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Chemotherapy Glossary: What Is My Cancer Doctor Talking About?


Cytotoxic: Substances, such as chemotherapy drugs, that damage or kill cells.

Delayed nausea: Feeling nauseated one to five days after chemotherapy treatment.

Extravasation: The leakage of chemotherapy drugs from the veins into the surrounding tissues, which can damage the affected tissues.

First-line chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs that are given first, because research has shown them to be most effective for treating a particular type of cancer, such as ovarian cancer.

Fractionated-dose chemotherapy: A form of chemotherapy in which the dose is broken up into smaller amounts and given over three to five days, rather than being given as one large dose.

Growth factors (also called colony stimulating factors): Substances that stimulate bone marrow to produce white blood cells, the immune system cells that protect the body from infection. Chemotherapy can damage bone marrow, reducing the number of white blood cells available to fight infection. Taking growth factor can help people who are receiving chemotherapy better tolerate their treatment.

Gynecologic oncologist: A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancers of the female reproductive system, including ovarian, cervical, and uterine cancers.

Infusion: The slow delivery of fluid (such as chemotherapy drugs) into a vein.

Intralesional chemotherapy: A treatment in which the chemotherapy medications are delivered directly into the tumor (cancerous growth).

Intramuscular chemotherapy: A treatment in which chemotherapy is delivered directly into a muscle.

Intraperitoneal chemotherapy: A treatment in which chemotherapy is delivered directly into the abdomen.

Intravenous: Medication or liquid that is given through a needle into a vein. Chemotherapy is often delivered intravenously (through an IV).

Leukopenia: An abnormally low white blood cell count. Chemotherapy can reduce the white blood cell count by damaging the bone marrow where these cells are produced. White blood cells are a necessary part of the immune system because they help fight infection.

Metastasis: The spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.

Mucositis: Sores that form on the linings (mucous membranes) of the mouth, throat, and other parts of the digestive tract. Mucositis can occur from chemotherapy treatment, when the chemotherapy drugs attack cells lining the gastrointestinal tract.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy: Chemotherapy that is given before surgery, radiation, or another treatment to shrink the cancerous tumor.

Neutropenia: A decrease in infection-fighting white blood cells called neutrophils that can occur from chemotherapy treatment. Neutropenia can lead to an increased risk for infection.

Neutrophil: A type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection.

Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer.

Oncology nurse: A nurse who cares for cancer patients.

Oral chemotherapy: Chemotherapy that is taken by mouth.

Palliative chemotherapy: Chemotherapy that relieves the pain and other symptoms of cancer but does not cure the disease.

WebMD Medical Reference

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