Salpingo-oophorectomy - surgery to remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries.

Sarcoma - a malignant tumor growing from connective tissues, such as cartilage, fat, muscle, or bone.

Screening - a process of checking for a disease when there are no symptoms present.

Screening mammogram - an X-ray of the breast used to detect breast changes in women who have no signs of breast cancer.

Scrotum - the bag of skin that holds the testicles.

Secondary tumor - a tumor that forms as a result of spread (metastasis) of cancer from the place where it started.

Second-degree relative - a relative with whom you share one-fourth of your genes, such as your half-siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and grandparents.

Sex chromosomes - the 23rd pair of human chromosomes that determine gender; females have two X chromosomes; males have one X and one Y chromosome.

Sibling - brother or sister.

Side effects - unwanted effects of treatment such as hair loss caused by chemotherapy and fatigue caused by radiation therapy.

Sigmoidoscope - a short, lighted tube used to examine the sigmoid colon and rectum.

Small intestine - the section of the digestive tract between the stomach and the large intestine. Most of digestion occurs here as nutrients are absorbed from food.

Social worker - a member of the healthcare team who provides counseling services and support. A social worker helps individuals and their families deal with various problems that arise from coping with a difficulty, illness, or hospitalization. A social worker can provide information and referral to various agencies who can assist with many issues such as counseling, housing, legal, and financial aid.

Somatic mutation - a DNA change present in body cells other than the egg or sperm (germ cells).

SPF - Sun Protection Factor.

Spinal tap (also called lumbar puncture) - a special needle is placed into the lower back, into the spinal canal. This is the area around the spinal cord. The pressure in the spinal canal and brain can then be measured. A small amount of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) can be removed and sent for testing to determine if there is an infection or other problems. CSF is the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord.

Splenectomy - surgery to remove the spleen.

Sporadic cancer - term that is sometimes used to differentiate cancers occurring in people who do not have a mutation that confers increased susceptibility to cancer from cancers occurring in people who are known to carry a mutation. Cancer developing in people who do not carry a high-risk mutation is referred to as sporadic cancer. Sporadic is also sometimes used to describe cancer occurring in individuals without a family history of cancer.

Sputum - mucus coughed up from the lungs.

Squamous cell carcinoma - a form of skin cancer that affects about 20 percent of patients with skin cancer. This highly treatable cancer is characterized by red, scaly skin that becomes an open sore.

Squamous cells (also called keratinocytes) - the primary cell types found in the epidermis, the outer layer of skin.

Staging - the process of determining whether cancer has spread and, if so, how far. 

Stem cells - formative cells; cells that replicate themselves when they divide and also create cells that turn into other types of cells. It is the stem cells that are needed in bone marrow transplant.

Stomatitis (Also called mucositis.) - an irritation or ulceration of the lining (mucosa) of the digestive tract -- particularly the tongue, mouth, and throat. Mucositis is often caused by chemotherapy.

Stricture - a narrowed area.

Subcutis - the deepest layer of skin; also known as the subcutaneous layer.

Surgical oncologist - a physician who specializes in using surgery to treat cancer.

Syndrome - a collection of traits, symptoms, and/or abnormalities in an individual that usually has a single underlying cause.

Syngeneic bone marrow transplant - an allogeneic transplant from an identical twin.

Systemic treatment or therapy - treatment or therapy that reaches and affects cells throughout the body.

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T

Tamoxifen - a drug used in hormone therapy to treat or reduce the risk for breast cancer by blocking the effects of estrogen.

Testis (also called testicle) - one of the pair of male gonads that produce semen; suspended in the scrotum by the spermatic cords.

Testosterone - male sex hormone produced mostly by the testicles, although a small amount is made by the adrenal glands.

Third-degree relative - a relative with whom you share one-eighth of your genes such as your first cousins.

Threshold - a term used to describe the level of liability genes and environmental triggers needed to cause expression of a multifactorial disorder; the level may differ between males and females.

Thrombosis - the presence or formation of a clot (thrombus) within a blood vessel, which may block blood flow.

Tissue - a group or layer of cells that together perform specific functions.

Topical chemotherapy - chemotherapy given as a cream or lotion placed on the skin to kill cancer cells.

Total (or simple) mastectomy - surgery to remove the entire breast (including the nipple, the areola, and most of the overlying skin).

Total hysterectomy - the removal of the uterus, including the cervix; the fallopian tubes and the ovaries remain.

Total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy - the entire uterus, fallopian tubes, and the ovaries are surgically removed.

Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) - people undergoing treatment for cancer sometimes need TPN to help meet their nutritional needs. TPN is a special mixture of glucose, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals that are given through an intravenous line (IV) into the veins. Many people call this "intravenous feedings."

