Cancer Glossary

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Disclaimer: this glossary has been written for educational purposes only, it can not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your doctor. No responsibility can be accepted for information on any linked page, please read the provider's own disclaimer where appropriate.

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About this glossary: 203 definitions in the database
This file generated from glossary.dbf at Fri 4 Jan 2002

About the author: Hello, my name is Simon Cotterill, I became involved in cancer research in 1989 with roles in statistics and computing, my qualifications are non-medical. This glossary has been developed largely in my personal time, any mistakes in this guide are entirely my own. Feedback

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Ablative Iodine (I-131)
Therapeutic doses of radioactive iodine with the aim of destroying all remaining thyroid tissues.

means sudden or severe.

See also: Chronic

chemotherapy given as an "add-on" to primary cancer treatment, as in surgery or radiotherapy.

See also: Chemotherapy.
See also: Surgery

A trade name for doxorubicin (see entry).

See also: Doxorubicin

Age is a very important factor in determining mortality, for example people tend to get different cancers at different ages. To compare the mortality rates of two or more populations, differences in the age distributions of the population are removed by using an age-adjusted rate.

See also: Epidemiology

Healthy marrow is taken from a matched donor and used to replace the patients owne marrow. The donor may be a relative, if the patient has a twin this may be the best match, otherwise a brother, sister, or another unrelated person may donate marrow.

See also: Autologous-Bone-Marrow-Transplant
See also: Bone-Marrow-Transplant

below normal levels of erythrocytes (red blood cells) causing a decrease in the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.

See also: Aplastic-Anemia
See also: Fanconi-Anemia

A molecule produced by lymphocytes in response to stimulation by an antigen. Antibodies bind to antigens, causing the cells bearing the antigens to clump together. These clumps are then destroyed by other blood cells.

See also: Antigen
See also: Prostate-Specific-Antigen test

Any substance capable of stimulating a specific immune response (i.e., a specific antibody) in the body.

Antigens are proteins that are present on the surface of all cells and bacteria and viruses. If foreign antigens (such as bacteria, viruses, or grains of pollen) are detected then the body's immune system will attack them.

See also: Antibody
See also: Monoclonal-Antibody

anemia that is resistant to treatment; often accompanied by deficiencies of other blood cells.

See also: Anemia
See also: Fanconi-Anemia

to suck fluids out of a cavity eg bone marrow aspiate

(ABMT) A process in which a patient's healthy bone marrow is withdrawn and preserved. It is later injected back into the patient to replace bone marrow damaged by high doses of radiation therapy. It can then produce healthy blood cells. This treatment is used to offset the detrimental effects of high-dose radiation used in certain types of cancer.

Any non-sex-determining chromosome; in humans there are 22 pairs of autosomes.

See also: Chromosome
See also: DNA

Lymphocytes responsible for humoral (fluid based) immunity and antibody production.

A barium enema (or "lower GI series") is procedure that uses a barium sulfate enema followed by an X-ray to view the colon and rectum. Barium sulfate is a chalky chemical that appears white on X-ray film thus showing the lining of the colon. This helps identify any abnormalities which usually appear darker on the X-rays. Sometimes air can also be pumped into the intestine in order to sharpen the image.

See also: Colorectal-Cancer

This is where the basal cells become cancerous; basal cells are found in the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin). This is the most common type of skin cancer which is usually highly curable when detected early.

See also: Skin-Cancer
* WWW Resources for Skin Cancer

Not cancerous - not spreading, usually a more mild disease. Non-malignant.

See also: Malignant

Cancer treatment that uses natural substances or substances made in a laboratory to stimulate or restore the ability of the body's immune system to fight disease. Interferon and interleukin-2 therapies are examples. Therapies such as these are often used in conjunction with other treatments. Also called immunotherapy.

This is the removal of a small section of the tumour, the sample will be analysed by a histopathologist in order to establish a precise diagnosis. Surgical procedure. This may be a needle biopsy, where a very fine needle is used to take a tiny sample of the tumour. Occasionally a surgeon may remove the whole tumour prior to diagnosis; a resection biopsy.

See also: Pathology

A tumour composed of very immature cells.

See also: Medulloblastoma
See also: Neuroblastoma

The spongy material that fills the inner spaces of the bones. It is the place where many blood elements, such as red blood cells, are produced. High doses of radiation can destroy bone marrow during cancer treatment.

See also: Allogenic-Bone-Marrow-Transplant
See also: Autologous-Bone-Marrow-Transplant
See also: Bone-Marrow-Transplant

A procedure in which a section of bone marrow is taken from one person and transplanted into another. It is used to replace bone marrow that has been damaged or diseased. It can be a treatment option in leukemia.

See also: Allogenic-Bone-Marrow-Transplant
See also: Autologous-Bone-Marrow-Transplant
See also: Bone-Marrow
* WWW Resources for BMT

A type of radiation therapy is which radioactive materials are placed in direct contact with the tissue being treated.

See also: Hyperfractionated-Radiotherapy
See also: Radiotherapy-Field
* WWW Resources for Radiotherapy

Breast Self-Exam (BSE)
A method for women to check their breasts for changes in appearance or feel. This can help detect breast cancer at a more early stage, should it develop.

