Childhood Cancer has its own complex vocabulary. This glossary explains the terms that you are likely to come across throughout the stages of cancer. Portions of this glossary have been provided by the Teens Living With Cancer website.


abdomen (ab-do-men)

The part of your body between the chest and the pelvis containing the stomach (with the lower part of the esophagus), small and large intestines, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, and bladder.

ablative therapy (ab-lay-tive )

Treatment that removes or destroys the function of an organ or system. For example, high dose chemotherapy and radiation before a bone marrow transplant is considered ablative therapy because it wipes out your immune system.

absolute neutrophil count (ANC)

The percentage of polys and bands that are part of your total white blood count. If your ANC is less than 1,000, you are more prone to infection.

adjuvant therapy (add-joo-vunt)

Treatment used in addition to your main treatment. It usually refers to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy added after surgery to increase the chances of curing your disease or keeping it in check.


Having no fever, normal temperature.


Any substance that can neutralize acids. Alkaline urine is needed to neutralize uric acid, the product of tumor cell breakdown that can be harmful to your kidneys.

alopecia (al-o-pee-shuh)

Hair loss. This often occurs as a result of chemotherapy or from radiation therapy to the head. In most cases, the hair grows back after treatment ends.

alternative therapy

Non-conventional treatment that may not be medically proven. Some alternative therapies may have dangerous or even life-threatening side effects. With others, the main danger is that you may lose the opportunity to benefit from conventional therapy. It is recommended that you discuss the use of alternative therapies with your health care team. See also complementary therapy.


The ability to walk; not confined to bed.


The surgical removal of a diseased body part.


A drug used for reducing pain.


An allergic reaction ranging from relatively mild (hives) to very serious (shock).

anemia (uh-neem-ee-uh)

Low red blood cell count which can cause you to feel fatigued and have shortness of breath. Anemia can be caused by a variety of conditions and diseases.

anesthesiologist (an-es-the-zee-ol-o-jist)

A doctor who specializes in giving medicines or other agents that prevent or relieve pain, especially during surgery.


The lack of desire for food; no appetite.


Located in the front, opposite the posterior.


Drug used to kill organisms that cause disease. Since some cancer treatments can reduce your body's ability to fight infection, antibiotics may be used to treat or prevent (prophylactic) these infections.


A protein produced by immune system cells and released into the blood. Antibodies defend against foreign agents, such as bacteria. These agents contain certain substances called antigens. Each antibody works against a specific antigen.


Drug that reduces the blood's ability to clot.

antiemetic (an-ti-eh-MEH-tik) (anti-nausea)

A drug that prevents or relieves nausea and vomiting, common side effects of chemotherapy.


A medicine that kills fungi, organisms that cause infections. Kids undergoing treatment for cancer are especially vulnerable to fungal infections.

antigen (an-tuh-jen)

A substance that causes your body's immune system to react. This reaction often involves production of antibodies. For example, your immune system's response to antigens that are part of bacteria and viruses helps you resist infections. Cancer cells have certain antigens that can be found by laboratory tests. They are important in cancer diagnosis and in watching response to treatment.


A medicine used to relieve the symptoms of allergies like hives, stuffy nose, etc.

antioxidants (an-ti-OX-uh-dents)

Compounds that hold back chemical reactions with oxygen (oxidation) and are thought to reduce the risk of some cancers. Examples are vitamins C and E and beta-carotene.

arterial blood gas (A.B.G.)

The amount of oxygen in your blood.


A vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood from your heart to the tissues. Blood is under pressure in arteries.

aspiration (as-pir-A-shun)

To draw out by suction.


A diagnostic test that is done to evaluate your hearing.

auto syringe

A portable pump to administer medications subcutaneously or intravenously over several days. This allows you to be ambulatory.

autologous bone marrow transplant

When your own bone marrow is used.

axilla (ax-il-la)

Your armpit.

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bacteria (singular bacterium)

A term for a group of living organisms, larger than viruses that may be seen only through a microscope. In general, most are harmless unless body resistance is lowered.


Young, white blood cells; important in defending your body against infection.


Not malignant or cancerous.


An early form of vitamin A that is found mainly in yellow and orange vegetables and fruits. It functions as an antioxidant and may play a role in cancer prevention.


Two sides of your body.


A yellow-green fluid made by your liver from discarded red blood cells and excreted into the intestine where it helps to digest fat.


