Glossary

Adenomyosis

a non cancerous (benign) invasion of myometrium (uterine muscle) by endometrial tissue (internal lining of the womb).

Adjuvant therapy

Additional cancer treatment given after the primary treatment to lower the risk that the cancer will come back. Adjuvant therapy may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, or biological therapy.

AFP (alpha-fetoprotein)

A protein normally produced by a fetus. AFP levels are usually undetectable in the blood of healthy adult men or women (who are not pregnant). An elevated level of AFP suggests the presence of either a primary liver cancer or germ cell tumor.

Biopsy

The removal of cells or tissues for examination by a pathologist. The pathologist may study the tissue under a microscope or perform other tests on the cells or tissue. There are many different types of biopsy procedures. The most common types include: (1) incisional biopsy, in which only a sample of tissue is removed; (2) excisional biopsy, in which an entire lump or suspicious area is removed; and (3) needle biopsy, in which a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle. When a wide needle is used, the procedure is called a core biopsy. When a thin needle is used, the procedure is called a fine-needle aspiration biopsy.

Borderline ovarian tumour (also called low malignant potential tumour)

An ovarian surface tumour in which the growth pattern is intermediate between benign (non cancerous) and malignant (cancerous); highly curable but may recur after surgical removal.

Brachytherapy

A type of radiation therapy in which radioactive material sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters is placed directly into or near a tumor. Also called implant radiation therapy, internal radiation therapy, and radiation brachytherapy.

CA125

A substance that may be found in high amounts in the blood of patients with certain types of cancer, including ovarian cancer. CA125 levels may also help monitor how well cancer treatments are working or if cancer has come back. Also called cancer antigen 125.

CA19-9

A substance released into the bloodstream by both cancer cells and normal cells. Too much CA 19-9 in the blood can be a sign of pancreatic cancer or other types of cancer or conditions. The amount of CA 19-9 in the blood can be used to help keep track of how well cancer treatments are working or if cancer has come back. It is a type of tumor marker.

Cancer

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.

CEA

A substance that may be found in the blood of people who have colon cancer, other types of cancer or diseases, or who smoke tobacco. CEA levels may help keep track of how well cancer treatments are working or if cancer has come back. It is a type of tumor marker. Also called carcinoembryonic antigen.

Cervix

The lower, narrow end of the uterus (womb) that forms a canal between the uterus and vagina.

Chemotherapy

Treatment with drugs that kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy works by stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells, which grow and divide quickly. But it can also harm healthy cells that divide quickly, such as those that line your mouth and intestines or cause your hair to grow. Damage to healthy cells may cause side effects. Often, side effects get better or go away after chemotherapy is over.

Colposcopy

Examination of the vagina and cervix using a lighted magnifying instrument called colposcope.

Conization biopsy (also called cone biopsy)

Surgery to remove a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix and cervical canal. Cone biopsy may be used to diagnose or treat a cervical condition.

CT scan

A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body taken from different angles. The pictures are created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. Also called CAT scan, computed tomography scan, computerized axial tomography scan, and computerized tomography.

Dysplasia

Cells that look abnormal under a microscope but are not cancer. They may be a type of pre cancerous condition sometimes.

Endocervix

The inner part of the cervix that forms a canal that connects the vagina to the uterus. The endocervix is lined with cells that make mucus. During a pelvic exam, cells may be scraped from the endocervix. The cells are checked under a microscope for infection, inflammation, and cancer or changes that may become cancer.

Endometriosis

A benign (non cancerous) condition in which tissue that looks like endometrial tissue grows in abnormal places in the abdomen.

Fallopian tubes

One of the two Fallopian tubes that transport the egg from the ovary to the uterus (the womb).

Familial cancer

Cancer that occurs in families more often than would be expected by chance. These cancers often occur at an early age, and may indicate the presence of a gene mutation that increases the risk of cancer. They may also be a sign of shared environmental or lifestyle factors.

