Definitions and Abbreviations for Inflammatory Breast Cancer Patients:
A B C D E F G H I J L M N O P Q R S T U V W X
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Abnormal: Not normal. May be cancerous or premalignant.
Acute: A condition or disease that comes on quickly but does not last long.
Adenoma: A noncancerous tumor.
Adenopathy: Large or swollen lymph glands.
Adjunct agent: In cancer therapy, a drug or substance used in addition to the primary therapy.
Adjunctive therapy: Another treatment used together with the primary treatment. Its purpose is to assist the primary treatment.
Adjuvant therapy: Treatment given after the primary treatment to increase the chances of a cure. Adjuvant therapy may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or biological therapy.
Adverse effect: An unwanted side effect of treatment.
Aggressive: A quickly growing cancer.
Agranulocyte: A type of white blood cell; monocytes and lymphocytes are agranulocytes.
Alteration, altered: Change; different from original.
Alopecia: The lack or loss of hair from areas of the body where hair is usually found. Alopecia can be a side effect of some cancer treatments.
Alternative medicine: Practices used instead of standard treatments. Alternative medicine includes dietary supplements, megadose vitamins, herbal preparations, special teas, acupuncture, massage therapy, magnet therapy, spiritual healing, and meditation.
Analgesic: A drug that reduces pain. Analgesics include aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen.
Anemia: A condition in which the number of red blood cells is below normal.
Anesthesia: Drugs or gases given before and during surgery so the patient won't feel pain. The patient may be awake or asleep.
Anesthesiologist: A doctor who gives drugs or gases that keep you comfortable during surgery.
Angiogenesis: Blood vessel formation. Tumor angiogenesis is the growth of blood vessels from surrounding tissue to a solid tumor. This is caused by the release of chemicals by the tumor.
Angiogenesis inhibitor: A substance that may prevent the formation of blood vessels. In anticancer therapy, an angiogenesis inhibitor prevents the growth of blood vessels from surrounding tissue to a solid tumor.
Anorexia: An abnormal loss of the appetite for food. Anorexia can be caused by cancer or other diseases.
Antiangiogenesis: Prevention of the growth of new blood vessels.
Antiangiogenic: Having to do with reducing the growth of new blood vessels.
Antibody: Special proteins made by cells of the immune system to help the body fight infection.
Antiemetic: A drug that prevents or reduces nausea and vomiting.
Antiestrogen: A substance that blocks the activity of estrogens, the family of hormones that promote the development and maintenance of female sex characteristics.
Antifungal: A drug used to treat infections caused by different kinds of fungus.
Antihormone therapy: Treatment with drugs, surgery, or radiation in order to block the production or action of a hormone. Antihormone therapy may be used in cancer treatment because certain hormones are able to stimulate the growth of some types of tumors.
Antioxidant: A substance that prevents damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals that often contain oxygen.
Apoptosis: A type of cell death in which a series of molecular steps in a cell leads to its death. This is the bodys normal way of getting rid of unneeded or abnormal cells. The process of apoptosis may be blocked in cancer cells.
Areola: The area of dark-colored skin on the breast that surrounds the nipple.
Aromatase inhibitor: A drug that prevents the formation of estradiol, a female hormone, by interfering with an aromatase enzyme. Aromatase inhibitors are used as a type of hormone therapy for postmenopausal women who have hormone-dependent breast cancer.
Aspirate: Fluid withdrawn from a lump (often a cyst) or a nipple.
Aspiration: Removal of fluid or tissue through a needle. Also, the accidental breathing in of food or fluid into the lungs.
Assay: A laboratory test to find and measure the amount of a specific substance.
Asthenia: Weakness; lack of energy and strength.
Asymptomatic: Having no signs or symptoms of disease.
Ataxia: Loss of muscle coordination.
Axilla: The underarm or armpit.
Axillary: Pertaining to the armpit area, including the lymph nodes that are located there.
Axillary dissection: Surgery to remove lymph nodes found in the armpit region. Also called axillary lymph node dissection.
Axillary lymph node: A lymph node in the armpit region that drains lymph channels from the breast.
Axillary lymph node dissection: See axillary dissection.
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Benign: Not malignant; does not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body.
Benign breast disease: A common condition marked by benign (noncancerous) changes in breast tissue. These changes may include irregular lumps or cysts, breast discomfort, sensitive nipples, and itching. These symptoms may change throughout the menstrual cycle and usually stop after menopause. Also called fibrocystic breast disease, fibrocystic breast changes, and mammary dysplasia.
Benign proliferative breast disease: A group of noncancerous conditions that may increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Examples include ductal hyperplasia, lobular hyperplasia, and papillomas.
Benign tumor: A noncancerous growth that does not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body.
Bilateral: Affecting both the right and left sides of the body.
Bilateral cancer: Cancer that occurs in both paired organs, such as both breasts.
Biological therapy: Treatment that uses the body's immune system to fight cancer or to lessen the side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments. Also known as immunotherapy.
Biopsy: Removal of a sample of tissue that is then examined under a microscope to check for cancer cells.
Bisphosphonate: A type of drug used to treat osteoporosis and the bone pain caused by some types of cancer. Also called diphosphonate.
Blood-brain barrier: A network of blood vessels with closely spaced cells that makes it difficult for potentially toxic substances (such as anticancer drugs) to penetrate the blood vessel walls and enter the brain.
