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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Macrophage: A type of white blood cell that surrounds and kills microorganisms, removes dead cells, and stimulates the action of other immune system cells.
Magnetic resonance imaging: MRI. A procedure in which radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer are used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures can show the difference between normal and diseased tissue. MRI makes better images of organs and soft tissue than other scanning techniques, such as CT or x-ray. MRI is especially useful for imaging the brain, spine, the soft tissue of joints, and the inside of bones. Also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.
Magnetic resonance perfusion imaging: A special type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that uses an injected dye in order to see blood flow through tissues. Also called perfusion magnetic resonance imaging.
Magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging: MRSI. A noninvasive imaging method that provides information about cellular activity (metabolic information). It is used along with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which provides information about the shape and size of the tumor (spacial information). Also called 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging.
Maintenance therapy: Treatment that is given to help a primary (original) treatment keep working. Maintenance therapy is often given to help keep cancer in remission.
Malignancy: A cancerous tumor that can invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
Malignant: Cancerous. Malignant tumors can invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
Malignant ascites: A condition in which fluid containing cancer cells collects in the abdomen.
Malnutrition: A disorder caused by a lack of proper nutrition or an inability to absorb nutrients from food.
Mammary: Having to do with the breast.
Mammary dysplasia: 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 fibrocystic breast changes.
Mammary gland: Glandular organ located on the chest. The mammary gland is made up of connective tissue, fat, and breast tissue that contains the glands that can make milk. Also called breast.
Mammogram: An x-ray of the breast.
Mammography: The use of x-rays to create a picture of the breast.
Mammotome: A device that uses a computer-guided probe to perform breast biopsies. A Mammotome biopsy can be done on an outpatient basis with a local anesthetic, removes only a small amount of healthy tissue, and doesn�t require sutures (stitches) because the incision is very small.
Mantle field: The area of the neck, chest, and lymph nodes in the armpit that are exposed to radiation.
Margin: The edge or border of the tissue removed in cancer surgery. The margin is described as negative or clean when the pathologist finds no cancer cells at the edge of the tissue, suggesting that all of the cancer has been removed. The margin is described as positive or involved when the pathologist finds cancer cells at the edge of the tissue, suggesting that all of the cancer has not been removed.
Marker: A diagnostic indication that disease may develop.
Mast cell: A type of white blood cell.
Mastectomy: Surgery to remove the breast (or as much of the breast tissue as possible).
Mean survival time: The average time that patients in a clinical study remained alive. The time is measured beginning either at diagnosis or the start of treatment.
Measurable disease: A tumor that can be accurately measured in size. This information can be used to judge response to treatment.
Medial supraclavicular lymph node: A lymph node located above the collar bone and between the center of the body and a line drawn through the nipple to the shoulder.
Median survival time: The time from either diagnosis or treatment at which half of the patients with a given disease are found to be, or expected to be, still alive. In a clinical trial, median survival time is one way to measure how effective a treatment is.
Medical oncologist: A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and biological therapy. A medical oncologist often is the main health care provider for someone who has cancer. A medical oncologist also gives supportive care and may coordinate treatment given by other specialists.
Medullary breast carcinoma: A rare type of breast cancer that often can be treated successfully. It is marked by lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) in and around the tumor that can be seen when viewed under a microscope.
Membrane: A very thin layer of tissue that covers a surface.
Menopause: The time of life when a woman's menstrual periods stop. A woman is in menopause when she hasn't had a period for 12 months in a row. Also called "change of life."
Metabolic: Having to do with metabolism (the total of all chemical changes that take place in a cell or an organism to produce energy and basic materials needed for important life processes).
Metabolism: The total of all chemical changes that take place in a cell or an organism. These changes produce energy and basic materials needed for important life processes.
Metastasis: The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. A tumor formed by cells that have spread is called a �metastatic tumor� or a �metastasis.� The metastatic tumor contains cells that are like those in the original (primary) tumor. The plural form of metastasis is metastases (meh-TAS-ta-seez).
Metastasize: To spread from one part of the body to another. When cancer cells metastasize and form secondary tumors, the cells in the metastatic tumor are like those in the original (primary) tumor.
Metastatic: Having to do with metastasis, which is the spread of cancer from one part of the body to another.
Metastatic cancer: Cancer that has spread from the place in which it started to other parts of the body.
Microcalcification: A tiny deposit of calcium in the breast that cannot be felt but can be detected on a mammogram. A cluster of these very small specks of calcium may indicate that cancer is present.
Microgram: One millionth of a gram.
Micrometastases: Small numbers of cancer cells that have spread from the primary tumor to other parts of the body and are too few to be picked up in a screening or diagnostic test.
Microorganism: An organism that can be seen only through a microscope. Microorganisms include bacteria, protozoa, algae, and fungi. Although viruses are not considered living organisms, they are sometimes classified as microorganisms.
Microscopic: Too small to be seen without a microscope.
Milligram: A measure of weight. A milligram is approximately 450,000 times smaller than a pound and 28,000 times smaller than an ounce.
