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Dictionary of Cancer Terms

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Aat Deficiency Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency is a condition in which the body does not make enough of AAT, a protein that protects the lungs and liver from damage. The condition can lead to COPD and liver disease (cirrhosis).
Ablation Ablation is a procedure to treat atrial fibrillation. It uses small burns or freezes to cause some scarring on the inside of the heart to help break up the electrical signals that cause irregular heartbeats. This can help the heart maintain a normal heart rhythm. The heart has 4 chambers.
Abscess a swollen area within body tissue, containing an accumulation of pus.
Absolute Neutrophil Count An absolute neutrophil count identifies how many neutrophils are in a sample of your blood. The normal range of neutrophils in a healthy adult is between 2,500 and 7,000 neutrophils per microliter of blood. Any number above 7,000 or below 2,500 puts you at risk of a neutrophil condition.
Absolute Risk Absolute risk (or AR) is the probability or chance of an event. It is usually used for the number of events (such as a disease) that occurred in a group, divided by the number of people in that group. Absolute risk is one of the most understandable ways of communicating health risks to the general public.
ABVD An abbreviation for a chemotherapy combination used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma. It includes the drugs doxorubicin hydrochloride (Adriamycin), bleomycin sulfate, vinblastine sulfate, and dacarbazine. Also called ABVD.
ABVE An abbreviation for a chemotherapy combination used with radiation therapy to treat childhood Hodgkin lymphoma. It includes the drugs doxorubicin hydrochloride (Adriamycin), bleomycin sulfate, vincristine sulfate, and etoposide. Also called ABVE regimen, DBVE, and DBVE regimen.
Accelerated Approval The FDA instituted its Accelerated Approval Program to allow for earlier approval of drugs that treat serious conditions, and that fill an unmet medical need based on a surrogate endpoint.
Accelerated Radiation Therapy Radiation treatment in which the total dose of radiation is given over a shorter period of time (fewer days) compared to standard radiation therapy.
Acd Gene Adrenocortical dysplasia protein homolog is a protein that in humans is encoded by the ACD gene.
Ace Inhibitor Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are medications that help relax the veins and arteries to lower blood pressure. ACE inhibitors prevent an enzyme in the body from producing angiotensin II, a substance that narrows blood vessels.
Acrochordon An acrochordon is a small, soft, common, benign, usually pedunculated neoplasm that is found particularly in persons who are obese. It is usually skin colored or hyperpigmented, and it may appear as surface nodules or papillomas on healthy skin.
Acromegaly Acromegaly is a hormonal disorder that develops when your pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone during adulthood. When you have too much growth hormone, your bones increase in size. In childhood, this leads to increased height and is called gigantism. But in adulthood, a change in height doesn't occur.
Actinic Keratosis Actinic keratoses are scaly spots or patches on the top layer of skin. With time they may become hard with a wartlike surface. An actinic keratosis (ak-TIN-ik ker-uh-TOE-sis) is a rough, scaly patch on the skin that develops from years of sun exposure.
Active Monitoring A treatment plan that involves closely watching a patient's condition but not giving any treatment unless there are changes in test results that show the condition is getting worse.
Active Surveillance A treatment plan that involves closely watching a patient's condition but not giving any treatment unless there are changes in test results that show the condition is getting worse.
Acute Of abrupt onset, in reference to a disease. Acute often also connotes an illness that is of short duration, rapidly progressive, and in need of urgent care.
Acute Leukemia a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). Leukemia may affect red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made. The word "acute" in acute lymphocytic leukemia comes from the fact that the disease progresses rapidly and creates immature blood cells, rather than mature ones.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It is the most common type of acute leukemia in adults. This type of cancer usually gets worse quickly if it is not treated. AML is also called acute myelogenous leukemia and acute nonlymphocytic leukemia
Acute Nonlymphocytic Leukemia A fast-growing cancer in which too many myeloblasts (a type of immature white blood cell) are found in the bone marrow and blood. Acute nonlymphocytic leukemia usually gets worse quickly if it is not treated. It can spread outside the blood to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), skin, gums, and testicles.
Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is an aggressive type of acute myeloid leukemia in which there are too many immature blood-forming cells (promyelocytes) in the blood and bone marrow. This build up of promyelocytes leads to a shortage of normal white and red blood cells and platelets in the body.