Blood cell count: A test to check the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in a sample of blood. Also called complete blood count (CBC).
Blood chemistry study: A procedure in which a sample of blood is examined to measure the amounts of certain substances made in the body. An abnormal amount of a substance can be a sign of disease in the organ or tissue that produces it.
Bolus infusion: A single dose of drug usually injected into a blood vessel over a short period of time. Also called bolus.
Bone marrow: The soft material inside bones. Blood cells are produced in the bone marrow.
Bone marrow biopsy: A procedure in which a needle is inserted into the hipbone, a small piece of bone marrow is removed, and then looked at under a microscope.
Bone marrow metastases: Cancer that has spread from the original (primary) tumor to the bone marrow.
Bone marrow suppression: When the bone marrow is not making blood cells due to disease or to some type of treatment or toxin (for example, chemotherapy).
Bone metastases: Cancer that has spread from the original (primary) tumor to the bone.
Bone scan: A technique to create images of bones on a computer screen or on film. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into a blood vessel and travels through the bloodstream; it collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner.
Botanical: Having to do with, or derived from, plants.
Brain metastasis: Cancer that has spread from the original (primary) tumor to the brain.
BRCA1: A gene on chromosome 17 that normally helps to suppress cell growth. A person who inherits an altered version of the BRCA1 gene has a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer.
BRCA2: A gene on chromosome 13 that normally helps to suppress cell growth. A person who inherits an altered version of the BRCA2 gene has a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer.
Breast cancer in situ: Very early or noninvasive abnormal cells that are confined to the ducts or lobules in the breast. Also known as DCIS or LCIS.
Breast density: Describes the relative amount of different tissues present in the breast. A dense breast has less fat than glandular and connective tissue. Mammogram films of breasts with higher density are harder to read and interpret than those of less dense breasts.
Breast implant: A silicone gel-filled or saline-filled sac placed under the chest muscle to restore breast shape.
Breast reconstruction: Surgery to rebuild the shape of the breast after a mastectomy.
Breast self-exam: An exam by a woman of her breasts to check for lumps or other changes.
Breast-conserving surgery: An operation to remove the breast cancer but not the breast itself. Types of breast-conserving surgery include lumpectomy (removal of the lump), quadrantectomy (removal of one quarter, or quadrant, of the breast), and segmental mastectomy (removal of the cancer as well as some of the breast tissue around the tumor and the lining over the chest muscles below the tumor). Also called breast-sparing surgery.
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C-erbB-2: The gene that controls cell growth by making the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. Also called HER2/neu.
CA-125 test: A blood test that measures the level of CA-125, a substance found in blood, other body fluids and some tissues. Increased levels of CA-125 may be a sign of cancer.
CA 15-3 test: A blood test that measures the level of CA 15-3 antigen, a protein that is produced by the same gene (MUC1) as CA 27.29. As breast cancer progresses, the level of CA 15-3 antigen in the blood rises. In theory, by monitoring the CA 27.29 test results oncologists can determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, but it is not completely reliable.
CA 27.29 test: A blood test that measures the level of CA 27.29 antigen, which can be found in the blood of breast cancer patients. It is newer than CA 15-3, but most doctors consider it essentially equivalent to CA 15-3. A patient usually wouldnt have both tests.
Cachexia: Loss of body weight and muscle mass, and weakness that may occur in patients with cancer or other chronic diseases.
Cancer: A term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control or order. Cancer cells can invade nearby tissues and can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic systems to other parts of the body.
Cancer in situ: Very early cancer that has not spread to nearby tissue.
Carcinogen: Any substance that causes cancer.
Carcinoma: Cancer that begins in the lining or covering of an organ.
Cardiac: Having to do with the heart.
Cardiomyopathy: A disease of the heart muscle that causes the heart to pump poorly.
Cardiopulmonary: Having to do with the heart and lungs.
Cardiotoxicity: Toxicity that affects the heart.
Cardiovascular: Having to do with the heart and blood vessels.
Case manager: A professional who helps a patient manage the finances and insurance issues that come up during treatment.
CAT scan: Computerized axial tomography scan. A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles; the pictures are created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. Also called computed tomography (CT scan) or computerized tomography.
CBC: complete blood count. A test to check the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in a sample of blood. Also called blood cell count.
CEA: A blood test that measures the level of CEA. It is used with patients to measure response to therapy and to monitor whether the disease is recurring. A blood test for CEA is often used as a tumor marker. Physicians can use CEA results to determine the stage and extent of disease, and the outlook in patients with cancer.
Cell: The smallest unit of tissues that make up any living thing. Cells have very specialized structure and function and are able to reproduce when needed.
Cell proliferation: An increase in the number of cells as a result of cell growth and cell division.
Cellulitis: An acute, spreading infection of the deep tissues of the skin and muscle that causes the skin to become warm and tender and may also cause fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, and blisters.
Centimeter: A measure of length in the metric system. A centimeter is one hundredth of a meter. There are 2½ centimeters in an inch.
Central nervous system - CNS: The brain and spinal cord.
Central venous catheter: A tube placed into a large vein in the chest. It allows a doctor or nurse to give medications and fluids, and to draw blood for tests without having to 'stick' a person's vein each time (examples are Groshong and Hickman catheters).