See also: Breast-Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women aged between 35 to 54, incidence has increased such that 1 in 9 women develop breast cancer in the USA. The most common type of breast cancer that found in the cells of the breast ducts, other types include those of the lobes, and inflammatory breast cancer. Between 5 and 10% of breast cancers are known to be hereditary, women with the defective BRCA1 gene are more likely to develop breast or ovarian cancer.

See also: Mammogram
See also: Mastectomy
See also: Lumpectomy
See also: Breast Self-Exam (BSE)
* Breast ca. WWW Resources

Burkitt's lymphoma
A type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that most often occurs in young people between the ages of 12 and 30. The disease usually causes a rapidly growing tumor in the abdomen.

See also: Lymphoma.
See also: Non-Hodgkin's-Lymphoma
* WWW Resources for Lymphoma

The rapid loss of weight along with fatigue, weakness, and loss of appetite. This can be a serious problem for patients with advanced cancer.

Cancer Statistics

See also: Epidemiology
See also: Five-Year-Survival
See also: Case-Contro-Study
See also: Longitudanal Studies
See also: Cross-sectional Studies
See also: Meta-Analysis

The malignant uncotrolled growth of cells, that left untreated would be fatal. Cancers have the capacity to metastasize, or form secondary tumors at other sites Cancer is not a single disease but a wide range of different diseases of which there well over a hundred types. Cancers can be classified into two broad types: haematological (malignancies of the blood / bone marrow) or solid tumours. The name of the cancer depends on the type of tissue and/or site it develops from.

See also: Malignancy
See also: Carcinoma.
See also: Sarcoma.
See also: Lymphoma.
See also: Blastoma.
See also: Childhood-Cancer
* InterNet Resources for Cancer

The production of cancer

See also: Cancer.

A malignant tumour arising from epithelial tissue (cells of the glands and the outer layer of skin that lines blood vessels, hollow organs and the body's orifices).

damage to the heart : is associated with certain anti cancer drugs, especially Adriamycin. As such the total dose of these drugs may be limited to reduce the risk of cardiotoxicity.

See also: Doxorubicin
See also: Echocardiogram

is where cases are compared to controls, in order to avoid bias the controls are matched for factors such as age and sex. The aim is to investigate possible associations between certain factors and risk of disease. For example a study investigating smoking and the risk of lung cancer.

is where normal cells go through physical changes in order to form the different specialised tissues of the body. Malignant cells may range from well-differentiated (closely resembling the tissue of origin) or undifferentiated or anaplastic (bearing little similarity to the tissue of origin). In general it is the undifferentiated or anaplastic histologies which are more aggressive.

a thin plastic line into a vein in the chest used for the delivery of chemotherapy e.g. HICKMAN® catheter.

See also: Adjuvant-Chemotherapy
See also: Chemotherapy.

Cervical cancer is a common type of malignancy accounting for about 6% of all cancers found in women. It is a disease in which cancerous cells develop in the uterine cervix (this is the connecting passage between the uterus and vagina). The peak incidence of cervical cancer occurs between the ages of 40 to 55. It is rare before the age of 35, however the incidence of cervical cancer in younger women rose dramatically during the two decades after 1960. Regular Pap smear tests may detect abnormal changes in the cervical tissues, before cancer develops. Symptoms of cervical cancer may include vaginal bleeding after intercourse or bleeding between periods. However, in the early stages of the disease there are often no obvious signs or symptoms, so regular smear tests are important.

See also: Colposcopy
See also: Pap-Test
* WWW Resources for Ceverical Cancer

The treatment of diseases such as cancer with drug therapy Since the 1960's the development and use of drugs has dramatically improved the prognosis for many types of cancer. Chemo- means chemicals, for most types of cancer chemotherapy will consist of a number of different drugs, this is known as combination chemotherapy. Chemotherapy may be given in a variety of ways; Intravenously (IV) -into a vein is the most common, Intramuscularly (IM) -injection into a muscle, Orally -by mouth, Subcutaneously (SC) -injection under the skin, Intralesionally (IL) -directly into a cancerous area, Intrathecally (IT)-into the fluid around the spine, Topically -medication will be applied onto the skin.

See also: Central-Line
See also: Toxicity
* WWW Resources for Chemotherapy

Childhood cancer is rare, about 1 in every 600 children aged under 15 develop cancer, still very little is known about it's causes. Compared with adult cancers they tend to have different histologies and occur in different sites of the body. Common adult cancers such as lung, breast, colon, and stomach are extremely rare among children. On the other hand some types of cancer are almost exclusively found in children, especially embryonal tumours which arise from cells associated with the foetus, embryo, and early postnatal period. The overall cure rate for childhood cancer has drastically improved over the last 2 decades in association with clinical trials and the development of new treatments

See also: Paediatric-Oncology
See also: Neuroblastoma
See also: Wilms' Tumour
* Children's Cancer Web

Chondrosarcoma is a cancer arising in cartilage cells, it occurs mostly in adults, it is rare in those aged under 20 with 70% of cases occurring between ages 50-75. Rare sub-types include mesenchymal chondrosarcoma which is more common in those aged under 40; Clear cell chondrosarcoma (around 2% of cases); and Dedifferenting chondrosarcoma (a rare tumour which transforms from low grade to a high grade sarcoma).

* WWW Resources for Chondrosarcoma

Structures in the cell nucleus which contain the genes responsible for heredity. Normal human cells contain twenty-three pairs of chromosomes. One of each pair is inherited separately from a person's father and mother

See also: DNA
See also: Autosome
See also: Gene
* Cancer Gene Index

Long lasting or slowly progressing.

