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Glossary of Terms

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cachexia

Loss of body weight and muscle mass, and weakness, which may occur in individuals with cancer or other chronic diseases.

CAF regimen

An abbreviation for a chemotherapy combination used alone or together with other therapies to treat breast cancer. It includes the chemotherapy medicines cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin hydrochloride (Adriamycin), and fluorouracil. Also called CAF.

calcification

Deposits of calcium in the tissues. Calcification in the breast can be seen on a mammogram, but cannot be detected by touch. There are two types of breast calcification, macrocalcification and microcalcification. Macrocalcifications are large deposits and are usually not related to cancer. Microcalcifications are specks of calcium that may be found in an area of rapidly dividing cells. Many microcalcifications clustered together may be a sign of cancer.

cancer

Also called malignancy. A term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and can invade nearby tissues. Cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.

cancer vaccine

A type of vaccine that is usually made from an individual's own tumor cells or from substances taken from tumor cells. A cancer vaccine may help the immune system kill cancer cells.

candidiasis

Also called candidosis and thrush. A condition in which Candida albicans, a type of yeast, grows out of control in moist skin. It is usually a result of a weakened immune system, but can be a side effect of chemotherapy or treatment with antibiotics. Candidiasis usually affects the mouth (oral candidiasis). Rarely, it spreads throughout the entire body.

capecitabine

Also called Xeloda. A medicine used to treat metastatic breast cancer that has not improved after treatment with certain other anticancer medicines. It is taken up by cancer cells and breaks down into 5-fluorouracil, a substance that kills tumor cells. Capecitabine is a type of antimetabolite.

carboplatin

Also called Paraplatin. A medicine used to treat advanced ovarian cancer that has never been treated, or ovarian cancer that has come back after treatment with other anticancer agents. It is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer, including breast cancer. Carboplatin is a form of the anticancer agent cisplatin and causes fewer side effects in individuals. It attaches to DNA in cells and may kill cancer cells.

carcinogen

Any substance that causes cancer.

carcinoma

Cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs.

carcinoma in situ

Also called stage 0 disease. A group of abnormal cells that remain in the place where they first formed and have not spread. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue.

carcinomatous meningitis

A serious problem in which cancer cells spread from the original (primary) tumor to the meninges (thin layers of tissue that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord). It can happen in many types of cancer, but is the most common in melanoma, breast, lung and gastrointestinal cancer. The cancer may cause the meninges to be inflamed. Also called leptomeningeal carcinoma, leptomeningeal metastasis, meningeal carcinomatosis, meningeal metastasis, and neoplastic meningitis.

carcinosis

Also called carcinomatosis. A condition in which cancer is spread widely throughout the body, or, in some cases, to a relatively large region of the body.

carcinostatic

Pertaining to slowing or stopping the growth of cancer.

cardiotoxicity

Toxicity that affects the heart.

caregiver

A person who cares for people who need assistance with their day-to-day activities. Caregivers may be health professionals, family members, friends, social workers, or members of the clergy. They may give care at home, in a hospital, or in some other healthcare setting.

carmustine

An anticancer medicine that belongs to the family of medicines called alkylating agents.

case report

A detailed report of the diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of an individual affected by breast cancer. Case reports also contain some demographic information about the individual receiving health care treatment (for example, age, gender and ethnic origin).

case series

A group or series of case reports involving individuals who were given similar treatment. Reports of case series usually contain detailed information about the individuals who have received treatment. This includes demographic information (for example, age, gender and ethnic origin) and information on diagnosis, treatment, response to treatment and follow-up after treatment.

case-control study

Also called retrospective study. A study that compares two groups of people: those with the disease or condition under study (cases) and a very similar group of people who do not have the disease or condition (controls). Researchers study the medical and lifestyle histories of the people in each group to learn what factors may be associated with the disease or condition. For example, one group may have been exposed to a particular substance that the other was not.

CAT scan

A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body taken from different angles. The pictures are created by a computer linked to an X-ray machine. Also called computed tomography scan, computerized axial tomography scan, computerized tomography, and CT scan.