Chemotherapeutic agent: A drug used to treat cancer.
Chemotherapy: Treatment with drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells; also used to shrink tumors before surgery. Can be Adjuvant chemotherapy, Combination chemotherapy, or neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
Cholinergic symptoms: Symptoms that happen as a reaction to a medication. Symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, sweating, diarrhea, cramping, a runny nose, and an incrase in saliva. Symptoms usually go away after treatment stops.
Chronic: A disease or condition that persists or progresses over a long period of time.
Clear margins: An area of normal tissue that surrounds cancerous tissue, as seen during examination under a microscope.
Clinical breast exam: An exam of the breast performed by a health care provider to check for lumps or other changes.
Clinical trials: Research studies, where patients help scientist find the best way to prevent, detect, diagnose or treat diseases.
Compassionate use trial: A way to provide an investigational therapy to a patient who is not eligible to receive that therapy in a clinical trial, but who has a serious or life-threatening illness for which other treatments are not available. Also called expanded access trial.
Complementary and alternative medicine - CAM: Forms of treatment that are used in addition to (complementary) or instead of (alternative) standard treatments. CAM may include dietary supplements, megadose vitamins, herbal preparations, special teas, acupuncture, massage therapy, magnet therapy, spiritual healing, and meditation.
Complete blood count: See CBC.
Complete remission: The disappearance of all signs of cancer in response to treatment. This does not always mean the cancer has been cured. Also called a complete response.
Computed tomography: See CAT scan.
Congestive heart failure (CHF): A condition in which the heart does not pump well enough to meet the needs of the other body organs.
Contralateral: Having to do with the opposite side of the body.
Contrast material: A dye or other substance that helps show abnormal areas inside the body. It is given by injection into a vein or by mouth. Contrast material may be used with x-rays, CT scans, MRI, or other imaging tests.
Conventional therapy: A currently accepted and widely used treatment for a certain type of disease, based on the results of past research. Also called conventional treatment.
Core biopsy: The removal of a tissue sample with a needle for examination under a microscope.
COX-2 inhibitor: Cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitor. A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to relieve pain and inflammation. COX-2 inhibitors are being studied as anticancer drugs.
CT scan: See CAT scan.
Cumulative dose: In medicine, the total amount of a drug or radiation given to a patient over time; for example, the total dose of radiation given in a series of radiation treatments.
Cutaneous: Having to do with the skin.
Cutaneous breast cancer: Cancer that has spread from the breast to the skin.
Cyst: A sac with liquid or gel-like material inside.
Cytotoxic chemotherapy: Anticancer drugs that kill cells, especially cancer cells.
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DCIS: Ductal carcinoma in situ (also called intraductal carcinoma). A noninvasive, precancerous condition in which abnormal cells are found in the lining of a breast duct. The abnormal cells have not spread outside the duct to other tissues in the breast. In some cases, ductal carcinoma in situ may become invasive cancer and spread to other tissues, although it is not known at this time how to predict which lesions will become invasive.
Deficiency: In medicine, a shortage of a substance (such as a vitamin or mineral) needed by the body.
Dehydration: A condition caused by the loss of too much water from the body. Severe diarrhea or vomiting can cause dehydration.
Dermatitis: Inflammation of the skin.
Dermatologist: A doctor who has special training to diagnose and treat skin problems.
Dermis: The lower or inner layer of the two main layers of tissue that make up the skin.
Diagnosis: The process of identifying a disease by the signs and symptoms.
Diagnostic mammogram: X-ray of the breasts used to check for breast cancer after a lump or other sign or symptom of breast cancer has been found.
Diagnostic procedure: A method used to identify a disease.
Diameter: The length of a straight line that extends from one edge of a tumor or other object, through its center and to the opposite edge. It is usually used to measure the size of round or spherical shapes.
Diarrhea: Frequent and watery bowel movements.
DIEP flap: A type of breast reconstruction in which blood vessels called deep inferior epigastric perforators (DIEP), and the skin and fat connected to them are removed from the lower abdomen and used for reconstruction. Muscle is left in place.
Dietary supplement: Vitamins, minerals, or other substances taken by mouth, and intended as an addition to the diet.
Dietitian: A health professional with special training in nutrition who can help with dietary choices. Also called a nutritionist.
Differentiation: In cancer, refers to how mature (developed) the cancer cells are in a tumor. Differentiated tumor cells resemble normal cells and tend to grow and spread at a slower rate than undifferentiated or poorly differentiated tumor cells, which lack the structure and function of normal cells and grow uncontrollably.
Diffuse: Widely spread; not localized or confined.
Digital mammography: A technique that uses a computer, rather than x-ray film, to record x-ray images of the breast.
Disease progression: Cancer that continues to grow or spread.
Disease-free survival: Length of time after treatment during which no cancer is found. Can be reported for an individual patient or for a study population.
Disease-specific survival: The percentage of subjects in a study who have survived a particular disease for a defined period of time. Usually reported as time since diagnosis or treatment. In calculating this percentage, only deaths from the disease being studied are counted. Subjects who died from some other cause are not included in the calculation.
Disorder: In medicine, a disturbance of normal functioning of the mind or body. Disorders may be caused by genetic factors, disease, or trauma.
