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Childhood Cancer 2nd edition,
Childhood Cancer

Glossary of Terms


The following is taken from Childhood Cancer: A Parent's Guide to Solid Tumor Cancers by Honna Janes-Hodder & Nancy Keene, copyright 1999 by O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. For book orders/information, call 1-800-998-9938. Permission is granted to print and distribute this excerpt for noncommercial use as long as the above source is included. The information in this article is meant to educate and should not be used as an alternative for professional medical care.

A B C D E F G H I JK L M N
O PQ R S T UV W XYZ

Abdomen
The area of the body that lies between the chest and the pelvis.

Absolute neutrophil count (ANC)
Also known as absolute granulocyte or AGC. Total count of the neutrophils in the blood, which provides an indication of a person's ability to fight infection. To calculate the ANC, add the percentages of seg neutrophils and band neutrophils, divide by 100, and multiply by the total white blood count.

Acute
Occurring over a short period of time.

Adjuvant chemotherapy
Chemotherapy given with surgery or radiation.

Adrenalectomy
Surgical removal of one or both adrenal glands.

Alkylating agents
A family of anticancer drugs that work by interfering with the DNA of a cell to prevent normal division.

Allogenic transplant
Type of bone marrow transplant in which the marrow is donated by another person.

Alopecia
Hair loss; a common side effect of chemotherapy.

Alfa-fetoprotein
A protein that is elevated in the blood of children with liver cancer.

Ambulatory
Able to walk.

Amputation
Surgically removing a part of the body.

Anaphalaxis
An acute allergic reaction which can be life-threatening.

Analgesic
A drug used to relieve pain.

Anaplastic
A tumor that has no resemblance to the normal tissue of the involved organ when viewed under a microscope.

Anemia
Condition in which there is a reduction in the number of circulating red blood cells.

Anesthesia
Partial or total loss of sensation, with or without loss of consciousness, induced by the administration of a drug.

Anesthesiologist
A doctor who specializes in the study and administration of anesthesia.

Anorexia
Loss of appetite.

Antibiotic
A drug used to treat bacterial infections.

Antibody
A protein that works to defend the body against bacterial and viral infections.

Antiemetic
A drug given to prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting.

Antigen
A foreign substance that stimulates the lymphocytes to produce antibodies.

Antihistamine
A drug used to treat allergic reactions.

Antimetabolites
A family of anticancer drugs that replace normal vitamins to starve cancer cells.

Apheresis
The collection of blood components from a patient or donor in which desired elements are removed and the remainder returned to the body.

Artery
A blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to other tissues.

Ascites
An abnormal collection of fluid in the abdomen.

Asepsis (Aseptic)
Free of infection.

Ataxia
Loss of balance.

Attending physician
Doctor on the staff of a hospital who has completed medical school, residency, and fellowship.

Asymptomatic
Without symptoms.

Atypical
Not usual or ordinary.

Autologous
From the same person. An autologous bone marrow transplant is a procedure in which bone marrow that has been removed from a patient is given back to that patient.

Axilla
The armpit.

Bacteria
A group of one-celled organisms that can be viewed only through a microscope. Most do no harm; however, if the immune system is lowered, some can cause disease.

Benign
Noncancerous.

Bilateral
Occurring on both sides of the body.

Bilirubin
A pigment that is produced by the liver as it processes waste products. When elevated, bilirubin causes yellowing of the skin.

Biopsy
Removal of a small sample of tissue for examination under a microscope.

Blood-brain barrier
A network of blood vessels located around the central nervous system with very closely spaced cells that make it difficult for potentially toxic substances--including anticancer drugs--to enter the brain and spinal cord.

Blood type
Identification of the proteins in a person's blood cells so that transfusions can be given with compatible blood products. Possible blood types are A+, A-, B+, B-, AB+, AB-, O+, and O-.

Bone marrow
Soft, inner part of large bones that makes blood cells.