Bilirubin is a product of the breakdown of hemoglobin. It is measured in the blood to evaluate the function of the liver. May be measured as total, direct or indirect.

biopsy (buy-op -see)

The removal of a sample of tissue to see whether cancer cells are present and to determine an exact diagnosis. There are several kinds of biopsies.

blast cells

Refers to the earliest-formed marrow cells. In acute leukemias, blast cells are similar in appearance to normal blast cells but accumulate in large numbers.


The body fluid that flows through all the vessels except the lymph vessels and performs a number of critical functions. Blood is composed of a liquid portion called plasma and three other components: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

blood chemistries

Multiple chemical determinations of the blood content. These tests are helpful in assessing your kidney and liver function.

blood count

A lab study to evaluate the amount of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

blood transfusion

The infusion of red blood cells or platelets into your blood stream to replace blood loss or to correct anemia.

blood typing and cross matching

Making sure that the blood from a donor is compatible with yours before a blood transfusion. Blood cells contain factors that are not the same in all people. Before a transfusion can be given, blood samples from the donor and you are typed, or classified according to which of these factors are present. The four principal red blood cell types or groups are A, B, AB or O. Other factors such as Rh factor must also be checked.

bone marrow

The spongy material that fills the cavities of the bones and is the substance in which blood is produced. In order to determine the condition of the marrow, a doctor may take a small sample from one of the bones in the chest, hip, spine or leg. (See the section on bone marrow biopsies)

bone marrow aspiration and biopsy

A procedure in which a needle is placed into the cavity of a bone, usually the hip or breast bone, to remove a small amount of bone marrow for examination under a microscope.

bone marrow transplant (BMT)

A very rigorous treatment for cancer which severely injures or destroys the patient's bone marrow. You are given high doses of chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells. The drugs also destroy the remaining bone marrow, thus robbing your body of its natural ability to fight infection. Total Body Radiation (TBI) is sometimes administered. In allogeneic transplantation, bone marrow from another individual, usually a brother or sister with the same tissue type is given to the patient. This bone marrow develops in the patient and eventually begins producing blood cells. In autologous bone marrow transplantation, some of your own bone marrow is removed and set aside before treatment and then re-infused. It starts producing blood cells a few weeks later. In umbilical cord blood transplantation, the use of stem cells in blood removed from the umbilical cords of newborns (a very rich source) is used for transplantation.

bone scan

An imaging method that gives important information about the bones, including the location of cancer that may have spread to the bones. A low-dose radioactive substance is injected into a vein and pictures are taken to see where the radioactivity collects, pointing to an abnormality.


Pertaining to your intestines.

brain scan

An imaging method used to find anything not normal in the brain, including brain cancer and cancer that has spread to the brain from other places in the body. A radioactive substance is injected into a vein and pictures are taken to show where the radioactivity collects, indicating an abnormality.

BROVIAC® catheter

Soft plastic catheters that are surgically placed in one of the neck veins and advanced to the opening of the heart in order to easily administer intravenous solutions and to obtain blood for testing.

"HICKMAN and/or BROVIAC are registered trademarks of C.R. Bard, Inc. and its related company, BCR, Inc."

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Develops when cells in your body begin to grow out of control. Normal cells grow, divide, and die naturally. Instead of dying, cancer cells continue to grow and form new abnormal cells. Cancer cells often travel to other body parts where they grow and replace normal tissue. This process is called metastasis. Cancer cells develop because of damage to DNA. DNA is in every cell and directs all its activities. When DNA becomes damaged, the body is usually able to repair it. In cancer cells, the damage is not repaired. People can inherit damaged DNA, which accounts for inherited cancers. Many times, DNA becomes damaged by exposure to something in the environment, like smoking. Many cancers have no known cause.


Tiny blood vessels located throughout the tissues of your body which connect your arteries with your veins and through which substances pass to nourish your cells.


Pertaining to your heart.

catheter (cath-eh-tur)

A thin, flexible tube through which fluids enter or leave the body; e.g., a tube to drain urine.


The basic unit of which all living things are made. Cells replace themselves by splitting and forming new cells (mitosis). The processes that control the formation of new cells and the death of old cells are disrupted in cancer.

cell morphology

Refers to cell types or structure.


an inflammation of body tissue (especially that below the skin). It may be accompanied by fever, redness, swelling and warmth at the site.

central nervous system (CNS)

Refers to the brain and spinal cord.

central venous line

A method of giving IV fluids, blood products and medicines by surgically inserting a catheter into a neck vein that passes into your other large blood vessels. There are many different types of central line catheters that may have multiple ports or lumens. Multiple ports allow more than one IV solution to be given simultaneously. Blood can also be withdrawn from this type of catheter.


