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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):  A test that produces images of body sections to detect dead or dying cells, blockages of blood flow or cancer.

Malignant tumour:  A tumour made up of cancer cells that can spread to other pads of the body. This type of tumour needs treatment.

Mammogram (mammography):  A low-dose x-ray of the breast to determine whether abnormal growths or cysts are present.

Mastectomy:  Surgical removal of a breast.

Segmental mastectomy (lumpectomy):  Removal of a lump and a small amount of surrounding breast tissue.

Simple mastectomy (modified mastectomy):  Removal of an entire breast.

Radical mastectomy:  Removal of an entire breast along with underlying muscle and lymph nodes of the armpit.

Melanoma:  A cancer of the pigment-forming cells of the skin or the retina of the eye.

Metastasize:  To spread from the first cancer site; an example is breast cancer spreading into the bone.

Monoclonal antibodies:  Highly specific antibodies manufactured in the laboratory, that react to a specific cancer antigen or are directed against a specific type of cancer.

Mucosa (mucous membrane):  The inner lining of the gastrointestinal tract (e.g., lining of the mouth) or other structures such as the vagina and nose.

Myelogram:  An x-ray procedure before which a dye is injected into the spinal column to show any pinching or dislocation of the spinal cord.

Myeloma:  A malignant tumour made up of the bone marrow protein-producing plasma cells. This cancer often forms in the ribs, spinal column or pelvic bones.


Neoplasm:  A new growth of tissue or cells; neoplasms may be benign or malignant.

Neuroblastoma:  A malignant tumour of the nerves.

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma:  A cancer of the lymphatic system. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is related to Hodgkin’s disease, but is made up of different cell types. See Lymphoma.


Oncology:  The study and treatment of cancer. Doctors who specialize in oncology are called


Palliative treatment:  Treatment that relieves pain and symptoms of a disease but does not cure it.

Pap (Papanicolaou) smear:  A test to detect cancer
of the cervix, done during a pelvic examination.
It is recommended that all women have a yearly Pap test.

Paracentesis:  Removal of fluid from the abdomen using local anesthesia, using a needle and syringe.

Pathological fracture:  A break in a bone usually caused by cancer or another disease condition.

Pathology:  The study of disease by examining tissues and body fluids. A doctor who specializes in pathology is called a pathologist. The pathologist examines biopsy specimens and determines if cancer cells are present.

Petechiae:  Tiny areas of bleeding under the skin, usually due to low platelet count.

Phlebitis:  Painful swelling of a vein.

Photosensitivity:  Extreme sensitivity to the sun, which leaves a person prone to sunburn. Some antibiotics and cancer drugs cause this side effect.

Plasma:  The fluid portion of blood in which blood components are suspended.

Platelet (pIt):  Small cells in the blood that are responsible for clotting.

Platelet count:  The number of platelets in a blood sample.

Pneumonectomy:  Surgical removal of a lung or part of a lung.

Polyp:  An overgrowth of tissue protruding into a body cavity — for example, a nasal or rectal polyp. These are usually benign but are often surgically removed since they may become cancerous.

Port (infusion):  A quarter-sized disc that is surgically placed just below the skin of the chest or abdomen. A tube is inserted into the port so fluids, drugs or blood products can be infused through a needle directly into the bloodstream.

Primary tumour:  The original cancer, usually named after the area where it started. For example, breast cancer that has spread to the bone is still called breast cancer.

Progesterone:  One of the female hormones produced by the ovaries.

Progesterone-receptor assay:  A test that determines if breast cancer is stimulated by female hormones.

Prognosis:  The predicted outcome of a disease.

Prostate:  A gland located at the base of the bladder in males.

Prosthesis:  Artificial replacement of a missing body part, such as a leg, breast or eye.

Protocol:  A treatment plan that includes the drugs, dosages and dates of cancer therapy.


Radiation therapy:  X-ray treatment that damages or kills cancer cells.