See also: Acute

Research conducted with patients, usually to evaluate a new treatment. Each trial is designed to answer scientific questions and to find better ways to treat individuals with a specific disease. Many times cancer patients can receive new, experimental treatments by participating in a clinical trial.

See also: Phase-I Clinical Trial
See also: Phase-II Clinical Trial
See also: Phase-III Clinical Trial
See also: Informed-Consent
* WWW Resources for Clinical Trials for Cancer

CFS) encourage production of white blood cells. G-CSF stimulates granulocytes, and GM-CSF stimulates granulocytes and monocytes. Substances produced naturally by the body and recently also synthetically which stimulate the production of certain blood cells. Examples are G-CSF, GM-CSF, various “interleukins”, stem cell factor (or steel factor), erythropoietin, etc.

is the second most common type of cancer, and accounts for almost 80% of cancers of the digestive tract. The vast majority of colon and rectum cancers are adenocarcinomas, around 10% of these are mucinous (protein contained in mucus). Surgery is the main form of treatment, though modest benifits of adjuvant chemotherapy have been demonstrated. The median age at diagnosis is 70, age adjusted incidence rates are slightly higher in males compared to females. A substantial proportion of cases are in those with a genetic predisposition to colorectal cancer. Diet may also have an influence on the incidence of colorectal cancer, diatry fibre, retinoids, and calcium are thought to be protective, while high intake of animal fats may increases risk. Colorectal cancer may develop from benign polyps (a polyp is a tumour on a stem most commonly found on mucous membranes). Screening of high risk populations (for those over age 50, particularly those with a 1st degree relative dignosed with colorectal cancer, or familial predispostion to adenomatous polyposis) may be of benifit in detecting colorectal cancer at an early stage.

See also: Barium-Enema
See also: Fecal-Occult-Blood-Test

Visual examination of the tissues of the cervix and vagina by inserting a magnifying instrument called a colposcope

See also: Cervical-Cancer

Computed-Tomography (CT-Scan)
Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan) makes a cross-sectional x-ray picture of a "slice" of the body. The machine rotates around the patient taking x-rays from different angles, the images are then processed by a computer.

See also: Ultrasound
See also: X-Ray
See also: Magnetic-Resonance-Imaging (MRI)

Cross-sectional Studies
are studies that are carried out at just one point in time.

See also: Cancer Statistics
See also: Five-Year-Survival
See also: Case-Contro-Study
See also: Longitudanal Studies

A rare type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that first appears on the skin, then later spreads to the lymph nodes and organs. Also called mycosis fungoides.

See also: Lymphoma.
See also: Non-Hodgkin's-Lymphoma
See also: Skin-Cancer

A fluid filled sac or cavity.

Also known as colony stimulating factors

See also: Colony-Stimulating-Factors

a substance which kills or damage cells.

This abbreviation stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. DNA is the component of the chromosomes that carries the genetic code

See also: Chromosome
See also: Gene

The study of populations, especially with reference to population size, density, fertility, mortality, growth, age distribution, migration, and vital statistics, and the interaction of all these with social and economic conditions

See also: Epidemiology

A condition in which a person has small sacs or pouch in the walls of a canal or organ, such as the stomach or intestine. These sacs can become inflamed to cause diverticulitis and can be a risk factor for certain types of cancer.

In chemotherapy, the total amount of drug delivered in a one-week period. Can be given all at once or over a period of several days.

doxorubicin hydrochloride: An antibiotic used to treat several forms of cancer. Also known as Adriamycin.

See also: Chemotherapy.
See also: Cardiotoxicity
See also: Echocardiogram

is where tumour cells become resistant to chemotherapy. Some tumour cells will be chemo-sensitive and are killed by anticancer drugs; the cells that remain are likely to be more resistant. Thus by selection it is the most resistant cells survive and divide, they may be resistant to a particular drug, a class of drugs, or all drugs

See also: Chemotherapy.

The abnormal pathological development of cells, indicating possible malignancy

is where an image of the heart is formed when high frequency sound waves are reflected from themuscles of the heart. An echocardiogram may be done before treatment starts to establish a baseline from which to compare future tests.

See also: Cardiotoxicity

an artificial replacement that is fitted inside the body e.g. a metal prosthesis that replaces the thigh bone in limb sparing surgery.

A method of nutritient delivery where fluid is given directly into the gastrointestinal tract.

Removing the entire eyeball - this operation may be used for advanced stage or large ocular tumours. For some smaller malignant tumours laser treatment may be used (in conjunction with chemotherapy) in which the eye can be salvaged.

* WWW Resources for Ocular (Eye) Cancers

The study of the distribution and causes of diseases in a population.

See also: Age-Adjusted-Mortality-Rate
See also: Longitudanal Studies
See also: Cancer Statistics
* WWW Resources for Cancer Epidemiology

The outermost layer of the skin. Melanocytes, basal cells, and squamous cells are found in the epidermis. Overexposure of the epidermis to ultraviolet rays from the sun can lead to skin cancer.

See also: Skin-Cancer

Ewing's sarcoma is most common in children and young adults. The most frequent sites are the pelvis, femur, tibia, and fibula, around a fifth of patients have metastases at diagnosis usually in the lungs or other other bones. Ewing's tumours are more frequently found in the diaphysis (mid-shaft) part of the bone. Ewing's sarcoma can sometimes be restricted to soft tissue (Extraosseos Ewing's sarcoma). There is a spectrum of pathology ranging from 'classical' Ewing's which are negative for neural markers; to PNET (peripheral neuroectodermal tumours) which are stongly positive.

