Glossary of Cancer Terms


Absolute Risk – The term for the measurement of the chance or risk that a certain event will take place. When used in cancer research, it is the possibility of an individual, who is cancer-free at the moment, to develop a specific type of cancer at a particular age, over a specific period of time.

Action Study – A kind of study usually performed in cancer prevention clinical trials, which delves on figuring out whether the actions or decisions people make can prevent them from developing cancer.

Acupuncture – A technique that involves inserting needles through the skin at targeted points on the body in order to manage pain and other cancer symptoms. It is usually associated with complementary and alternative cancer treatment.

Acute Pain – Pain that most often experienced almost instantaneously and can be quite severe, but it only lasts for a relatively short time.

Adjuvant Therapy – A type of therapy that is used to kill the cancer cells that got left behind post surgery.

Advanced Cancer – Cancer that has already spread throughout other areas of the body. It is usually incurable, while some cases are controllable with treatment.

Adverse Effect – A medical problem that unexpectedly occurs while being treated with a drug or a therapy.

Alternative Medicine – These are cancer treatments that are used in lieu of conventional medicine. These are treatments that involves less research and are not as widely accepted as standard treatments. They may include specific diets, herbal preparations, beverages, and other types of unconventional therapies.

Anemia – A kind of blood condition where people have a significantly low red blood cell count, which makes it hard for their bodies to transport oxygen to the tissues.


Benign – The type of tumor that is not cancerous. They do not attack surrounding tissues or spread to various parts of the body and can usually be removed without posing a threat to the life of the individual.

Biopsy – A surgical procedure that is performed to remove a part of the mass in question, usually through an incision or by inserting a needle, to determine whether it is malignant or benign.

Blood Work – A kind of laboratory test used to observe and scrutinize the function of various organs and can also be used to analyze the status of particular tumors.

Blood Transfusion – The process of providing an individual with a blood or blood component that is originally from a compatible donor.

Bone marrow – A substance found inside bones that is responsible for blood cell production.


Cancer – The disease wherein abnormal cells divide and grow uncontrollably, invading surrounding tissues and sometimes in other parts of the body as well by travelling through the bloodstream and the lymph systems.

Carcinogen – A cancer-causing substance.

Chemotherapy – Drugs that fight cancer; treatment of illness by chemical means.

Chronic – A disease that develops over a long period of time.

Clinical Trial – A study to evaluate the effectiveness of newly designed treatments.

Complementary Medicine – These are kinds of treatments that are performed alongside conventional treatments. These are usually those that have less scientific research when compared to standard therapies. Acupuncture, meditation, hypnosis, and massage therapy are examples of complementary medicine.

Complication – A separate medical condition that may have been caused by the disease or could also be unrelated to it. It can develop while a patient is experiencing a sickness or after undergoing a procedure.


Definitive Treatment – The term for the best treatment plan for the patient, after considering all options.

Diagnosis – The process where a medical professional identifies an individual’s disease or illness by observing the signs and symptoms exhibited in the patient’s body.


Grade – The designation for the degree of the cancer’s aggressiveness, which could either be low, intermediate, or high.


Immune System – The specific system of the body that is responsible for fighting infections and cancerous cells.


Localized – A cancer is localized if it affects only a certain location of the body.

Lymphatic System – This is the system that makes the transfer of the lymph from the tissues and into the bloodstream.


Malignant – These are tumors that have cancerous cells, cancerous tumors or cells. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs.

Mammography – A procedure that takes a chest x-ray to see whether there are any abnormal growths in the breasts.

Metastasis – A medical phenomenon where the cancer cells travel in the bloodstream and lymphatics and reach other parts of the body, spreading cancer.


Narcotic – Name given to a type of drug that is used to relieve pain.

Neo-adjuvant therapy – The designation given to the chemotherapy that is received by the patient before undergoing surgery or radiotherapy.

Neutropenia – A type of blood condition wherein the number of white blood cells drastically drops and the body loses its ability to fight the infection effectively.

Neutrophils – These are “special” white blood cells that are naturally designed to fight bodily infection.

Nutritionist – A medical professional that specializes in nutrition, helping patients maintain a proper diet to improve their health condition. Nutritionists should be licensed to practice and is acknowledged by the State Board of Health.


Oncologist – The term used to call a physician that specializes in treating cancer.


Pain emergency – An event wherein a patient experiences severe incapacitating pain, specifically when it cannot be treated by regular doses of painkillers.

Phlebotomist – The medical personnel that is responsible for drawing blood used for laboratory tests.

Platelet – A blood cell that is essential in the clotting of the blood.

Primary tumor site – The area where the cancer first developed.

Prognosis – The term used to call the expected end-result of a specific disease, particularly a patient’s chance for recovery.


Radiation Therapy– A particular type of cancer treatment in conventional medicine that kills the cancer cells by using an energy beam and aiming it at the tumor, therefore destroying the cells.

Radiologist – A type of physician who specializes in performing x-ray tests and interpreting them.

Recurrence – An event where cancer cells redevelop in the same area or in another area after receiving treatment.

Red blood cell – The blood cell that is responsible for carrying oxygen and transporting it to various parts of the body.

Rescue dose – This is the term used to call the prescription medication that is taken by the patient in between fixed doses to alleviate pain.


Sarcoma – Cancer of the bone or connective tissue.

Stages of cancer – The progression of the disease, ranging from mild to terminal. It is defined by the rate at which the cancer has spread throughout the body. The most widely used method is the TNM classification system, where doctors determine the following:

  • the presence and size of the tumor (T)
  • if there are any lymph nodes (N) are involved and how many
  • and whether the cancer has already metastasized (M)
  • a number, which is typically zero to four, is assigned to per category to indicate the severity.

Stem cells – These are regarded as the “parent” cells responsible for the production of red and white blood cells, as well as the platelets. They are found inside bone marrows and in the blood.


Ultrasound – A medical procedure used to find specific abnormalities in the body tissues through the use of sound waves.


Vital signs – These are the essential signs of life in a person, specifically the heartbeat, breathing rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.


X-ray – A high-energy radiation used in low doses to be able to see detailed images of specific parts of the body for diagnosis and also to treat cancer.