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                  GLOSSARY of Cancer                   Terminology

A - D  |  E - H  |  I - L  |  M - P  |  Q - T  |  U - W  |  X - Z


  • Abscess - A collection of pus that is restricted to a specific area in tissues, organs, or confined spaces.


  • Adenocarcinomas - A malignant tumor that forms in the glands and leads to the organs. Most cancers of the breast, pancreas, lung, prostate, and colon are adenocarcinomas.


  • Adenomas - A benign (noncancerous) tumor that forms from the epithelial tissue on the inside or the surface of an organ and gland.


  • Adjuvant Therapy - Any treatment administered after the "main treatment" to decrease the risk of cancer recurring. May include Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.


  • Alkylating Agents - Chemotherapy drugs that chemically link to cellular DNA and thereby prevents mitosis (cells dividing) stopping cancer growths in the body.


  • Anaplasia - When a cell ‘reverts’ to a more stem-cell-like state and no longer functions as part of the tissue that surrounds it. The abnormal cell divides, producing cells that are also undifferentiated creating a malignant tumor.


  • Anemia - When there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen that the body demands.  Resulting in tiredness of the body and other complications.  


  • Anthracyclines - Class of antibiotics derived from bacteria and used to treat cancer.  Used on a wide range of cancers.


  • Antiemetic - Anti-nausea medicine used to stop vomiting and feeling sick-to-the-stomach, which are common side effects of chemotherapy medicines.


  • Antifolate - Class of chemotherapy medicines that stop mitosis (cells dividing) by inhibiting the action of folic acid in the cellular metabolism.


  • Antigen - A foreign substance that prompts the immune system to respond by forming antibodies or reacting with antibodies or T cell receptors. Antigens include toxins, chemicals, bacteria, viruses or other substances outside the body.


  • Antineoplastic - Blocking the development of abnormal tissue growths or cancers.  Anti-cancer drugs are antineoplastic.


  • Apoptosis - A natural process of cell self-destruction which leads to the shrinkage of the cell and eventual elimination from the body through Phagocytosis. 


  • Atypical Glandular Cells - When cells that produce mucus and grow in the opening of the cervix and within the uterus, appear to be slightly abnormal. Further testing is needed to determine the significance of the abnormality or whether they're cancerous.


  • Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance (ASCUS) - When the thin, flat cells that grow on the surface of a cervix reveals to be slightly abnormal after a Pap smear. Further testing is needed to determine whether precancerous cells are present.









  • Benign - Non-cancerous mass, abnormal cells incapable of spreading, Not life or health threatening.


  • Biologic Therapy - A type of cancer treatment that boosts the body's natural defenses to fight cancer.


  • Biopsy - A procedure to remove a piece of tissue or a sample of cells from your body so that it can be analyzed in a laboratory.


  • Bone Marrow Biopsy - Commonly used to diagnose a variety of blood problems — both noncancerous and cancerous — including blood cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. A bone marrow biopsy may also detect cancers that started elsewhere and traveled to the bone marrow.


  • Brachytherapy - A cancer treatment in which radioactive seeds, capsules, or pellets are implanted in or near the tumor, giving a high radiation dose to the tumor while reducing the radiation exposure in the surrounding healthy tissues.   


  • Brain Cancer - A form of cancer found in the tissues of the brain - the central command system that controls how the body functions.


  • Breast Cancer - A form of cancer found in the tissues of the breast - the specialized organ found on the chest of a woman's body that produces and supply milk. 




  • Cancer - An abnormal growth of cells which tend to multiply in an uncontrolled way and, in some cases, to metastasize (spread).

  • Cancerphobia - An excessive fear of developing cancer or its recurrence.

  • Cancerversary - Marks the anniversary of the final cancer treatment or official date of remission.

  • Carcinogen - Any substance or organism, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or agents that causes the development or increases the risk of cancer.

  • Carcinogenesis - The process by which normal cells are transformed into cancer cells.

  • Carcinogenesis - Literally the creation of cancer. It is a process by which normal cells are transformed into cancer cells. Can also be called oncogenesis and tumorigenesis.

