Glossary

Glossary

Absolute Neutrophil Count (Anc)

A blood cell count that measures the number of neutrophils in the blood. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that fights against infection. Many cancer therapies temporarily lower the number of neutrophils in the blood.

Adjuvant Therapy

Additional drug therapy or other treatment designed to enhance the effectiveness of the primary treatment.

Alopecia

Loss of hair. Can affect all body hair, not just the head.

Anaphylaxis

Acute allergic reaction (shortness of breath, rash, wheezing, low blood pressure).

Anemia

A decreased number of red blood cells causing a decreased ability of the blood to carry oxygen to the tissues and organs. If severe, anemia can cause a pale complexion, weakness, fatigue, fainting, and shortness of breath.

Antibiotic

A medication used to fight bacterial infections.

Anti-Emetic

A medication used to control nausea and vomiting.

Biopsy

Removal of tissue for examination under a microscope for the purpose of making a diagnosis.

Biotherapy

A treatment that uses substances obtained or made from living organisms to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune (defense) system to fight infection and disease. These substances may occur naturally in the body or may be made in the laboratory. Also called biological response modifier therapy, biological therapy, and BRM therapy.

Bone Marrow Biopsy

A diagnostic procedure used to remove a sample of bone marrow from the center of the bone for examination under the microscope.

Catheter

A small flexible plastic tube inserted into a part of the body to administer or remove fluids.

Complete Blood Count (Cbc)

A laboratory test that determines the number of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets present in the patient’s body.

Central Venous Catheter

A small flexible plastic tube inserted into the large vein above the heart through which medications and blood products can be given. Blood samples may be withdrawn from this catheter also. Examples of other names for central venous catheters are: Broviac catheter, Central Line, PICC, Hickman, Hohn, tunneled catheter, non-tunneled catheter.

Chemotherapy

Specific medications used to kill cancer cells. Most act to injure the DNA of the cell which interferes with the cancer cell’s ability to grow and survive.

Clinical Trial

A study that uses new treatments to care for patients. During clinical trials, information is collected about new treatments, their risks and how well they do or do not work. If clinical trials show that the new treatment is better than the treatment currently being used, the new treatment may become the “standard” treatment.

Dermatitis

A skin rash.

Edema

Abnormal accumulation of fluid, e.g. pulmonary edema refers to a build-up of fluid in the lungs.

Electrolyte

Minerals found in the blood, such as sodium and potassium that must be maintained within a certain range to prevent organ malfunction.

Emesis

Vomit.

Hematocrit

The percentage of the blood made up of red blood cells.

Hemoglobin

The part of red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissues.

Hypertension

High blood pressure.

Immunocompromised

A condition, caused by disease or medications, in which the immune system is not functioning normally resulting in an increased risk for infection

Informed Consent

Process by which a patient receives a written explanation of the risks and benefits related to a medical or surgical treatment, or medical treatment involving research. An opportunity to ask questions should be provided to ensure understanding of the planned procedure/therapy prior to signing the consent form. A person must be at least 18 years of age to provide informed consent. Persons less than 18 years of age must have a parent or guardian participate in providing informed consent.

Intravenous

Through a vein.

Jaundice

A yellowish discoloration of the skin, body tissues and fluids caused by an increased level of bilirubin in the blood stream.

Lymph Nodes

Small, oval-shaped glands distributed throughout the body that contain the vast majority of lymphocytes. These glands house lymphocytes and filter microorganisms and other particles from lymph. The nodes are an important part of the body’s mechanism to fight infection.

Mediport (Port)

A central venous catheter device implanted during a surgical procedure under the skin in the chest area. The catheter is inserted into a large blood vessel. Access by a special needle allows administration of medicines and fluids, as well as blood samples to be drawn. It can remain in place for several months.

Metastasis

The spread of cancer cells from the original site of disease to other areas of the body.

Midline Catheter

A peripheral catheter, usually  placed in the upper arm, for the administration of several types of medications and fluids, as well as drawing blood samples. It can remain in place for up to 30 days.

Morbidity

Sickness, side effects and symptoms of a treatment or disease.

Mucositis

Inflammation of the lining of the mouth, the throat, and the gastrointestinal tract. Mouth sores. Sometimes also used to describe inflammation of the genital or urinary tracts.

Nadir

Lowest point; usually used in reference to the decrease in blood counts resulting from chemotherapy.

Neutropenia

A decrease below normal of the number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell. A neutrophil count of less than 1,000 increases your risk for infection. You must be careful to avoid sources of infection.

Neutrophil

The most common type of white blood cell in the blood stream. It fights bacterial infections. Also called segmented neutrophils or segs.

Nodule

A small group of cells; a small solid mass.

NPO

Nothing to eat or drink by mouth.

Palliative

Therapy that provides relief from and control of symptoms related to disease or treatment.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Injury to the nerves that supply sensation to the arms and legs, hands and feet.

Petechiae

Small areas of bleeding that appear on the skin. They look like dark red or purple spots. This can be due to low platelet counts.

Phlebitis

Inflammation of a vein.

Platelet

A blood cell that assists in blood clotting. Also called thrombocyte. Patients are at risk to bleed excessively from surgery, injury or trauma if the platelet count is less than 50,000. An increased risk of spontaneous bleeding occurs with platelet counts less than 20,000.

Platelet Count

The number of platelets in a blood sample.

Prognosis

The predicted or likely outcome.

Prophylaxis

A medicine or treatment given to prevent anticipated complications.

Protocol

A plan of medical care or treatment.

Radiation Therapy

Treatment aimed at destroying cancer cells, shrinking tumors or suppressing the immune system by using high-energy radiation from x-ray machines or other sources.

Red Blood Cell (RBC)

Cells that pick-up oxygen from the lungs and transport it to tissues throughout the body. A decrease in red blood cells may cause shortness of breath and fatigue.

Sepsis

A serious condition in which your body is fighting a severe infection. It can be caused by a number of different microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Stomatitis

Mouth sores (also called mucositis).

Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN)

An IV solution with a high nutritional content given through a central venous catheter instead of food by mouth.

Thrombocyte

Platelets or cells needed for the blood to clot. (See Platelet)

Thrombocytopenia

An abnormally low number of platelets. If your platelet count gets too low, bleeding may occur spontaneously or be difficult to control.

Tumor

An uncontrolled, abnormal growth or mass of tissue that results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. The growth of cells serves no functional purpose. It may be either benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Tumor Burden

The size of the tumor or number of abnormal cells in the organ or tissue; or extent of disease overall, including disease that has spread from its original site.

White Blood Cell (WBC)

A type of blood cell that helps the body fight infection and disease. These cells begin their development in the bone marrow and then travel to other parts of the body. White blood cells also play a role in inflammation and allergic reactions.

Xerostomia

Dryness of the mouth caused by malfunctioning salivary glands as a result of some cancer therapies.