Your written medical records.


Using chemical agents or drugs to destroy malignant cells. Chemotherapy is often used with surgery or radiation to treat cancer. Some chemotherapy treatment plans have different phases: Induction -intensive treatment used to produce a complete remission. Maintenance - drugs given after the initial "induction" to maintain the remission.


A disease process that develops over a long period of time and progresses slowly.


In general, pertaining to observation and treatment of patients.

clinical trials

Human research studies that test new drugs or treatments and compare them to current, standard treatments. Before a new treatment is used on people, it is studied in the lab. If lab studies suggest the treatment works, it is tested with patients. These human studies are called clinical trials. Questions the researchers want to answer are: Does this treatment work? Does it work better than the one we use now? What side effects does it cause? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Your doctor may suggest a clinical trial. Participation is voluntary.

cobalt - cobalt treatment

Radiotherapy using gamma rays generated from the breakdown of radioactive cobalt 60.


The large intestine.

colony stimulating factors (CSF)

Types of growth factors that promote growth and division of blood-producing cells in the bone marrow. CSFs are naturally produced in the body but extra amounts may be given as a treatment to reduce or prevent certain side effects of chemotherapy due to not having enough blood cells. See growth factors.

complementary therapy

Therapies used in addition to conventional therapy. Some complementary therapies may help relieve certain symptoms of cancer, relieve side effects of conventional cancer therapy, or improve a patient's sense of well-being.

complete blood count (CBC)

An examination of your blood that enables doctors to follow the course of your disease and to select the proper dosage of the appropriate chemotherapeutic drug. White blood count (WBC) refers to the number of leucocytes per cubic millimeter present in your peripheral blood. "diff" (differential count) refers to the distribution of the various types of white cells in the peripheral blood; the values are expressed in percentages. Platelet count refers to the number or quantity of platelets per cubic millimeter present in your peripheral blood. Hemoglobin refers to the substance that carries oxygen to other tissues of the body. It is expressed as a percentage of total blood weight. Hematocrit refers to the packed volume of red cells separated from the plasma when whole blood is centrifuged (spun). It is expressed as a percentage. "Retic" (reticulocyte count) refers to the percentage of young, non-nucleated erythrocytes present in your peripheral blood.


Any condition existing at birth.


Redness of the eyes.


A condition of your bowel (large intestine) characterized by difficult or infrequent elimination of solid body wastes.


The formal process of getting the opinion of a specialist.


A disease capable of being spread from one person to another. Cancer is not contagious.

convulsion (seizure)

A violent contraction and spasm of your muscles over which you have no control.

cross match

See Blood Typing and Cross Matching.

CT Scan (CAT Scan)/Computed Axial Tomography

Shows cross section views of various organs being studied as X-rays pass through the patient's body at many angles.


A procedure using a sample of blood, urine, throat secretions or other biological material that determines the specific organism responsible for an infection. Cultures also help determine which antibiotics might be most effective.


A blue appearance of the skin, lips and fingernails as a result of low oxygen content of the circulating blood.


A fluid filled sac of tissue; a cyst may be malignant or benign.


Inflammation of the urinary bladder.


The process of analyzing the number and shape of cell chromosomes.

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A medicine that helps to shrink mucous membranes and decrease production of mucous.


Excessive loss of fluids from your body.


Pertaining to your skin.


A doctor who specializes in skin diseases and conditions.


Identifying a disease by its signs or symptoms, and by using imaging procedures and laboratory findings.


The muscular partition located between the chest cavity and abdominal cavity.


Frequent, loose and watery stools.

differential count ("diff")

See complete blood count.


To thin down or weaken by mixing with water or other liquid.


Away from the center; out towards the end.


Drugs that increase the elimination of water and salts (urine) from your body.

DNA deoxyribonucleic acid (dee-ok-see-ri-bo-new-CLAY-ic)

DNA holds genetic information on cell growth, division, and function. When DNA is damaged, a cell may become cancerous.


Difficulty swallowing.


Shortness of breath.

dystonic reaction

Tightening of your facial and neck muscle, a possible side effect of some antiemetic drugs.

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echo cardiogram (ultrasound cardiography)

A method of obtaining a graphic picture of the internal structure, and position and motion of your heart through the use of sound waves directed through your chest.


Accumulation of fluid within the tissues; swelling.

electrocardiogram (EKG)

A method of evaluating your heart rhythm and muscle function by the measurement of your heart's electrical impulses.


A general term for the many minerals necessary to provide the proper environment for the cells of your body. Common electrolytes include calcium, sodium, potassium and chloride.