Disseminate: Scatter or distribute over a large area or range.
Distal: In medicine, refers to a part of the body that is farther away from the center of the body than another part. For example, the fingers are distal to the shoulder. The opposite is proximal.
Distant cancer: Refers to cancer that has spread from the original (primary) tumor to distant organs or distant lymph nodes. Also known as distant metastasis.
Distant metastasis: See distant cancer.
Diuretic: A drug that increases the production of urine.
DNR order: Do not resuscitate order. A type of advance directive in which a person states that healthcare providers should not perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (restarting the heart) if his or her heart or breathing stops.
Do not resuscitate order: See DNR order.
Dose: The amount of medicine taken, or radiation given, at one time.
Dose-dense chemotherapy: A chemotherapy treatment plan in which drugs are given with less time between treatments than in a standard chemotherapy treatment plan.
DPA: Durable power of attorney. A document that gives a person (such as a relative, lawyer, or friend) the authority to make legal or financial decisions for another person. It may become active immediately, or when that person loses the ability to make decisions for himself or herself, depending on how it is written.
Drain: In medicine, to remove fluid as it collects; or, a tube or wick-like device used to remove fluid from a body cavity, wound, or infected area.
Drug: Any substance, other than food, that is used to prevent, diagnose, treat or relieve symptoms of a disease or abnormal condition. Also refers to a substance that alters mood or body function, or that can be habit-forming or addictive, especially a narcotic.
Drug resistance: The failure of cancer cells, viruses, or bacteria to respond to a drug used to kill or weaken them. The cells, viruses, or bacteria may be resistant to the drug at the beginning of treatment, or may become resistant after being exposed to the drug.
Drug tolerance: A condition that occurs when the body gets used to a medicine so that either more medicine is needed or different medicine is needed.
Duct: A small channel in the breast through which milk passes from the lobes to the nipple.
Ductal carcinoma: The most common type of breast cancer. It begins in the cells that line the milk ducts in the breast.
Ductal carcinoma in situ: See DCIS.
Ductal lavage: A method used to collect cells from milk ducts in the breast. A hair-size catheter (tube) is inserted into the nipple, and a small amount of salt water is released into the duct. The water picks up breast cells, and is removed. The cells are checked under a microscope. Ductal lavage may be used in addition to clinical breast examination and mammography to detect breast cancer.
Durable power of attorney: See DPA.
Dysfunction: A state of not functioning normally.
Dyspepsia: Upset stomach.
Dysphagia: Difficulty swallowing.
Dysplasia: Cells that look abnormal under a microscope but are not cancer.
Dyspnea: Difficult, painful breathing or shortness of breath.
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Ecchymosis: A small bruise caused by blood leaking from broken blood vessels into the tissues of the skin or mucous membranes.
Edema: Swelling caused by excess fluid in body tissues.
Efficacy: Effectiveness. In medicine, the ability of an intervention (for example, a drug or surgery) to produce the desired beneficial effect.
Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG): A test that looks at how the heart is working by measuring the electrical impulses it produces.
Electrolytes: Chemicals in the body, such as potassium and sodium, that help keep fluids in balance and help organs work properly.
Electron beam: A stream of electrons (small negatively charged particles found in atoms) that can be used for radiation therapy.
Embolism: A block in an artery caused by blood clots or other substances, such as fat globules, infected tissue, or cancer cells.
Encapsulated: Confined to a specific, localized area and surrounded by a thin layer of tissue.
Enzyme: A protein that speeds up chemical reactions in the body.
Eosinophil: A type of white blood cell.
Epidemiology: The study of the patterns, causes, and control of disease in groups of people.
Epidermis: The upper or outer layer of the two main layers of tissue that make up the skin.
Epithelial: Refers to the cells that line the internal and external surfaces of the body.
ER: Estrogen receptor. A protein found inside the cells of the female reproductive tissue, some other types of tissue, and some cancer cells. The hormone estrogen will bind to the receptors inside the cells and may cause the cells to grow.
ER+: Estrogen receptor positive. Breast cancer cells that have a protein (receptor molecule) to which estrogen will attach. Breast cancer cells that are ER+ need the hormone estrogen to grow and will usually respond to hormone (antiestrogen) therapy that blocks these receptor sites.
ER-: Estrogen receptor negative. Breast cancer cells that do not have a protein (receptor molecule) to which estrogen will attach. Breast cancer cells that are ER- do not need the hormone estrogen to grow and usually do not respond to hormone (antiestrogen) therapy that blocks these receptor sites.
Erythema: Redness of the skin.
Erythrocytes: Red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to cells in all parts of the body, and carry carbon dioxide from the cells back to the lungs.
Estradiol: A form of the hormone estrogen.
Estrogen: A female hormone; one of the hormones that can help some breast cancer tumors grow.
Estrogen receptor: See ER
Estrogen receptor negative: See ER-
Estrogen receptor positive: See ER+
Estrogen receptor test: A lab test to determine if breast cancer cells have estrogen receptors. If the cells have estrogen receptors, they may depend on estrogen for growth. This information may influence how the breast cancer is treated.
Etiology: The cause or origin of disease.
Excision: Removal by surgery.
Excisional biopsy: A surgical procedure in which an entire lump or suspicious area is removed for diagnosis. The tissue is then examined under a microscope.
