Diagnosed with Cancer? Know these Terms!

If you are new to any cancer diagnosis, there are certain words that will come up in conversations, in your doctor’s routine verbal updates at appointments and hospital stays, and they will begin appearing all around your everyday life and social interactions. This can be a great resource for those caregiving and providing support for those dealing with a new diagnosis. This is a basic, started list of need-to-know terminology.

Abnormal growths. This term references any unusual body growth that could be benign (non-cancerous), malignant (cancerous), or pre-cancerous.

Adjuvant therapy. This term refers to a therapy you have alongside your main treatment plan.

Neoadjuvant Therapy. This term refers to the therapy you receive after your initial cancer treatments to help lower the chances of your cancer returning.

Angiogenesis inhibitors. This term refers to these specially designed drugs that stop new blood vessels from forming and delivering blood to the tumor or growth. These drugs do not always kill the cancer cells but do aide in preventing further progression of the cancer cells.

Antiemetic. This is a type of medication that can ease nausea and vomiting symptoms, which are one of the top side effects from cancer treatments. This type of medication is available by pill, injection, or IV.

Biologic Therapy. These treatments include gene therapy, immunotherapy, and certain other targets methods of treatment. These are made from living things like human or animal cells, or sometimes a microorganism. Certain types of this medication are made to attack the cancer cells inside of the body.

Biomarker. Blood tests show doctors which biomarkers are floating around in your blood. These could be tissue cells, or other body fluids or substances. These are usually made of cancer cells and help the doctor determine the best treatment course for your care.

Biopsy. A biopsy is a small sample of your body tissue collected to look at under a microscope. This procedure is usually simple and done with a needle, or a tube-like device that pulls a section of tissue. Sometimes, this is even done during other surgeries or during other testing.

Brachytherapy. This is a type of radiation treatment that gets placed very near the tumor site. This can also be called internal or implant radiation therapy. This procedure is completed by using needles, “seeds” or wires to attach the treatment to the correct area inside of the body.

Carcinogen. In our world, there are millions of carcinogens. A carcinogen is any substance that can raise your risk for cancer. Tobacco smoke, ultraviolet sunlight, harsh chemicals, asbestos, and some household chemicals have all been linked to an increased rate of cancer. Many factors contribute to the chances of contracting cancer, including how long and exposure level of the carcinogen.

Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a drug designed to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. It can be one type of medication, or a few mixed together. Chemotherapy is usually administered by IV in a hospital or clinic but can also be delivered by low-dose pill form or put on the skin. Chemotherapy is not limited to cancer use only. Many autoimmune diseases and conditions are also treated with low-dose chemotherapy.

Clinical Trial. Many doctors use clinical trials to help collect research, data and facts about certain illnesses, treatments, and more. Some trials are made to test the quality and outcomes of new prescription medications, others are done to test new surgical tools and devices to fix body issues. These studies are very controlled and can last for years or decades.

Consolidation therapy. This type of therapy is done as a precautionary after the cancer cells have been killed from your body. Consolidation therapy is used to treat any left-over cancer cells that might have missed the main treatment. Chemo and radiation are examples of this.

Cycle. The cycle refers to the time between the beginning of one treatment, and the start of the next round. The cycles are designed to let your body rest.

“-ectomy”. Any surgery involving an “ectomy” means that something will be removed from the body. Mastectomy is the removal of breast tissue. A nephrectomy removes a kidney.

-Grade. A grade is the term used to describe how a tumor looks under the microscope. Determining this not only helps with treatment, this also narrows down the type of cancer it is. Low-grade has markers that show slow-growth of the tumor, whereas high-grade shows a fast-growing tumor. Different cancers also have different grading systems.

Hormone therapy. Certain cancers need hormones to help them grow, like breast and prostate cancers. This therapy blocks those hormones which allows the tumor to shrink, stop from spreading, ease your ailments, or help prevent it from returning and relapsing. Hormone therapy is available in many forms from your doctor.

Imaging. This term refers to any sort of imagining or picture taking of the inside of the body. A mammogram, CT, MRI, PET Scan and ultrasound are all examples of this.

Infusion. An infusion is a method of administering chemotherapy or other intravenous drugs. Most often, infusions involve having a catheter hooked up to the IV machine, and this therapy can last for hours, depending on the rate being given.

Lymphedema. Lymphedema is a fluid build-up and swelling in the arms and legs due to many reasons. Lymphedema cannot be cured but can be managed. Speak with your doctor if you suspect lymphedema or struggle with the issues it causes.

Metastasize. Cancer has the ability to spread from one part of the body to another. If cancer begins in the lung, it can spread to the liver, breast, uterus or bone by metastasizing. The cells that migrate from one cancer to another will share the same cell identifiers as the original tumor in the lung.

Monoclonal Antibodies. These antibodies help the chemo and radiation treatments “stick” to the sick cells they are supposed to and leave the healthy cells healthy. These monoclonal antibodies use your immune system to fight the cancer.

Neutropenia. This condition means your body does not have enough white blood cells to fight infection. This is a common side effect of treatment.

Neuropathy. Many things can bring on neuropathy, including cancer, treatment, diabetes, autoimmune issues, and more. This often begins in the arms and legs and can spread throughout. It presents with tingling, swelling, numbness, or weakness and is a nerve issue. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms. There are many different types of treatment for this condition.

“-oma”. This is used on the ending of words, to mean tumor or swelling; the first part of the word paired with it will tell you what type of cell it is in. For example, a carcinoma is a cancer that starts in the lining of your organs or skin. Glioblastoma is a tumor in the central nervous system.

Oncology. Oncology is the branch of medication that focuses on the treatment and diagnosis of cancer. Doctors in this field are called oncologists and may have a variety of different specialties.

Palliative Care. This type of care truly includes it all. This wraps hospital care, treatment plans, doctors and specialists, alternative therapies, and everything involved in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual parts of dealing with cancer. This type of care can be received from the moment of diagnosis through treatment and beyond.

Protocol. Protocol treatments are designed by specialists who have reviewed multiple cases and determined the best course of action. There are many different protocols for a myriad of different illnesses. In another light, protocol is also a term for a clinical study, which would cover patient information, details on the study, and the study’s main mission.

Radiation therapy. This very common treatment with cancer uses gamma rays to kill the cancer cells or keep them from growing or spreading. Doctors may use seeds, which are placed directly near your tumor for treatment, or needles and wires to inject in to your cancer directly. There is also a machine designed to deliver radiation from the outside of the body, in. Much like an X-ray machine.

Remission. Remission means that your symptoms are easing, and your labs show no sign of cancer cells in your blood. Remission does not always mean you are cancer free, or that it will not come back, however. Remission can be stated as partial or complete, depending on the traces of cancer left in the body.

Stage. The “stage” of your cancer is based on location and size, the grade: how abnormal it looks, whether it has spread to lymph nodes or elsewhere, and the type of cells affected. Cancers are all different and all have different staging specs.

Tumor. A tumor is an unusual, abnormal mass of tissue or swelling. Not all tumors are cancer! Another name for a tumor is a “neoplasm.”

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