To vomit.

enzyme (en-zime)

Proteins that increase the rate of chemical reactions in living cells.


A tube that carries swallowed food to the stomach.


Surgical removal of tissue.


Medicine that makes mucous in your respiratory tract thinner and easier to cough out.


Surgery undertaken to investigate a situation that other, primarily external diagnostic tests have failed to clarify.

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Fever, elevated body temperature.


A physician who has completed residency. May be a fully trained pediatrician or internist and is doing further study to become a sub-specialist in a field of interest.

foot drop

Weakness in your foot muscles.

fungi (singular fungus)

A group of micro organisms larger than either bacteria or viruses, which occasionally cause serious infection when your resistance is lowered.

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A protein component of blood plasma containing antibodies effective against certain micro organisms.

gastroenterologist (gas-tro-en-ter-ol-o-jist)

A doctor who specializes in diseases of the digestive (gastrointestinal) tract.

gastrointestinal tract (GI Tract)

The digestive tract. It consists of those organs and structures that process and prepare food to be used for energy; for example, the stomach, small intestine and large intestine.

general anesthetic

A medication which puts you to sleep to prevent pain during an operation.


See lymph node.

graft versus host disease (GVH or GVHD)

The condition that results when the immune cells of a transplant (usually of bone marrow) from a donor attack the tissues of the person receiving the transplant. A reaction of engrafted tissue against your own tissue.


White blood cells that help to protect you against bacterial infection; also called "polys", "segs", or neutrophils.


The area of your body where the legs join the abdomen.

growth factors

A naturally occurring protein that causes cells to grow and divide. Too much growth factor production by some cancer cells helps them grow quickly. Other growth factors help normal cells recover from side effects of chemotherapy.

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The removal of a donor's bone marrow prior to bone marrow transplant.


The percentage of red blood cells.

hematologist (hem-uh-tahl-o-jist)

A doctor who specializes in diseases of the blood and blood-forming tissues.

hematologist (hem-uh-tahl-o-jist)

A doctor who specializes in diseases of the blood and blood-forming tissues.


The study of blood and blood forming organs.

hematology/oncology (HEM/ONC)

The branch of medical science that treats disorders of the blood, blood forming tissues and tumor cells.

hematoma (hem-uh-to-ma)

A collection of blood outside a blood vessel caused by a leak or an injury; a bruise.


Blood in the urine; urine may be pink, red, or brown (coke colored).


The substance in red cells which carries oxygen.


A general term for loss of blood brought about by injury to the blood vessels or by a deficiency of certain necessary blood elements such as platelets.

hemorrhagic cystitis

Painful, frequent bloody urination.


A drug that decreases the clotting tendency of blood; often used to prevent clotting in central line catheters.


An inflammation of your liver usually resulting in jaundice.

HICKMAN® catheter

See BROVIAC® catheter.

"HICKMAN and/or BROVIAC are registered trademarks of C.R. Bard, Inc. and its related company, BCR, Inc."


Itching welts caused by an allergic reaction.

HL-A - human leukocyte antigens

Antigens that appear on white blood cells as well as cells of almost all other tissues. By typing for HL-A antigens, donors and recipients of white blood cells, platelets, and organs can be "matched" insuring good performance and survival of transfused and transplanted cells.

Hodgkin's disease

A type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system and arises in a lymph node. Named for the doctor who first identified it.


A special kind of care for people in the final phase of illness, their families and caregivers.


Defines your condition with regard to body water; may be dehydrated, well hydrated, or excessively hydrated (edematous).


Prefix meaning "more than" normal.

hyperalimentation (hy-per-al-eh-men-TAY-shun)

Being fed intravenously, supplying all the essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins, when you are unable to eat on your own.


More than the normal number of cells.


Elevated blood sugar.


High blood pressure.


Prefix meaning "too little."


Too little calcium in the blood.


Less than the normal number of cells.


Low blood sugar.

hypokalemia (Hypocalemia)

Too little potassium in the blood.


Low blood pressure.

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ice blanket

A blanket cooled with ice water or a refrigerant on which you lie to reduce your temperature.


Severe constipation.

iliac crest

The top edge of your hip bone from which marrow is usually taken for diagnosis of blood cell diseases.

I-Med (IV pumps)

A machine that regulates the rate of blood transfusion, infusion of chemotherapy or fluids for hydration.

immune reaction

A reaction of normal tissues to substances recognized as "foreign" i.e. not self.

immune system

The complex system by which your body resists infection by microbes such as bacteria or viruses and rejects transplanted tissues or organs. The immune system may also help the body fight some cancers.