Radiologist:  A doctor and/or therapist who specializes in the use of x-rays to diagnose disease.

Recurrence:  Reappearance of a disease after treatment had caused it to disappear.

Red blood cells:  Small cells in the blood that carry oxygen to tissues and take carbon dioxide from them.

Red blood count (RBC):  The number of red blood cells in a blood sample.

Regression:  Shrinkage of a cancer tumour.

Relapse:  A return of cancer after it had been controlled by treatments.

Remission:  Complete or partial disappearance of a disease; the period when the disease is under control.


Sarcoma:  A malignant tumour of muscles or connective tissues such as bone and cartilage.

Chondrosarcoma:  A malignant tumour of cartilage usually occurring near the ends of the long bones.

Ewing’s sarcoma:  A malignant tumour that starts in the bone and affects the bones of extremities, It often appears before the age of 20.

Hemangiosarcoma:  A malignant tumour of blood or lymph vessels.

Osteogenic sarcoma:  A malignant tumour that starts from bone-forming cells.

Synovial sarcoma:  A malignant tumour of joint tissue, such as that of the knee, wrist or elbow.

Uterine sarcoma:  A malignant tumour of the muscle of the uterus.

Shingles:  See Herpes zoster.

Side effects:  Unwanted or unintended reactions to drugs or radiation.

Small cell carcinoma:  See Carcinoma.

Sputum:  A mixture of saliva, mucus, cells and bacteria coughed up from the lungs or throat. Staging:  Determining the distinct phase or period in the course of a disease.

Steroids:  A class of fat-soluble chemicals that are vital to many functions within the body. They are often used in cancer treatment.

Stilbesterol:  A female hormone, frequently given to prostate cancer patients.

Stomatitis:  Inflammation and soreness of the mouth, sometimes a side effect of chemotherapy.

Systemic disease:  A disease that affects the whole body instead of just one area.


Taste alteration:  A change in taste perception that often causes foods to taste bland or unappealing.

Testicular self-examination (TSE):  A simple exam of the testicles that men should perform themselves to detect early stages of cancer or other problems.

Thoracentesis (pleural tap):  The removal of fluids from the area between the lung and its lining.

Thrombocytopenia:  An abnormally low number of platelets (thrombocytes) due to disease, reaction to a drug or toxic reaction to chemotherapy treatments. If there are too few platelets, bleeding can occur.

Tomography:  A test using computers or x-rays to see part of the body following injection of a dye.

Toxic reaction:  Serious side effects. Some are dangerous or poisonous.

Trachea:  The tube descending from the larynx and branching into the left and right bronchi.

Tracheostomy:  A surgical opening through the trachea in the neck to provide an artificial airway. This is performed when the trachea is blocked and the person cannot breathe.

Tumour:  An abnormal overgrowth of cells. Tumours are either benign or malignant.

Tumour marker:  Something that identifies or is used to identify a tumour.


Ureter:  The tube that urine passes from the kidney to the bladder.

Urostomy:  A surgical procedure during which a new bladder is created outside the body. This is done by surgically culling the ureters from the bladder and connecting them to an opening outside the abdomen, thereby allowing urine to flow into a collection bag.

Uterus (womb):  The female organ that receives a fertilized egg and holds the fetus until birth.


Venipuncture:  Puncturing a vein in order to obtain a blood sample, start an intravenous drip or give a medication.

Vesicant:  A substance that, if leaked into tissues, can cause swelling, tissue damage and destruction.

Virus:  A tiny infectious agent that is smaller than bacteria. The common cold is caused by a virus.


White blood cells:  Cells responsible for fighting infection and allergy-causing agents.

White blood count (WBC):  The number of white blood cells in a blood sample.

Wilms’ tumour:  A malignant growth of the kidney that usually affects young children.


X-ray:  High energy electromagnetic radiation used to diagnose and treat disease.
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