See also: Osteogenic Sarcoma
* WWW Resources for Ewing's Sarcoma

exclusivly soft tissue - no bone involvement

Not cancerous. Fanconi Anaemia is a rare disorder found in children that involves the blood and bone marrow. The symptoms include pancytopenia, hypoplasia of the bone marrow, and patchy discoloration of the skin. This is an recessive condition, affected children usually develop severe aplastic anemia by age 8 to 9 years. Treatment usually consists of bone marrow transplant.

See also: Anemia
See also: Aplastic-Anemia
* WWW Resources for Fanconi Anemia

means with fever

A test for small traces of blood in stool samples which would not be visible with the naked eye (also know as the "stool guaiac" or "haemoccult" test)

A term commonly used as the statistical basis for successful treatment. A patient with cancer is generally considered cured after five or more years without recurrence of the disease

See also: Cancer Statistics
See also: Epidemiology

A procedure used to evaluate the risk of recurrence of certain cancers by measuring the amount of DNA in cells. An abnormal amount (either too much to too little) may indicate a recurrence. This sophisticated technique, which measures DNA in just minutes, can help predict the recurrence of breast, prostate, and bladder cancers.

The process of taking X-rays of blood vessels that have been injected with a special dye. The dye allows to person viewing the X-ray to see the blood vessels.

When treatment is complete the periodic visits to the physician are needed to monitor the patient and ensure there has been no recurrence of the disease.

Fractions (RT)
the radiotherapy dose is divided into a number of smaller doses (known as fractions) to reduce the risk of side effects. There is normally one fraction per day.

See also: Hyperfractionated-Radiotherapy
See also: Radiotherapy-Field

Hereditary unit. Each gene carries the genetic code, or blue print, for a specific protein. Each human cell has about 80,000 genes, but most of these are not active in a given type of cell

See also: DNA
* Cancer Gene Index

Type of white blood cell; includes the basophil, eosinophil, and neutrophil (or poly), which is the infection-fighting cell.

The branch of medicine that specialises in the study and treatment of blood and blood tissues (including bone marrow).
sp. US: Hematology

See also: Leukaemia
See also: Lymphoma.
See also: Non-Hodgkin's-Lymphoma
* WWW Haematology / Oncology Resources

The oxygen-carrying pigment of the red blood cells; combines with oxygen from the lungs and carries it to the body's cells.

A benign nodule / overgrowth of normal mature cells that are normally located in the affected part of the body, usually with one particular type of cell predominating.

See also: Benign


the study of cells relating to the disease. (Histology is the microscopic study of cells and tissues, Pathology is the study of the disease). The histopathologist will determine a precise diagnosis by laboratory tests and microscopic examination of the cells.

A malignancy of the lymph tissue (lymphoma) that occurs most often in males, and the peak incidence is between ages 15 and 35. It is characterised by progressive, painless enlargement of the lymph nodes, spleen, and general lymph tissue.

See also: Lymphoma.
See also: Non-Hodgkin's-Lymphoma
* WWW Resources for Hodgkin's Disease

the most common life-threatening metabolic disorder associated with neoplastic diseases, occurring in an estimated 10%-20% of all persons with cancer. Carcinomas of the breast, lung, head and neck, kidney, and certain hematologic malignancies, particularly multiple myeloma, are most frequently associated with hypercalcemia.

is where more than one radiotheray fraction is given per day.

See also: Fractions (RT)

abnormaly low levels of phosphate in the blood

See also: Toxicity

incomplete / under development of a part of the body.

Radioactive Iodine. Iodine is readily uptaken by the thyroid gland, therefore I-131 may be used in small doses for monitoring thyroid tissues (thyroid scanning or "I-131 challenge") or in large doses for treating thyroid cancer ("ablative" I-131).

The body system, made up of many organs and cells, that defends the body against infection, disease, and foreign substances. The immune system is often stimulated in specific ways to fight cancer cells.

The prevention or supression of the immune system. For example some drugs may have the side effect of dampening the immune system making the patient prone to infections.

Treatment of disease by stimulating the body's own immune system. This is a type of therapy currently being researched as a treatment for cancer.

See also: Biological-Therapy

In place; localised and confined to one area. In situ tumours are at an early stage of development, when the cancer cells are still confined to one layer of tissue. In situ cancers tend to have a high cure rate

See also: Stage

in an artificial environment. For example many cancer research experiments are in vitro (in the test tube), using cell cultures (cells grown in the lab); either from established cell lines or from material collected at biopsy/surgery.

See also: In-Vivo

means within the living body.

See also: In-Vitro

The number of occurrences of a given disease within a population. Cancer incidence is the number of new cases of cancer diagnosed in one year. Data on the incidence of cancer are kept by regional and national cancer registries.

See also: Epidemiology
See also: Incidence-Rate

Calculated by dividing the number of new cases of a particular cancer during a given period of time by the number of people known to be at risk

See also: Incidence
See also: Epidemiology

is where patients agree to a treatment or randomisation to a clinical trial having a reasonable understanding of it.

interferons: are Proteins produced by the body with the specific purpose of regulating cell functions. Interferons are produced in the laboratory in large quantities, and are sometimes used in the treatment of certain cancers.