The state of your body's defenses against a particular infection or possibly against a certain cancer.


Vaccines given to help your body resist disease.

immunosuppression (im-mune-no-suh-PREH-shun)

A state in which your immune system does not respond adequately. This condition may be present at birth, or it may be caused by certain infections (such as human immunodeficiency virus or HIV), or by certain cancer therapies, such as cancer-cell killing (cytotoxic) drugs, radiation, and bone marrow transplantation.

immunotherapy (im-mune-no-THER-uh-pee)

Treatments that promote or support your immune system's response to a disease such as cancer.

implantable port (Port-a-Cath, Infuse-as-port or Mediport)

A venous access device that implants a system for delivery of fluids, medicines, or blood directly into a vein. The entire device is surgically implanted under the skin and can be used for an extended period of time.

incubation period

The period between exposure to a germ and the first sign of illness (i.e. chicken pox, from 8 to 21 days).

indwelling catheter (BROVIAC® or HICKMAN®)

A central line surgically placed (usually in the chest) and inserted into a large vein in your neck for to administer medications, IV fluids, and blood products. May also be used to draw blood for testing.

"HICKMAN and/or BROVIAC are registered trademarks of C.R. Bard, Inc. and its related company, BCR, Inc."


Invasion of the body by disease producing organisms.

infectious disease

A disease caused by germs; one that can be passed from one to another. Cancer is not an infectious disease.


The triggering of local body defenses resulting in the outpouring of defensive cells ("polys") from the circulation system into the tissues. Frequently associated with pain swelling.

informed consent

A legal document that explains a course of treatment, the risks, benefits, and possible alternatives; the process by which patients agree to treatment. If you are under 18 years of age, your parents or legal guardian must also sign this form.


The introduction of a fluid into a vein.


Injections may be given intramuscularly (into a muscle), intravenously (into a vein), subcutaneously (just under the skin) or intrathecally (into the spinal column space).


A physician in the first year of training following graduation from medical school.

intrathecal (IT)

Within the spinal column. IT medicine is one given directly into the spinal column.

intravenous (IV)

The administration of a drug or fluid directly into the vein.

intravenous pyelogram (IVP) (in-tra-ven-us pie-eh-lo-gram)

A special kind of x-ray procedure where a dye is injected into the bloodstream. The dye travels to the kidneys, ureters and bladder and helps to clearly outline these organs on the x-rays. Referred to as IVP.

investigational drugs

Drugs being studied by clinical investigation to ascertain the value of these drugs as treatment for special types of cancer.

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A yellowish discoloration of the skin and white portion of the eyes due to the accumulation of billirubin, a breakdown product of hemoglobin. This indicates liver disease or blockage of the major bile ducts.

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The chief organ involved in the filtration of certain bodily wastes and in the maintenance of proper mineral and water balance.

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lesion (lee-zhun)

A change in body tissue; sometimes used as another word for tumor.


Decrease in the white blood cell count, often a side effect of chemotherapy.

leukemia (loo-key-me-uh)

Cancer of the blood or blood-forming organs. If you have leukemia, you may have a noticeable increase in white blood cells (leukocytes).

leukocytosis (loo-ko-sigh-toe-sis)

Having more than the usual number of white blood cells.


The process of filtering white cells, leukocytes, or "polys" from the blood of healthy donors. These cells may be given to you if you have a severe infection and few "polys" of your own.


An organ in your body which performs many complex functions necessary for life. These include processes related to digestion, production of certain proteins, and elimination of many of the body's waste products.

local anesthetic

A medication given by injection into a part of your body to prevent pain in the area without putting you to sleep.

long term survivor

If you are 5 years from the last sign of disease and at least 2 years off therapy.

lumbar puncture (LP)/spinal tap

A procedure in which a thin needle is placed in your spinal canal to withdraw a small amount of spinal fluid or to give medicine into the central nervous system through the spinal fluid. If you have leukemia, this fluid is tested for the possible presence of "blasts" cells as well as other elements.

lymph (limf)

Clear fluid that flows through the lymphatic vessels and contains cells known as lymphocytes. These cells are important in fighting infections and may also have a role in fighting cancer.

lymph nodes/glands

A part of your body important in the defense again infections; commonly known as glands; in leukemia they enlarge when filled with lymphoblasts.

lymphatic system

The tissues and organs (including lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, and bone marrow) that produce and store lymphocytes (cells that fight infection) and the channels that carry the lymph fluid. The entire lymphatic system is an important part of your body's immune system. Invasive cancers sometimes penetrate your lymphatic vessels (channels) and spread (metastasize) to your lymph nodes.