Milliliter: A measure of volume for a liquid. A milliliter is approximately 950 times smaller than a quart and 30 times smaller than a fluid ounce. A milliliter of liquid and a cubic centimeter (cc) of liquid are the same.
Millimeter: A measure of length in the metric system. A millimeter is one thousandth of a meter. There are 25 millimeters in an inch.
Mitigate: To make milder or less painful.
Mitochondria: Parts of a cell where aerobic production (also called cell respiration) takes place.
Mitotic activity: Having to do with the presence of dividing (proliferating) cells. Cancerous tissue generally has more mitotic activity than normal tissues.
Modified radical mastectomy: Surgery for breast cancer in which the breast, most or all of the lymph nodes under the arm, and the lining over the chest muscles are removed. Sometimes the surgeon also removes part of the chest wall muscles.
Modulate: To adjust, or change.
Molecule: The smallest particle of a substance that has all of the physical and chemical properties of that substance. Molecules are made up of one or more atoms. If they contain more than one atom, the atoms can be the same (an oxygen molecule has two oxygen atoms) or different (a water molecule has two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom). Biological molecules, such as proteins and DNA, can be made up of many thousands of atoms.
Monoclonal antibody: A laboratory-produced substance that can locate and bind to cancer cells wherever they are in the body. Many monoclonal antibodies are used in cancer detection or therapy; each one recognizes a different protein on certain cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies can be used alone, or they can be used to deliver drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to a tumor.
Monocyte: A type of white blood cell.
Morbidity: A disease or the incidence of disease within a population. Morbidity also refers to adverse effects caused by a treatment.
MRI: See Magnetic resonance imaging.
MRM: See Modified radical mastectomy.
MRSI: See Magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging.
Mucosa: The moist tissue that lines some organs and body cavities (such as the nose, mouth, lungs) and makes mucus (a thick, slippery fluid). Also called mucous membrane.
Mucositis: A complication of some cancer therapies in which the lining of the digestive system becomes inflamed. Often seen as sores in the mouth.
Mucous membrane: See mucosa.
Multicenter study: A clinical trial that is carried out at more than one medical institution.
Multicentric breast cancer: Breast cancer in which there is more than one tumor, all of which have formed separately from one another. The tumors are likely to be in different quadrants (sections) of the breast. Multicentric breast cancers are rare.
Multidisciplinary: In medicine, a term used to describe a treatment planning approach or team that includes a number of doctors and other health care professionals who are experts in different specialties (disciplines). In cancer treatment, the primary disciplines are medical oncology (treatment with drugs), surgical oncology (treatment with surgery), and radiation oncology (treatment with radiation).
Multidisciplinary opinion: A treatment planning approach in which a number of doctors who are experts in different specialties (disciplines) review and discuss the medical condition and treatment options of a patient. In cancer treatment, a multidisciplinary opinion may include that of a medical oncologist (who provides cancer treatment with drugs), a surgical oncologist (who provides cancer treatment with surgery), and a radiation oncologist (who provides cancer treatment with radiation). Also called a tumor board review.
Multidrug resistance: Adaptation of tumor cells to anticancer drugs in ways that make the drugs less effective.
Multidrug resistance inhibition: Treatment used to make cancer cells less resistant to anticancer drugs.
Multifocal breast cancer: Breast cancer in which there is more than one tumor, all of which have arisen from one original tumor. The tumors are likely to be in the same quadrant (section) of the breast.
Multimodality treatment: Therapy that combines more than one method of treatment.
Multiplicity: A large number or variety
Musculoskeletal: Having to do with muscles, bones, and cartilage.
Mutate: To change the genetic material of a cell. The changes (mutations) can be harmful, beneficial, or have no effect.
Mutation: Any change in the DNA of a cell. Mutations may be caused by mistakes during cell division, or they may be caused by exposure to DNA-damaging agents in the environment. Mutations can be harmful, beneficial, or have no effect. If they occur in cells that make eggs or sperm, they can be inherited; if mutations occur in other types of cells, they are not inherited. Certain mutations may lead to cancer or other diseases.
Myalgia: Pain in a muscle or group of muscles.
Myelosuppression: A condition in which bone marrow activity is decreased, resulting in fewer red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Myelosuppression is a side effect of some cancer treatments. When myelosuppression is severe, it is called myeloablation.
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Narcotic: An agent that causes insensibility or stupor; usually refers to opioids given to relieve pain.
Nasal: By or having to do with the nose.
Nasopharynx: The upper part of the throat behind the nose. An opening on each side of the nasopharynx leads into the ear.
National Cancer Institute: NCI. The National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, is the Federal Government's principal agency for cancer research. NCI conducts, coordinates, and funds cancer research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to the cause, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer. Access the NCI Web site at http://cancer.gov.
National Institutes of Health: NIH. The National Institutes of Health, the focal point of biomedical research in the United States, conducts research in its own laboratories; supports the research of non-Federal scientists in universities, medical schools, hospitals, and research institutions throughout the country and abroad; helps in the training of research investigators; and fosters communication of medical information. Access the NIH Web site at http://www.nih.gov.
Natural killer cell: NK cell. A type of white blood cell that contains granules with enzymes that can kill tumor cells or microbial cells. Also called a large granular lymphocyte.