CBC

A test to check the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in a sample of blood. Also called blood cell count and complete blood count.

cell

The individual unit that makes up the tissues of the body. All living things are made up of one or more cells.

cell proliferation

An increase in the number of cells as a result of cell growth and cell division.

cell-cycle regulation

Any process that controls the series of events by which a cell goes through the cell cycle. During the cell cycle, a cell makes a copy of its DNA and other contents, and divides in two. When cell cycle regulation doesn't happen correctly, cells may divide in an uncontrolled way, and diseases such as cancer can occur.

central nervous system

Also called CNS. The brain and spinal cord.

central nervous system metastasis

Cancer that has spread from the original (primary) tumor to the central nervous system (CNS). Also called CNS metastasis.

central nervous system prophylaxis

Chemotherapy or radiation therapy given to the central nervous system (CNS) as a preventive treatment. It kills cancer cells that may be in the brain and spinal cord, even though no cancer has been detected there. Also called central nervous system sanctuary therapy, CNS prophylaxis, and CNS sanctuary therapy.

central venous access catheter

A tube surgically placed into a blood vessel for the purpose of giving intravenous fluid and medicines. It also can be used to obtain blood samples. This device avoids the need for separate needle insertions for each infusion or blood test.

cetuximab

Brand name, Erbitux. A monoclonal antibody being studied in the treatment of cancer, including triple negative breast cancer. Monoclonal antibodies are made in the lab and can locate and bind to cancer cells. Cetuximab binds to the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which is found on the surface of some types of cancer cells.

cevimeline

Brand name, Evoxac. A medicine that increases production of saliva and tears. It is being studied as a treatment for dry mouth caused by radiation therapy to the head and neck. It belongs to the family of medicines called cholinergic enhancers. Also called cevimeline hydrochloride.

chaplain

A member of the clergy in charge of a chapel or who works with an institution, such as a hospital.

charged-particle radiation therapy

A type of external radiation therapy that uses a special machine to make invisible, high-energy particles (protons or helium ions) that kill cancer cells. This type of radiation may cause less damage to nearby healthy tissue than radiation therapy with high-energy X-rays.

chemoembolization

A procedure in which the blood supply to the tumor is blocked surgically or mechanically and anticancer medicines are administered directly into the tumor. This permits a higher concentration of medicines to be in contact with the tumor for a longer period of time.

chemoimmunotherapy

Chemotherapy combined with immunotherapy. Chemotherapy uses different agents to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells; immunotherapy uses treatments to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune system to fight cancer.

chemoprevention

The use of medicines, vitamins or other agents to try to reduce the risk of cancer, or delay its development or recurrence.

chemoprevention study

In cancer prevention, a clinical trial that studies whether taking certain medicines, vitamins, minerals or food supplements can prevent cancer. Also called agent study.

chemoprotective

A quality of some medicines used in cancer treatment. Chemoprotective agents protect healthy tissue from the toxic effects of anticancer agents.

chemoradiation

Treatment that combines chemotherapy with radiation therapy. Also called chemoradiotherapy.

chemosensitivity

The susceptibility of tumor cells to the cell-killing effects of anticancer medicines.

chemosensitivity assay

A lab test that measures the number of tumor cells that are killed by a cancer medicine. The test is done after the tumor cells are removed from the body. A chemosensitivity assay may help in choosing the best medicine(s) for the cancer being treated.

chemosensitizer

A medicine that makes tumor cells more sensitive to the effects of chemotherapy.

chemotherapeutic agent

A medicine used to treat cancer.

chemotherapy

Treatment with medicines, chemical substances, that kill cancer cells.

chest wall

The muscles, bones and joints that make up the area of the body between the neck and the abdomen.

chest X-ray

An X-ray of the structures inside the chest. An X-ray is a type of high-energy radiation that can go through the body and onto film, making pictures of areas inside the chest, which can be used to diagnose disease.

