Glossary of Cancer Terms



The lowest point to which white blood cells or platelet counts fall after chemotherapy.

Narcotic (Opioids)

Pain-relieving substances whose use is closely regulated by government thus a prescription is needed for these medicines. There are natural and synthetic types.


The area of the upper throat behind the nose.

Needle biopsy

Removing a tiny bit of tissue for diagnosis by placing a needle into a tumor. The procedure is usually done under local anesthesia.


A lab test that is normal; failing to show a positive result for the specific disease or condition for which the test was done.

Neoadjuvant therapy

Treatment given before the primary treatment. Neoadjuvant therapy can be chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy.


Abnormal new growth of cells.


Abnormal growth of tissue which may be benign or malignant.

Nerve block

Removing pain by numbing a nerve temporarily (with a local anesthetic) or permanently (with an alcohol injection).

Neurofibrosarcoma A type of soft tissue sarcoma which arises in the nerve structures. Soft tissue sarcomas are uncommon malignant tumors that begin in the soft tissues such as muscles, cartilage, fat, or connective tissue. Each year, in the United States, there are about 6,000 cases of soft tissue sarcomas, making up 1% of all cancers in adults and 15% of all cancers in children. There are at least 56 different types of soft tissue sarcomas named according to the normal tissues from which the tumor is derived. In most cases, surgery is considered first-line therapy.
Neuroblastoma A type of malignant tumor arising in the adrenal gland.
Neuroblastoma, cerebral A malignant, rapid growing brain tumor. It is common for them to spread throughout the central nervous system via the cerebrospinal fluid. 85% of cerebral neuroblastomas occur in children, 15% in adults.
Neuroendocrine Tumors Neuroendocrine tumor refers to the type of cell that a tumor grows from rather than where that tumor is located. Neuroendocrine cells produce hormones or regulatory proteins, and so tumors of these cells usually have symptoms that are related to the specific hormones that they produce. Neuroendocrine cells have roles both in the endocrine system and the nervous system. They produce and secrete a variety of regulatory hormones, or neuropeptides, which include neurotransmitters and growth factors. When these cells become cancerous , they grow and overproduce their specific neuropeptide. Neuroendocrine tumors are generally rare. One type of neuroendocrine tumor is a carcinoid tumor. This type of tumor can occur in the intestinal tract, appendix, rectum, bronchial tubes, or ovary. Most carcinoid tumors secrete serotonin. When the blood concentration of this hormone is high enough, it causes carcinoid syndrome. This syndrome refers to a variety of symptoms that are caused by the excessive amount of hormone secreted rather than by the tumor itself.


A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the nervous system.


A doctor who specializes in surgery on the brain and other parts of the nervous system.


A discoloration of a circumscribed area of the skin due to pigmentation. Also called a mole. Plural is Nevi.

Nipple discharge

Fluid coming from the nipple.

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Malignant tumors that arise in the lymphatic system. There are several subtypes of cancer classified as non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These range from slow growing chronic diseases to rapidly progressive, acute diseases. Cancer of the lymphatic system was first described by a British physician Thomas Hodgkin, in 1832. The form he described behaves in a very predictable way and has come to be called Hodgkin's disease. All other malignant lymphomas, despite their diversity, are referred to as non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHL).


Over the counter medications that can be purchased without a doctor’s order.


A classification of testicular cancers that arise in specialized sex cells called germ cells. Non-seminomas include embryonal carcinoma, teratoma, chorio-carcinoma, and yolk sac tumor. Average age of occurance is in the mid-thirties.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Lung cancers can be divided into two types small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. The cancer cells of each type grow and spread in different ways, and they are treated differently. Non-small cell lung cancer can be associated with prior smoking, passive smoking, or radon exposure, but it can also occur in non-smokers.

(Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs )

Medicines that are used to control mild to moderate pain and inflammation.

Nuclear scans

Scans of the body taken after a dye which has a tiny amount of radioactive material is swallowed or injected into the bloodstream.


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