  • Carcinomas - Cancers or malignancies that begin in the epithelial tissues.

  • Carcinophobia - The fear of getting cancer, typically affecting those who have had the disease or have known people afflicted with it. Also called "cancerphobia."

  • Catheter - A tube inserted into the body.  Used to administer chemotherapy.

  • Cells - The structural and functional unit of all living organisms, and is sometimes called the "building blocks of all living things."

  • Cervical Cancer - Cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina.

  • Chemo Fog - See "ChemoBrain"

  • ChemoBrain - The loss in memory ability after chemotherapy treatments. Symptoms include decreased attention span, thinking, and short-term memory problems during and after cancer treatment. Also called “chemo fog.”

  • Chemonesia - A partial loss of memory or forgetfulness due to cancer treatment.

  • Chemoprevention - See "Chemoprophylaxis"

  • Chemoprophylaxis - The preemptive use of drugs to prevent disease.  Not used widely against cancer, although some have proposed programs to do so.

  • Chemotherapy (Chemo) - The treatment of disease, especially cancer by using chemical substances and drug cocktails to target and kill cancer cells. Administered by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin.

  • Colorectal Cancer - Cancer that develops in the lining of the large intestines - also used to describe rectum or bowel cancer and colon cancer. 

  • Combination Chemotherapy - Administration of more than one drug to treat cancer. 

  • Complete Blood Cell Count (CBC) - A common diagnostic test showing the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in a patient’s blood; used to help diagnose and monitor many conditions. Also called blood cell count, complete blood count, and full blood count.

  • Complete Remission - No trace or symptoms of the disease that can be identified in imaging or medical tests after cancer treatment regimen. Also called "Complete Response." 

  • Consolidation Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy treatment administered after cancer has gone into remission. Also called "postremission therapy" or  "intensification therapy."

  • Cryosurgery - A surgery that involves the use of extreme cold to destroy abnormal tissues, such as tumors.

  • Curative Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy intended to cure or cause significant progress against cancer, in contrast to adjuvant, neoadjuvant, or palliative chemotherapy.

  • Cytology - The study of cells to identify various types of cancer, infections, or abnormalities.

  • Cytotoxic - The process of suppressing the growth and multiplication of cells. Most chemotherapy agents are cytotoxic, which is why the side effects are so severe.

  • DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ) - A low-risk non-invasive cancer that starts in the milk ducts of the breast but has not invaded nearby breast tissue.

  • Drug Packet Insert (DPI) - Written instructions and cautions included with pharmaceuticals delivered at the retail level, often containing information mandated by a regulatory agency.


  • Endoscopic Biopsy - A procedure that inserts an endoscope in the body to gather samples from places like the bladder, colon, or lungs.

  • Epithelial Cells - The first line of defense against pathogens and other contaminants that can enter the body through airways, digestive tracts, and bloodstreams.

  • Fibromas or fibroids - Benign tumors of the connective tissue of any organ - most commonly found in the uterus.

  • First-line Chemotherapy - See "Induction Therapy"

  • Gynecology - The branch of medicine that deals with reproductive health care and diseases of women.

  • Hemangiomas - Benign tumors of the blood vessel and skin.

  • Hematology - The branch of medicine that concerns the study of blood and blood-related diseases. 

  • Hodgkin's Lymphoma - A form of blood cancer that develops in the lymphocytes -a type of white blood cell that fights infections in the lymphatic system. HL is usually differentiated from other lymphomas by the presence of the Reed-Sternberg and/or Hodgkin cells. Also called "Hodgkin Disease."

  • HSIL (High-grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion) - Cervical cell changes usually caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) and is found when a Pap test is done. If not treated, there's a greater chance that the lesion may develop into cancer quickly and spread to nearby normal tissue. Additional diagnostic testing is necessary.



  • Immune System - The bodies defense system that protects from foreign substances, cells, and tissues by producing the immune response. 


  • Immunotherapy - Treatment that uses certain parts of a person’s immune system to fight diseases such as cancer. Stimulating the immune system to work harder or smarter to attack cancer cells.  