Bone marrow aspiration
Process in which a sample of fluid and cells is withdrawn from the bone marrow using a hollow needle.

Bone marrow biopsy
The removal of a sample of solid tissue from the bone marrow.

Bone marrow transplant
A procedure in which doctors replace bone marrow that has been destroyed by high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation.

Brachytherapy
Radioactive seeds implanted directly at a tumor site allowing high dose radiation to be delivered to the tumor while sparing surrounding tissue from exposure.

Bypass
A surgical procedure used to maneuver around an organ or area that may be blocked by a tumor.

CBC (Complete blood count)
Measurement of the numbers of white cells, red cells, and platelets in a cubic millimeter of blood.

Cachexia
The wasting away of the body; extreme weight loss, usually caused by disease or malnutrition.

Cancer
A term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control.

Carcinogen
A substance or agent that produces cancer.

Cardiac
Pertaining to the heart.

Catheter
A tube that can be placed into the body to deliver fluids or medications, or to drain fluid.

Centigray
Measurement of radiation-absorbed dose; same as a rad.

Central nervous system (CNS)
Brain, spinal cord, and nerves.

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)
Fluid which surrounds and bathes the brain and spinal cord and provides a cushion from shocks.

Chemotherapy
Treatment of disease with drugs. The term usually refers to cytotoxic drugs given to treat cancer.

Chromosome
A structure in the nucleus of a cell that contains genetic material. Normally, 46 chromosomes are inside each human cell.

Chronic
Lasting over a long period of time.

Clinical trial
A carefully designed and executed investigation of a drug, drug dosage, combination of drugs, or other method of treating disease. Each trial is designed to answer one or more scientific questions and to find better ways to prevent or treat disease.

Colony-stimulating factors
A substance that is used to stimulate the production of some types of bone marrow cells.

Coma
A deep, prolonged state of unconsciousness.

Combination chemotherapy
Using two or more chemotherapy drugs at the same time.

Combined modality therapy
Treatment that consists of two or more types of therapy, such as chemotherapy with surgery, radiotherapy, or immunotherapy.

Conditioning
The treatment given before a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Conditioning can include high-dose chemotherapy with or without total body irradiation. Also called preparative regimen.

Congenital
Any condition that is present at birth.

Contralateral
Referring to the opposite side of the body.

Cryosurgery
A cold probe that is used as a surgical tool to kill cancer tissues.

Culture
To grow in a test tube; cultures can be taken from blood, urine, and throat secretions when an infection is suspected.

Cytokine
Proteins secreted by immune system cells which enable them to communicate with each other.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
One of a group of herpes viruses that can cause fatal infections in immunosuppressed patients.

Cytotoxic
Causing the death of cells.

Debulking
A surgical procedure to remove as much of a tumor as possible without removing it entirely.

Differentiation
The process by which cells mature and become specialized.

Distal
Further away from any point of reference, as opposed to proximal.

Diuretics
Drugs used to help rid the body of excess water and salt through the urine.

Dysphagia
Difficulty in swallowing.

Dysplasia
Abnormal changes in a cell which sometimes indicate that cancer may occur.

Dyspnea
Shortness of breath.

Dysuria
Painful or difficult urination.

Edema
The abnormal collection of fluid within tissues.

Embolization
A treatment that is delivered to a localized area by blocking the flow of blood to the area, such as the blood supply to a tumor.

Emesis
Vomiting.

Engraftment
During bone marrow or stem cell transplant, the point at which the infused marrow is accepted by the patient and begins to produce blood cells.

Enteral feeding
Delivering nutrients through a tube inserted into the stomach or intestine.

Enucleation
The surgical removal of an eye.

Epidural
The space immediately outside the spinal cord.

Erythrocytes
Red blood cells.

EUA
Examination under anesthesia. EUAs are often used to evaluate children that have been diagnosed with retinoblastoma.

Excision
Surgery to remove tissue.

External catheter
Indwelling catheter in which one end of the tubing is in the heart and the other end of the tubing sticks out through the skin.

