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Chemotherapy Glossary: What Is My Cancer Doctor Talking About?

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 -- Diagnosis & Treatment

If an ovarian growth is suspected, an ultrasound of the ovaries is done. If any abnormality is detected, further testing will be done. Tests include blood studies, CT scans, barium enema X-rays, colonoscopy, MRI, and chest X-rays to help evaluate the extent of the cancer. Ultimately, the surgical opening of the abdomen (exploratory laparotomy) is necessary to confirm or rule out an ovarian cancer diagnosis. Genetic testing may be useful for women who have a family history of ovarian, uterine (endometrial),...

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Adjuvant chemotherapy: Chemotherapy that is given after surgery to kill off remaining cancer cells and improve the effectiveness of treatment.

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 is also elevated in other cancers.

Catheter: A long, thin, flexible tube that is sometimes used to deliver chemotherapy medicines into the body.

Chemotherapy: The use of medications to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs used for ovarian cancer include Taxol, Platinol, Paraplatin, and Cytoxan.

Colony stimulating factors: See growth factors.

Combination chemotherapy: The use of two or more drugs together to treat cancer.

CT scan: An imaging test that uses X-rays to take a series of cross-sectional pictures of the body.

Cycle: One interval of chemotherapy treatment. You may receive one cycle, or dose of chemotherapy, then wait for one or more weeks and have another cycle.

WebMD Medical Reference

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