Hematology Oncology Glossary

These are the words that you may hear your health-care team use.

  • Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in glandular cells. Common adenocarcinomas may include: breast, pancreas, lung, prostate, and colon cancer.
  • Adjuvant Therapy: A treatment method used in addition to the primary therapy. Chemotherapy and Radiation therapy are often used as an adjuvant to surgery.
  • Alopecia: Hair loss.
  • Anemia: A problem in which the number of red blood cells is below normal.
  • Anesthesia: Loss of feeling or sensation resulting from the use of certain drugs or gases.
  • Antiemetic: A medicine to prevent or treat nausea or vomiting.
  • Antinausea: A drug that prevents or controls nausea and vomiting. Also called antiemetic.
  • Benign Tumor: A term used to describe a tumor that is not cancerous.
  • Biologic Therapy: Treatment that stimulates the body’s immune defense system to fight infection and disease. Also called immunotherapy or immune therapy.
  • Biopsy: The removal of a sample of tissue that is examined under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present.
  • Blood Cell Count: The number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in a sample of blood. This is also called a complete blood count (CBC).
  • Bone Marrow: The soft, sponge-like tissue in the center of most bones.  It produces white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
  • Brachytherapy: Internal radiation treatment achieved by implanting radioactive material directly into the tumor or close to it. Sometimes called internal radiation therapy.
  • Cancer: A general term for more than 100 diseases that have uncontrolled, abnormal growth of cells that can invade and destroy healthy tissues.
  • Catheter: A thin, flexible tube through which fluids enter or leave the body.
  • Chemotherapy: The use of drugs to treat cancer.
  • Constipation: When bowel movements become less frequent and stools are hard, dry, and difficult to pass.
  • Diarrhea: Frequent bowel movements that may be soft, loose, or watery.
  • Dietitian (also registered dietitian): A professional who plans well-balanced, diet programs, including special diets to meet needs of people with various medical conditions.
  • Fatigue: A problem of extreme tiredness and inability to function due lack of energy.
  • Hormones: Chemicals made by glands in the body. Hormones circulate in the bloodstream and control the actions of certain cells or organs.
  • Immune Therapy: Treatment that stimulates the body’s immune defense system to fight infection and disease. Also called biologic therapy or immunotherapy.
  • Infertility: For women, it means that you may not be able to get pregnant. For men, it means that you may not be able to get a woman pregnant.
  • Injection: Using a syringe and needle to push fluids or drugs into the body; often called a “shot”.
  • Intravenous: Within a blood vessel. Also called IV.
  • Lymphedema: Condition of localized fluid build up causing swelling. This is most commonly a result of damage to lymph vessels.
  • Lymphoma: Cancer of the lymph nodes.  The major types of lymphoma are Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
  • Malignant: Cancerous.
  • Medical Oncologist: A doctor who is specially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and who specializes in the use of chemotherapy and other drugs to treat cancer.
  • Metastasis: The spread of cancer cells to distant areas of the body by the way of the lymph system or bloodstream.
  • Nausea: When you have an upset stomach or queasy feeling and feel like you are going to throw up.
  • Neo-adjuvant Chemotherapy: When chemotherapy is used to shrink a tumor before surgery or radiation therapy.
  • Neutropenia: An abnormal decrease in the number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell.
  • Oncology: The branch of medicine devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
  • Palliative Care: Treatment to relieve, rather than cure, symptoms caused by the cancer. Palliative care can help people live more comfortably.
  • Physical Therapist: A health professional who uses exercises and other methods to restore or maintain the body’s strength, mobility, and function.
  • Platelets: Special blood cells that help stop bleeding.
  • Port: An implanted device through which blood may be drawn and drugs may be given without repeated needle sticks.
  • Prosthesis: An artificial replacement of a part of the body.
  • Radiation: Energy carried by waves or a stream of particles.
  • Radiation Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.
  • Radiation Physicist: A person trained to ensure that the radiation machine delivers the right amount of radiation to the treatment site. Assists the radiation oncologist and dosimetrist in the design, planning, and calculation of the proper dose for radiation treatment.
  • Radiation Therapist: A person with special training to work the equipment that delivers the radiation.
  • Radiation Therapy: The use of high-energy penetrating rays or subatomic particles to treat disease. Types of radiation include: x-ray, conformal, electron beam, alpha and beta particle, and gamma ray.  Radioactive substances include: cobalt, radium, iridium cesium, iodine, and palladium.
  • Radiation Therapy Nurse: A registered nurse who has extensive training in oncology and radiation therapy.
  • Radiologist: A physician with special training in reading and interpreting diagnostic x-rays and performing specialized x-ray procedures.
  • Radioresistance: When cells do not respond easily to radiation.
  • Radiosensitivity: How susceptible a cell, cancerous or healthy, is to radiation. Cells that divide frequently are especially radiosensitive and are more affected by radiation.
  • Recurrent: Cancer that returns after not being detected for a period of time.
  • Red Blood Cells: Cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Also called RBC.
  • Side Effect: A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs.
  • Simulation: A process involving special x-ray pictures that are used to plan radiation treatment so that the area to be treated is precisely located and marked.
  • Social Worker: A mental health professional with a master’s degree in social work (MSW). A social worker can provide assistance in dealing with medical, psychological, social, and educational needs.
  • Standard Treatment: Treatment that experts agree is appropriate, accepted, and widely used.
  • Thrombocytopenia: A decrease in the number of platelets in the blood that may result in easy bruising and excessive bleeding from wounds or bleeding in mucous membranes and other tissues.
  • Tumor: An abnormal lump or mass of tissue. Tumors are either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
  • White Blood Cells: The blood cells that help defend the body against infection.
  • X-Ray: One form of radiation that can be used at low levels to produce an image of the body on film or high levels to destroy cancer cells.
Top