Extraosseous
Occurring outside of the bone.

Febrile
A fever.

Fellow
A physician who has completed four years of medical school, several years of residency, and is pursuing additional training in a specialized field.

Fine needle aspiration (FNA)
Removing small samples of tissue, usually while under a local anesthetic, through a fine needle.

Finger poke
When a laboratory technician pricks the finger tip to obtain a small sample of blood.

Gastritis
An inflammation of the stomach.

Gastrointestinal
Pertaining to the stomach and intestines.

Gene
A unit of DNA that transmits a single trait from a parent to a child.

Graft
Tissue taken from one person (donor) and transferred to another person (recipient or host).

Graft-versus-host disease
A condition that may develop after allogenic bone marrow transplantation in which the transplanted marrow (graft) attacks the patient's (host's) organs.

Granulocytes
A type of white cell which destroys foreign substances in the body such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi.

Hematocrit
The measurement of the proportion of cells to plasma in a sample of blood. Sometimes called packed cell volume (PCV).

Hematologist
Physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of blood and blood-forming tissues.

Hematoma
A localized collection of blood.

Hematuria
Blood in the urine.

Hemoglobin
The protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen.

Hemorrhagic cystitis
Bleeding from the bladder, which can be a side effect of the drug cytoxan.

Hepatectomy
Surgical removal of all or part of the liver.

Hepatic
Pertaining to the liver.

Hepatitis
Inflammation of the liver by virus or toxic substance. Fever and jaundice are usually present, and sometimes the liver is enlarged.

Histology
Appearance of tissue when viewed under a microscope.

HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus)
The virus that causes AIDS.

Host
In bone marrow transplantation, the person who receives the marrow.

Human leukocyte antigens (HLAs)
Proteins on the surface of cells that are important in transplantation and transfusion. For BMTs, the HLAs on white cells of the patient and potential donor are compared. A perfect HLA match occurs only between identical twins.

Hyperalimentation
Artificial feeding which delivers nutrients through the use of a special catheter or intravenously.

Hypercalcemia
Abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood.

Infusion Pump
A small, computerized device that allows drugs to be given at home through an IV or indwelling catheter.

Intraocular
Occurring within the eye.

Immune System
Complex system by which the body protects itself from foreign invaders.

Immunosuppression
Suppression of the immune system, which leaves the body susceptible to infection.

Immunotherapy
A type of cancer therapy that uses the body's own immune system to attack cancerous cells.

Induction
The first part of the chemotherapy protocol for treating some types of cancer in which several powerful chemotherapy drugs are given to kill as many cancer cells as possible.

Infusion
Giving fluids or medications through a vein over a period of time.

In situ
An early stage of cancer in which the tumor is localized to one area.

Institutional review board (IRB)
Group made up of scientists, clergy, doctors, and citizens from the community, which approves and reviews all research taking place at an institution.

Intern
Recent medical school graduate who is receiving her first year of supervised practical training in medical and surgical care of patients in hospitals.

Intramuscular (IM)
Injection of drugs into the muscle.

Intrathecal
Injection of drugs into the cerebrospinal fluid during a spinal tap.

Intravenous-access line (IV)
A hollow metal or plastic tube which is inserted into a vein and attached to tubing, allowing various solutions or medicines to be directly infused into the blood.

Ipsilateral
On the same side of the body.

Jaundice
A yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes caused by too much bilirubin in the blood. Jaundice is indicative of liver problems.

Laparotomy
Surgical procedure in which the abdominal cavity is opened.

Lesion
A tissue abnormality.

Leukocytes
White blood cells.

Leukokoria
A white dot seen in the center of the eye of very young children which may be indicative of retinoblastoma. Leukokoria is sometimes called a "cat's eye reflex."

Leukopenia
A below-normal number of white cells.

Localized
Cancer that has not spread to other areas within the body.

Lumbar puncture (Spinal tap)
Procedure in which a needle is inserted between the vertebrae of the back to obtain a sample of cerebrospinal fluid and/or inject medication.