A hormone-like substance produced by the body (certain blood cells, specifically) that stimulates the growth of blood cells important to the body's immune system.

(IV) means into a vein.

See also: Adjuvant-Chemotherapy
See also: Chemotherapy.

A surgical procedure in which a tiny scope is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision. It is used for a variety of procedures, and often to diagnose disease of the fallopian tubes and pelvic cavity.

Treatment using a powerful, focused beam of light that produces intense heat used to burn away cancerous or damaged tissue.

A progressive, malignant disease of the blood and blood-forming organs, characterized by over-proliferation and development of leukocytes (a type of white blood cell). There are many different forms of leukemia.

sp. US: Leukemia

See also: Haematology
* WWW Resources for Leukaemia

Li-Fraumeni Syndrome
A family cancer syndrome.

* WWW Resources for Li-Fraumeni Syndrome / TP53

A portion of an organ such as the liver, lung, breast, brain or thyroid.

See also: Lobectomy
See also: Surgery

Surgical resection of a lobe of an organ such as the liver or thyroid.

See also: Lobe
See also: Surgery

An invasive neoplasm confined entirely to the organ of origin

See also: Stage

Longitudanal Studies
are studies where individuals are followed over time. A fixed population (cohort) may be monitored over a number of years.

See also: Cancer Statistics
See also: Five-Year-Survival
See also: Case-Contro-Study
See also: Cross-sectional Studies

where only the lump and surrounding tissue is surgically removed. This is a less aggressive form of surgey than for example in mastectomy for breast cancer - where the whole breast is removed.

See also: Surgery
See also: Mastectomy
See also: Breast-Cancer

These are small, bean-shaped organs that supply lymphoctyes (a type of white blood cell) to the bloodstream. They also filter out bacteria and other foreign substances from the lymph fluid that contains white blood cells. Lymph nodes (also called lymph glands) are located througout the body.

See also: Lymphoma.
See also: Non-Hodgkin's-Lymphoma
See also: Immune-System

The tissues and organs that produce and store the white blood cells used to fight infection. This includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes.

See also: Immune-System
See also: Lymph-Nodes
See also: Lymphedema
See also: Lymphocytes
See also: Lymphoma.
See also: Non-Hodgkin's-Lymphoma
See also: Tumor-Infiltrating-Lymphocytes

this is the accumulation of lymph in the interstitial spaces, principally in the subcutaneous fat, due to a defect in the lymphatic system.

are a type of white blood cell that fights disease and infection by producing antibodies and other protective substances. There are 2 categories: a) B cells these recognise specific antigens and produce antibodies to combat them, and b) T cells which are produced in the lymph system, and work in conjunction with the immune system.

See also: Cutaneous-T-Cell-lymphoma
See also: T-Cell
See also: B-Cells
See also: Lymph-Nodes
See also: Lymphatic-System
See also: Lymphedema
See also: Lymphoma.
See also: Non-Hodgkin's-Lymphoma
See also: Tumor-Infiltrating-Lymphocytes
See also: Leukaemia

A general term form for any disease of the lymphatic tissue characterized by abnormal, uncontrolled cell growth. Hodgkin's disease is a type of lymphoma.

See also: Hodgkin's-Disease
See also: Non-Hodgkin's-Lymphoma
See also: Lymphatic-System
* WWW Resources for Lymphoma

A type of white blood cell that assists in the body's fight against bacteria and infection by engulfing and destroying invading organisms.

Magnetic-Resonance-Imaging (MRI)
A technique used to image internal stuctures of the body, particularly the soft tissues (muscles,organs, tendons, etc.). An MRI image is often superior to a normal X-ray image.

The tendency of certain diseases to become progressively worse. A malignancy is often resistant to treatment and can result in death.

See also: Cancer.

Cancerous, spreading

See also: Cancer.
See also: Benign

A screening and diagnostic technique that uses low-dose x-rays to find tumors in the breast.

See also: Breast-Cancer

surgical removal of the whole breast, in radical mastectomy the chest muscles and under-arm lymph nodes are also removed.

See also: Breast-Cancer
See also: Lumpectomy
See also: Surgery

Is a tumour arising in a part of the brain stem called the medulla. It is nearly always found in children or young adults, 80% are found in children aged under 15. It can spread from the medulla (part of the brain stem) to the spine or to other parts of the body. Prognosis will depend on the child's age, how much of the tumour remains following surgery, and whether the cancer has metastasised.

See also: Childhood-Cancer

Special cells in the skin and the eye that produce melanin or pigment. Clusters of melanocytes often appear on the skin as moles. melanin: The pigment produced by the body that gives skin and irises (the colored portion of the eye) their color. Melanin also helps protect the skin from the sun's damaging rays.

See also: Melanoma

Cancer that begins in the melanocytes and spreads to other skin cells. Melanoma appears on the skin and looks like a new or changing mole.

See also: Melanocytes
See also: Skin-Cancer
* WWW Resources for Melanoma

Merkel cell cancer
Merkel cell cancer (also known as trabecular cancer, or neuroendocrine cancer of the skin) is a rare type of malignancy developing on or just beneath the skin. These tumours can develop at any age, but the peak incidence is between ages 60 - 80. They are more frequent in white people, the most common sites of diseases are the face or scalp and other areas of high sun exposure.

