Glossary of Cancer Terms



Procedure to remove as much of the cancer as possible, reducing the "bulk" of the cancer.


A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin problems.


The lower or inner layer of the two main layers of tissues that make up the skin.


A disease in which the body does not use sugar properly. (Many foods are converted into sugar, a source of energy for cells.) As a result, the level of sugar in the blood is too high. This disease occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or does not use it properly.

Diagnostic mammogram

The use of a breast x-ray to evaluate the breasts of a woman who has symptoms of disease such as a lump, or whose screening mammogram shows an abnormality.


The process of cleansing the blood by passing it through a special machine. Dialysis is necessary when the kidneys are not able to filter the blood, and rid the body of waste products.


The thin muscle below the lungs and heart that separates the chest from the abdomen.

(Cauterization or electrodiathermy)

The use of high frequency current to generate heat within some part of the body in order to destroy tissue.


A professional who plans diet programs for proper nutrition.

Digestive tract

The organs through which food passes when we eat. These are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, and the rectum.

Digital mammography

A technique for recording x-ray images in computer code, which allows the information to enhance subtle, but potentially significant changes in the breast. Used in the diagnosis of cancer.

Digital rectal examination

An examination in which a doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for abnormalities.

Dilatation and curettage (D and C)

A minor operation in which the cervix is dilated (expanded) so that the cervical canal and tissue from the uterine lining can be scraped with a spoon-shaped instrument called a curette.


A device used to stretch or enlarge an opening.


A pain relief method that takes the attention away from the pain.


Medication that helps the body get rid of excess water and salt.


The amount of medicine taken.


A person who plans and calculates the proper radiation dose for treatment.


Characteristic of a controlled experiment in which neither the patient or the attending physician knows whether the patient is getting one or another drug or dose. In single-blind studies, patients do not know which of several treatments they are receiving, thus preventing personal bias from influencing their reactions and study results. In either case, the treatment can be quickly identified, if necessary, by a special code.

Dry orgasm

Sexual climax without the release of semen.


A tube through which body fluids pass.

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS)

Abnormal cells that involve only the lining of a duct in the breast. The cells have not spread outside the duct to other tissues in the breast. Also called intraductal carcinoma.

Dumping Syndrome

A group of symptoms that occur when food or liquid enters the small intestine too rapidly. These symptoms include cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and dizziness.

Duodenum The first part of the small intestine connecting the stomach and extending into the jejunum.


Difficulty or pain in swallowing.


Abnormal development of tissue.

Dysplastic Nevi

Atypical moles; moles whose appearance is different from that of common moles. Dysplastic nevi are generally larger that ordinary moles and have irregular and indistinct borders. Often their color is not uniform, and ranges from pink to dark brown; they are usually flat, but parts may be raised above the skin surface.


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