Chinese meridian theory

In traditional Chinese medicine, meridians are channels that form a network in the body, through which qi (vital energy) flows. According to this theory, blocked qi causes pain or illness: The flow of qi is reportedly restored by using pressure, needles, suction or heat at hundreds of specific points along the meridians.

chronic

A disease or condition that persists or progresses over a long period of time.

chronic pain

Pain that can range from mild to severe, and persists or progresses over a long period of time.

cisplatin

A medicine used to treat many types of cancer. Cisplatin contains the metal platinum. It kills cancer cells by damaging their DNA and stopping them from dividing. Cisplatin is a type of alkylating agent.

Claus model

A computer program that uses statistics to predict a person's risk for developing breast cancer based on family history.

clergy

Ordained individuals who perform spiritual and/or religious functions.

clinical

Having to do with the examination and treatment of individuals, in a healthcare setting

clinical breast exam

Also called CBE. A physical exam of the breast performed by a health care provider to check for lumps or other changes.

clinical practice guidelines

Guidelines developed to help healthcare professionals and individuals receiving care to make decisions about screening, prevention or treatment of a specific health condition.

clinical researcher

A health professional who works directly with individuals receiving care, or uses data from those individuals to do research on health and disease and to develop new treatments. Clinical researchers may also do research on how health care practices affect health and disease.

clinical resistance

The failure of a cancer to shrink after treatment.

clinical series

A case series in which the individuals receive treatment in a clinic or other medical facility.

clinical stage

The stage of cancer (amount or spread of cancer in the body) that is based on tests that are done before surgery. These include physical exams, imaging tests, lab tests (such as blood tests) and biopsies.

clinical staging

A method used to find out the stage of cancer (amount or spread of cancer in the body) using tests that are done before surgery. These include physical exams, imaging tests, lab tests (such as blood tests) and biopsies.

clinical study

Also called clinical trial. A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease.

clinical trial

Also called clinical study. A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease.

clinician

A health professional who takes care of individuals in need of care.

clodronate

A medicine used in the treatment of hypercalcemia (abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood) and cancer that has spread to the bone (bone metastases). It may decrease pain, the risk of fractures, and the development of new bone metastases.

CMF regimen

Also called CMF. An abbreviation for a chemotherapy combination used alone or with other therapies to treat breast cancer. It is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. It includes the medicines cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and fluorouracil.

cognition

The mental process of thinking, learning, remembering, being aware of surroundings and using judgment.

cognitive behavior therapy

Also called CBT and cognitive therapy. A type of psychotherapy that helps individuals change their behavior by changing the way they think and feel about certain things. It is used to treat mental, emotional, personality and behavioral disorders.

cognitive therapy

Also called CBT and cognitive behavior therapy. A type of psychotherapy that helps individuals change their behavior by changing the way they think and feel about certain things. It is used to treat mental, emotional, personality and behavioral disorders.

cohort

A group of individuals who share a common trait, such as birth year. In medicine, a cohort is a group that is part of a clinical trial or study and is observed over a period of time.

cohort study

A research study that compares a particular outcome in groups of individuals who are alike in many ways but differ by a certain characteristic (for example, female nurses who smoke compared with those who do not smoke).

combination chemotherapy

Treatment using more than one anticancer agent.

comedo carcinoma

A type of ductal carcinoma in situ (very early-stage breast cancer).

comfort care

Also called palliative care, supportive care and symptom management. Care given to improve the quality of life of individuals who have a serious or life-threatening disease. The goal of comfort care is to prevent or treat as early as possible the symptoms of a disease, side effects caused by treatment of a disease, and psychological, social and spiritual problems related to a disease or its treatment.