External radiation: Radiation therapy that uses a machine to aim high-energy rays at the cancer. Also called external-beam radiation.
External-beam radiation: See external radiation.
Extract: In medicine, a preparation of a substance obtained from plants, animals, or bacteria and used as a drug or in drugs.
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False-negative test result: A test result that indicates that a person does not have a specific disease or condition when the person actually does have the disease or condition.
False-positive test result: A test result that indicates that a person has a specific disease or condition when the person actually does not have the disease or condition.
Familial cancer: Cancer that occurs in families more often than would be expected by chance. These cancers often occur at an early age, and may indicate the presence of a gene mutation that increases the risk of cancer. They may also be a sign of shared environmental or lifestyle factors.
Family history: A record of a person's current and past illnesses, and those of his or her parents, brothers, sisters, children, and other family members. A family history shows the pattern of certain diseases in a family, and helps to determine risk factors for those and other diseases.
Fatigue: A condition marked by extreme tiredness and inability to function due lack of energy. Fatigue may be acute or chronic.
Fatty-replaced breast tissue: A term used in mammography that refers to the replacement of breast tissue with fatty tissue. This commonly occurs as a woman ages.
Febrile neutropenia: A condition marked by fever and decrease in the number of neutrophils in the blood. A neutrophil is a type of white blood cell that helps fight infection. Having too few neutrophils increases the risk of infection.
Fibrocystic breast changes: A common condition marked by benign (noncancerous) changes in breast tissue. These changes may include irregular lumps or cysts, breast discomfort, sensitive nipples, and itching. These symptoms may change throughout the menstrual cycle and usually stop after menopause. Also called benign breast disease, fibrocystic breast disease, and mammary dysplasia.
Fibrocystic breast disease: See Fibrocystic breast changes.
Fine-needle aspiration: The removal of tissue or fluid with a needle for examination under a microscope. Also called needle biopsy.
First-line therapy: The first type of therapy given for a condition or disease.
Focal: In terms of cancer, limited to a specific area.
Fractionation: Dividing the total dose of radiation therapy into several smaller, equal doses delivered over a period of several days.
Free radical: A highly reactive chemical that often contains oxygen and is produced when molecules are split to give products that have unpaired electrons (a process called oxidation). Free radicals can damage important cellular molecules such as DNA or lipids or other parts of the cell.
Frozen section: A procedure in which a sample of tissue is frozen quickly after being removed from the body, placed under a microscope, and examined for cancer cells.
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Gamma irradiation: A type of radiation therapy that uses gamma radiation. Gamma radiation is a type of high-energy radiation that is different from x-rays.
Gamma knife: Radiation therapy in which high-energy rays are aimed at a tumor from many angles in a single treatment session.
Gamma ray: A type of high-energy radiation that is different from an x-ray.
Gamma scanning: A procedure to find areas in the body where cells, such as tumor cells, are dividing rapidly. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein or swallowed, and travels through the bloodstream. A machine called a scanner measures the radioactivity and produces pictures (scans) of internal parts of the body. The pictures can show abnormal changes in the area of the body containing the radioactive material. Examples of gamma scans include PET scans, gallium scans, and bone scans. Also called radionuclide scanning.
Gastric: Having to do with the stomach.
Gastritis: Inflammation of the lining of the stomach.
Gastrointestinal: GI. Refers to the stomach and intestines.
Gene: The basic unit of heredity found in all cells of the body.
Gene therapy: Treatment that alters a gene. In studies of gene therapy for cancer, researchers are trying to improve the body's natural ability to fight the disease or to make the cancer cells more sensitive to other kinds of therapy.
General anesthesia: Drugs that cause loss of feeling or awareness and put the person to sleep.
Generic: Official nonbrand names by which medicines are known. Generic names usually refer to the chemical name of the drug.
Genetic: Inherited; having to do with information that is passed from parents to offspring through genes in sperm and egg cells.
Genetic markers: Alterations in DNA that may indicate an increased risk of developing a specific disease or disorder.
Genetic testing: Analyzing DNA to look for a genetic alteration that may indicate an increased risk for developing a specific disease or disorder.
Gland: An organ that makes one or more substances, such as hormones, digestive juices, sweat, tears, saliva, or milk. Endocrine glands release the substances directly into the bloodstream. Exocrine glands release the substances into a duct or opening to the inside or outside of the body.
Glucose: A type of sugar; the chief source of energy for living organisms.
Grade: The grade of a tumor depends on how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how quickly the tumor is likely to grow and spread. Grading systems are different for each type of cancer.
Grading: A system for classifying cancer cells in terms of how abnormal they appear when examined under a microscope. The objective of a grading system is to provide information about the probable growth rate of the tumor and its tendency to spread. The systems used to grade tumors vary with each type of cancer. Grading plays a role in treatment decisions.
Granulocyte: A type of white blood cell that fights bacterial infection. Neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils are granulocytes.
Gynecologist: A doctor who specializes in the care and treatment of women's reproductive systems.
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Hand-foot syndrome: A condition marked by pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, or redness of the hands or feet. It sometimes occurs as a side effect of certain anticancer drugs. Also known as palmar-plantar erythodysthesia.
Healthcare proxy: HCP. A type of advance directive that gives a person (such as a relative, lawyer, or friend) the authority to make healthcare decisions for another person. It becomes active when that person loses the ability to make decisions for himself or herself.