A type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection.

lymphocytosis (limf-o-sigh-toe-sis)

Having an excess of lymphocytes.

lymphoma (lim-foam-uh)

Cancer of the lymphatic system, a network of thin vessels and nodes throughout the body. Lymphoma involves a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. The two main types of lymphoma are Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The treatment methods for these two types of lymphomas are very different.

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magnetic resonance imaging

A method of taking pictures of the inside of the body. Instead of using x-rays, MRI uses a powerful magnet and transmits radio waves through the body; the images appear on a computer screen as well as on film. Like x-rays, the procedure is physically painless, but you may find it psychologically uncomfortable to be inside the MRI machine.

malignant tumor (muh-lig-nant)

A mass of cancer cells that may invade surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of your body.

melanoma (mel-uh-no-muh)

A cancerous (malignant) tumor that begins in the cells that produce the skin coloring (melanocytes). Melanoma is almost always curable in its early stages. However, it is likely to spread, and once it has spread to other parts of the body the chances for a cure are much less.

meningeal leukemia

When the meninges, the membranes which cover the brain and the spinal cord, become invaded by leukemic cells.


An infection of the membranes and fluid around the brain and spinal cord.


A general term for the many chemical processes that are necessary within the body to sustain life.

metastasis (meh-tas-teh-sis)

The spread of cancer cells to distant areas of the body by way of the lymph system or bloodstream.


A general name for any small living organism, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

mixed lymphocyte culture assay (MLC)

A technique to determine compatibility between individuals. Differences in HL-A antigens between two individuals will cause an immune reaction between their lymphocytes mixed in culture. This reactivity can be measured in the MLC assay. Compatible individuals have negative MLC's.

monitor (cardiac)

A machine that continually records your heart activity.

monoclonal antibodies

Antibodies made in the laboratory and designed to target specific substances called antigens. Monoclonal antibodies which have been attached to chemotherapy drugs or radioactive substances are being studied to see if they can seek out antigens unique to cancer cells and deliver these treatments directly to the cancer, thus killing the cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. Monoclonal antibodies are also used in other ways, for example, to help find and classify cancer cells.


A type of young white blood cell.


See magnetic resonance imaging.


Inflammation of the mucous membrane, e.g. inside the mouth.

mucous membrane

A lining of the internal surface of the body which produces mucous.


A reduction in platelets, red cells and white cells, as a result of decreased bone marrow activity. Platelets are the blood cells that prevent or stop bleeding. White blood cells help prevent infections.

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A drug that relieves pain and makes you sleepy.


The feeling that you may vomit.

neoplasm (nee-o-plas-um)

An abnormal growth (tumor) that starts from a single altered cell; a neoplasm may be benign or malignant. Cancer is a malignant neoplasm.

nephrologist (nef-rol-o-jist)

A doctor who specializes in diseases of the kidneys.


The branch of medical science which deals with the nervous system.

neurosurgeon (nur-o-sur-jun)

A doctor specializing in operations to treat nervous system disorders.


Less than the normal number of neutrophils (leukocytes) or "polys" in the circulating blood.

neutrophils (new-trow-fils)

White blood cells that fight bacterial infection.

non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Cancer of the lymphatic system. What distinguishes non-Hodgkin's lymphoma from Hodgkin's lymphoma is the absence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. This cell is present only in Hodgkin's lymphoma. The treatment methods for Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas are very different.

nuclear medicine scan

A method for localizing diseases of internal organs such as the brain, liver, or bone by injecting small amounts of a radioactive substance (isotope) into the bloodstream. The isotope collects in certain organs and a special camera is used to produce an image of the organ and detect areas of disease.

nurse practitioner

A registered nurse with a master's or doctoral degree. Licensed nurse practitioners diagnose and manage illness and disease, usually working closely with your doctor. In many states, they may prescribe medications.

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oncologist (on-call-o-jist)

A doctor with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. A pediatric oncologist is a doctor who specializes in children's cancers.

oncology (on-call-o-jee)

The branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

ophthalmologist (of-thuh-mal-o-jist)

A medical doctor who specializes in diseases of the eye.


Pertaining to the sense of sight or to the eyes.


Several tissues grouped together to perform one or more functions in the body.


Any living thing.

orthopedic surgeon (or-tho-pe-dik)

A surgeon who specializes in diseases and injuries of the bones.


Infection of bone.


Brittle bones due to the loss of calcium; may be a side effect of prednisone.