Community Advisory Board

Also called CAB. In medicine, a group of non-scientist volunteers who serve as a link between a community and clinical trial researchers. A Community Advisory Board may review and monitor clinical trials and help teach the community about the trials.

comorbidity

The condition of having two or more diseases at the same time.

compassionate use trial

A way to provide an investigational therapy to an individual who is not eligible to receive that therapy in a clinical trial, but who has a serious or life-threatening illness for which other treatments are not available. Compassionate use trials allow individuals to receive promising but not yet fully studied or approved cancer therapies, when no other treatment option exists. Also called expanded access trial.

complementary and alternative medicine

Forms of treatment that are used in addition to (complementary), or instead of (alternative), standard treatments. These practices generally are not considered standard medical approaches. Standard treatments go through a long and careful research process to prove they are safe and effective, but less is known about most types of CAM. CAM may include dietary supplements, megadose vitamins, herbal preparations, special teas, acupuncture, massage therapy, magnet therapy, spiritual healing, and meditation. Also called CAM.

complementary medicine

Practices often used to enhance or complement standard treatments. They generally are not recognized by the medical community as standard or conventional medical approaches. Complementary medicine may include dietary supplements, acupuncture, massage therapy, spiritual healing, and meditation.

complete metastasectomy

Surgery to remove all metastases (tumors formed from cells that have spread from the primary tumor).

complete remission

Also described as a 'complete response' to therapy, or as 'no evidence of disease.' The disappearance of all signs of cancer in response to treatment. This does not always mean the cancer has been cured.

complete response

Also described as a 'complete response' to therapy, or as 'no evidence of disease.' The disappearance of all signs of cancer in response to treatment. This does not always mean the cancer has been cured.

complex decongestive therapy

Treatment to reduce lymphedema (swelling caused by a buildup of lymph fluid in tissue). This therapy uses massage to move the fluid away from areas where lymph vessels are blocked, damaged, or removed by surgery. This helps remove extra fluid. The affected area is then wrapped in a special bandage. Later, a compression garment (tight-fitting, elastic piece of clothing) is worn to keep fluid from building up again.

compliance

The act of following a medical regimen or schedule correctly and consistently, including taking medicines or following a diet.

complication

In medicine, a medical problem that occurs during a disease, or after a procedure or treatment. The complication may be caused by the disease, procedure or treatment or may be unrelated to them.

compression garment

A tight-fitting, elastic garment, such as a sleeve or stocking. Compression garments are used in the treatment of lymphedema (swelling caused by a buildup of lymph fluid in tissue). They are also used to improve blood flow.

computed tomography scan

A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body taken from different angles. The pictures are created by a computer linked to an X-ray machine. Also called CAT scan, computerized axial tomography scan, computerized tomography, and CT scan.

concomitant

Occurring or existing at the same time as something else. In medicine, it may refer to a condition a person has or a medicine a person is taking that is not being studied in the clinical trial he or she is taking part in.

concurrent therapy

A treatment that is given at the same time as another.

condition

In medicine, a health problem with certain characteristics or symptoms.

consolidation therapy

Treatment that is given after cancer has disappeared following the initial therapy. Consolidation therapy is used to kill any cancer cells that may be left in the body. It may include radiation therapy or treatment with medicines that kill cancer cells. Also called intensification therapy and postremission therapy.

constitutional acupuncture

A type of acupuncture based on a form of Eastern medicine in which treatment is based on a person's constitution. According to this type of medicine, the constitution is the specific way a person's organs affect health and how he or she looks, thinks, behaves and responds to treatment.

continuum of care

In medicine, describes the delivery of health care over a period of time. In individuals with a disease, this covers all phases of illness from diagnosis to the end of life

contract research organization

Also called CRO. A company hired by another company or research center to take over certain parts of running a clinical trial. The company may design, manage and monitor the trial, and analyze the results.

contraindication

A symptom or medical condition that makes a particular treatment or procedure inadvisable, because a person is likely to have a bad reaction. For example, having a bleeding disorder is a contraindication for taking aspirin, because treatment with aspirin may cause excess bleeding.

contralateral

Having to do with the opposite side of the body.

contrast material

A dye or other substance that helps show abnormal areas inside the body. It is given by injection into a vein, by enema or by mouth. Contrast material may be used with X-rays, CT scans, MRI, or other imaging tests.

control group

In a clinical trial, the group that does not receive the new treatment being studied. This group is compared with the group that receives the new treatment, to see if the new treatment works.

controlled clinical trial

A clinical study that includes a comparison (control) group. The comparison group receives a placebo, another treatment, or no treatment at all.

