We have gathered terms and definitions related to cancer and medicine on this page. Sources for definitions include the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute.
Uses bone marrow or stem cells from a donor whose tissue type closely matches the patient’s to replace blood-forming cells that have been destroyed by disease or cancer treatment. This can be from a related or unrelated donor.
A condition in which the number of red blood cells is below normal.
A loss of feeling or awareness caused by drugs or other substances. Anesthesia keeps patients from feeling pain during surgery or other procedures. Local anesthesia is a loss of feeling in one small area of the body, such as the mouth. Regional anesthesia is a loss of feeling in a part of the body, such as an arm or leg. General anesthesia is a loss of feeling and a complete loss of awareness that feels like a very deep sleep.
A type of antibiotic that comes from certain types of Streptomyces bacteria. Anthracyclines are used to treat many types of cancer. Anthracyclines damage the DNA in cancer cells, causing them to die.
A protein made by immune system cells and released into the blood. Antibodies defend the body against foreign substances, such as bacteria.
A treatment that uses antibodies to help the body fight cancer, infection or other diseases. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system that bind to specific markers on cells or tissues. Monoclonal antibodies are a type of antibody made in the laboratory that can be used in diagnosis or treatment. In cancer treatment, monoclonal antibodies may kill cancer cells directly; they may block development of tumor blood vessels; or they may help the immune system kill cancer cells.
A foreign substance, such as bacteria, that causes the body’s immune system to respond by making antibodies. Antibodies defend the body against antigens.
A procedure in which blood is taken out of the body, part of the blood is removed, and the rest of the blood is infused back into the body.
A procedure in which a patient’s healthy stem cells (blood-forming cells) are collected from the bone marrow before treatment, stored and then given back to the patient after treatment. An autologous bone marrow transplant replaces a patient’s stem cells that have been destroyed by treatment with radiation or high doses of chemotherapy.
A type of white blood cell that makes antibodies. B cells are part of the immune system and develop from stem cells in the bone marrow.
In lymphoma, B symptoms include unexplained fever, weight loss or night sweats.
A type of cancer that forms in B cells (a type of immune system cell). B-cell lymphomas may be either indolent (slow-growing) or aggressive (fast-growing). Most B-cell lymphomas are non-Hodgkin lymphomas. There are many different types of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas. These include Burkitt lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL), diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma and mantle cell lymphoma. Prognosis and treatment depend on the type and stage of the cancer.
Not cancer. Benign tumors may grow larger but do not spread to other parts of the body.
A benign (not cancer) condition in which an overgrowth of prostate tissue pushes against the urethra and the bladder, blocking the flow of urine. Also called benign prostatic hypertrophy and BPH.
A small protein normally found on the surface of many cells, including lymphocytes, and in small amounts in the blood and urine. An increased amount in the blood or urine may be a sign of certain diseases, including some types of cancer, such as multiple myeloma or lymphoma.
The removal of a sample of tissue or fluid that is examined to see whether cancer is present. This may be done with a large needle or through surgical removal of tissue or fluids.
A test done on a sample of blood to measure the amount of certain substances in the body. These substances include electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium and chloride), fats, proteins, glucose (sugar) and enzymes. Blood chemistry tests give important information about how well a person’s kidneys, liver and other organs are working. An abnormal amount of a substance in the blood can be a sign of disease or a side effect of treatment. Blood chemistry tests are used to help diagnose and monitor many conditions before, during and after treatment.
A procedure in which whole blood, or parts of the blood, are put into a patient’s bloodstream through a vein. The blood may be donated by another person, or it may have been taken from the patient and stored until needed. Also called transfusion.
The soft, spongy material in the center of your bones that produces all your blood cells, such as white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.
The process of treating disease with high doses of chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both. Because this treatment destroys the bone marrow’s ability to produce blood cells, bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells are given after treatment to help the body make more blood cells.
A procedure to check for abnormal areas or damage in the bones. A very small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein and travels through the blood. The radioactive material collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner (a special camera that takes pictures of the inside of the body). A bone scan may be used to diagnose bone tumors or cancer that has spread to the bone. It may also be used to help diagnose fractures, bone infections or other bone problems. [removed comma]
A procedure that uses a bronchoscope to examine the inside of the trachea, bronchi (air passages that lead to the lungs) and lungs. A bronchoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease. The bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth. Bronchoscopy may be used to detect cancer or to perform some treatment procedures.
A person who gives care to people who need help taking care of themselves, such as children, older people or patients who have chronic illnesses or disabilities. Caregivers may be health professionals, family members, friends, social workers or members of the clergy. They may give care at home, in a hospital or in another health care setting.
A small, flexible tube inserted into a large vein near the heart. This serves as a route for medications and intravenous nutrition and to take blood samples. These catheters are also known as a Hickman line, central line, tunneled catheter or Port-a-Cath®.
The use of drugs, vitamins or other agents to try to reduce the risk of, or delay the development or recurrence of, cancer.