Nausea: A feeling of sickness or discomfort in the stomach that may come with an urge to vomit. Nausea is a side effect of some types of cancer therapy.
NCI: See National Cancer Institute.
Necrosis: Refers to the death of living tissues.
NED: No evidence of disease.
Needle biopsy: The removal of tissue or fluid with a needle for examination under a microscope. Also called fine-needle aspiration.
Needle-localized biopsy: A procedure that uses very thin needles or guide wires to mark the location of an abnormal area of tissue so it can be surgically removed. An imaging device is used to place the wire in or around the abnormal area. Needle localization is used when the doctor cannot feel the mass of abnormal tissue.
Negative axillary lymph node: A lymph node in the armpit that is free of cancer.
Negative test result: A test result that fails to show the specific disease or condition for which the test was being done.
Neoadjuvant therapy: Treatment given before the primary treatment. Examples of neoadjuvant therapy include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy.
Neoplasia: Abnormal and uncontrolled cell growth.
Neoplasm: An abnormal mass of tissue that results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Tumors may be benign (not cancerous), or malignant (cancerous). Also called tumor.
Nephrotoxic: Poisonous or damaging to the kidney.
Nerve: A bundle of fibers that receives and sends messages between the body and the brain. The messages are sent by chemical and electrical changes in the cells that make up the nerves.
Nerve cell: A type of cell that receives and sends messages from the body to the brain and back to the body. The messages are sent by a weak electrical current. Also called a neuron.
Neurologic: Having to do with nerves or the nervous system.
Neurological exam: A series of questions and tests to check brain, spinal cord, and nerve function. The exam checks a person�s mental status, coordination, ability to walk, and how well the muscles, sensory systems, and deep tendon reflexes work.
Neurologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the nervous system.
Neuron: See nerve cell.
Neuropathy: A problem in peripheral nerve function (any part of the nervous system except the brain and spinal cord) that causes pain, numbness, tingling, swelling, and muscle weakness in various parts of the body. Neuropathies may be caused by physical injury, infection, toxic substances, disease (e.g., cancer, diabetes, kidney failure, or malnutrition), or drugs such as anticancer drugs. Also called peripheral neuropathy.
Neurotoxicity: The tendency of some treatments to cause damage to the nervous system.
Neurotoxin: A substance that is poisonous to nerve tissue.
Neutropenia: An abnormal decrease in the number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell.
Neutropenic fever: A rise in the body temperature over 101 degrees F that occurs because the body does not have enough white blood cells to fight its own bacteria or an infection.
Neutrophil: A type of white blood cell.
NIH: See National Institutes of Health.
Nipple: In anatomy, the small raised area in the center of the breast through which milk can flow to the outside.
Nipple discharge: Fluid coming from the nipple.
NMRI: Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging. See magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Node-negative: Cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes.
Node-positive: Cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes.
Nodule: A growth or lump that may be cancerous or noncancerous.
Nonmalignant: Not cancerous.
Nonmetastatic: Cancer that has not spread from the primary (original) site to other sites in the body.
Nonprescription: A medicine that can be bought without a prescription (doctor's order). Examples include analgesics (pain relievers) such as aspirin and acetaminophen. Also called over-the-counter (OTC).
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug: NSAID. A drug that decreases fever, swelling, pain, and redness.
Nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor: A drug that decreases the production of sex hormones (estrogen or testosterone) and slows the growth of tumors that need sex hormones to grow.
Nontoxic: Not harmful or destructive.
NPO: A Latin abbreviation for 'nothing by mouth.'
NSAID: See Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
Nuclear grade: An evaluation of the size and shape of the nucleus in tumor cells and the percentage of tumor cells that are in the process of dividing or growing. Cancers with low nuclear grade grow and spread less quickly than cancers with high nuclear grade.
Nuclear magnetic resonance imaging: NMRI. See magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Nuclear medicine scan: A method of diagnostic imaging that uses very small amounts of radioactive material. The patient is injected with a liquid that contains the radioactive substance, which collects in the part of the body to be imaged. Sophisticated instruments detect the radioactive substance in the body and process that information into an image.
Nurse: A health professional trained to care for people who are ill or disabled.
Nurse practitioner (NP): A nurse with more schooling than a registered nurse (RN), who is specially trained to see patients instead of the doctor for some visits.
Nutraceutical: A food or dietary supplement that is believed to provide health benefits.
Nutrient: A chemical compound (such as protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, or minerals) that make up foods. These compounds are used by the body to function and grow.
Nutrition: The taking in and use of food and other nourishing material by the body. Nutrition is a 3-part process. First, food or drink is consumed. Second, the body breaks down the food or drink into nutrients. Third, the nutrients travel through the bloodstream to different parts of the body where they are used as "fuel" and for many other purposes. To give the body proper nutrition, a person has to eat and drink enough of the foods that contain key nutrients.
Nutritionist: A health professional with special training in nutrition who can help with dietary choices. Also called a dietitian.
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Objective improvement: An improvement that can be measured by the health care provider (for example, when a tumor shrinks or there are fewer cancer cells in the blood).