  • In Situ - Cancer that is confined to its place of origin and has not invaded neighboring tissues.


  • Induction Therapy - Slow intravenous administration of chemotherapy medication.  Called for in some regimens to prevent too much of a spike in blood concentration of the drug.


  • Infusion - Slow intravenous administration of chemotherapy medication.  Called for in some regimens to prevent too much of a spike in blood concentration of the drug.


  • Internal Radiation Therapy - See "Brachytherapy"


  • Intra-arterial - Administration of a drug into a patient’s artery.  Much less common than intravenous injection.


  • Intracavitary - Administration of a drug into a patient’s bodily cavity such as the abdomen.


  • Intralesional - Injecting the drug directly into the tumor.


  • Intramuscular - Administration of a drug into a patient’s muscle.  Sometimes used in some chemotherapy regimens.


  • Intrathecal - Administration of a drug into a patient’s spinal fluid (cerebrospinal fluid).


  • Intravenous - Administration of fluids, including chemotherapy, into a patient’s vein.  Often called IV.  Most common method of administering chemotherapy.


  • IV Bolus - A discrete amount of drug solution that is given to a patient at one time.












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  • Laser Therapy - A process that uses a laser beam light with high levels of precision to destroy, cut out or shrink tumors with little damage to surrounding tissues. However, laser therapy can be expensive and require repeated treatments. Most commonly used on cervical cancer, penile cancer, vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, and basal cell skin cancer.


  • Lesions - An area of abnormal change on any tissue or organ due to disease. A lesion may be benign or malignant. Any wound, injury, or pathologic change in body tissue 


  • Leukemia - a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of immature WBC's. (Hematological cancer)


  • Lipomas - Benign tumors of the fat cells


  • LSIL (Low-grade Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion) - Mildly abnormal cervical cell changes that is usually caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and is found when Pap tests are done. The lesions usually go away on its own without treatment but sometimes the abnormal cells can become cancer in later years.


  • Lymph Nodes - Small bean-shaped glands located throughout the body to defend the body against bacteria or viruses that could make you sick


  • Lymphedema - Swelling caused by a build-up of lymph fluid under your skin. It affects your arms or legs.


  • Lymphocytes - A type of white blood cell that fights infections, bacteria, viruses of the immune system includes the B cells and T cells


  • Lymphoma - A type of blood cancer that occurs when B or T lymphocytes (WBC's that help protect the body through the immune system), divide faster than normal cells or live longer than they are supposed to.


  • Lymphomatous Meningitis - When cancer cells spread from the original (primary) tumor to the meninges (thin layers of tissue that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord). Cancer may cause inflammation of the meninges. Also called "lymphomatous leptomeningitis."


  • Maintenance Chemotherapy - Low-intensity course of chemotherapy given after the main treatment course. If the cancer has disappeared, maintenance chemotherapy may be used to prevent recurrence. Other times the cancer is still present but the doctor wants to ease off the heavy chemotherapy for a time period by switching to a lower dose to avoid losing progress made during the main therapy round.


  • Malignant - Cancerous mass, abnormal cells capable of spreading


  • Melanoma - The most serious form of skin cancer that develops from the pigment-containing cells known as melanocytes. Melanomas typically occur in the skin, but may rarely occur in the mouth, intestines, or eye.


  • Meningiomas - Benign brain and spinal cord tumors.


  • Metastasis/metastatic - The transfer of disease, cancer, from one part of the body or organ to another not directly connected with it.


  • Mitosis - When one cell divides into two identical cells. The main purpose of mitosis is for growth and to replace worn out cells.


  • Mitotic Inhibitor - Drugs that prevent mitosis (cell division)


  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) - The use of strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the organs, bones, and tissues within the body.


  • Mucositis - Inflammation of mucous membranes that line body passages and cavities like the mouth and anus. Mouth sores, oral mucositis, and esophagitis are types of mucositis and common side effects of chemotherapy.


  • Myelosuppression -The decrease in bone marrow activity and production of white blood cells (leukocytes), red blood cells (erythrocytes), and/or platelets (thrombocytes).


