Language of Cancer:
"Antipyretic. A-N-T-I-P-Y-R-E-T-I-C. Antipyretic."
A mini-dictionary of terms relating to cancer
With that one word, meaning a
drug that reduces fever, Joanne Lagatta,
of Madison, Wis., won the 1991 National
The vocabulary of cancer is also full of big, intimidating words that rarely crop up in everyday language. But the potential rewards
of learning -- and understanding -- these words are much greater for people who are seeking the best treatment for their cancer.
The most recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that only 12% of Americans could be considered proficient
in understanding health information. So we put together a highly abbreviated glossary of common cancer terms. If you need more help
understanding your diagnosis, talk to your health-care team or visit the Patient Education Resource Center on Level B-1 for more
And don't worry: We won't quiz you on spelling.
additional cancer treatment given after primary treatment to lower the risk that the cancer will come back.
angiogenesis inhibitor [AN-jee-oh-JEN-eh-sis]
a substance that may prevent the formation of blood vessels; in cancer treatment, this type of drug stops the
growth of new blood vessels that provide nutrients to tumors.
not cancerous; capable of growing, but cannot migrate to other parts of the body
removal of cells or tissues for examination by a pathologist.
incisional biopsy: only a sample of tissue is removed
excisional biopsy: an entire lump or suspicious area is removed
needle biopsy or fine-needle aspiration: a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with
procedure in which radioactive material sealed in needles, seeds, wires or catheters is placed directly into or near a tumor; also
called internal radiation, implant radiation or interstitial [in-ter-STIH-shul] radiation
any substance that causes cancer
the process by which normal cells are transformed into cancer cells
cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs
a procedure performed with an instrument that freezes and destroys abnormal tissues; used to treat some kinds of cancer as well as
precancerous or noncancerous conditions
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