Objective response: A measurable response.
Observation: Closely monitoring a patient's condition but withholding treatment until symptoms appear or change. Also called watchful waiting.
Occupational therapist: A health professional trained to help people who are ill or disabled learn to manage their daily activities.
Off-label: Describes the legal use of a prescription drug to treat a disease or condition for which the drug has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Oncogene: A gene that normally directs cell growth. If altered, an oncogene can promote or allow the uncontrolled growth of cancer. Alterations can be inherited or caused by an environmental exposure to carcinogens.
Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in treating cancer. Some oncologists specialize in a particular type of cancer treatment. For example, a radiation oncologist specializes in treating cancer with radiation.
Oncology: The study of cancer and its treatment.
Oncology fellow: A doctor who has completed his or her residency and is getting further training in the care of people with cancer.
Oncology nurse: A nurse who specializes in treating and caring for people who have cancer. Also known as oncology-certified nurse (OCN).
Oncology pharmacist: A pharmacist who specializes in cancer drugs.
Oncology pharmacy specialist: A person who works with an oncologist to prepare anticancer drugs.
Oncology social worker: See social worker.
Onycholysis: Fingernails and/or toenails become infected and fall off.
Oophorectomy: Surgery to remove one or both ovaries.
Open biopsy: A procedure in which a surgical incision (cut) is made through the skin to expose and remove tissues. The biopsy tissue is examined under a microscope by a pathologist. An open biopsy may be done in the doctor�s office or in the hospital, and may use local anesthesia or general anesthesia. A lumpectomy to remove a breast tumor is a type of open biopsy.
Operable: Describes a condition that can be treated by surgery.
Ophthalmic: Having to do with the eye.
Opiate: A drug used to treat pain. It contains opium or a substance made from opium (such as morphine).
Opioid: A drug used to treat moderate to severe pain. Opioids are similar to opiates such as morphine and codeine, but they do not contain and are not made from opium.
Opportunistic infection: An infection caused by an organism that does not normally cause disease. Opportunistic infections occur in people with weakened immune systems.
Optic nerve: The nerve that carries messages from the retina to the brain.
Oral: By or having to do with the mouth.
Organ: A part of the body that performs a specific function. For example, the heart is an organ.
Organism: A living thing, such as an animal, a plant, a bacterium, or a fungus.
Osteolytic: Causing the breakdown of bone.
Osteoporosis: A condition that is characterized by a decrease in bone mass and density, causing bones to become fragile.
OTC: Over-the-counter. See nonprescription.
Ounce: A measure of weight (one-sixteenth pound) and volume (one-eighth cup).
Outpatient: A patient who visits a health care facility for diagnosis or treatment without spending the night. Sometimes called a day patient.
Ovarian: Having to do with the ovaries, the female reproductive glands in which the ova (eggs) are formed. The ovaries are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus.
Ovarian ablation: Surgery, radiation therapy, or a drug treatment to stop the functioning of the ovaries. Also called ovarian suppression.
Ovarian suppression: See ovarian ablation.
Ovary: One of a pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs, are formed. The ovaries are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus.
Over-the-counter: OTC. See nonprescription.
Overall survival: The percentage of subjects in a study who have survived for a defined period of time. Usually reported as time since diagnosis or treatment. Also called the survival rate.
Overexpress: An excess of a particular protein on the surface of a cell.
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P-value: A statistics term. A measure of probability that a difference between groups during an experiment happened by chance. For example, a p-value of .01 (p = .01) means there is a 1 in 100 chance the result occurred by chance. The lower the p-value, the more likely it is that the difference between groups was caused by treatment.
P53 gene: A tumor suppressor gene that normally inhibits the growth of tumors. This gene is altered in many types of cancer.
Paget's disease of the nipple: A form of breast cancer in which the tumor grows from ducts beneath the nipple onto the surface of the nipple. Symptoms commonly include itching and burning and an eczema-like condition around the nipple, sometimes accompanied by oozing or bleeding.
Pain threshold: The point at which a person becomes aware of pain.
Palliative care: Care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease. The goal of palliative care is to prevent or treat as early as possible the symptoms of the disease, side effects caused by treatment of the disease, and psychological, social, and spiritual problems related to the disease or its treatment. Also called comfort care, supportive care, and symptom management.
Palliative therapy: Treatment given to relieve the symptoms and reduce the suffering caused by cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Palliative cancer therapies are given together with other cancer treatments, from the time of diagnosis, through treatment, survivorship, recurrent or advanced disease, and at the end of life.
Palmar-plantar erythodysthesia: Also known as 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.
Palpable disease: A term used to describe cancer that can be felt by touch, usually present in lymph nodes, skin, or other organs of the body such as the liver or colon.
Palpation: Examination by pressing on the surface of the body to feel the organs or tissues underneath.
Paracentesis: Placing a needleinto the abdominal cavity to remove fluid that has built up there.
Parageusia: A bad taste in the mouth. Also called dysgeusia.
Paralysis: Loss of ability to move all or part of the body.
Paresthesias: Abnormal touch sensations, such as burning or prickling, that occur without an outside stimulus.
