Glossary of Cancer Terms



Swelling; an abnormal buildup of fluid.


The sudden, forceful discharge of semen.


A battery-operated instrument that makes a humming sound to help persons who have had their larynx removed talk.

Electron beam

A stream of electrons (small negatively charged particles found in atoms) that can be used for radiation therapy.


Confined to a specific area; the tumor remains in a compact form.

Endocervical curettage

The removal of tissue from the inside of the cervix using a spoon-shaped instrument called a curette.

Endocrine Cancer Cancer that occurs in endocrine tissue, the tissue in the body that secretes hormones.

Endocrine gland

A gland that releases hormones that enter the blood or lymph system and travel throughout the body. Hormones, the active substance of the glands, produce effects on tissues which are remote from their place of origin.


A doctor that specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the endocrine system.

Endometrial Cancer Cancer that develops in the endometrium (the layer of tissue that lines the uterus).


A benign condition in which endometrial tissue grows on the outer surface of the uterus and other nearby organs.


The layer of tissue that lines the inner surface of the uterus.

Endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography (ERCP)

A procedure in which a flexible fiber-optic telescope is passed into the stomach to visualize the opening of the ducts releasing bile from the liver, and insert a tube (stent) into these ducts from inside the stomach either to provide drainage or to take pictures showing the exact location of tumors in the bile ducts, or to do a biopsy for diagnosis.


An examination in which the doctor looks at a hollow organ such as the esophagus or stomach through a long, flexible, lighted tube.

Enterostomal therapist

A health professional trained to assist patients who have had an ostomy, in learning the proper methods of caring for their ostomy sites.

Environmental risk factor

A hazardous agent found in the environment that is known to increase the risk of cancer when people are exposed to it, for example asbestos, radon, and second-hand smoke.


Complex proteins that make certain chemical changes in other substances without changing themselves. For example, digestive enzymes, including those produced by the pancreas, help the body break down food into simpler compounds.


A type of brain tumor, which arises from the ependymal cells that line the ventricles and central canal of the spinal cord. Ependymomas represent about 6% of all gliomas, and 10% of all childhood brain tumors.


The upper or outer layer of the two main layers of tissue that make up the skin.


Located over or upon the dura (the outer membrane covering the spinal cord and brain).


The flap that covers the entrance of the larynx during swallowing so that food does not enter the lungs.



A mature red blood cell. The primary function of red blood cell's is to carry oxygen from the lungs to cells in all parts of the body, and carry carbon dioxide from the cells back to the lungs.


Malignant growth of both the red and white blood cells. A rapid and progressive rare disorder accompanied by severe anemia and many abnormal white and red cells in the blood.


A reddened patch with a velvety surface found in the mouth.

Esophageal Cancer Cancer that develops in the muscular tube through which food passes from the throat to the stomach. It is a treatable and sometimes curable cancer, although most patients have a poor prognosis because the cancer is usually advanced by the time symptoms appear. It is a relatively uncommon cancer in the United States and is responsible for less than 1% of all cancers and 10% of all gastrointestinal cancers.

Esophageal speech

Speech produced with air trapped in the esophagus and forced out again.


A hollow tube that carries food and liquids from the throat to the stomach.


A female sex hormone produced by the ovaries. Estrogen controls the development of physical sexual characteristics, menstruation and pregnancy. Synthetic forms are used in oral contraceptives and in various therapies.

Estrogen receptor test

A test that determines whether the breast cancer in a particular patient is stimulated by estrogen to grow.

Estrogen replacement therapy

Hormone treatment used to control changes associated with menopause, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and osteoporosis.

Ewings Sarcoma The Ewing's family of tumors include Ewing's tumor of bone; extraosseus Ewing's (tumor growing outside of the bone); primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET), also know as peripheral neuroepithelioma; and Askin's tumor (PNET of the chest wall). These tumors are rare diseases in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the bone and soft tissues. Ewing's family of tumors most frequently occurs in teenagers.

Excisional biopsy

The surgical removal (excision) of an abnormal area of tissue, usually along with a margin of healthy tissue, for microscopic examination. For example, excisional biopsies remove the entire lump from the breast.

External radiation (External beam radiation)

Radiation therapy that uses a machine to aim high-energy rays at the cancer.


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