Adaptive Immunity Adaptive immunity involves specialized immune cells and antibodies that attack and destroy foreign invaders and are able to prevent disease in the future by remembering what those substances look like and mounting a new immune response.
Adenocarcinoma Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer. It develops in the glands that line your organs. Common forms of adenocarcinoma include breast, stomach, prostate, lung, pancreatic and colorectal cancers.
Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC) is a rare form of cancer that usually develops in the salivary glands or other regions of the head and neck. ACC can occur in other parts of the body, such as the breast, skin, cervix in females, prostate gland in males, and various other areas. These tumors have a distinctive histological pattern of abnormal “nests” or cords of epithelial cells that surround and/or infiltrate ducts or glandular structures within the affected organ. The specific symptoms in patients varies on the size of the tumor and specific salivary gland and nerves affected. Source
Adenosarcoma A tumor that is a mixture of an adenoma, which starts in the gland-like cells of epithelial tissue and a sarcoma, which starts in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue. Wilms tumor is an example of adenosarcoma. Source
Adenosquamous Carcinoma A type of cancer that contains two types of cells: squamous cells (thin, flat cells that line certain organs) and gland-like cells. This type of tumor is common in lung, breast, prostate, and cervical cancer. Source
Adjuvant Therapy Additional cancer treatment given after primary treatment is complete to lower the risk that the cancer will relapse. Adjuvant therapy options may include chemotherapies, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, or biological therapy. Source
Adoptive Cell Therapy A type of immunotherapy in which T-cells are injected into a patient to help the body fight cancer. T-cells are usually collected from the patient's own blood or tumor tissue, grown in large numbers in the laboratory, and then given back to the patient to help the immune system fight the cancer. Sometimes, the T-cells are changed in the laboratory to make them better able to target the patient's cancer cells and kill them. Types of adoptive cell therapy include chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR T-cell) therapy and tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy. Adoptive cell therapy that uses T-cells from a donor is being studied in the treatment of some types of cancer and some infections. Also called adoptive cell transfer, cellular adoptive immunotherapy, and T-cell transfer therapy. Source
Adoptive Cell Transfer A type of immunotherapy in which T-cells are injected into a patient to help the body fight cancer. T-cells are usually collected from the patient's own blood or tumor tissue, grown in large numbers in the laboratory, and then given back to the patient to help the immune system fight the cancer. Sometimes, the T-cells are changed in the laboratory to make them better able to target the patient's cancer cells and kill them. Types of adoptive cell therapy include chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR T-cell) therapy and tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy. Also called adoptive cell therapy, cellular adoptive immunotherapy, and T-cell transfer therapy. Source
Adrenal Cancer Adrenal cancer is a rare type of cancer that develops in one or both of the adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys. Adrenal glands produce hormones that give instructions to nearly all organs and tissues in the body. Adrenal cancer can occur at any age and is also known as adrenocortical cancer. Source
Adrenocortical Cancer Adrenocortical carcinoma is a rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the outer layer of the adrenal gland. Having certain genetic conditions increases the risk of adrenocortical carcinoma. Symptoms of adrenocortical carcinoma include pain in the abdomen.Oct 27, 2021 Source
Adrenocortical Carcinoma Adrenocortical carcinoma is a rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the outer layer of the adrenal gland. Certain genetic conditions increase the risk of adrenocortical carcinoma developing. Symptoms of adrenocortical carcinoma include pain or discomfort in the abdomen. Source
Advanced Cancer Cancer in later stages (III and IV) that is unlikely to be cured or controlled with treatment. The cancer may have spread from where it orginally developed to nearby tissue, lymph nodes, or distant parts of the body. Treatment may be given to help shrink the tumor, slow the growth of cancer cells, relieve symptoms, or improve the patient's quality of life. Source
Aggressive Lymphoma One of the types of lymphoma that grows and spreads quickly, and has severe symptoms or complications. Aggressive lymphoma is also known as high-grade lymphoma and intermediate-grade lymphoma. Burkitt lymphom is considered the most aggressive type of lymphoma. Source
Alemtuzumab A drug used to treat B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia and is being studied for treating other types of cancer. Alemtuzumab is a monoclonal antibody that binds to a protein called CD52, which is found on some types of immune cells and cancer cells. This helps boost the immune system to kill cancer cells. Alemtuzumab is also known as Campath. Source
