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Womens Wellness Glossary

This Glossary was compiled from many different sources on the net. Terminology in Cancer research can be overwhelming. We have provided only the most often used terms within this Glossary. While doing specific research please look on each site for additional Glossaries that may include unique terms.


Adjuvant Chemotherapy(ad'ju-vant kee-mo-ther'apee)- One or more anticancer drugs used in combination with surgery or radiation therapy as part of the treatment of cancer. Adjuvant usually means "in addition to" initial treatment.

Antibody(an'ti-bod-ee)- A protein produced by a plasma cell in the lymphatic system or bone marrow. An antibody binds to the specific antigen that has stimulated the immune system. Once bound, the antigen can be destroyed by other cells of the immune system. See Immune System.

Alopecia - Hair Loss

Anemia - Having too few red blood cells. Symptoms of anemia include feeling tired, weak, and short of breath.

Anorexia - Poor appetite.

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

Antigen (an'ti-jen)- A substance, foreign to the body, that stimulates the production of antibodies by the immune system. Antigens include foreign proteins, bacteria, viruses, pollen and other materials.

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.

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

Bone Marrow (mair'oh)- The inner, spongy core of bone that produces blood cells.

Cancer (kan'ser)- A general term for more than 100 diseases characterized by abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells. The resulting mass, or tumor, can invade and destroy surrounding normal tissues. Cancer cells from the tumor can spread through the blood or lymph to start new cancers in other parts of the body.

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 (kee-mo-ther'a-pee)- Treatment with anticancer drugs.

Chromosomes - Threadlike bodies found in the nucleus, or center part, of a cell that carry the information of heredity.

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 (CSF) can help the blood-forming tissue recover from the effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These include granulocyte colony-stimulating factors (G-CSF) and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factors (GM-CSF).

Combination Therapy-(ther'a pee)- The use of two or more modes of treatment - surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy. - in combination, alternately or together, to achieve optimum results against cancer.

Control Group- In clinical studies this is a group of patients which receives standard treatment, a treatment or intervention currently being used and considered to be of proved effectiveness on the basis of past studies. Results in patients receiving newly developed treatments may then be compared to the control group. In cases where no standard treatment yet exists for a particular condition, the control group would receive no treatment. No patient is placed in a control group without treatment if there is any beneficial treatment known for that patient.

Diuretics - Drugs that help the body get rid of excess water and salt.

Double-Blind- Characteristic of a controlled experiment in which neither the patient nor the attending physician knows whether the patient is getting one or another drug or dose. In single blind studies, patients do not know which of several treatments they are receiving, thus preventing personal bias from influencing their reactions and study results. In either case, the treatment can be quickly identified, if necessary, by a special code.

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

Hormone- Chemical product of the endocrine glands of the body, which, when secreted into body fluids, has a specific effect on other organs.

Immune System- A complex network of organs, cells and specialized substances distributed throughout the body and defending it from foreign invaders that cause infection or disease.

Immunotherapy. (im-mew-no-ther'a pee)- A form of biological therapy. An experimental method of treating cancer, using substances which stimulate the body's immune defense system.

Informed Consent - The process in which a patient learns about and understands the purpose and aspects of a clinical trial and then agrees to participate. Of course, a patient may decline to participate. This process includes a document defining how much a patient must know about the potential benefits and risks of therapy before being able to agree to undergo it knowledgeably. (Informed consent is required in federally conducted, funded or regulated studies a swell as by many state laws.) If a patient signs an informed consent form and enters a trial, he or she is still free to leave the trial at any time, and can receive other available medical care.

Infusion - Slow and/or prolonged intravenous delivery of a drug or fluids.

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

Interferon (in-tur-feer'on)- A protein substance produced by white blood cells and other types of cells that have been exposed to certain viruses. In test animals, interferon has shown some activity against tumors. Studies of its usefulness in treating some types of human cancer are under way. One of a number of new agents available as biological therapy.

Intra-arterial (IA) - Into an artery.

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

Intralesional (IL) - Into the cancerous area in the skin.

Intramuscular (IM) - Into a muscle.

Intrathecal (IT) - Into the spinal fluid.