Relating to the ear.


Ear infection.

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packed cell transfusion

A transfusion of red blood cells without the serum.

packed marrow

Bone marrow filled with tumor cells or blasts.


The roof of the mouth.

palliative treatment (pal-e-uh-tive)

Treatment that relieves symptoms, such as pain, but is not expected to cure the disease. The main purpose is to improve your quality of life.


Able to be touched or felt, such as a palpable tumor.


A large gland lying crosswise in the upper posterior portion of your abdomen. It secretes enzymes (chemicals) into your intestines for the digestion of food and it manufactures insulin which it secretes into your blood stream.


Inflammation of your pancreas.


The decrease of all blood cells (red, white, and platelets).


A reduction in the number of cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, and blood platelets)in the blood.


Salivary glands located at the side of your face in front of each ear.


The branch of medicine involved in making diagnoses from the examination of tissues.


Near the surface; distant. Peripheral nerves are those in your arms and legs; peripheral veins are those generally used for IV's.


Tiny localized hemorrhages from the small blood vessels just beneath the surface of the skin. They are often the result of platelet deficiency and always clear up completely when your platelet count rises.


A symbol denoting acidity or alkalinity. A solution of pH 7 is neutral; below 7 is acidic and above 7 is alkaline. The urine is usually slightly acidic with a pH of 5.3.

phantom limb pain

A pain or sensation that you imagine in a limb which has been amputated.


The study of drugs, their absorption, distribution and excretion throughout the body.


Inflammation of the throat; sore throat.




A special method of collecting blood when only one component of the blood is needed.


An inflammation of a vein; signs include pain, swelling, and tenderness in an area. If a superficial vein is involved, the phlebitis can be felt as a cord-like thickening along the vein.


The liquid portion of the blood in which blood cells are suspended. It contains many proteins and minerals necessary for normal body functioning.


A part of the blood that plugs up holes in blood vessels after an injury. Chemotherapy can cause a drop in the platelet count, a condition called thrombocytopenia that carries a risk of excessive bleeding.

pleural effusion

The presence of fluid in the space between the two layers of the lung lining.


Infection of the lung.

polys (neutrophils or granulocytes)

The group of white cells that is important to your ability to resist bacterial infection. A "poly" count of less than 1,000 indicates less than normal protection and considerable risk of infection.


After surgery.


An element found normally in your blood; important in heart and muscle function.


Before surgery.

prognosis (prog-no-sis)

A prediction of the course of disease; the outlook for a cure. A prognosis is based on the average result in many cases, and consequently, may not accurately predict your outcome, since the clinical course can vary greatly from patient to patient.


Treatment designed to prevent a disease or a complication that has not yet become evident.

prosthesis (pros-thee-sis)

An artificial form to replace a part of your body.

protocol (pro-teh-call)

A formal outline or plan, such as a description of what treatments you will receive and exactly when each should be given.


Concerns or affects your lungs.

pulmonary fibrosis

Thickened tissue in your lungs causing cough, difficulty breathing, and X-ray changes.

pulmonary function test

Special tests that are designed to evaluate the function of your lungs.

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radiation oncologist

A doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.

radiation recall

Inflammation of exposed skin and underlying organs in sites of previous radiation therapy.

radiation therapy

Treatment with high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors. The radiation may come from outside of the body (external radiation) or from radioactive materials placed directly in the tumor (internal or implant radiation). Radiation therapy may be used to reduce the size of a cancer before surgery, to destroy any remaining cancer cells after surgery, or, in some cases, may be the main treatment.


The last part of your large intestine.

red blood cells

Blood cells that carry oxygen to the cells throughout your body.


The reduction of cancer, usually as the result of therapy; it is shown by decreased size of the tumor or tumors.


To start over, i.e. a new treatment or protocol.


Reappearance of cancer after a disease-free period.


Complete or partial disappearance of the signs and symptoms of cancer in response to treatment; the period during which a disease is under control. A remission may not be a cure.


Pertaining to your kidneys.


A physician in the second or third year of training after completing medical school.


Your ability to fight off and avoid disease.


The process of breathing.

respiratory tract

All parts of your body used for breathing.

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A cancer of connective tissues: bone cartilage, fat, muscle, nerve sheath, blood vessels, or lymphoid system.


A study using either x-rays or radioactive isotopes to produce images of internal body organs.


A drug given to make you drowsy or sleepy.

sedimentation rate (Sed rate) (SED)

Sinking velocity of the red blood cells expressed in millimeters per hour. A SED rate that is over 25 or increasing may indicate infection.