Partial mastectomy: Also called segmental mastectomy. The removal of cancer as well as some of the breast tissue around the tumor and the lining over the chest muscles below the tumor. Usually some of the lymph nodes under the arm are also taken out.
Partial remission: A decrease in the size of a tumor, or in the extent of cancer in the body, in response to treatment. Also called partial response.
Partial response: See partial remission.
Pathologic fracture: A broken bone caused by disease, often by the spread of cancer to the bone.
Pathological staging: A method used to determine the stage of cancer. Tissue samples are removed during surgery or a biopsy. The stage is determined based on how the cells in the samples look under a microscope.
Pathologist: A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.
Pathology: The process of looking at samples of tissue and fluids from the body under a microscope to detect cancer cells, or to see how cancer cells have changed.
Pathology report: The description of cells and tissues made by a pathologist based on microscopic evidence, and sometimes used to make a diagnosis of a disease.
Patient advocate: A person who helps a patient work with others who have an effect on the patient's health, including doctors, insurance companies, employers, case managers, and lawyers. A patient advocate helps resolve issues about health care, medical bills, and job discrimination related to a patient's medical condition. Cancer advocacy groups try to raise public awareness about important cancer issues, such as the need for cancer support services, education, and research. Such groups work to bring about change that will help cancer patients and their families.
Patient-controlled analgesia: PCA. A method in which the patient controls the amount of pain medicine that is used. When pain relief is needed, the person can receive a preset dose of pain medicine by pressing a button on a computerized pump that is connected to a small tube in the body.
PCA: See Patient-controlled analgesia.
PDQ: Physician Data Query. PDQ is an online database developed and maintained by the National Cancer Institute. Designed to make the most current, credible, and accurate cancer information available to health professionals and the public, PDQ contains peer-reviewed summaries on cancer treatment, screening, prevention, genetics, complementary and alternative medicine, and supportive care; a registry of cancer clinical trials from around the world; and directories of physicians, professionals who provide genetics services, and organizations that provide cancer care. Most of this information, and more specific information about PDQ, can be found on the NCI's Web site at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq.
Peau d'orange: A dimpled condition of the skin of the breast, resembling the skin of an orange, sometimes found in inflammatory breast cancer.
Perfusion magnetic resonance imaging: A special type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that uses an injected dye in order to see blood flow through tissues. Also called magnetic resonance perfusion imaging.
Pericardial effusion: An abnormal collection of fluid inside the sac that covers the heart.
Perimenopausal: The time of a woman's life when menstrual periods become irregular. Refers to the time near menopause.
Perineural: Around a nerve or group of nerves.
Perioperative: Around the time of surgery. This usually lasts from the time the patient goes into the hospital or doctor's office for surgery until the time the patient goes home.
Peripheral blood: Blood circulating throughout the body.
Peripheral blood smear: A procedure in which a sample of blood is viewed under a microscope to count different circulating blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, etc.) and see whether the cells look normal.
Peripheral neuropathy: A condition of the nervous system that causes numbness, tingling, burning or weakness. It usually begins in the hands or feet, and can be caused by certain anticancer drugs.
Perturbation: A disruption or disturbance.
PET scan: Positron emission tomography scan. A procedure in which a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein, and a scanner is used to make detailed, computerized pictures of areas inside the body where the glucose is used. Because cancer cells often use more glucose than normal cells, the pictures can be used to find cancer cells in the body.
Petechiae: Pinpoint, unraised, round red spots under the skin caused by bleeding.
Phagocyte: An immune system cell that can surround and kill microorganisms and remove dead cells. Phagocytes include macrophages.
Pharmacokinetics: The activity of drugs in the body over a period of time, including the processes by which drugs are absorbed, distributed in the body, localized in the tissues, and excreted.
Pharmacopoeia: A book describing chemicals, drugs, and other substances and how they are used as medicines. It is prepared by a recognized authority.
Phlebitis: Pain and swelling in a vein.
Phlebotomy: The puncture of a vein with a needle for the purpose of drawing blood. Also called venipuncture.
Photosensitivity: Being sensitive to light (including sunlight, filtered light, and artificial light).
Photodynamic therapy: Treatment with drugs that become active when exposed to light. These drugs kill cancer cells.
Physical examination: An exam of the body to check for general signs of disease.
Physical therapist: A health professional who teaches exercises and physical activities that help condition muscles and restore strength and movement.
Physical therapy: The use of exercises and physical activities to help condition muscles and restore strength and movement. For example, physical therapy can be used to restore arm and shoulder movement and build back strength after breast cancer surgery.
Physician: Medical doctor.
Physician Data Query: See PDQ.
Phytoestrogen: An estrogen-like substance found in some plants and plant products. Phytoestrogens may have anticancer effects.
Pilot study: The initial study examining a new method or treatment.
Placebo: An inactive substance or treatment that looks the same as, and is given the same way as, an active drug or treatment being tested. The effects of the active drug or treatment are compared to the effects of the placebo.
Placebo-controlled: Refers to a clinical study in which the control patients receive a placebo.
Plasma: The clear, yellowish, fluid part of the blood that carries the blood cells. The proteins that form blood clots are in plasma.