Hematocrit (Hct): The amount of red blood cells in the blood. Low hematocrit can be a sign of anemia.
Hematologist: A doctor who treats problems and diseases of the blood and bone marrow.
Hematuria: Blood in the urine.
Hemoglobin (Hb): The substance inside red blood cells that binds to oxygen and carries it from the lungs to the tissues.
Hepatic: Relating to the liver.
HER2/neu: Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. The HER2/neu protein is involved in the growth of some cancer cells. Also called c-erbB-2.
HER2/neu gene: The gene that makes the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. The protein produced is HER2/neu, which is involved in the growth of some cancer cells. Also called c-erbB-2.
Hereditary: Transmitted from parent to child by information contained in the genes.
High grade: When referring to cancerous and precancerous growths, a term used to describe cells that look abnormal under a microscope. These cells are more likely to grow and spread quickly than cells in low-grade cancerous and precancerous growths.
High-dose chemotherapy: An intensive drug treatment to kill cancer cells, but that also destroys the bone marrow and can cause other severe side effects. High-dose chemotherapy is usually followed by bone marrow or stem cell transplantation to rebuild the bone marrow.
High-risk cancer: Cancer that is likely to recur (come back), or spread.
Histologic examination: The examination of tissue specimens under a microscope.
Histology: The study of tissues and cells under a microscope.
Homeopathic medicine: An alternative approach to medicine based on the belief that natural substances, prepared in a special way and used most often in very small amounts, restore health. According to these beliefs, in order for a remedy to be effective, it must cause in a healthy person the same symptoms being treated in the patient. Also called homeopathy.
Hormonal therapy: Treatment that adds, blocks, or removes hormones. For certain conditions (such as diabetes or menopause), hormones are given to adjust low hormone levels. To slow or stop the growth of certain cancers (such as prostate and breast cancer), synthetic hormones or other drugs may be given to block the bodys natural hormones. Sometimes surgery is needed to remove the gland that makes a certain hormone. Also called hormone therapy, hormone treatment, or endocrine therapy.
Hormone: A chemical made by glands in the body. Hormones circulate in the bloodstream and control the actions of certain cells or organs. Some hormones can also be made in a laboratory.
Hormone receptor: A protein on the surface of a cell that binds to a specific hormone. The hormone causes many changes to take place in the cell.
Hormone receptor test: A test to measure the amount of certain proteins, called hormone receptors, in cancer tissue. Hormones can attach to these proteins. A high level of hormone receptors may mean that hormones help the cancer grow.
Hormone replacement therapy: HRT. Hormones (estrogen, progesterone, or both) given to women after menopause to replace the hormones no longer produced by the ovaries. Also called menopausal hormone therapy.
Hospice: A program that provides special care for people who are near the end of life and for their families, either at home, in freestanding facilities, or within hospitals.
Hot flash: A sudden, temporary onset of body warmth, flushing, and sweating (often associated with menopause).
HRT: See Hormone replacement therapy.
Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2: HER2/neu. The HER2/neu protein is involved in growth of some cancer cells. Also called c-erbB-2.
Hypercalcemia: Abnormally high blood calcium.
Hyperfractionation: A way of giving radiation therapy in smaller-than-usual doses two or three times a day instead of once a day.
Hyperglycemia: Abnormally high blood sugar.
Hyperplasia: An abnormal increase in the number of cells in an organ or tissue.
Hypersensitivity: An exaggerated response by the immune system to a drug or other substance.
Hypertension: Abnormally high blood pressure.
Hyperthermia therapy: A type of treatment in which body tissue is exposed to high temperatures to damage and kill cancer cells or to make cancer cells more sensitive to the effects of radiation and certain anticancer drugs.
Hyperuricemia: A buildup of uric acid (a byproduct of metabolism) in the blood; a side effect of some anticancer drugs.
Hypoglycemia: Abnormally low blood sugar.
Hypotension: Abnormally low blood pressure.
Hypoxia: A condition in which there is a decrease in the oxygen supply to a tissue. In cancer treatment, the level of hypoxia in a tumor may help predict the response of the tumor to the treatment.
Hypoxic: Having too little oxygen.
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IBC: See Inflammatory breast cancer.
Idiopathic: Describes a disease of unknown cause.
IM: Intramuscular. Within or into muscle.
Imagery: A technique in which the person focuses on positive images in his or her mind.
Imaging: Tests that produce pictures of areas inside the body.
Imaging procedure: A method of producing pictures of areas inside the body.
Immune system: The complex group of organs and cells that defends the body against infections and other diseases.
Immunocompromised: Having a weakened immune system caused by certain diseases or treatments.
Immunodeficiency: The decreased ability of the body to fight infection and disease.
Immunosuppression: When the immune system has been weakened or damaged and cannot fight infection or disease.
Immunotherapy: A type of cancer treatment that stimulates the immune system or uses antibodies to fight cancer. Also known as biotherapy.
Implant: A silicone gel-filled or saline-filled sac inserted under the chest muscle to restore breast shape.
Implantable pump: A small device installed under the skin to administer a steady dose of drugs.
Implanted port: A quarter-sized disc that is placed under the skin. It allows a doctor or nurse to give medications or fluids and to draw blood without having to 'stick' the person's vein each time.
