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Terms that are on use on this site as well as general cancer-related words and definitions.

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Term Definition

Often incorrectly called "the stomach". The abdomen is the large space that contains the stomach, the entire intestinal tract, the liver, gall bladder, spleen, and other organs. The uterus, tubes and ovaries in women are in the pelvic area, or lower portion, of the abomen. The abdominal cavity is lined with a type of internal skin called the peritoneum.


Pronounced "ad deno carcinoma", adenocarcinoma is a general term for a cancer of glandular linings in the body like ovary, breast, colon, uterus and others. Many organs have glandular linings as well as other tissues which can become malignant. (also see Epithelium).


A antibody is a tiny particle produced by specialized immune sytem cells called lymphocytes. When these lymphocytes encounters a foreign substance, they produce antibodies which help attack the intruding foreign substance. The antibody is a part of the immune system that helps rid the body of foreign substances which are usually a virus or bacteria. In this manner, antibodies can also attack cancer cells. This is an area of ongoing research.


A antigen is a chemical substance on a foreign agent such as a type of bacteria or virus or cancer cell. Specialized lymphocytes recognize this chemical as being foreign and produce antibodies that attack that antigen. Cancer cells produce a weak antigenic response and are thus open to attack by this approach. The problem is that the immune system is basically overwhelmed when the cancerous tumors grow beyond just a few dozen cells. Research is ongoing in this area.


Pronounced "a sy tees", ascites is a fluid that has accumulated in the abdomen. Normally, there is fluid produced inside the abdominal cavity, which is part of a circulation and lubrication system in the body. Several gallons a day are produded and absorbed each day. Cancer cells produce even more and interfere with absorption of this fluid. Therefore, the abdomen (belly) grows and a person starts looking like they are pregnant. Other reasons for ascites are liver, heart and kidney diseases that are not cancerous.


Simply means that it is NOT a cancer, or not malignant.


A biopsy involves a small procedure to remove or cut out a small piece of tissue in the area of concern. It is then specially prepared in the lab and looked at under the microscope to look for cancer cells.


Body Mass Index; A measure that relates body weight to height. BMI is sometimes used to measure total body fat and whether a person is a healthy weight. Excess body fat is linked to an increased risk of some diseases including heart disease and some cancers. Generally teens considered healthy for men, low to mid twenties for women and >30% is considered obesity.


Pronounced "brakey therapy", this refers to radiation techniques in which a radioactive substance is placed into or near the cancer and allowed to remain several hours to several days. It is often called an "implant". There are several types of techniques and instruments used in this therapy. Under some unusual circumstances the radioactive material is permanently implanted in the cancerous tissues, most often during an abdominal major operation.


Ca-125 is a cancer associated antigen that can be tested for by a blood test. If the test value is greater than 35, then the antigen is present in the blood meaning that cancer cells may be present. The test is useful in patients who we know have ovarian cancer, to monitor their response to therapy. Unfortunately, Ca125 is not specific for ovarian cancer and many many other benign conditions can also cause a positive test. It is also not usually elevated in early ovarian cancer. Therefore it is not a good screening test.
When used for monitoring known ovarian cancer patients, if it was initially elevated and does not normalize to less than 35, then the cancer is still present. The best prognosis is in those patients in whom the Ca125 becomes less than 35 within 3 treatments of chemotheapy. If it becomes normal after chemotherapy, it is a good sign but about one half of these patients still have persistent cancer. So, a normal value may give false reassurance.


Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells which are damaged and unregulated by the body's normal mechanisms. These cells divide and grow in colonies which eventually become malignant tumors. These tumors invade or grow into nearby organs and structures. Cancer cells from the tumors can break off and spread through the blood stream or the immune system (lymph nodes) to other areas; a process called metastasis.


A carcinoma is a very general term for cancer of the epithelium, such as skin or the lining of the intestinal tract. (see EPITHELIUM also). It is not a term which is specific for any one organ.


Pronounced "korio carcinoma". Other terms in this area include gestational trophoblastic disease, GTN, GTD, invasive mole, molar pregnancy. This constellation of related diseases is based on abnormal placental development. The placenta in a genetically abnormal pregnancy becomes very abnormal and no baby develops. In a small percentage, this abnormal placenta can become cancerous and invade the muscle of the uterus or spread to other organs. All of these conditions are extremely curable with a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. (see MOLE).


Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (see DYSPLASIA ). A precancerous condition of the uterine cervix.

clinical trials

New anti-cancer treatments are first evaluated in the laboratory. When a new treatment is initially tested in humans, it is referred to as a Phase I Trial. The purpose is to determine what an appropriate dose is and generally whether or not it has any specific anti-cancer activity. When an appropriate dose is determined, then the treatment is evaluated by a Phase II Trial, in which the object is to determine if the treatment has any effect against a variety of different types of cancer. If it does, then a Phase III Trial is done in which this new treatment is tested against what is currently thought to be the best standard treatment. Usually, Phase III trials are randomized, which means that the treatment you receive, new/experimental vs. standard, is determined by chance;an example would be a flip of the coin, although the techniques uses are more sophisticated and often use computers to determine who gets which treatment. This prevents any bias from influencing the outcome when the results are evaluated. All of the current major chemotherapy drugs have gone through this type of testing. Not all experimental trials involve chemotherapy; some may involved surgical procedures or radiation therapy or other diagnostic or treatment options.

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