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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

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Colorectal Cancer Glossary of Terms


Cancer: a general term for more than 100 diseases in which there is an uncontrolled, abnormal growth of cells. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body.

Cannulas: tubes that hold the laparoscope and instruments, and allow access to the abdominal cavity for performance of laparoscopic surgery.

Carcinoma: a malignant (cancerous) growth that begins in the lining or covering of an organ and tends to invade surrounding tissue and travel to and grow in other regions of the body.

Carcinoma in situ: cancer that involves only the tissue in which it began; it has not spread to other tissues.

Catheter: a thin, flexible, plastic tube. A urinary catheter is a tube that is inserted into the bladder to drain urine.

CAT scan: a technique in which multiple X-rays of the body are taken from different angles in a very short period of time. A computer that displays a series of "slice" images of the body collects these images.

Chemotherapy: in cancer treatment, chemotherapy refers to the use of drugs whose main effect is either to kill or slow the growth of rapidly multiplying cells. Chemotherapy usually includes a combination of drugs, since this is more effective than a single drug.

Chronic: persisting over a long period of time.

Clear margins: an area of normal tissue that surrounds cancerous tissue, as seen during a microscopic examination. If margins are clear, the surgeon can be virtually sure that he or she has removed all the cancer in that area.

Clinical trial: a research program conducted with patients to evaluate a new medical treatment, drug, or device.

Colectomy, partial: a surgical procedure that involves removing part of the colon and joining the ends that remain. This is used to treat colon cancer or severe, chronic ulcerative colitis.

Colectomy, segmental: a surgical procedure that involves removing segments of the colon.

Colectomy, total: a surgical procedure that involves removing the entire colon, with the small intestine being attached to the rectum.

Colitis: inflammation of the colon.

Colon: the last six feet of the intestine (except for the last eight inches, which is called the rectum); also called the "large intestine" or "large bowel."

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