Lymph
A clear, colorless fluid found in lymph vessels throughout the body that carries cells to fight infection.

Lymph nodes
Rounded bodies of lymphatic tissues found in lymph vessels.

Lymph system
A system of vessels and nodes throughout the body that help filter out bacteria and perform numerous other functions.

Lymphocytes
Type of white cell formed in the lymphoid tissues that prevents infection and helps provide immunity to disease.

Lytic
A bone lesion. Lytic lesions may appear as a "hole" on an x-ray.

Malaise
Tiredness.

Malignant
Cancerous.

Mediastinum
The area of the middle of the chest.

Medical student
Student who has completed four years of college and is enrolled in medical school.

Metastasis
The spread of cancer from one area of the body to another through the lymph system or the blood.

Mitosis
The process of cell division or reproduction.

Modality
A method of treatment.

Monocytes
Type of white blood cell.

Mucositis
Inflammation of the mucous membranes.

Multifocal
Arising from more than one location.

Myelosuppression
Low blood counts caused by chemotherapy or radiation.

Nadir
The lowest point that blood counts will fall after chemotherapy.

Necrosis
The death of tissues caused by chemotherapy, radiation, or a lack of blood supply.

Neoplasm
A new abnormal growth that may be benign or malignant.

Nephrectomy
The surgical removal of a kidney.

Neuropathy
A condition sometimes caused by chemotherapy. Neuropathy is the malfunctioning of a nerve, which can cause numbness or weakness.

Neurotoxic
Substance which is poisonous to the brain, spinal cord, and/or nerve cells.

Neutropenia
Condition when the body does not have enough neutrophils (a type of infection-fighting white cell).

Neutrophils
The most numerous of the granulocytic white cells, they migrate through the bloodstream to the site of infection, where they ingest and destroy bacteria.

Nutritionist
A professional who analyzes nutritional requirements and gives advice on how to eat an appropriate diet for any condition.

Oncogenes
Any gene that contributes to the transformation of a normal cell into a cancerous cell.

Oncologist
Doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer.

Oncology
Study of cancer.

Ototoxicity
Damage to the ears which can result in a ringing in the ears or permanent hearing loss.

Palliative
Treatment given with a primary goal of adequate pain control.

Palpation
Examining an area of the body, such as the abdomen, by feeling with the fingers to detect abnormalities.

Pancreatitis
Inflammation of the pancreas which can cause extreme pain, vomiting, hiccoughing, constipation, and collapse.

Pathologist
Doctor who specializes in examining tissue and diagnosing disease.

Pediatrician
Doctor who specializes in the care and development of children and the treatment of their diseases.

Petechiae
Small, reddish spots under the skin caused by hemorrhage.

Phlebitis
Inflammation of a vein.

Plasma
The liquid part of the lymph and the blood.

Platelet
Disc-shaped blood cell which aids in blood clotting.

Poorly differentiated
Cancerous cells that have little resemblance to the normal tissue from the same organ when viewed under a microscope.

Port-a-cath
Indwelling catheter which has a small portal under the skin of the chest attached to tubing which goes into the heart.

Preparative regimen
See conditioning.

Primary tumor
The original site where cancer first begins to grow.

Prognosis
Expected or probable outcome.

Progression
A worsening of disease by the continued growth of cancer.

Prophylaxis
An attempt to prevent disease.

Proptosis
A forward projection of the eyeball.

Prosthesis
An artificial replacement for a part of the body that has been surgically removed, such as a limb or an eye.

Protocol
Document which outlines the drugs that will be taken, when they will be taken, and in what dosages. Also includes the dates for procedures.

Proximal
Closest to any point of reference, as opposed to distal.

Pulmonary
Pertaining to the lungs.

Purging
A process to remove certain components found in bone marrow or stem cell harvests. In an autologous harvest, purging may be used to remove any remaining cancerous cells. In an allogeneic harvest, purging may be used to remove components of the donor collection that can cause graft-versus-host disease.