Intravenous (IV) - Into a vein.

Investigational New Drug- A drug allowed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used in clinical trials but not approved by the FDA for commercial marketing.

Investigator- An investigator is the experienced clinical researcher who prepares a protocol or treatment plan and implements it with patients.

Malignant - Used to describe a cancerous tumor.

Metastasis (me-tas'ta-sis)- The transfer of disease from one part of the body to another. In cancer, metastasis is the migration of cancer cells from the original tumor site through the blood and lymph vessels to produce cancers in other tissues. Metastasis also is the term used for a secondary cancer growing at a distant site.

Metastatic Cancer (met-a-stat'ik)- Cancer that has spread from its original site to one or more additional body sites.

Monoclonal Antibodies (mon-o-klone'al an'ti-bod-eez)- One of several new substances used in biological therapy. These antibodies, all exactly alike, are mass-produced and designed to home in on target cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies are products of new scientific techniques and may prove useful in both cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Multimodality Therapy (mul'ti-mo-dal'i-tee ther'a-pee)- The combined use of more than one method of treatment, for example, surgery and chemotherapy.

Oncologist (on-kol'o-jist)- A physician who is a cancer specialist.

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

PDQ- PDQ, supported by NCI, is a computerized database available to physicians nationwide. Geographically matrixed, it offers the latest information on standard treatments and ongoing clinical trials for each type and stage of cancer. The information is easily accessible for physicians via libraries and personal computers.

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. Can be caused by certain anticancer drugs.

Per os (PO) - By mouth, orally.

Placebo (pla-see'bo)- An inactive substance resembling a medication, given for psychological effect or as a control in evaluating a medicine believed to be active. It is usually a tablet, capsule, or injection that contains a harmless substance but appears to be the same as the medicine being tested. A placebo may be compared with a new drug when no one knows if any drug or treatment will be effective.

Platelets - Special blood cells that help stop bleeding.

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 or leave the body through the port using a special needle.

Protocol (pro'to-kol)- The outline or plan for use of an experimental procedure or experimental treatment.

Radiation Therapy, also called Radiotherapy- Treatment using X-rays, cobalt-60, radium, neutrons, or other types of cell-destroying radiation.

Radiosensitizers (ray'dee-o-sen-si-ty'zers)- Drugs being studied to try to boost the effect of radiation therapy.

Randomized Clinical Trials (ran-duh'mized)- A study in which patients with similar traits, such as extent of disease, are chosen or selected by chance to be placed in separate groups that are comparing different treatments. Because irrelevant factors or preferences do not influence the distribution of patients, the treatment groups can be considered comparable and results of the different treatments used in different groups can be compared. (There is no way at the time for the researchers to know which of the treatments is best.) See also Clinical Trials. (It is the patient's choice to be in a randomized trial or not.)

Radiation therapy - Cancer treatment with radiation (high-energy rays).

Red blood cells - Cells that supply oxygen to tissues throughout the body.

Regression (ree-gresh'un)- The state of growing smaller or disappearing; used to describe the shrinkage or disappearance of a cancer.

Remission (ree-mish'un)- The decrease or disappearance of evidence of a disease; also the period during which this occurs.

Risk/Benefit Ratio- The relation between the risks and benefits of a given treatment or procedure. Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), located where the study is to take place, determine that the risks in a study are reasonable with respect to the potential benefits. It is also up to the patient to decide if it is reasonable for him or her to take part in a study.

Side Effect- A secondary and usually adverse effect, as from a drug or other treatment. For example, nausea is a side effect of some anticancer drugs.

Single Blind- (See Double Blind)

Staging- Methods used to establish the extent of a patient's disease.

Standard Treatment- A treatment or other intervention currently being used and considered to be of proved effectiveness on the basis of past studies.

Stomatitis - Sores on the inside lining of the mouth.

Study Arm- Patients in clinical trials are assigned to on part or segment of a study- a study "arm." One arm receives a different treatment from another.

Subcutaneous (SQ or SC) - Under the skin.

Therapeutic (ther'a-pew'tik)- Pertaining to treatment.

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

White blood cells - The blood cells that fight infection.

Sources of Glossary content:

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