Allogeneic Transplantation This procedure replaces a patient's stem cells from a donor after chemotherapy or radiation has destroyed them. Healthy stem cells are collected from the blood or bone marrow of a donor, a sibling, family member, or unrelated donor who is genetically similar to the patient. An allogeneic stem cell transplant is most often used to treat blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, and certain types of blood or immune system disorders. Source
Anal Cancer Anal cancer starts in the cells in or around the anal opening. A person may be diagnosed with precancerous cells in the anal area during screening tests. With time, these cells have a chance of becoming cancerous. While this condition is treated differently than when precancerous cells become cancerous, it is the reason to get treatment early. There are roughly 8,000 cases of anal cancer in the United States each year. Source
Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma This a rare type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) affects the T-cells and accounts for one percent of all NHLs. ALCL can initially appear in the skin, lymph nodes, or in different organs throughout the body. Source
Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) is a gene that makes a protein that is involved in cell growth. Mutated forms of the ALK gene and protein have been found in some types of cancer, including non-small cell lung cancer, and anaplastic large cell lymphoma. These changes may increase the growth and spread of cancer cells. Testing for changes in the anaplastic lymphoma kinase gene in a sample of tumor tissue may help plan cancer treatment. Source
Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase Inhibitor A substance created in a laboratory that prevents the activity of a protein called anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), which helps control cell growth. Blocking this protein stops cancer cells from growing and spreading. These ALK inhibitors are a type of targeted therapy used to treat cancer. Source
Androblastoma This rare type of ovarian cancer in which the tumor cells secrete a male sex hormone. This may cause virilization, which is the appearance of male physical characteristics in females. Androblastoma is also called arrhenoblastoma and Sertoli-Leydig cell tumor of the ovary. Source
Androgen-Sensitive Prostate Cancer In early stages of prostate cancer, androgen, a hormone, helps cancer cells grow. Hormone therapies, which are treatments that decrease androgen levels or block androgen action, can inhibit the growth of these cancers, which are therefore called castration sensitive, androgen dependent, or androgen sensitive. Source
Anemia Anemia is a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body's tissues. Having anemia, also referred to as low hemoglobin, can make you feel tired and weak. Source
Angioimmunoblastic T-Cell Lymphoma Angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL) is a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which are cancers of white blood cells (lymphocytes). AITL is a T-cell lymphoma characterized by the transformation of a T-cell into a malignant cell. Abnormal, uncontrolled growth and multiplication (proliferation) of these T-cells can lead to enlargement of specific lymph node region or regions. Source
Angiosarcoma This rare type of cancer forms in the lining of blood vessels and lymph vessels, which are part of the immune system and collect bacteria, viruses, and waste products from your body to dispose of them. Angiosarcoma can occur anywhere, but typically develops on the skin of your head and neck. In rare cases, it can develop in the breast, within the skin, or aras previously treated with radiation therapy. Source
Antibody Therapy Treatment that utilizes antibodies to fight cancer, infection, or other diseases. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system that bind to specific markers on cells. Monoclonal antibodies are a type of antibody made in the laboratory that can be used in treatment. Monoclonal antibodies either kill cancer cells directly, block development of tumor blood vessels, or help the immune system kill cancer cells. Source
Aplastic Anemia Aplastic anemia is the inability of the bone marrow to function properly. Bone marrow is normally soft and fatty tissue inside bones, where new blood cells are formed. In aplastic anemia, the bone marrow does not produce new cells, leaving the body susceptible to bleeding and infection. Most cases of severe aplastic anemia happen when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. This is not a cancer, however, its treatment can be similar to therapies used to treat leukemias and lymphomas. Source
Artificial Intelligence Artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare is a broad term umbrella term to describe the application of machine learning (ML) algorithms and other cognitive technologies in medical settings. In the simplest sense, AI is when computers and other machines mimic human cognition, and are capable of learning, thinking, and making decisions or taking actions. Source
Atypical A situation or behavior that is abnormal, different from what is accepted. In medicine, an atypical lesion is defined as a benign growth (not cancer), precancerous (highly likely to be cancerous), or malignant (cancer). Source
Aurora Kinase Inhibitor At9283 The Aurora kinase family consists of cell cycle-regulated serine/threonine kinases that are important for mitosis. AT9283 is also a type of serine/threonine-protein kinase inhibitor. It blocks enzymes (Aurora kinases) involved in cell division and can kill cancer cells. It is a substance that is being researched in the treatment of many types of cancer, including ovarian, breast, lung, and colon. Source