Gestational Trophoblastic Disease

Any of a group of tumours (growth) that develops from trophoblastic cells (cells that help an embryo attach to the uterus and help form the placenta) after fertilization of an egg by a sperm. The two main types of gestational trophoblastic diseases are hydatidiform mole and choriocarcinoma. Also called gestational trophoblastic tumor.

HCG

The glycoprotein hormone hCG and its beta subunit (beta-hCG) are tumour markers, meaning that the presence of the proteins usually indicates certain cancers. This is because cancer cells excrete beta-hCG.

The cancers that are typically detected by the presence of Beta-hCG and hCG include germ cell cancer, which develops from sperm or an egg, like ovarian or testicular cancer; Beta-hCG is an excellent tumor marker used for monitoring germ cell tumors. It is important to note that hCG found in the blood may also indicate pregnancy. Fertile women should rule out pregnancy, including ectopic and molar pregnancies, as well as recent miscarriages first.

Hereditary cancer

Cancer that occurs in families more often than would be expected by chance. These cancers often occur at an early age, and may indicate the presence of a gene mutation that increases the risk of cancer. They may also be a sign of shared environmental or lifestyle factors.

Hormone receptor

A cell protein that binds a specific hormone. The hormone receptor may be on the surface of the cell or inside the cell. Many changes take place in a cell after a hormone binds to its receptor.

Hormone therapy

Treatment that adds, blocks, or removes hormones. For certain conditions (such as diabetes or menopause), hormones are given to adjust low hormone levels. To slow or stop the growth of certain cancers (such as prostate and breast cancer), synthetic hormones or other drugs may be given to block the body’s natural hormones. Sometimes surgery is needed to remove the gland that makes a certain hormone. Also called endocrine therapy, hormonal therapy, and hormone treatment.

HPV (human papillomavirus)

A type of virus that can cause abnormal tissue growth (for example, warts) and other changes to cells. Infection for a long time with certain types of HPV can cause cervical cancer. HPV may also play a role in some other types of cancer, such as anal, vaginal, vulvar, penile, oropharyngeal, and squamous cell skin cancers.

Hysterectomy

Surgery to remove the uterus and, sometimes, the cervix. When the uterus and the cervix are removed, it is called a total hysterectomy. When only the uterus is removed, it is called a partial hysterectomy.

Hysteroscopy

A thin camera is inserted in the uterus (womb) for inspection of the uterine cavity.

Immunohistochemistry (IHC)

A technique used to identify specific molecules in different kinds of tissue. The tissue is treated with antibodies that bind the specific molecule. These are made visible under a microscope by using a color reaction, a radioisotope, colloidal gold, or a fluorescent dye. Immunohistochemistry is used to help diagnose diseases, such as cancer, and to detect the presence of microorganisms. It is also used in basic research to understand how cells grow and differentiate (become more specialized).

Laparoscopic surgery (Key hole surgery)

Surgery done with the aid of a laparoscope. A laparoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.

Laparoscopy

Surgery done with the aid of a laparoscope. A laparoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.

LLETZ procedure (also called LEEP or loop electrosurgical excision procedure)

A technique that uses electric current passed through a thin wire loop to remove abnormal tissue. Also called LEEP and loop excision.

Lymph nodes

A rounded mass of lymphatic tissue that is surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue. Lymph nodes filter lymph (lymphatic fluid), and they store lymphocytes (white blood cells). They are located along lymphatic vessels. Also called lymph gland.

Lynch syndrome (Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer or HNPCC)

An inherited/familial disorder in which affected individuals have a higher-than-normal chance of developing colorectal cancer and certain other types of cancer e.g. uterus (womb), ovarian cancer, often before the age of 50.

Mammogram

An x-ray of the breast.

Metastasis

The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. A tumor formed by cells that have spread is called a “metastatic tumor” or a “metastasis.” The metastatic tumor contains cells that are like those in the original (primary) tumor. The plural form of metastasis is metastases.

