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Sex Glossary


Simple vulvectomy: A procedure that removes the entire vulva but no lymph nodes.

Skinning vulvectomy: A procedure to remove only the skin of the vulva that contains cancer.

Smegma: A thick, bad-smelling substance that results when oily secretions from the skin accumulate under the foreskin of the penis.

Sonogram (ultrasound): The use of sound waves to form an image of internal organs.

Speculum: An instrument inserted into the vagina to allow the doctor to view the inside of the vagina.

Sperm: The male reproductive cells.

Spermicide: Foams, jellies, tablets, or suppositories that a woman places in her vagina and up next to the cervix (the opening leading from the vagina to the womb) before sex to prevent pregnancy. Spermicides block the cervix and paralyze the sperm, making them unable to travel into the womb.

Spermatic cord: The structure that secures the testicles within the scrotum.

Spermatogenesis: The process of producing sperm, the male reproductive cells.

Squamous cells: The thin, flat cells that line the surface of many organs of the body.

Squamous cell carcinomas: Cancer that begins in the squamous cells.

Squamous cell carcinoma of the vagina: The most common type of vaginal cancer in which cancer cells grow from the surface of the vaginal lining.

Stages: The course of disease progression defined by levels or periods of severity: early, mild, moderate, moderately severe, and severe. Stages of cancer usually indicate the extent of the disease and how far the disease has spread to other areas of the body.

Sterilization: A form of contraception that involves surgically blocking the release of reproductive cells. In women, the fallopian tubes are blocked so that oocytes (eggs) cannot reach the uterus. In men, the tube that carries sperm from the testicle to the penis (vas deferens) is sealed, tied, or cut (vasectomy).

Stoma: An artificial opening of the intestine made in the abdomen to allow wastes to be released.

Surgery (cancer): A procedure to remove a tumor or other abnormal tissue associated with cancer.

Syphilis: A serious sexually transmitted disease (STD) that, without treatment, can lead to heart disease, nerve disorders, brain damage, mental disorders, blindness, and death.

Sunna circumcision: The removal of the tip of the clitoris and/or its hood or covering (prepuce) as part of a religious ritual. See also Female circumcision.

Testicles (testes; singular testis): Part of the male reproductive system, the testicles manufacture the male hormones, including testosterone, and produce sperm, the male reproductive cells. The testicles are located inside the scrotum, the loose sac of skin that hangs below the penis.

Testicular self-exam (TSE): A procedure to detect changes in the testicles by rolling them between the fingers and thumbs of both hands to check for any lumps.

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