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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

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Colorectal Cancer Glossary of Terms


Malignant: cancerous; can spread to other parts of the body.

Mesentery: membranous tissue that carries blood vessels and lymph glands, and attaches various organs to the inner wall of the abdomen.

Metastasize: to spread from one part of the body to another. When cancer cells metastasize and cause secondary tumors, the cells in the secondary tumor are like those in the original cancer.

Microsatellite instability: mistakes in DNA. Microsatellite instability is where the length of small sequences of DNA differs between tumor cells and normal cells; their appearance is a clue to the presence of abnormal DNA repair. The presence of microsatellite instability conveys resistance to fluoropyrimidine chemotherapy (5-FU or capecitabine).

Mismatch repair genes: genes responsible for correcting errors in DNA when cells divide. In hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), recent research has discovered mutations in a variety of genes that are thought to be a part of the DNA mismatch repair system, therefore predisposing families with HNPCC to the development of cancer.

Mismatch repair: DNA constantly has to produce new strands of itself. When this is done incorrectly, there are special genes involved in correcting the mistake. If this is not done, or not done properly, a tumor can grow in the place of normal cells.

Muscle transposition: a procedure that borrows a working muscle to replace one that isn't working.

Mutation: a change in a gene with the potential of being transmitted to children.

Nausea: a queasy feeling that leads to stomach distress, a distaste for food, and an urge to vomit. Nausea is not a disease, but a symptom of many diseases. It can be brought on by illnesses such as influenza, medications, pain, and inner ear disease.

Nitrates: substances found in some foods, especially meats, prepared by drying, smoking, salting or pickling. Nitrates are thought to cause cancer.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): drugs that reduce inflammation and pain that do not contain steroids. Examples of these drugs include aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen.

Occult blood: blood in the stool that is not visible to the naked eye. This type of bleeding is detected by performing a laboratory test on a stool sample.

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