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Chemotherapy Glossary: What Is My Cancer Doctor Talking About?


Pathologist: A doctor who studies cells and tissues under a microscope to determine whether cancer is present.

Peripheral neuropathy: Damage to nerves that results in numbness, tingling, or pain in the hands or feet. This can be caused by some chemotherapy drugs.

Platelets: Cell fragments in the blood that help the blood to clot.

Port: A small IV that is surgically implanted under the skin and used for long-term chemotherapy. Once a port is in place, an IV can be connected to it easily without having to start a new IV for each chemotherapy session.

Prognosis: The possible outcome of a person's disease.

Red blood cell: A type of blood cell that carries oxygen to the body’s tissues. Chemotherapy can damage bone marrow, where red blood cells are produced (see anemia).

Remission: A state in which the cancer has partially or completely disappeared.

Salvage chemotherapy: Chemotherapy treatment that is given to someone who is not responding to other treatments for cancer (see second-line chemotherapy).

Second-line chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs that are given if cancer has not responded or has returned after the first round of chemotherapy drugs. Second-line chemotherapy may also be called salvage chemotherapy.

Staging: A system used to determine the extent of cancer spread. The stages for ovarian cancer range from stage I (the cancer is only in the ovaries) to stage IV (the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body).

Stomatitis: Sores and inflammation in the lining of the mouth that can occur as a side effect of chemotherapy.

Systemic chemotherapy: Chemotherapy given by mouth or through a vein that travels through the bloodstream and kills cancer cells throughout the body.

Thrombocytopenia: A condition in which there is a lower-than-normal amount of platelets in the blood. Chemotherapy can lead to thrombocytopenia because it damages the bone marrow where platelets are produced. Platelets are needed to help the blood clot. A lack of platelets can lead to abnormal bleeding.

Tumor: An abnormal growth of tissue, which can be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant).

White blood cells: Cells of the immune system that fight infection. Chemotherapy can damage bone marrow, where white blood cells are produced. A lack of white blood cells can make it more difficult for the body to fight off infection.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on October 29, 2012

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