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Medical Glossary

It is important that you have a full understanding of what is being communicated to you. This will enable you to make informed decisions in your care. Talk with your health care professional about any words, terms, or concepts that are unfamiliar to you.

Adjuvant Therapy:  Anticancer drugs or hormones given after surgery and/or radiation to help prevent the cancer from coming back.

Alopecia: Hair loss.

Alternative Therapy: Refers to treatments that are promoted as cancer cures often by nonmedical people. They are unproven because they have not been scientifically tested, or were tested and found to be ineffective. It can be harmful to the patient if used instead of standard treatment.

Anemia: Having too few red blood cells. Symptoms of anemia include feeling tired, weak, short of breath, or dizzy.

Anorexia: Poor appetite.

Antiemetic: A medicine that prevents or controls nausea and vomiting.

Benign: A term used to describe a tumor that is not cancerous.

Biological Therapy: Treatment to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune system to fight infection and disease; also called "Immunotherapy."

Biopsy: The removal of a sample of tissue to see whether cancer cells are present.

Blood Count: The number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in a sample of blood. This is also called a complete blood count (CBC).

Bone Marrow: The inner, spongy tissue of bones where blood cells are made.

Cancer: A general name for more than 100 diseases in which abnormal cells grow out of control; a malignant tumor.

Catheter: A thin flexible tube through which fluids can enter or leave the body.

Central Venous Catheter: A special thin, flexible tube placed in a large vein. It remains there for as long as it is needed to deliver and withdraw fluids.

Chemotherapy: The use of drugs to treat cancer.

Clinical Trials: Medical research studies conducted with volunteers. Each study is designed to answer scientific questions and to find better ways to prevent or treat cancer.

Colony-Stimulating Factors: Substances that stimulate the production of blood cells. Treatment with colony-stimulating factors (CSFs) can help the blood-forming tissue recover from the effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These include (G-CSF) or Neupogen and (GM-CSF) or Leukine that increase the white blood cell count. Erythropoietin (Epogen and Procrit) increases the red blood cell count.

Combination Chemotherapy: The use of more than one drug to treat cancer.

Complementary Therapy: Therapies used in addition to standard medical treatment to improve wellbeing, prevent illness, reduce stress, and prevent or reduce side effects and symptoms; They are not intended to replace standard medical treatment. Some examples include meditation, yoga, guided imagery, healing touch, massage, and herbal therapies.

Gastrointestinal:  Having to do with the digestive tract, which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines.

Hormones: Natural substances released by an organ that can influence the function of other organs in the body.

Infusion: Slow and/or prolonged delivery of a drug or fluids which is usually given Intravenously (into a vein).

Injection: Using a syringe and needle to push fluids or drugs into the body, often called a "shot."

Integrative Therapy: The combined offering of standard medical treatment with complementary therapies.

Intraarterial (IA): Into an artery.

Intracavitary (IC): Into a cavity or space, specifically the abdomen, pelvis, or the chest.

Intrathecal (IT): Into the spinal fluid.

Intravenous (IV): Into a vein.

Malignant: A term used to describe a cancerous tumor.

Medical Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in using chemotherapy to treat cancer.

Metastasis: When cancer cells break away from their original site and spread to other parts of the body.

Neo-adjuvant Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy that is given before breast cancer surgery to shrink the tumor. Additional chemotherapy will be given after surgery.

Palliative Care or Hospice Care: Treatment to relieve, rather than cure, symptoms caused by cancer. Palliative care can help people live more comfortably.

Peripheral Neuropathy: A condition of the nervous system that usually begins in the hands and/or feet with symptoms of numbness, tingling, burning and/or weakness. It can be caused by certain anticancer drugs.

Port: A small plastic or metal container surgically placed under the skin and attached to a central venous catheter inside the body. Blood and fluids can enter the body through the port using a special needle.

Radiation Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.

Radiation Therapy: Cancer treatment with radiation (high-energy rays or radioactive implanted "seeds").

Recurrence: When a cancer that was in remission returns.

Red Blood Cells: Cells that supply oxygen to tissues throughout the body.

Remission: The partial or complete disappearance of signs and symptoms of disease.

Stomatitis: Sores on the lining of the mouth.

Subcutaneous (SQ or SC): Under the skin.

Surgery: To cut out a tumor or cancer.

Symptom Management: To control problems the cancer or cancer treatment may cause such as pain, nausea, vomiting, or shortness of breath.

Tumor: An abnormal growth of cells or tissues. Tumors may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

White Blood Cells: The blood cells that fight infection.

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