See also: Skin-Cancer

is where data from a number of studies are lumped together in order to provide evidence for or against a hypothesis.

See also: Cancer Statistics

Where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body beyond the primary site. Metastatic sites (secondaries) my be regional or distant from the original tumour.

An antibody produced in the laboratory that can target specific antigens (substances that provoke an immune response). They can be made in large quantities, and are being tested for their use in cancer diagnosis and treatment.

See also: Immune-System

Any departure, subjective or objective, from a state of physiological or psychological well-being. In this sense, sickness, illness, and a morbid condition are synonymous.

See also: Age-Adjusted-Mortality-Rate
See also: Mortality

Looking at the death rates caused by a disease.

Mortality rate: Calculated by dividing the number of people who have died of a particular cancer during a given period of time by the total population at risk.

See also: Age-Adjusted-Mortality-Rate
See also: Morbidity

A cancer of the white blood cells found in the bone marrow.

See also: Allogenic-Bone-Marrow-Transplant
See also: Autologous-Bone-Marrow-Transplant
See also: Bone-Marrow
See also: Bone-Marrow-Transplant
* WWW Resources for Myeloma

Abnormal production and maturation of blood cells; often leading to deficiency of red cells, white cells and platelets; sometimes leading to bone marrow failure or leukemia.

A new growth of tissue serving no physiological function

Some anti cancer drugs may have the side effect of damaging the kidneys, for example ifosfamide and cisplatin are known to be nephrotoxic. There are two categories; glomerular and tubular toxicity relating to the two main areas of the nephron. In studies of ifosfamide the degree of nephrotoxicity is thought to be related to the cumulative dose, but there is a good deal of variability between patients.

See also: Toxicity
See also: Rickets
See also: Hypophosphataemia

Neuroblastoma occurs most often in babies, young children. It is a disease in which cancer cells are found in certain nerve cells in the body, it originates in the adrenal medulla or other sites of sympathetic nervous system tissue. The most common site is the abdomen, either in the adrenal glands or around the spinal cord. The majority of patients present with metastatic disease. Age and stage are the main prognostic factors. Patients aged under one year at diagnosis have a more favourable prognosis. Stage 4S are a special group of patients aged under one year whose neuroblastoma may undergo spontaneous regression (tumour disappears without treatment). Also patients aged under one a higher proportion of low stage patients compared to older patients. There is an excess of males compared to females, there are a higher proportion of males in patients with less favourable sites and stage.

* WWW Resources for Neuroblastoma

below normal levels of leukocytes in the blood. Febrile-neutropenia (neutropenia with fever) is a common toxicity following chemotherapy.

See also: Toxicity
See also: Chemotherapy.

Type of white blood cell; also called a poly; granulocyte; the body's primary defense against harmful bacteria.

Any kind of cancer of the lymph tissues other than Hodgkin's disease

See also: Lymphoma.
See also: Hodgkin's-Disease

abnormally large amounts of fluid in the intercellular tissue spaces.

A physician who, after extensive training, specializes in cancer treatment.

See also: Oncology
See also: Paediatric-Oncology
See also: Surgical-Oncology
See also: Cancer.

A science dealing with the physical, chemical, and biologic properties and features of cancer, including causes and the disease process.

See also: Oncologist
See also: Cancer.

Osteogenic Sarcoma
Osteogenic Sarcoma (osteosarcoma) is a bone forming cancer. It is the most frequent type of bone tumour and is most common between the agesof 15 to 25. Over 90% of tumours are located in the metaphysis (the growing ends of the bone), the most common sites are the long bones of the legs. Most tumours are solitary, around 2% are multifocal (2 or more bones). It is known that osteosarcoma can be radiation induced. Osteosarcomas vary greatly in radiological and pathological features and therefore needs careful diagnosis to differentiate this from other bone tumours. Most are high grade intramedullary osteosarcomas, about 5% are low grade lesions, some are secondary osteosarcomas (for example those caused by radiation therapy).

See also: Ewing's-Sarcoma
See also: Sarcoma.
* WWW Resources for Osteogenic-sarcoma

inflamation of bone - infection

reduction in bone mass = prone to fractures

The branch of medicine which specialises in the study and treatment of childhood cancer. Treating children requires different considerations compared with adult oncology, for example potential treatment side effects may be different to those in adults. Because of the differences between childhood and adult cancers most children are treated in specialist paediatric oncology units, in the UK about 80% of children are treated at a UKCCSG centre.

sp. US: pediatric oncology

See also: Childhood-Cancer
* Children's Cancer Web

Not a cancer. Paget's disease is the most common bone disorder characterised by irregular thickening and softening of the bones. The disease is more common after the age of 40, and is frequent in those of European descent but rare in Asians. These is an association with this (non malignant) disease and bone cancer, up to 10% of those with Paget's disease will have a 'sarcomatous transformation' of affected bones giving rise to bone sarcoma. This may be osteosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, or other bone sarcomas.

See also: Osteogenic Sarcoma

treatment which relieves the symptoms and pain.

deficiency of all types of blood cells.

This is a simple microscopic examination of cells, which can detect cancer of the cervix at an early stage.

See also: Cervical-Cancer

A method of delivering nutrition or other substances directly into a vein. Fluids given usually include salt (saline), glucose, amino acids, electrolytes, vitamins, and medications.