  • Myomas - The most common benign tumor of the female reproductive system and are found by ultrasound in more than 70% of women by age 50 years. Also called fibroids and leiomyomas

  • NED -"No Evidence of Disease"


  • Needle Biopsy - Often used on tumors that doctors can feel through the skin, such as suspicious breast lumps and enlarged lymph nodes. When combined with an imaging procedure, such as X-ray, needle biopsy can be used to collect cells from a suspicious area that can't be felt through the skin.


  • Neoadjuvant Therapy - Treatment that is given as a first step to decrease the size of a tumor prior to the main treatment.


  • Neuromas - The most common benign tumor of the nerve tissue or the surrounding structure. Usually presents as a knot in the region of a sensory nerve underlying a scar. May affect the foot, brain or spine. Commonly known as a pinched nerve.


  • Nevus (Plural: Nevi) - A benign localized overgrowth of melanin-forming cells. Known as a birthmark but can present itself at birth or acquired years later. Commonly known as "Birthmark" or Mole 

  • Noncancerous -Benign; Not malignant; no evidence of cancer


  • Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma - A form of blood cancer that develops from lymphocytes - a type of white blood cell that fights infections in the lymphatic system. NHL includes all lymphomas except Hodgkin Lymphoma and is more common than Hodgkin Lymphoma.


  • Non-invasive malignancy - Cancer cells have not spread outside the original place. See "In Situ." 


  • Non-malignant - See "noncancerous"


  • Oncology - The area of medicine that concerns the prevention, diagnosis, and the treatment of tumors


  • Osteochondromas - A noncancerous overgrowth of cartilage and bone. Often affects the shoulder blade, legs, and pelvis.


  • Ovarian Cancer - A form of cancer found inside or around the ovaries - the primary reproductive organs responsible for reproduction and producing the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

  • Palliative Chemotherapy - Treatment administered to terminal cancer patients to extend life and make the patient more comfortable but is not intended to cure the disease or cause remission​


  • Papillomas - Noncancerous lesions or tumors caused by viruses that form on the skin, breast, cervix and mucous membranes. 


  • Partial Remission - When cancer stabilizes and decreases in size, though still detectable, a patient may take a break from treatment. Also called "Partial Response."


  • Phagocytosis - The process by which certain cells engulf invading bacteria and viruses which they eat and destroy.


  • Photodynamic Therapy - A treatment method that combines the use of special drugs, called photosensitizing agents and light exposure to eliminate cancer cells. The process also is known as PDT, photoradiation therapy, phototherapy, and photochemotherapy.


  • Polyp - A small tumor-like growth that protrudes from a mucous membrane surface.


  • Port - A catheter device surgically inserted under the patient’s skin. Makes it easy to administer chemotherapy and may be used if the regimen is expected to involve many incidences of administration.  


  • Precancerous - Abnormal cells that are not yet cancerous, but have a higher risk of developing into cancer.


  • Progression-free Survival - Often used in clinical trials to monitor the progress of disease during and after test treatment was administered.


  • Proliferation - The reproduction or multiplication of similar cell. 




  • QOD (Quality of life near death) - the quality of life in a patient’s final weeks.


  • QOL (Quality of life) - the patient's ability to have a good well-being while being medically treated. Increasingly used in the evaluation of medical interventions.

  • Radiation Therapy - The use of high-energy waves or particles on a targeted area of the body to damage or kill cancer cells. Also called "Radiotherapy" 

  • Regimen - The entire course of the chemotherapy administration, including schedule, methods of administration, types, and dosages of agents, the order of agents in the case of combination chemotherapy, and any adjunct medicines given to the patient at the time.


  • Remission -The partial or complete disappearance of the symptoms of a chronic or malignant disease.

  • Salvage Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy given to a patient after other treatments (including other chemo regimens) have been tried and failed.  There is no official definition for what counts as salvage chemotherapy, but researchers often use the term.


  • Sarcomas - A rare type of cancer that develops in the connective tissue cells, unlike carcinomas, sarcomas affect the soft tissues like muscle, cartilage, fat, blood vessels, tendons, and ligaments. 