controlled study

An experiment or clinical trial that includes a comparison (control) group.

conventional medicine

A system in which medical doctors and other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists, and therapists) treat symptoms and diseases using medicines, radiation, or surgery. Also called allopathic medicine, biomedicine, mainstream medicine, orthodox medicine and Western medicine.

conventional therapy

A currently accepted and widely used treatment for a certain type of disease, based on the results of past research. Also called conventional treatment.

cope

To adjust to new situations and overcome problems.

coping skills

The methods a person uses to deal with stressful situations. These may help a person face a situation, take action and be flexible and persistent in solving problems.

core biopsy

The removal of a tissue sample with a wide needle for examination under a microscope. Also called core needle biopsy.

core needle biopsy

The removal of a tissue sample with a wide needle for examination under a microscope. Also called core biopsy.

corticosteroid

Any steroid hormone made in the adrenal cortex (the outer part of the adrenal gland). They are also made in the lab. Corticosteroids have many different effects in the body and are used to treat many different conditions. They may be used as hormone replacement, to suppress the immune system and to treat some side effects of cancer and its treatment.

counseling

The process by which a professional counselor helps a person cope with mental or emotional distress and understand and solve personal problems.

COX inhibitor

A type of medicine used to treat inflammation and pain that is being studied in the prevention and treatment of cancer. COX inhibitors belong to the family of medicines called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs).

cryoablation

A procedure in which tissue is frozen to destroy abnormal cells. Liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide is used to freeze the tissue. Also called cryosurgery and cryosurgical ablation.

cryopreservation

The process of cooling and storing cells, tissues or organs at very low or freezing temperatures to save them for future use.

cryosurgery

A procedure in which tissue is frozen to destroy abnormal cells. Liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide is used to freeze the tissue. Also called cryoablation and cryosurgical ablation.

CT scan

A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body taken from different angles. The pictures are created by a computer linked to an X-ray machine. Also called CAT scan, computed tomography scan, computerized axial tomography scan and computerized tomography.

cultural competency

The ability to understand, interact and work well with people of different cultures. In medicine, one goal of cultural competency is to help make sure that the quality of the healthcare is equal among different cultural groups.

cumulative dose

In medicine, the total amount of a medicine or radiation given to an individual over time; for example, the total dose of radiation given in a series of radiation treatments.

cumulative exposure

The total amount of a substance or radiation that a person is exposed to over time. Cumulative exposure to a harmful substance or radiation may increase the risk of certain diseases or conditions.

cure

To end a disease, to heal or restore health; a treatment that restores health.

cutaneous

Having to do with the skin.

cutaneous breast cancer

Cancer that has spread from the breast to the skin.

cyclophosphamide

A medicine used to treat many types of cancer and being studied in treatment of other types of cancer. Cyclophosphamide attaches to DNA in cells and may kill cancer cells. It is a type of alkylating agent. Also called CTX and Cytoxan.

cyclosporine

A medicine used to help reduce the risk of rejection of organ and bone marrow transplants by the body. It is also used in clinical trials to make cancer cells more sensitive to anticancer agents.

CYP2D6 inhibitor

CYP2D6 is an enzyme that plays a role in the way the body absorbs some medicines. CYP2D6 inhibitors are medicines that prevent the body from metabolizing these medicines as it should. Examples of CYP2D6 inhibitors are fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil). The CYP2D6 enzyme is vital in the absorption of tamoxifen, a hormonal therapy for breast cancer.

cystosarcoma phyllodes

Also called CSP and phyllodes tumor. A type of tumor found in breast. It is often large and bulky and grows quickly. It may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer) and may spread to other parts of the body.

cytopenia

A condition in which there is a lower-than-normal number of blood cells.

cytotoxic

Cell-killing.

cytotoxic chemotherapy

Anticancer agents that kill cells, especially cancer cells.

Cytoxan

A medicine used to treat many types of cancer, including breast cancer, that is being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. Cytoxan attaches to DNA in cells and may kill cancer cells. It is a type of alkylating agent. Also called CTX and cyclophosphamide.

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