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 cancer from coming back.

Alopecia: Hair loss.

Alternative Therapy: Refers to treatments that are promoted as cancer cures often by non-medical people. They are unproven because they have not been scientifically tested, or were tested and found to be ineffective. It is important for a patient to discuss alternative therapies with their doctor.

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

Anorexia: Loss of appetite or poor appetite that occurs with cancer and its treatment.

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

Benign: Means not cancerous, not having cancer.

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 you have cancer.

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.

Brachytherapy: Treatment in which a solid radioactive substance is implanted inside your body, near or next to the cancer cells.

Cancer: A general name for more than 200 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. The drugs work on fast-growing cells throughout the body.

Clinical Trials: Medical research trials conducted with volunteers. Each trial 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 blood-forming tissue recover from the effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These include Neupogen (G-CSF) and Leukine (GM-CSF) 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.

Computerized Tomography (CT Scan): A test that shows a view of soft tissues in the body by passing several X-ray beams through the body at different angles.

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

Hematology: The branch of medicine that deals with diseases of the blood and blood-forming organisms.

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

Hospice Care: Treatment is directed to relieve, rather than cure, symptoms caused by cancer.

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: Therapies used in addition to standard medical treatment to improve well-being, 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.

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.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A test that makes a 3-D view of the inside of the body by use of magnets. It does not show bone.

Malignant: A term used to describe a cancerous tumor.

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

Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy given before cancer surgery to shrink the tumor. Additional chemotherapy may be given after surgery.

Neutropenia: An abnormally low count of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that helps fight off infections. The lower your neutrophil count, the more vulnerable you are to infections caused by bacteria and fungi.

Oncology: The study of cancer.

Palliative Care: Focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness, like cancer. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.

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

Positron Emission Tomography (PET Scan): A test that uses a camera to make images of the inside of the body. It is different than all other tests in that it shows how the inside of the body is functioning.

Pheresis: A procedure where parts of your blood are filtered, treated and/or collected, then given back. Most often performed before autologous (self-donor) bone marrow transplant. May be used for other conditions as well.

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 Therapy: Cancer treatment with radiation including external rays or 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.

Simulation (SIM): A radiation therapy planning session to map out and mark areas to be treated.

Stomatitis: Sores on the lining of the mouth.

Subcutaneous (SQ or SC): Under the skin.

Surgery: To cut out or remove cancer cells, or a tumor.

Symptom Management: Controlling problems caused by cancer or its treatment, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, shortness of breath or pain.

Thrombocytopenia: Disorder with an abnormally low amount of platelets that help blood to clot. Sometimes associated with abnormal bleeding.

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

Ultrasound: A test using radar-like sound waves to view 3-D images of the inside of the body.

White Blood Cells: The blood cells that fight infection.

X-ray: A quick, painless test that produces images of structures inside the body.

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