  • Scanxiety - The intense feeling of nervousness or unease prior to medical scans to determine the status of remission.


  • Second-line Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy regimen that is given when the first-line of treatment (chemo, radiation, and/or surgery) doesn’t work.


  • Skin Biopsy - Used most often to diagnose skin conditions, including melanoma and other cancers. What type of skin biopsy you undergo will depend on the type of cancer suspected and the extent of the suspicious cells.


  • Spinal Cord Tumors - Masses of abnormal cells that grow in the spinal cord, between protective sheaths, or on the surface of the sheath that covers the spinal cord. 


  • Spontaneous Remission - The rare occurrence when cancer goes into remission without treatment. 


  • Squamous Cell Cancer - Cancers arising in the flat surface cells of the vagina or cervix; usually determined if the results of a Pap smear appear so abnormal that the pathologist is almost certain a cancer is present.


  • Squamous intraepithelial lesion - This term is used to indicate that the cells collected from the Pap smear may be precancerous. There are two types of abnormal cells LSIL and HSIL.


  • Stage 0 - Cancer in situ 


  • Stage 1 - Tumor limited to tissue of origin


  • Stage 2 - Limited local spread


  • Stage 3 - Extensive local and regional spread


  • Stage 4 - Metastasis


  • Stages - Staging tells us the extent of the disease, helps determine treatment options and the prognosis.


  • Stem Cells - Cells with the unique ability to transform into many other types of cells in the body and replicate. 


  • Stomatitis - Sores on the lining of the mouth. Oral inflammation and ulcers. A common side effect of chemotherapy. Also called "Mouth sores."


  • Surgical Biopsy - Procedures used to remove a part or an entire area of abnormal cells. 




  • Tachyphylaxis - The tendency of a drug’s effectiveness to decline over time as the body or tumor develops resistance to it.


  • Thyroid Cancer - Cancer that forms from the tissue of the butterfly-shaped gland located in the base of the neck. 

  • Topical Treatment - Method of administering chemotherapy by placing it on the skin.


  • Tumor - A swelling of a part of the body, generally without inflammation, caused by an abnormal growth of tissue, whether benign or malignant.



  • Ulcer/Ulcerative - A circumscribed hole on the surface of an organ or tissue, which results from the death of cells that accompanies some inflammatory, infectious, or malignant processes.

  • Vinca Alkaloids - A class of chemotherapy agents derived from the Madagascar Periwinkle – genus Catharanthus.


  • White Blood Cells (WBC) - Cells that are produced in the bone marrow to help defend the body from infectious diseases and foreign intruders. Granulocytes, monocytes, and lymphocytes are white blood cells. Also called " Leukocytes."



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  • Young Adult Cancer - A group of cancers that are most common among adults between the ages of 20 and 39, including breast cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, melanoma, sarcoma, liver cancer, thyroid cancer, cervical cancer, and germ cell tumors (ovarian and testicular). 

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2. “Types of Chemotherapy Agents and Regimens.” Chemotherapy for Cancer Treatment RSS,

3.  Editors. “Anaplasia - Definition and Examples.” Biology Dictionary, Biology Dictionary, 28 Apr. 2017,

4. “NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms.” National Cancer Institute,

5. “Better Information. Better Health.” WebMD, WebMD,

6. “Mayo Clinic.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research,

7. "Cancer Treatment Centers & Hospitals | Integrative Cancer Care - CTCA.”, 1 Jan. 2001,

8. “Laser Therapy: Purpose, Procedure, and Risks.” Healthline, Healthline Media,

9. “Biopsy: Types of Biopsy Procedures Used to Diagnose Cancer.”,,

10. Harvard Health Publishing. “Spinal Cord Tumors - Harvard Health.” Harvard Health Blog,

11. Nabili, Siamak N. “Anemia Causes, Types, Symptoms & Treatment.” EMedicineHealth,

12. Mallick, Indranil, and Doru Paul. “All About R-CHOP and What It Is Used For.” Verywell Health, Verywellhealth,

More References
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