See also: Enteral-Feeding

A doctor who specializes in the nature, structure, and identification of disease.

The branch of medicine concerned with disease, especially its structure and its functional effects on the body.

See also: Pathologist
* WWW Resources for Pathology and Microbiology

The blood in the bloodstream.


See also: Stem-Cell-Transplant
See also: Stem-Cells
See also: Allogenic-Bone-Marrow-Transplant
See also: Autologous-Bone-Marrow-Transplant
See also: Bone-Marrow-Transplant
See also: Stem-Cell-Transplant

Tiny red dots on the skin due to bleeding under the skin caused by low platelet count.

Cell eating: the engulfment and destruction of dangerous microorganisms or cells by certain white blood cells, including neutrophils

Phase-I Clinical Trial
Tests new types of treatment and aim to define a safe dose that will be used for further studies. This is usually the first testing of a treatment on humans after extensive laboratory work. Recruitment for Phase I trials are usually from patients for whom no other effective therapy is known.

See also: Phase-II Clinical Trial
See also: Phase-III Clinical Trial
See also: Clinical-Trial

Phase-II Clinical Trial
Test the anti-cancer effects of the new treatment, and include very detailed toxicity investigations. If there is effective antitumour activity, it may be incorporated in a future phase III study.

See also: Phase-I Clinical Trial
See also: Phase-III Clinical Trial
See also: Clinical-Trial

Phase-III Clinical Trial
Compare one or more treatments of proven efficacy. Often patients will be randomised between an established 'standard' treatment and a new 'experimental' treatment - it is not known which is the better treatment. .

See also: Phase-I Clinical Trial
See also: Phase-II Clinical Trial
See also: Clinical-Trial

A cancer treatment in which a laser is used to destroy blood vessels entering a tumor so that the tumor will be starved of oxygen and nutrients.

See also: Laser-Therapy

A colorless fluid which contains water and other components in which red cells, white cells, and platelets are suspended.

White blood cells

A blood component that is instrumental in clot formation, which stops bleeding in injured areas and prevents hemmorhage. Blood cell fragments containing clotting factors which prevent bleeding and bruising.

A benign growth protruding from a mucous membrane, commonly found in the nose, uterus, and rectum. Certain polyps, particularly those found in the colon, can become cancerous and may require surgical removal.

See also: Colorectal-Cancer

is the expected outcome of a disease. This may be influenced by a variety of factors such as stage, age, site etc. depending on the particular type of cancer. For example, in general a patient with localised disease may have a more favourable prognosis compared to a patient with widespread disease which may be less favourable.

A gland in men that surrounds the neck of the bladder and urethra. The prostate contributes to the production of seminal fluid.

See also: Prostate-Specific-Antigen test
* WWW Resources for Prostate Cancer

Prostate-Specific-Antigen test
(PSA) test. A simple blood test used to detect prostate cancer in men. The test measures a specific antigen normally secreted by the prostate. If cancer is developing, the prostate secretes greater amounts of PSA. This test is recommended for men with an enlarged prostate and an increased risk of prostate cancer.

See also: Prostate-Gland

an artificial replacement e.g. for an amputated limb.

See also: Endoprosthesis

-Severe itching. Possibly due to a drug reaction.

fever / abnormally high body temerature

functional disorder of the large and small bowel that occurs during or following a course of radiotherapy to the abdomen, pelvis, or rectum.

Cancer treatments which utilize high-energy waves or particles of radiation.

See also: Brachytherapy
* WWW Resources for Radiotherapy

The branch of medicine dealing with radioactive substances including the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

See also: Hyperfractionated-Radiotherapy
See also: Radiotherapy-Field
See also: Magnetic-Resonance-Imaging (MRI)
See also: Computed-Tomography (CT-Scan)
See also: Ultrasound
* WWW Resources for Radiology

the area towards which the radiotherapy was directed.

(genetics) if the required allele (a type of gene) is not present in both members of a pair of chromosomes then that allele is not expressed. A mutation is said to be recessive if an individual must inherit two copies of the mutant gene, one from each parent, to show the mutant trait. Individuals with one mutant and one normal gene appear normal. They are called “carriers”.

red blood cell (erythrocyte): Oxygen-carrying cell in the blood which contains the pigment hemoglobin; produced in the bone marrow.

A type of cell that indicates the presence of Hodgkin's disease. The number of these cells increases as the disease progresses.

See also: Hodgkin's-Disease
See also: Non-Hodgkin's-Lymphoma

This is where the cancer is resistant to treatment.

A tumour that has extended beyond the limits of the organ where it started, growing directly into surrounding organs or tissues, but has not spread to distant parts of the body.

See also: Stage
See also: Localised
See also: In-Situ

This is when the disease reoccurs after a period in remission.

See also: Remission

is where the symptoms of cancer are no longer present. There is no longer any evidence of the disease using the available investigations.

See also: Relapse

Surgical removal of an area of tissue or of an entire organ. The surgical specimen may be examined by a pathologist to determine if it is likely to have removed all of the tumour. If there is any tumour left after surgery this may be macroscopic (visible to the eye) or microscopic, in either case radiotherapy may be needed to kill the remaining tumour cells.

See also: Surgery

disease-disturbance of normal ossification- bending and distortion of bones. Normally caused by vitamin D defficiency or possibly a dysfunction of the kidneys.

Risk Factors
Anything that has been identified as increasing an individual's chance of getting a disease.