Plasma cell: A type of white blood cell that produces antibodies.
Plastic surgeon: A surgeon who specializes in reducing scarring or disfigurement that may occur as a result of accidents, birth defects, or treatment for diseases.
Plastic surgery: An operation that restores or improves the appearance of body structures.
Platelet: A type of blood cell that helps prevent bleeding by causing blood clots to form. Also called a thrombocyte
Platelet count: The number of platelets in a sample of blood.
Pleural effusion: An abnormal collection of fluid between the thin layers of tissue (pleura) lining the lung and the wall of the chest cavity.
Pleurodesis: A treatment that first removes unwanted fluid from the lining of the lung and then puts in an agent that will seal the area and not let fluid build back up.
Pleural tap: The way a doctor removes unwanted fluid that has formed in the lining of the lung.
Port: An implanted device through which blood may be withdrawn and drugs may be infused without repeated needle sticks. Also called a port-a-cath.
Port-a-cath: See Port.
Positive axillary lymph node: A lymph node in the area of the armpit (axilla) to which cancer has spread. This spread is determined by surgically removing some of the lymph nodes and examining them under a microscope to see whether cancer cells are present.
Positive test result: A test result that reveals the presence of a specific disease or condition for which the test is being done.
Positron emission tomography scan: PET scan. A procedure in which a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein, and a scanner is used to make detailed, computerized pictures of areas inside the body where the glucose is used. Because cancer cells often use more glucose than normal cells, the pictures can be used to find cancer cells in the body.
Postmenopausal: Having to do with the time after menopause. Menopause (�change of life�) is the time in a woman's life when menstrual periods stop permanently.
Postmortem: After death. Often used to describe an autopsy.
Postoperative: After surgery.
Postprandial: After a meal.
Potentiation: In medicine, the effect of increasing the potency or effectiveness of a drug or other treatment.
PR+: Progesterone receptor positive. Breast cancer cells that have a protein (receptor molecule) to which progesterone will attach. Breast cancer cells that are PR+ need the hormone progesterone to grow and will usually respond to hormonal therapy.
PR-: Progesterone receptor negative. Breast cancer cells that do not have a protein (receptor molecule) to which progesterone will attach. Breast cancer cells that are PR- do not need the hormone progesterone to grow and usually do not respond to hormonal therapy.
Precancerous: A term used to describe a condition that may (or is likely to) become cancer. Also called premalignant.
Premalignant: See precancerous.
Premenopausal: Having to do with the time before menopause. Menopause ("change of life") is the time of life when a woman's menstrual periods stop permanently.
Prescription: A doctor's order for medicine or another intervention.
Prevention: In medicine, action taken to decrease the chance of getting a disease. For example, cancer prevention includes avoiding risk factors (such as smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and radiation exposure) and increasing protective factors (such as getting regular physical activity, staying at a healthy weight, and having a healthy diet).
Preventive: Used to prevent disease.
Preventive mastectomy: Surgery to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by removing one or both breasts before disease develops. Also called prophylactic mastectomy.
Primary care doctor: PCP. A doctor who manages a person's health care over time. A primary care doctor is able to give a wide range of care, including prevention and treatment, can discuss cancer treatment choices, and can refer a patient to a specialist.
Primary tumor: The original tumor.
Progesterone: A female hormone.
Progesterone receptor: PR. A protein found inside the cells of the female reproductive tissue, some other types of tissue, and some cancer cells. The hormone progesterone will bind to the receptors inside the cells and may cause the cells to grow.
Progesterone receptor negative: See PR-
Progesterone receptor positive: See PR+
Progesterone receptor test: A lab test to determine if breast cancer cells have progesterone receptors. If the cells have progesterone receptors, they may depend on progesterone for growth. This information can influence how the breast cancer is treated.
Prognosis: The likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery or recurrence.
Prognostic factor: A situation or condition, or a characteristic of a patient, that can be used to estimate the chance of recovery from a disease or the chance of the disease recurring (coming back).
Programmed cell death: A type of cell death in which a series of molecular steps in a cell leads to its death. This is the body�s normal way of getting rid of unneeded or abnormal cells. The process of programmed cell death may be blocked in cancer cells. Also called apoptosis.
Progression: Increase in the size of a tumor or spread of cancer in the body.
Progression-free survival: One type of measurement that can be used in a clinical study or trial to help determine whether a new treatment is effective. It refers to the probability that a patient will remain alive, without the disease getting worse.
Progressive disease: Cancer that is growing, spreading, or getting worse.
Proliferating: Multiplying or increasing in number. In biology, cell proliferation occurs by a process known as cell division.
Proliferative index: A measure of the number of cells in a tumor that are dividing (proliferating). May be used with the S-phase fraction to give a more complete understanding of how fast a tumor is growing.
Prophylactic: In medicine, something that prevents or protects.
Prophylactic mastectomy: Surgery to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by removing one or both breasts before disease develops. Also called preventive mastectomy.
Prophylactic oophorectomy: Surgery intended to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by removing the ovaries before disease develops.
