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Cancer Terminology

Dealing with cancer diagnosis and treatment can be overwhelming. Here are some frequently used words and definitions to help you understand some of the common terms associated with cancer.

Benign: Any tumor that is not cancerous.

Biopsy: Removal of a small portion of tissue to see if it is cancerous.

Chemotherapy: Medicine used to damage cancer cells and make it difficult for them to grow, often administered orally or through an IV.

Clinical Trials: Research studies that involve patients to find better ways to manage cancer and other conditions. Learn more about clinical trials.

Family History and Genetic Risk Factor: Increased risk of cancer because a close relative (such as a mother or a sister) had or has the disease. Learn more about genetics.

Malignant: Indicates that cancer cells are present in the body.

Metastasis: The spread of cancer from one area of the body to another.

Multidisciplinary Team: A team that includes various medical specialties including medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, nurses, and others who work together to determine and implement the best course of treatment for a patient. Learn more about the multidisciplinary team.

Oncologist: A physician who specializes in cancer and its treatment. Learn more about cancer doctors.

Pathologist: A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells under a microscope.

Prognosis: The expected outcome of a disease and chances for recovery.

Radiation Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer patients using radiation.

Radiation Therapy: Therapy that uses high-energy rays or radioactive materials to damage cancer cells, making it more difficult for them to grow.

Recurrence: The development of cancerous cells in the same area or another area of the body after cancer treatment.

Risk Factors: Behaviors (such as smoking) or other circumstances (family/genetic history) that may increase your risk of cancer.

Side Effects: Problems caused by the damage of healthy cells along with cancerous cells during treatment. Some common side effects of cancer therapy are feeling tired, nausea, hair loss, and mouth sores.

Stage of Cancer: A description of how much the cancer has spread. Also can be referred to as the TNM classification. It includes the size of the tumor (T), how many (if any) lymph nodes are involved (N) and whether or not the cancer has metastasized (M). A number (usually 0 – 4) is assigned to each of the three categories to indicate its severity, with a higher number indicating greater severity.

Surgical Oncologist: A physician who uses surgery to manage or treat cancer.

Tumor: An abnormal mass of tissue that can be benign or malignant.

Cancer Toolkit

Use the tools below to prevent, treat and get support for cancer.

Friends for Life Newsletter

Becoming a Friends for Life member is quick and easy. Just fill out the form below with a few details about yourself. Look for your newsletter around the 11th of each month.

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Connect with Us on Facebook

If you would like to connect to other people – just like you – undergoing treatment for cancer, connect with us on Facebook. Here, we hope that you will share your story and find other patients to connect with.

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Cancer Events

View a list below of cancer events, including survivor celebrations and screenings, which are offered at locations throughout ProMedica.

View cancer events