A cancerous growth of the bone, muscle, or connective tissues, usually appearing first as a painless swelling.

See also: Ewing's-Sarcoma
See also: Osteogenic Sarcoma
See also: Chondrosarcoma
* WWW Resources for Sarcoma

Tests that sort out apparently well persons who probably have a disease from those who probably do not. If positive, they would be referred to a physician for diagnosis.

A procedure in which a scope is used to view the sigmoid flexure, a part of the colon that's shaped like the letter S.

See also: Colorectal-Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and accounts for half of all new cancers in Western populations. It occurs more often in people with light coloured skin who have had a high exposure to sunlight. The two most frequent types of skin cancer are Basal Cell Carcinomas and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (often grouped under "non-melanoma skin cancer"). The third most frequent skin cancer is Melanoma, this is a malignancy of the cells which give the skin it's colour (melanocytes). In addition there are a number of other, less common cancers starting in the skin including Merkel cell tumours, cutaneous lymphomas, and sarcomas (see the pages on sarcoma and lymphoma in this guide).

See also: Basal-Cell-Carcinoma
See also: Melanoma
See also: Squamous-Cell-Carcinoma
See also: Merkel cell cancer
* WWW Resources for Skin Cancer

A type of skin cancer arising in squamous cells (the flat, scaly cells on the surface of the skin). Cure rates are very hight when detected and treated early.

See also: Skin-Cancer

Staging is where the disease is categorised as to how far it has spread. The precise staging system used will depend on the type of cancer the patient has. In general low stage patients are those with localised tumours that are easily resectable, whilst high stage patients are those with widespread metastases. The treatment given may largely depend upon which stage the patient is at diagnosis.

See also: Localised
See also: Regional
See also: Metastasis
See also: In-Situ


See also: Allogenic-Bone-Marrow-Transplant
See also: Autologous-Bone-Marrow-Transplant
See also: Bone-Marrow-Transplant

A"generalized" cell whose division results in other specialized cells. Its descendents have the potential to develop into several different types of mature cells.

alt Original cell from which megakaryocytes (giant cells from which mature blood platelets originate), red blood cells, and white cells develop in the bone marrow.

See also: Allogenic-Bone-Marrow-Transplant
See also: Autologous-Bone-Marrow-Transplant
See also: Bone-Marrow-Transplant
See also: Stem-Cell-Transplant

An operation

See also: Surgical-Oncology
See also: Resection
See also: Mastectomy
See also: Lumpectomy
See also: Prosthesis
See also: Lobectomy
* WWW Resources for Cancer Surgery

Treatment of cancer using surgery, usually to remove cancerous tumors and tissue.

See also: Surgery

A small lymphocyte, made in the bone marrow, that circulates through the bloodstream. T-cells have several functions, and are especially important in the body's immune response.


See also: Platelets

Low platelet count.

Surgical removal of the thyroid gland.
Partial Thyroidectomy - removal of part of the thyroid eg. lobectomy or hemithyroidectomy
Total Thyroidectomy - removal of all of the (remaining) thyroid gland.

A hormone produced by the thyroid gland. It contains iodine which is essential for the body's normal growth, and metabolism. Following therapy for thyroid cancer many patients need to take thyroxine supplements in order to maintain normal weigh and body functions.

radiation to the whole body

Side effects of treatment.

See also: Nephrotoxicity
See also: Cardiotoxicity
See also: Neutropenia

saw to remove a circular disk of bone for testing

An abnormal mass of tissue that is not inflammatory, arises from cells of pre-existent tissues, and serves no useful purpose. (UK spelling: Tumour)

See also: Neoplasm

Special cancer-fighting cells of the immune system found in tumors. In a type of experimental therapy, scientists harvest these cells from the tumor, grow them in a laboratory, and then return them to the patient with the hope of the cells destroying the tumor.

A substance in the body that may indicate the presence of cancer. Markers may be secreted by the tumour itself or produced by the body in response to the cancer. Tumour markers may aid diagnosis or give an indicator of how treatment is progressing. These markers are usually specific to certain types of cancer. For example neuron-specific enolase (NSE) is associated with a number of types of cancers, in particular neuroblastoma. Also alphafetoprotein (AFP) levels are often abnormally high in patients with Germ cell tumours.

The use of sound waves to image the underlying structures of the body. Ultrasonic waves are reflected differently depending on the type of tissue they pass through, aiding the detection of abnormal tissues.

See also: X-Ray
See also: Magnetic-Resonance-Imaging (MRI)
See also: Computed-Tomography (CT-Scan)

infection-fighting cells (lymphocytes) which are found in the blood and bone marrow.

See also: Leukaemia

Wilms' Tumour
develops in the kidneys (also known as nephroblastoma). It is more common in children under 5 years of age and is quite different to adult kidney cancers. Prognosis will depend on stage and histology. The majority of patients present with tumour in one kidney, while some have tumour in both kidneys (bilateral). There are two histopathalogic groups; most patients have favourable histology while about 10% have unfavourable histology (anaplastic or sarcomatous).

* WWW Resources for Wilms' Tumour

(1) Low dose radiation used to make images of internal body structures; or (2) High dose radiation used to treat cancer.

See also: Computed-Tomography (CT-Scan)
See also: Magnetic-Resonance-Imaging (MRI)
See also: Ultrasound

First created: 31st August 1996
Last modified: Fri 4 Jan 2002