A type of white blood cell essential to defend your body against infection.


A very serious bacterial or fungal blood infection which has usually spread from another site of infection such as skin, bowel, or urinary tract. It is usually associated with high fever, shaking chills, and heavy sweating. It is more likely to occur in patients with very low white blood cells.

shingles herpes zoster

A viral infection of the nerve endings in the skin with blisters, crusts and severe pain along the course of the involved nerve. It is the same virus that causes chicken pox. Children who have not had chicken pox may get it from contact with someone with shingles.


A serious condition caused by inadequate amounts of blood circulating in your blood stream. Signs of shock include a drop in blood pressure, rapid weak pulse, pale moist clammy skin, being very thirsty and a state of anxiety.


A brother or sister.


When measurements and x-rays are taken and actual radiation treatment fields are determined.


Hollow spaces in the bones of your head.

spinal cord

The cord or nerve tissue that runs through the center of your spinal column connecting your brain to other parts of your body.

spinal tap/lumbar puncture

A procedure in which a thin needle is placed in your spinal canal to withdraw a small amount of spinal fluid or to give medicine into the central nervous system through the spinal fluid. If you have leukemia, this fluid is tested for the possible presence of "blasts" cells as well as other elements.


An organ that filters the blood, removing debris, and old or dying cells from the circulation. It also removes bacteria from the blood during the early stages of severe infections. It frequently becomes enlarged in leukemia and certain other diseases.


The process of finding out whether your cancer has spread and if so, how far. There is more than one system for staging. The TNM system, described below, is one used often. The TNM system for staging gives three key pieces of information: T refers to the size of the Tumor, N describes how far the cancer has spread to nearby Nodes, M shows whether the cancer has spread or Metastasized to other organs of the body. Letters or numbers after the T, N, and M give more details about each of these factors. To make this information clearer, the TNM descriptions can be grouped together into Stages, labeled with Roman numerals. In general, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number means a more serious cancer.

stem cells

Primitive cells in the bone marrow that are important in making red cells, white cells, and platelets.


Mouth sores; can be a side effect of some kinds of chemotherapy.

suppository (rectal or vaginal)

A medicine prepared for insertion into the anus or vagina, where it is generally absorbed into the bloodstream.


Tendency to develop a disease if exposed to it; not having immunity.


A change or sign in the body or its function which indicates disease or infection.

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temperature spike

When your temperature suddenly becomes elevated or goes up.

testicular mass

A swelling of your testis or testicle, the male reproductive gland.

thrombocytopenia (throm-bo-sigh-toe-PEEN-e-uh)

A decrease in the number of platelets in your blood; can be a side effect of chemotherapy.


An inflammation of a vein.


Ringing in your ears.


A collection of cells similar in structure and function.


A word used to describe the undesirable side effects caused by a drug.


Poisonous substances; may be produced by germs.


The windpipe.

transfusion reaction

An allergic response to blood products. You may experience hives, chills or headaches.


An abnormal lump or mass of tissue. Tumors can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

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A wearing away of normal tissues resulting from corrosive chemicals (e.g. acids), infection, impaired circulation or cancerous involvement; can cause bleeding.


An imaging method in which high-frequency sound waves are used to outline a part of your body. The procedure can be done to any part of the body - the presence, progression or regression of a tumor or infection can be monitored this way.


One side of your body.

uric acid

A chemical which sometimes accumulates in your body when kidney function is impaired. When many malignant cells are rapidly destroyed, uric acid is produced in large quantities.


The process by which your urine is examined for various factors.

urinary tract

The organs that have to do with the production and elimination of urine, e.g. kidneys, bladder, ureters, urethra.

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Chicken pox, an infection caused by virus. Children with cancer may have a special problem with this infection if they have not had it before.


A blood vessel carrying blood which is relatively lacking in oxygen from the tissues towards your heart and lungs. Veins are used to draw blood samples and administer IV fluids because blood in veins is not under pressure.


Dizziness, especially the feeling that your surroundings are swirling.


Measles, mumps, chicken pox, and the common cold.


To eject the contents of your stomach through your mouth.

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white blood cells

Cells in your blood that are most important in fighting infection. Examples; neutrophils or "polys", and lymphocytes ("lymphs").

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One form of radiation that can be used at low levels to produce an image of the body on film or at high levels to destroy cancer cells.

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zoster varicella zoster

See shingles.

zoster immune globulin (ZIG) or zoster immune plasma (ZIP)

Making the infection less serious. Zoster immune globulin is given as an intramuscular injection while plasma is given intravenously.

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