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Ovarian Cancer Health Center

Chemotherapy Glossary: What Is My Cancer Doctor Talking About?

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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 and may also prolong life (but does not cure the disease).

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.

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