MRI

A procedure in which radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer are used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures can show the difference between normal and diseased tissue. MRI makes better images of organs and soft tissue than other scanning techniques, such as computed tomography (CT) or x-ray. MRI is especially useful for imaging the brain, the spine, the soft tissue of joints, and the inside of bones. Also called magnetic resonance imaging, NMRI, and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.

Neoadjuvant therapy

Treatment given as a first step to shrink a tumor before the main treatment, which is usually surgery, is given. Examples of neoadjuvant therapy include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy. It is a type of induction therapy.

Ovarian cysts

A sac or capsule in the ovary. It may be filled with fluid or other material.

Ovary

One of a pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs, are formed. The ovaries are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus.

Pap smear

A procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix for examination under a microscope. It is used to detect cancer and changes that may lead to cancer. A Pap smear can also show conditions, such as infection or inflammation, that are not cancer. Also called Pap test and Papanicolaou test.

Peritoneum

The tissue that lines the abdominal wall and covers most of the organs in the abdomen.

PET CT scan (positron emission tomography scan)

A procedure in which a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein, and a scanner is used to make detailed, computerized pictures of areas inside the body where the glucose is used. Because cancer cells often use more glucose than normal cells, the pictures can be used to find cancer cells in the body. Also called PET scan.

Prophylactic surgery

Surgery to remove an organ or gland that shows no signs of cancer, in an attempt to prevent development of cancer of that organ or gland. Prophylactic surgery is sometimes chosen by people who know they are at high risk for developing cancer.

Radiation therapy

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). Also called irradiation and radiotherapy.

Screening

Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Since screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease. Examples of cancer screening tests are the mammogram (breast), colonoscopy (colon), and the Pap test and HPV test (cervix). Screening can also include checking for a person’s risk of developing an inherited disease by doing a genetic test.

Sentinel lymph node

The first lymph node to which cancer is likely to spread from the primary tumor. When cancer spreads, the cancer cells may appear first in the sentinel node before spreading to other lymph nodes.

Sentinel lymph node procedure (biopsy)

Removal and examination of the sentinel node(s) (the first lymph node(s) to which cancer cells are likely to spread from a primary tumor). To identify the sentinel lymph node(s), the surgeon injects a radioactive substance, blue dye, or both near the tumor. The surgeon then uses a probe to find the sentinel lymph node(s) containing the radioactive substance or looks for the lymph node(s) stained with dye. The surgeon then removes the sentinel node(s) to check for the presence of cancer cells.

Staging

Performing exams and tests to learn the extent of the cancer within the body, especially whether the disease has spread from the original site to other parts of the body. It is important to know the stage of the disease in order to plan the best treatment.

Systemic

Affecting the entire body.

Systemic chemotherapy

Treatment with anticancer drugs that travel through the blood to cells all over the body.

Tamoxifen

A drug used to treat certain types of breast cancer. It is also used to prevent breast cancer in selective group of women. Tamoxifen is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. It blocks the effects of the hormone estrogen in the breast. Tamoxifen is a type of anti-oestrogen. Also called tamoxifen citrate.

Ultrasound

A procedure in which high-energy sound waves are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echo patterns are shown on the screen of an ultrasound machine, forming a picture of body tissues called a sonogram. Also called ultrasonography.

Uterine curettage

Removal of tissue from the internal lining of the uterus (womb) with a curette (a spoon-shaped instrument with a sharp edge) to be seen under the microscope (histopathological examination) by a specialist pathologist.

Uterus

The small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman’s pelvis. This is the organ in which a fetus develops. Also called womb.

Vagina

The muscular canal that goes from the uterus to the outside of the body. During birth, the baby passes through the vagina. Also called birth canal.

Vulva

The external female genital organs, including the clitoris, vaginal lips, and the opening to the vagina.

Counselling

The process by which a professional counselor helps a person cope with mental or emotional distress, and understand and solve personal problems.