In situ cancer: Early cancer that has not spread to neighboring tissue.
In vitro: In the laboratory (outside the body). The opposite of in vivo (in the body).
In vivo: In the body. The opposite of in vitro (outside the body or in the laboratory).
Incidence: The number of new cases of a disease diagnosed each year.
Incision: A cut made in the body to perform surgery.
Incisional biopsy: A surgical procedure in which a portion of a lump or suspicious area is removed for diagnosis. The tissue is then examined under a microscope.
Indolent: A type of cancer that grows slowly.
Induction therapy: Treatment designed to be used as a first step toward shrinking the cancer and in evaluating response to drugs and other agents. Induction therapy is followed by additional therapy to eliminate whatever cancer remains.
Infection: Invasion and multiplication of germs in the body. Infections can occur in any part of the body and can spread throughout the body. The germs may be bacteria, viruses, yeast, or fungi. They can cause a fever and other problems, depending on where the infection occurs. When the bodys natural defense system is strong, it can often fight the germs and prevent infection. Some cancer treatments can weaken the natural defense system.
Infiltrating cancer: Cancer that has spread beyond the layer of tissue in which it developed and is growing into surrounding, healthy tissues. Also called invasive cancer.
Infiltrating ductal carcinoma: The most common type of invasive breast cancer. It starts in the cells that line the milk ducts in the breast, grows outside the ducts, and often spreads to the lymph nodes.
Inflammation: Redness, swelling, pain, and/or a feeling of heat in an area of the body. This is a protective reaction to injury, disease, or irritation of the tissues.
Inflammatory: Having to do with inflammation (redness, swelling, pain, and a feeling of heat that helps protect tissues affected by injury or disease).
Inflammatory breast cancer: A type of breast cancer in which the breast looks red and swollen and feels warm. The skin of the breast may also show the pitted appearance called peau d'orange (like the skin of an orange). The redness and warmth occur because the cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin.
Informed consent: A process in which a person learns key facts about a clinical trial, including potential risks and benefits, before deciding whether or not to participate in a study. Informed consent continues throughout the trial.
Infusion: A method of putting fluids, including drugs, into the bloodstream. Also called intravenous infusion.
Ingestion: Taking into the body by mouth.
Inhalation: In medicine, refers to the act of taking a substance into the body by breathing.
Inherited: Transmitted through genes that have been passed from parents to their offspring (children).
Injection: Use of a syringe and needle to push fluids or drugs into the body; often called a 'shot.' Can be intramuscular (into the muscle), intravenous (into the vein), or subcutaneous (under the skin).
Inoperable: Describes a condition that cannot be treated by surgery.
Insomnia: Difficulty in going to sleep or getting enough sleep.
Instillation: In medicine, a method used to put a liquid into the body slowly or drop by drop.
Intracellular: Inside a cell.
Intradermal: Within the dermis, which is the layer of skin below the epidermis (outermost layer).
Intraductal carcinoma: See ductal carcinoma in situ.
Intralesional: Within a cancerous area, for example, within a tumor in the skin.
Intramuscular: IM. Within or into muscle.
Intramuscular injection: Injection into muscle.
Intratumoral: Within a tumor.
Intravenous: IV. Within a blood vessel.
Intravenous injection (IV): Injection into a vein.
Invasive cancer: Cancer that has spread beyond the layer of tissue in which it developed and is growing into surrounding, healthy tissues. Also called infiltrating cancer.
Invasive procedure: A medical procedure that invades (enters) the body, usually by cutting or puncturing the skin or by inserting instruments into the body.
Investigational: In clinical trials, refers to a drug (including a new drug, dose, combination, or route of administration) or procedure that has undergone basic laboratory testing and received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be tested in human subjects. A drug or procedure may be approved by the FDA for use in one disease or condition, but be considered investigational in other diseases or conditions. Also called experimental.
Investigator: A researcher in a clinical trial or clinical study.
Inviable: Not able to survive.
Ipsilateral: Having to do with the same side of the body.
Irradiated: Treated with radiation.
Irradiation: The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy) or from materials called radioisotopes. Radioisotopes produce radiation and can be placed in or near the tumor or in the area near cancer cells. This type of radiation treatment is called internal radiation therapy, implant radiation, interstitial radiation, or brachytherapy. Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that circulates throughout the body. Irradiation is also called radiation therapy, radiotherapy, and x-ray therapy.
Irreversible toxicity: Side effects that are caused by toxic substances or something harmful to the body and do not go away.
IV: Intravenous injection. Injection into a vein.
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Jaundice: A condition in which the skin and the whites of the eyes become yellow, urine darkens, and the color of stool becomes lighter than normal. Jaundice occurs when the liver is not working properly or when a bile duct is blocked.
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Laboratory study: Research done in a laboratory. These studies may use test tubes or animals to find out if a drug, procedure, or treatment is likely to be useful. Laboratory studies take place before any testing is done in humans.
Laboratory test: A medical procedure that involves testing a sample of blood, urine, or other substance from the body. Tests can help determine a diagnosis, plan treatment, check to see if treatment is working, or monitor the disease over time.
Lacrimal gland: A gland that secretes tears. The lacrimal glands are found in the upper, outer part of each eye socket.