Prophylactic surgery: Surgery to remove an organ or gland that shows no signs of cancer, in an attempt to prevent development of cancer of that organ or gland. Prophylactic surgery is sometimes chosen by people who know they are at high risk for developing cancer.
Prophylaxis: An attempt to prevent disease.
Prosthesis: An artificial replacement of a part of the body. A breast prosthesis is a breast form that may be worn under clothing. Also, a technical name for an implant that is placed under the chest muscle in breast reconstruction.
Protective factor: Something that may decrease the chance of getting a certain disease. Some examples of protective factors for cancer are getting regular physical activity, staying at a healthy weight, and having a healthy diet.
Protein: A molecule made up of amino acids that are needed for the body to function properly. Proteins are the basis of body structures such as skin and hair and of substances such as enzymes, cytokines, and antibodies.
Protocol: An action plan for a clinical trial. The plan states what the study will do, how, and why. It explains how many people will be in it, who is eligible to participate, what study agents or other interventions they will be given, what tests they will receive and how often, and what information will be gathered.
Proton beam radiation therapy: A type of radiation therapy that uses protons generated by a special machine. A proton is a type of high-energy radiation that is different from an x-ray.
Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging: A noninvasive imaging method that provides information about cellular activity (metabolic information). It is used along with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which provides information about the shape and size of the tumor (spacial information). Also called magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging and 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging.
Proximal: In medicine, refers to a part of the body that is closer to the center of the body than another part. For example, the knee is proximal to the toes. The opposite is distal.
Psychologist: A specialist who can talk with you and your family about emotional and personal matters, and can help you make decisions.
Pulmonary: Having to do with the lungs.
Pump: A device that is used to deliver a precise amount of drug at a specific rate.
Punch biopsy: Removal of a small disk-shaped sample of tissue using a sharp, hollow device. The tissue is then examined under a microscope.
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Quality of life: The overall enjoyment of life. Many clinical trials assess the effects of cancer and its treatment on the quality of life. These studies measure aspects of an individual�s sense of well-being and ability to carry out various activities.
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Radiation: Energy released in the form of particles or electromagnetic waves. Common sources of radiation include radon gas, cosmic rays from outer space, and medical x-rays.
Radiation fibrosis: The formation of scar tissue as a result of radiation therapy.
Radiation nurse: A health professional who specializes in caring for people who are receiving radiation therapy.
Radiation oncologist: A doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.
Radiation physicist: A person who makes sure that the radiation machine delivers the right amount of radiation to the correct site in the body. The physicist works with the radiation oncologist to choose the treatment schedule and dose that has the best chance of killing the most cancer cells.
Radiation surgery: A radiation therapy technique that delivers radiation directly to the tumor while sparing the healthy tissue. Also called radiosurgery and stereotactic external beam irradiation.
Radiation therapist: A health professional who gives radiation treatment.
Radiation therapy: 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 it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy, implant radiation, or brachytherapy). Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that circulates throughout the body. Also called
Radical lymph node dissection: A surgical procedure to remove most or all of the lymph nodes that drain lymph from the area around a tumor. The lymph nodes are then examined under a microscope to see if cancer cells have spread to them.
Radical mastectomy: Surgery for breast cancer in which the breast, chest muscles, and all of the lymph nodes under the arm are removed. For many years, this was the breast cancer operation used most often, but it is used rarely now. Doctors consider radical mastectomy only when the tumor has spread to the chest muscles. Also called the Halsted radical mastectomy.
Radioactive: Giving off radiation.
Radioactive drug: A drug containing a radioactive substance that is used in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and in pain management of bone metastases. Also called a radiopharmaceutical.
Radioactive iodine: A radioactive form of iodine, often used for imaging tests or as a treatment for thyroid cancer and certain other cancers. For imaging tests, the patient takes a small dose of radioactive iodine that collects in thyroid cells and certain kinds of tumors and can be detected by a scanner. For treatment of thyroid cancer, the patient takes a large dose of radioactive iodine, which kills thyroid cells. Radioactive iodine is also used in internal radiation therapy for prostate cancer, intraocular (eye) melanoma, and carcinoid tumors. The radioactive iodine is given by infusion or sealed in seeds, which are placed in or near the tumor to kill cancer cells.
Radiologic exam: A test that uses radiation or other imaging procedures to find signs of cancer or other abnormalities.
Radiologist: A doctor who specializes in creating and interpreting pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are produced with x-rays, sound waves, or other types of energy.
Radiology: The use of radiation (such as x-rays) or other imaging technologies (such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging) to diagnose or treat disease.
Radionuclide scanning: A test that produces pictures (scans) of internal parts of the body. The person is given an injection or swallows a small amount of radioactive material; a machine called a scanner then measures the radioactivity in certain organs.
Radiosurgery: A radiation therapy technique that delivers radiation directly to the tumor while sparing the healthy tissue. Also called radiation surgery and stereotactic external beam irradiation.
Radiotherapy: See radiation therapy.
Randomization: When referring to an experiment or clinical trial, the process by which animal or human subjects are assigned by chance to separate groups that compare different treatments or other interventions. Randomization gives each participant an equal chance of being assigned to any of the groups.
