Words to Know

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3-D conformal radiation therapy
Uses a computer to create a 3-D picture of a cancer tumor. This allows doctors to give the highest possible dose of radiation to the tumor, while sparing the normal tissue as much as possible.
Acupuncture
The technique of inserting thin needles through the skin at specific points on the body to control nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms.
Adjuvant chemotherapy
Chemotherapy used to kill cancer cells after surgery or radiation therapy.
Alopecia
The lack or loss of hair from areas of the body where hair is usually found. Alopecia can be a side effect of chemotherapy.
Anemia
A problem in which the number of red blood cells is below normal.
Antiemetic
A drug that prevents or controls nausea and vomiting. Also called antinausea.
Antinausea
A drug that prevents or controls nausea and vomiting. Also called antiemetic.
Applicator
A large device used to place brachytherapy in the body.
Biological therapy
Treatment to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune system to fight cancer, infections, and other diseases. Also used to lessen certain side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments.
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
Treatment in which a solid radioactive substance is implanted inside your body, near or next to the cancer cells.
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.
Cancer clinical trials
Type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of a disease. Also called a clinical study or research study.
Catheter
A flexible tube through which fluids enter or leave the body.
Chemotherapy
Treatment with drugs that kill cancer cells.
Constipation
When bowel movements become less frequent, and stools are hard, dry, and difficult to pass.
Cystitis
Inflammation in your urinary tract.
Diarrhea
Frequent bowel movements that may be soft, loose, or watery.
Diet
Foods you eat (does not always refer to a way to lose weight).
Dilator
A device that gently stretches the tissues of the vagina.
Dry heaves
When your body tries to vomit even though your stomach is empty.
Erectile dysfunction
Not able to have an erection of the penis adequate for sexual intercourse. Also called impotence.
Esophagitis
Inflammation of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach).
External beam radiation therapy
Treatment in which a radiation source from outside your body aims radiation at your cancer cells.
Fatigue
A problem of extreme tiredness and inability to function due lack of energy.
Follow-up care
Check-up appointments that you have after your course of radiation therapy is over.
Healthy cells
Noncancerous cells that function the way they should.
Hyperfractionated radiation therapy
Treatment in which radiation is given in smaller doses twice a day. Imaging tests: Tests that produce pictures of areas inside the body.
Hormone
A chemical made by glands in the body. Hormones circulate in the bloodstream and control the actions of certain cells or organs.
Implant
Radioactive material put in your body through a sealed thin wire, catheter, or tube.
Impotence
Not being able to get or keep an erection.
IMRT
A technique that uses a computer to deliver precise radiation doses to a cancer tumor or specific areas within the tumor.
Incontinence
able to control the flow of urine from the bladder.
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.
Inflammation
Redness, swelling, pain, and/or a feeling of heat in an area of the body.
Injection
Using a syringe and needle to push fluids or drugs into the body; often called a "shot."
Internal radiation therapy
Treatment in which a radioactive substance is put inside your body.
Intra-arterial
Within an artery. Also called IA.
Intraoperative radiation
Radiation treatment aimed directly at cancer during surgery.
Intraperitoneal
the peritoneal cavity. Also called IP.
Intravenous
Within a blood vessel. Also called IV.
Late side effects
Side effects that first occur 6 or more months after radiation therapy is finished.
Local treatment
Radiation is aimed at only the part of your body with cancer.
Long-term side effects
Problems from chemotherapy that do not go away.
Lymphedema
A problem in which excess fluid collects in tissue and causes swelling. It may occur in the arm or leg after lymph vessels or lymph nodes in the underarm or groin are removed by surgery or treated with radiation.
Medical leave
Taking time off work for a while due to a medical problem.
Metastatic
The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
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.
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.
Neutrophil
A type of white blood cell.
Outpatient
patient who visits a health care facility for diagnosis or treatment without spending the night.
Palliative care
Care given to improve the quality of life of patients with serious or life-threatening diseases.
Pelvis
The area between your legs. Also called the groin.
Peritoneal cavity
The space within the abdomen that contains the intestines, stomach, liver, ovaries, and other organs.
Permanent implants
Radioactive pellets or seeds that always stay in your body.
PET (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.
Platelet
A type of blood cell that helps prevent bleeding by causing blood clots to form.
Port
An implanted device through which blood may be drawn and drugs may be given without repeated needle sticks.
Pruritus
Severe itching.
Psychostimulants
Medicines that can help decrease fatigue, give a sense of well-being, and increase appetite.
Pump
A device that is used to deliver a precise amount of a drug at a specific rate.
Radiation necrosis
A problem in which dead tumor cells form a mass in the brain.
Radiation oncologist
A doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.
Radiation therapy
The use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
Radiotherapy
Another word for radiation therapy.
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 used to plan radiation therapy so that the target area is precisely located and marked.
Sitz bath
A warm-water bath taken in a sitting position that covers only the hips and buttocks.
Skin breakdown
A side effect from radiation therapy in which the skin in the treatment area peels off faster than it can grow back.
Support groups
Meetings for people who share the same problems, such as cancer.
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.
Treatment port
One or more places on your body where the radiation will be aimed. Also called treatment field.
Urinate
Emptying your bladder of urine.
Vaginal stenosis
A problem in which the vagina narrows and gets smaller.
Vomiting
When you throw up.
White blood cells
Cells that help the body fight infection and other diseases. Also called WBC.
Xerostomia
Dry mouth.
Source: National Cancer Institute, U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Words to Know