Laser: A device that concentrates light into an intense, narrow beam used to cut or destroy tissue. It is used in microsurgery, photodynamic therapy, and for a variety of diagnostic purposes.
Laser surgery: A surgical procedure that uses the cutting power of a laser beam to make bloodless cuts in tissue or to remove a surface lesion such as a tumor.
Laser therapy: The use of an intensely powerful beam of light to kill cancer cells.
Late effects: Side effects of cancer treatment that appear months or years after treatment has ended. Late effects include physical and mental problems and second cancers.
Latent: Describes a condition that is present but not active or causing symptoms.
LCIS: Lobular carcinoma in situ. Abnormal cells found in the lobules of the breast. This condition seldom becomes invasive cancer; however, having lobular carcinoma in situ increases one's risk of developing breast cancer in either breast.
Lesion: An area of abnormal tissue. A lesion may be benign (noncancercous) or malignant (cancerous).
Leukocyte: A white blood cell. Refers to a blood cell that does not contain hemoglobin. White blood cells include lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, macrophages, and mast cells. These cells are made by bone marrow and help the body fight infection and other diseases.
Leukopenia: A condition in which the number of leukocytes (white blood cells) in the blood is reduced.
Liver function test: A blood test to measure the blood levels of certain substances released by the liver. A high or low level of certain substances can be a sign of liver disease.
Liver metastases: Cancer that has spread from the original (primary) tumor to the liver.
Lobe, lobule: Located at the end of a breast duct, the part of the breast where milk is made. Each breast contains 15 to 20 sections, called lobes, each with many smaller lobules.
Lobular carcinoma: Cancer that begins in the lobules (the glands that make milk) of the breast. Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) is a condition in which abnormal cells are found only in the lobules. When cancer has spread from the lobules to surrounding tissues, it is invasive lobular carcinoma. LCIS does not become invasive lobular carcinoma very often, but having LCIS in one breast increases the risk of developing invasive cancer in either breast.
Lobular carcinoma in situ: See LCIS.
Lobule: A small lobe or a subdivision of a lobe.
Local anesthesia: Drugs that cause a temporary loss of feeling in one part of the body. The patient remains awake but has no feeling in the part of the body treated with the anesthetic.
Local cancer: An invasive malignant cancer confined entirely to the organ where the cancer began.
Local therapy: Treatment that affects cells in the tumor and the area close to it.
Localized: Restricted to the site of origin, without evidence of spread.
Locally advanced cancer: Cancer that has spread only to nearby tissues or lymph nodes.
Low grade: When referring to cancerous and precancerous growths, a term used to describe cells that look nearly normal under a microscope. These cells are less likely to grow and spread quickly than cells in high-grade cancerous or precancerous growths.
Lumpectomy: Surgery to remove the tumor and a small amount of normal tissue around it.
Lung: One of a pair of organs in the chest that supplies the body with oxygen, and removes carbon dioxide from the body.
Lung metastases: Cancer that has spread from the original (primary) tumor to the lung.
Lymph: The clear fluid that travels through the lymphatic system and carries cells that help fight infections and other diseases. Also called lymphatic fluid.
Lymph gland: A rounded mass of lymphatic tissue that is surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue. Lymph glands filter lymph (lymphatic fluid), and they store lymphocytes (white blood cells). They are located along lymphatic vessels. Also called a lymph node.
Lymph node: A rounded mass of lymphatic tissue that is surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue. Lymph nodes filter lymph (lymphatic fluid), and they store lymphocytes (white blood cells). They are located along lymphatic vessels. Also called a lymph gland.
Lymph node dissection: A surgical procedure in which the lymph nodes are removed and examined to see whether they contain cancer. For a regional lymph node dissection, some of the lymph nodes in the tumor area are removed; for a radical lymph node dissection, most or all of the lymph nodes in the tumor area are removed. Also called lymphadenectomy.
Lymph node drainage: The flow of lymph from an area of tissue into a particular lymph node.
Lymph node mapping: The use of dyes and radioactive substances to identify lymph nodes that may contain tumor cells. Also called lymphatic mapping.
Lymph vessel: A thin tube that carries lymph (lymphatic fluid) and white blood cells through the lymphatic system. Also called lymphatic vessel.
Lymphadenectomy: See lymph node dissection.
Lymphatic basin: A group of lymph nodes that receives and filters lymph that flows from a certain area of the body. Special dyes may be used to stain and identify the lymphatic basin in the tissues around a tumor, so that lymph nodes that may contain cancer can be removed and checked by a pathologist.
Lymphatic fluid: See lymph.
Lymphatic mapping: See lymph node mapping.
Lymphatic system: The tissues and organs that produce, store, and carry white blood cells that fight infections and other diseases. This system includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes, and lymphatic vessels (a network of thin tubes that carry lymph and white blood cells). Lymphatic vessels branch, like blood vessels, into all the tissues of the body.
Lymphatic vessel: See lymph vessel.
Lymphedema: Swelling in the arm caused by fluid that can build up when underarm lymph nodes are removed during breast cancer surgery or damaged by radiation.
Lymphocyte: A type of white blood cell. Lymphocytes have a number of roles in the immune system, including the production of antibodies and other substances that fight infection and diseases.
Lymphocytic: Referring to lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.
Lytic lesion: Destruction of an area of bone due to a disease process, such as cancer.
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