Randomized clinical trial: A study in which the participants are assigned by chance to separate groups that compare different treatments; neither the researchers nor the participants can choose which group. Using chance to assign people to groups means that the groups will be similar and that the treatments they receive can be compared objectively. At the time of the trial, it is not known which treatment is best. It is the patient's choice to be in a randomized trial.
Rapid-onset opioid: An opioid that relieves pain quickly. Opioids are drugs similar to opiates such as morphine and codeine but do not contain and are not made from opium.
RBC: Red blood cell. A cell that carries oxygen to all parts of the body. Also called erythrocyte.
Receptor: A molecule inside or on the surface of a cell that binds to a specific substance and causes a specific physiologic effect in the cell.
Recombinant: Made through genetic engineering, which is also called gene splicing or recombinant DNA technology. By putting animal or plant genes into the genetic material of bacteria or yeast cells, these microorganisms can be turned into "factories" to make proteins for medical uses.
Reconstructive surgeon: A doctor who can surgically reshape or rebuild (reconstruct) a part of the body, such as a woman's breast after surgery for breast cancer.
Reconstructive surgery: Surgery that is done to reshape or rebuild (reconstruct) a part of the body changed by previous surgery.
Recur: To occur again.
Recurrence: Cancer that has returned after a period of time during which the cancer could not be detected. The cancer may come back to the same place as the original (primary) tumor or to another place in the body. Also called recurrent cancer.
Recurrent cancer: See Recurrence.
Red blood cell: See RBC
Reflux: The backward flow of liquid from the stomach into the esophagus.
Refractory: In medicine, describes a disease or condition that does not respond to treatment.
Refractory cancer: Cancer that does not respond to treatment. The cancer may be resistant at the beginning of treatment or it may become resistant during treatment. Also called resistant cancer.
Regeneration: In biology, regrowth of damaged or destroyed tissue or body part.
Regimen: A treatment plan that specifies the dosage, the schedule, and the duration of treatment.
Regional: In oncology, describes the body area right around a tumor.
Regional cancer: Refers to cancer that has grown beyond the original (primary) tumor to nearby lymph nodes or organs and tissues.
Regional chemotherapy: Treatment with anticancer drugs directed to a specific area of the body.
Regional lymph node: In oncology, a lymph node that drains lymph from the region around a tumor.
Regional lymph node dissection: A surgical procedure to remove some of the lymph nodes that drain lymph from the area around a tumor. The lymph nodes are then examined under a microscope to see if cancer cells have spread to them.
Regression: A decrease in the size of a tumor or in the extent of cancer in the body.
Rehabilitation specialist: A healthcare professional who helps people recover from an illness or injury and return to daily life. Examples of rehabilitation specialists are physical therapists and occupational therapists.
Relapse: The return of signs and symptoms of cancer after a period of improvement.
Relative survival rate: A specific measurement of survival. For cancer, the rate is calculated by adjusting the survival rate to remove all causes of death except cancer. The rate is determined at specific time intervals, such as 2 years and 5 years after diagnosis.
Relaxation technique: A method used to reduce tension and anxiety, and control pain.
Remission: A decrease in or disappearance of signs and symptoms of cancer. In partial remission, some, but not all, signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. In complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared, although cancer still may be in the body.
Remission induction therapy: Initial treatment with anticancer drugs to cause complete disappearance of detectable cancer cells.
Renal: Relating to the kidney.
Resectable: Able to be removed by surgery.
Resected: Removed by surgery.
Resection: A procedure that uses surgery to remove tissue or part or all of an organ.
Residual disease: Cancer cells that remain after attempts to remove the cancer have been made.
Resistant cancer: Cancer that does not respond to treatment. The cancer may be resistant at the beginning of treatment, or it may become resistant during treatment. Also called refractory cancer.
Resorption: A process in which a substance, such as tissue, is lost by being destroyed and then absorbed by the body.
Respiratory system: The organs that are involved in breathing. These include the nose, throat, larynx, trachea, bronchi, and lungs. Also called the respiratory tract.
Respiratory therapy: Exercises and treatments that help improve or restore lung function.
Respiratory tract: See respiratory system.
Response: In medicine, an improvement related to treatment.
Response rate: The percentage of patients whose cancer shrinks or disappears after treatment.
Resting: In biology, refers to a cell that is not dividing.
Retrospective: Looking back at events that have already taken place.
Retrospective cohort study: A research study in which the medical records of groups of individuals who are alike in many ways but differ by a certain characteristic (for example, female nurses who smoke and those who do not smoke) are compared for a particular outcome (such as lung cancer). Also called a historic cohort study.
Retrospective study: A study that compares two groups of people: those with the disease or condition under study (cases) and a very similar group of people who do not have the disease or condition (controls). Researchers study the medical and lifestyle histories of the people in each group to learn what factors may be associated with the disease or condition. For example, one group may have been exposed to a particular substance that the other was not. Also called a case-control study.
Risk factor: Something that may increase the chance of developing a disease. Some examples of risk factors for cancer include age, a family history of certain cancers, use of tobacco products, certain eating habits, obesity, lack of exercise, exposure to radiation or other cancer-causing agents, and certain genetic changes.
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