Rad
Radiation absorbed dose. A unit of measurement of the absorbed dose of radiation. Same as a centigray (cGy)

Radiation
High-energy rays which are used to kill or damage cancer cells.

Radiologist
Doctor who specializes in using radiation and radioactive isotopes to diagnose and treat disease.

Radiosensitive
A type of cancer that usually responds well to radiation.

Randomized
Chosen at random. In a randomized research project, a computer chooses which patients receive the experimental treatment(s), and which patients receive the standard treatment.

Recurrence
See Relapse.

Regression
The shrinking or disappearance of cancer cells, usually as a result of therapy.

Relapse
A return of cancer after its apparent complete disappearance.

Remission
Disappearance of detectable disease.

Renal
Pertaining to the kidney.

Resection
The surgical removal of tissue.

Resident
Physician who has completed four years of medical school and one year of internship, and who is continuing his or her clinical training.

Residual disease
The cancerous cells that are left behind after a tumor has been surgically removed.

Right atrial catheter
Indwelling catheter with tubing that extends into the heart that provides access for drawing blood and injecting medication.

Second-look surgery
An operation performed after an initial surgery to allow the surgeon to view the area of the original procedure.

Seizure
Uncontrollable shaking of the body, often with loss of consciousness. Also called convulsion.

Sepsis
Bacterial growth found within the bloodstream.

Side effect
Unintentional or undesirable secondary effect of treatment.

Somnolence syndrome
Syndrome which can occur from three to twelve weeks after cranial radiation. It is characterized by drowsiness, prolonged periods of sleep (up to twenty hours a day), low-grade fever, headaches, nausea, vomiting, irritability, difficulty swallowing, and difficulty speaking.

Spinal tap
Procedure in which a needle is inserted between the vertebrae of the back to obtain a sample of cerebrospinal fluid and/or inject medication. Also called lumbar puncture (LP).

Staging
A process involving many procedures to determine the extent of disease. Staging is important in deciding the most appropriate treatment and prognosis.

Staphylococcus epidermidis
Bacteria normally present on the skin which can infect the blood through an indwelling catheter.

Stem cells
Cells from which all blood cells develop.

Stomatitis
Soreness and inflammation of the mouth that can sometimes be caused by chemotherapy or radiation.

Strabismus
A visual disorder in which one eye cannot focus with the other.

Stroke
Injury or death of brain tissue caused by bleeding into the brain or clotting that blocks blood flow to a portion of the brain.

Subcutaneous port
Type of indwelling catheter comprised of a portal under the skin of the chest attached to tubing leading into the heart.

Systemic
Affecting the body as a whole.

TBI
Total body irradiation. TBI is sometimes used as part of the conditioning regimen before bone marrow or stem cell transplantation.

Thoracotomy
A surgical procedure in which the chest wall is opened.

Thrombocytes
Platelets.

Thymus
Small gland located behind the breast bone and between the lungs that plays a major role in the immune system.

Tissue
A collection of cells that are of the same type.

Tumor
A benign or cancerous lump, mass, or swelling.

Tumor board
A meeting held at hospitals, attended by oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, fellows, and residents, in which complicated cases are discussed to develop a treatment plan.

Tumor burden
The number of cancerous cells found in an organ or tissue; the size of a tumor.

Unilateral
Affecting one side of the body.

Venipuncture
Obtaining blood samples, starting an intravenous infusion, or giving a medication by inserting a needle into a vein.

Vital signs
Term which describes a patient's pulse, rate of breathing, and blood pressure.

White blood cells
Cells that help the body fight infection and disease.

Xerostomia
Dry mouth caused by salivary gland dysfunction.

X-ray
High-energy electromagnetic radiation used in low doses to diagnose disease or injury, and in high doses to treat cancer.

X-ray technician
Certified technician who positions patients for x-rays, monitors equipment, and takes x-rays of the body.

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