Cancer Glossary: Words You Need to Know

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“Glossary” refers to all the specific terms of a science, a technique or an art. For medicine, we are talking about medical terminology.

Each cancer has a very specific name, often quite obscure for patients. This complexity does not respond to a deliberate will on the part of the medical profession; it is necessary for the greatest possible precision.

Here is a brief explanation of specialized terms commonly used when talking about cancer.

Angiogenesis

A physiological process by which new blood vessels develop around a tumor, allowing it to supply itself and grow.

Antioxidant

Antioxidants are substances that can neutralize or reduce the damage caused by free radicals in the body. The body produces antioxidants, and they are also found in many foods. The main antioxidants are vitamins C and E, carotenoids and selenium.

Apoptosis

The phenomenon of natural cell death at the end of their normal cycle, cells die without leaving cellular debris.

Benign

Qualitative to say that a physiological phenomenon (of a cancerous nature in this case) does not present – at the time of observation – any danger. However, a benign tumor can develop into a malignant stage.

Biopsy

The removal of a small portion of human tissue (skin, mucous membrane, gland, etc.) for laboratory analysis.

Cachexia

A serious clinical form of protein-caloric malnutrition, occurring in some people with cancer, especially cancers of the digestive system. Cachexia is characterized by a loss of muscle tissue and subcutaneous fat, and by a much lower than normal body weight. Between 4% and 23% of cancer deaths are due to cachexia.

Cancer

A general term for all phenomena characterized by abnormal cell growth leading to a malignant tumor.

Carcinogen

Able to cause or promote the development of cancer. (The use of carcinogens is now recommended in preference to carcinogenic.)

Carcinogenesis

Carcinogenesis (also called oncogenesis or tumorigenesis)
All the mechanisms that cause the formation and development of cancers. The essential mechanism of carcinogenesis is the activation of certain oncogenes. Several types of activation can occur, which may correspond to several stages of carcinogenesis.

Carcinoma

One of the three main types of cancer. Carcinomas develop from the epithelium is a non-vascularized tissue that covers the skin, the inner wall of the respiratory, digestive, urinary and genital systems, and which constitutes the bulk of the glands. The most common cancers (lung, breast, stomach, skin, and cervix) are carcinomas.

Chemotherapy

A type of treatment that uses chemicals that have a direct effect on diseased cells, either by destroying them or by preventing their proliferation. Unfortunately, chemotherapy products used in chemotherapy (by injection or tablets) are likely to have a serious negative effect on some healthy tissues. Also, since some of these drugs are targeted to affect rapidly developing cells – such as cancer cells – they necessarily affect other rapidly developing cells, such as bone marrow, hair follicles, intestinal mucosa, and mouth, resulting in phenomena such as hair loss.

Cytotoxic

A chemical that has a poisonous effect on living cells. Cytotoxic drugs used to treat cancer are designed to affect only certain types of cells.

Estrogen-receptor positive ( ERpositive )

Hormone-Dependent cancer in which “receptors” are detected to which estrogens bind to activate the tumor.