Terms & Definitions

Advanced Cancer (ad-VANST KAN-ser)

Cancer that has spread to other places in the body and usually cannot be cured or controlled with treatment.

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When Someone You Love Has Advanced Cancer: Support for Caregivers
Coping with Advanced Cancer

Breast Cancer (brest KAN-ser)

Cancer that forms in tissues of the breast. The most common type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma, which begins in the lining of the milk ducts (thin tubes that carry milk from the lobules of the breast to the nipple). Another type of breast cancer is lobular carcinoma, which begins in the lobules (milk glands) of the breast. Invasive breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread from where it began in the breast ducts or lobules to surrounding normal tissue. Breast cancer occurs in both men and women, although male breast cancer is rare.

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Breast Cancer

Breast Reconstruction (brest REE-kun-STRUK-shun)

Surgery to rebuild the shape of the breast after a mastectomy.

Cancer (KAN-ser)

A term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and can invade nearby tissues. Cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems. There are several main types of cancer. Carcinoma is a cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs. Sarcoma is a cancer that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue. Leukemia is a cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue, such as the bone marrow, and causes large numbers of abnormal blood cells to be produced and enter the blood. Lymphoma and multiple myeloma are cancers that begin in the cells of the immune system. Central nervous system cancers are cancers that begin in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord. Also called malignancy.

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What Is Cancer?

Caregiver (KAYR-gih-ver)

A person who gives care to people who need help taking care of themselves. Examples include children, the elderly, or patients who have chronic illnesses or are disabled. Caregivers may be health professionals, family members, friends, social workers, or members of the clergy. They may give care at home or in a hospital or other health care setting.

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Coping with Cancer: For Family and Friends

Cervical Cancer (SER-vih-kul KAN-ser)

Cancer that forms in tissues of the cervix (the organ connecting the uterus and vagina). It is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms but can be found with regular Pap tests (a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and looked at under a microscope). Cervical cancer is almost always caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

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Cervical Cancer

Chemotherapy (KEE-moh-THAYR-uh-pee)

Treatment with drugs that kill cancer cells.

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Chemotherapy and You: Support for People With Cancer
Understanding Chemotherapy

Ductal Carcinoma (DUK-tul KAR-sih-NOH-muh)

The most common type of breast cancer. It begins in the lining of the milk ducts (thin tubes that carry milk from the lobules of the breast to the nipple). Ductal carcinoma may be either ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or invasive ductal carcinoma. DCIS is a noninvasive condition in which abnormal cells are found in the lining of a breast duct and have not spread outside the duct to other tissues in the breast. In some cases, DCIS may become invasive cancer. In invasive ductal carcinoma, cancer has spread outside the breast duct to surrounding normal tissue. It can also spread through the blood and lymph systems to other parts of the body.

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 Breast Cancer

Endometrial cancer (EN-doh-MEE-tree-ul KAN-ser)

Cancer that forms in the tissue lining the uterus (the small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman’s pelvis in which a fetus develops). Most endometrial cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids).

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Endometrial Cancer

Lobular Carcinoma (LAH-byoo-ler KAR-sih-NOH-muh)

Cancer that begins in the lobules (milk glands) of the breast. Lobular carcinoma may be either lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or invasive lobular carcinoma. LCIS is a noninvasive condition in which abnormal cells are found in the lobules of the breast. LCIS rarely becomes invasive cancer, but having LCIS in one breast increases the risk of developing invasive cancer in either breast. In invasive lobular carcinoma, cancer has spread from the lobules to surrounding normal tissue. It can also spread through the blood and lymph systems to other parts of the body.

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Breast Cancer

Lumpectomy (lum-PEK-toh-mee)

Surgery to remove a tumor (lump) in a breast and a small amount of normal tissue around it. It is a type of breast-conserving surgery.

Mastectomy (ma-STEK-toh-mee)

Surgery to remove part or all of the breast. There are different types of mastectomy that differ in the amount of tissue and lymph nodes removed.

Ovarian Cancer (oh-VAYR-ee-un KAN-ser)

Cancer that forms in tissues of the ovary (one of a pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs, are formed). Most ovarian cancers are either ovarian epithelial cancers (cancer that begins in the cells on the surface of the ovary) or malignant germ cell tumors (cancer that begins in egg cells). Fallopian tube cancer and primary peritoneal cancer are similar to ovarian epithelial cancer and are staged and treated the same way.

Ovarian epithelial cancer (oh-VAYR-ee-un eh-pih-THEE-lee-ul KAN-ser)

Cancer that occurs in the cells on the surface of the ovary. Also called epithelial ovarian cancer.

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Ovarian Epithelial Cancer Treatment

Ovarian germ cell tumor (oh-VAYR-ee-un jerm sel TOO-mer)

An abnormal mass of tissue that forms in germ (egg) cells in the ovary (female reproductive gland in which the eggs are formed). These tumors usually occur in teenage girls or young women, usually affect just one ovary, and can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). The most common ovarian germ cell tumor is called dysgerminoma.

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• Ovarian Cancer

Radiation therapy (RAY-dee-AY-shun THAYR-uh-pee)

The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons, and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy). Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radio labeled monoclonal antibody, that travels in the blood to tissues throughout the body. Also called irradiation and radiotherapy.

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Radiation Therapy for Cancer
Radiation Therapy and You: Support for People With Cancer

Uterine cancer (YOO-teh-rin KAN-ser)

Cancer that forms in tissues of the uterus (the small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman’s pelvis in which a fetus develops). Two types of uterine cancer are endometrial cancer (cancer that begins in cells lining the uterus) and uterine sarcoma (a rare cancer that begins in muscle or other tissues in the uterus).

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• Uterine Sarcoma
• Endometrial Cancer

Vulvar cancer (VUL-ver KAN-ser)

Cancer of the vulva (the external female genital organs, including the clitoris, vaginal lips, and the opening to the vagina).

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Vulvar Cancer

Vaginal cancer (VA-jih-nul KAN-ser)

Cancer that forms in the tissues of the vagina (birth canal). The vagina leads from the cervix (the opening of the uterus) to the outside of the body. The most common type of vaginal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which starts in the thin, flat cells lining the vagina. Another type of vaginal cancer is adenocarcinoma, cancer that begins in glandular cells in the lining of the vagina.

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Vaginal Cancer