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Ovarian Cancer Health Center

Chemotherapy Glossary: What Is My Cancer Doctor Talking About?

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An estimated 21,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. If you're one of them, you might be confused by the many different medical terms your doctor uses to describe your disease and treatments.

This glossary is an alphabetical guide to help you through the process of chemotherapy. It covers many of the terms you'll need to know as you complete your cancer treatment.

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Understanding Ovarian Cancer -- the Basics

Flanking the uterus are the two ovaries, each about the size of an almond, which produce eggs and female hormones. Ovarian cancer can occur at any age, even in childhood, but is most common after menopause. The disease accounts for about 22,000 new cases and almost 15,000 deaths annually in the U.S.  During her childbearing years, a woman's ovaries deliver eggs to the uterus through the fallopian tubes. The ovaries are susceptible to several types of growths, which are often benign cysts,...

Read the Understanding Ovarian Cancer -- the Basics article > >

Adjuvant chemotherapy: Chemotherapy that is given after surgery to kill off remaining cancer cells and to try and improve your overall survival from the cancer.

Alopecia: Hair loss (from the head and/or other parts of the body), which can occur as a result of chemotherapy. This type of hair loss is usually temporary.

Anemia: A condition caused by a lack of red blood cells, which transport oxygen to the body's tissues. Chemotherapy can damage red blood cells, depriving the body of oxygen and leading to symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

Anorexia: Loss of appetite, which can occur as a result of chemotherapy treatment. Anorexia often leads to weight loss.

Anticipatory nausea: Nausea that occurs before chemotherapy treatment. People who have received chemotherapy in the past may experience nausea and vomiting before their treatment begins because they expect these symptoms to occur.

Anti-emetics: Drugs used to prevent the nausea and vomiting chemotherapy can trigger.

Biomarker: A protein or other substance that can be measured in the blood to determine whether a disease such as ovarian cancer is present. Tracking biomarkers can determine how well a person is responding to chemotherapy. This is also known as a tumor marker.

Blood cell count: A test (also called a complete blood count, or CBC) that is used to determine the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets in a blood sample. Chemotherapy can damage the bone marrow where these blood cells are produced, resulting in lower-than-normal blood counts.

CA125: A protein made by cells in the body that is found in higher-than-normal amounts in the blood of women with ovarian cancer. A test that detects the level of this protein in a blood sample helps doctors determine whether chemotherapy is effectively killing cancer cells. This tumor marker can  also be elevated in other cancers and other non-cancer related conditions.

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