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (also called TENS) - a procedure in which electrodes placed on a person's skin give off an electric signal that stimulates nerve cells through the skin. The numb-like feeling that results can help some people overcome pain.

Transrectal ultrasound of the prostate - a test using sound wave echoes to create an image of the prostate gland to visually inspect for abnormal conditions like gland enlargement, nodules, penetration of tumor through capsule of the gland and/or invasion of seminal vesicles. It may also be used for guidance of needle biopsies of the prostate gland and guiding the nitrogen probes in cryosurgery.

Transurethral hyperthermia - an investigative procedure that uses heat, usually provided by microwaves, to shrink the prostate.

Transurethral incision of the prostate (TUIP) - a procedure that widens the urethra by making some small cuts in the bladder neck, where the urethra joins the bladder, and in the prostate gland itself.

Transurethral laser incision of the prostate (TULIP) - the use of laser through the urethra that melts the tissue.

Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) - a surgical procedure by which portions of the prostate gland are removed through the penis.

Transurethral surgery - surgery in which no external incision is needed. For prostate transurethral surgery, the surgeon reaches the prostate by inserting an instrument through the urethra at the tip of the penis. See above for different types of transurethral surgery.

Transvaginal ultrasound (also called ultrasonography) - an ultrasound test using a small instrument, called a transducer, that is placed in the vagina.

Tumor - an abnormal lump or mass of tissue. Tumors can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Tumor marker - a substance that may be found in elevated amounts in the blood, urine, or body tissues that may indicate cancer is present.

Tumor suppressor genes - genes that slow down cell division or cause cells to die at the appropriate time. Alterations of these genes can lead to too much cell growth and development of cancer.

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U

Ulceration - a process in which the skin or mucous membrane has been broken, tissue has disintegrated, and pus may have formed.

Ulcerative colitis - a condition in which the lining of the colon is inflamed.

Ultrasound (also called sonography) - a diagnostic imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function, and to assess blood flow through various vessels.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation - invisible rays that come from the sun. UV radiation can damage the skin and cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

Umbilical cord blood transplant - a bone marrow transplant using stem cells from cord blood.

Unilateral - affecting one side of the body. For example, unilateral kidney cancer occurs in one kidney only.

Upper GI (gastrointestinal) series (also called barium swallow) - a diagnostic test that examines the organs of the upper part of the digestive system: the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). A fluid called barium (a metallic, chemical, chalky, liquid used to coat the inside of organs so that they will show up on an X-ray) is swallowed. X-rays are then taken to evaluate the digestive organs.

Upper GI endoscopy - looking into the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum with an endoscope.

Urea - the nitrogen part of urine produced from the breakdown of protein.

Ureters - two narrow tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

Urethra - narrow channel through which urine passes from the bladder out of the body.

Urinalysis - laboratory examination of urine for various cells and chemicals, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, infection, or excessive protein.

Urinary incontinence - the loss of bladder control.

Urologist - a physician who specializes in treating problems of the urinary tract in males and females and sexual organs in males.

Urology - the branch of medicine concerned with the urinary tract in both genders, and with the genital tract or reproductive system in the male.

Uterus - also called the womb, the uterus is a hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman's lower abdomen, between the bladder and the rectum.

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V

Vagina (also called the birth canal) - the passageway through which fluid passes out of the body during menstrual periods. The vagina connects the cervix (the opening of the womb, or uterus) and the vulva (the external genitalia).

Vaginal hysterectomy - the uterus is removed through the vaginal opening.

Variable expression - when a gene does not produce the same clinical features in all people; some people have milder or more severe symptoms than others.

Ventriculoperitoneal shunt (also called VP shunt) - a flexible tube inserted into the body with one end in a ventricle (opening) in the brain and the other end in the peritoneal cavity; used to drain excess fluid from around the brain in order to reduce pressure.

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W

Watchful waiting - close monitoring of prostate cancer by a physician instead of immediate treatment. Also called expectant management or active surveillance.

White blood cells (also called leukocytes or WBCs) - blood cells involved in the destruction of viruses, bacteria, and fungi that cause infection.

Wilms tumor - A cancerous tumor originating in the cells of the kidney that most often occurs in young children.

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X

X chromosome - One of the two sex chromosomes, X and Y.

X-linked inheritance - Pattern of inheritance associated with a mutation or alteration of a gene that lies on the X chromosome, one of the sex chromosomes. If the mutation is recessive, the condition is more common in males (who only have one X) than females. Often you see a pattern of unaffected females having affected sons and maternal uncles.

X-ray - a diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs on film.

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Y

Y chromosome - One of the two sex chromosomes, X and Y.

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Z

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Online Medical Reviewer: Alteri, Rick MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stump-Sutliff, Kim RN, MSN, AOCNS
Last Review Date: 4/19/2011
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.