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Glossary of Cancer Terms

Alternative Medicine or Therapy: A non-mainstream approach of care that is used in place of conventional medicine.

Ayurvedic Medicine: A healing system from India that cleanses the body and restores balance to the body, mind, and spirit. It uses diet, herbal medicines, exercise, meditation, breathing, physical therapy, and other methods.

Benign: A tumor or cells that are not cancerous.

Biopsy: A biopsy is a minor surgery to get body fluid or small pieces of body tissue to look at under a microscope to see if there are cancer cells. The removed cells or tissues are usually examined by a pathologist. Biopsies can include 1) incisional biopsies, in which only a sample of tissue is removed; 2) an excisional biopsy, in which an entire lump or suspicious area is removed; and 3) needle biopsies, in which a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle.

Bone marrow: The soft, sponge-like tissue in the center of most bones. Bone marrow makes all kinds of blood cells: white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets (clotting cells).

Bone marrow transplant: Bone marrow transplants are often used to treat blood cancers. Bone marrow is a spongy tissue found inside bones. For a bone marrow transplant, cells are taken from the bone marrow of a donor and put inside a patient to make new blood cells.

Cancer: A disease in which cells grow out of control. Cancer cells can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

Cancer doula: A companion and navigator who is not a healthcare professional and who supports another individual through a major life change and significant health-related experience, such as cancer. The cancer doula's goal, and role, is to help the client feel safe, supported, comfortable, and heard, complementing the role of the healthcare professionals who provide the client's medical care. A doula may also provide support to the client's partner, family, and friends.

As a 13-year cancer thriver, I use my experience to serve as a partner and expert navigator by helping my clients navigate their cancer journey and ensure they are not overwhelmed, crippled by fear, discouraged, and alone. My support and guidance allow my clients to focus on healing physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Therefore, creating a better outcome and quality of life that they desire.

Cancer survivor: A person who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis until the end of life.

Carcinogen: A substance or agent that causes cancer.

Carcinoma: Cancer that starts in the skin or the tissues that line internal organs.

Caregiver: A person who provides support and help to a cancer survivor.

Chemotherapy: Special medicines used to shrink or kill cancer cells. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given in your veins, or sometimes both.

Chronic disease: A disease that a person has for a long period of time. Cancer can be a chronic disease.

Complementary Medicine or Therapy: A non-mainstream approach that is used together with conventional medicine. It is not considered by itself to be standard treatment. An example is using acupuncture to help lessen some side effects of cancer treatment.

Doula: A companion who is not a healthcare professional and who supports another individual (the doula's client) through a significant health-related experience. The doula's goal, and role, is to help the client feel safe, supported, and comfortable, complementing the role of the healthcare professionals who provide the client's medical care. A doula may also provide support to the client's partner, family, and friends. 

Integrative Medicine or Therapy: Brings conventional, complementary, and sometimes alternative approaches together in a coordinated way. This approach often focuses on the patient's preferences, and it attempts to address the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of health.

Late effect: A health problem that occurs months or years after a disease is diagnosed or after treatment has ended. Late effects may be caused by cancer or cancer treatment. They may include physical, mental, and psychosocial problems, and second cancers.

Long-term side effect: A problem that is caused by a disease or treatment of a disease and may continue for months or years after treatment. Some long-term side effects of cancer treatment vary for patients and can include heart, lung, kidney, or gastrointestinal tract problems; pain, numbness, tingling, loss of feeling, or heat or cold sensitivity in the hands or feet; fatigue; hearing loss; cataracts; and dry eyes or dry mouth.

Metastasis: The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another, through the lymph system or bloodstream. A tumor formed by cells that have spread is called a “metastatic tumor” or a “metastasis.” The metastatic tumor contains cells that are like those in the original (primary) tumor.

Mind-Body Therapy: Combines mental focus, breathing, and body movements to help relax the body and mind. Some examples are meditation, yoga, imagery, and creative outlets. 

Naturopathic Medicine: A medical system based on current best-evidenced practices combined with six core principles (1. do no harm, 2. facilitate the healing power of nature, 3. identify and treat the cause, 4. doctor as teacher, 5. treat the whole person, 6. prevention) that work together to guide treatment decision-making. 

Naturopathic Oncology: The application of the art and science of naturopathic medicine to the field of cancer care and treatment. Naturopathic doctors and physicians are trained in accredited naturopathic medical schools and they are trained in both modern science and natural medicine.

Oncology: The branch of medicine that focuses on the development, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. A medical doctor who manages a person’s care and treatment after a cancer diagnosis is called an oncologist.

Quality of life: A cancer survivor’s overall enjoyment of life, including his or her sense of well-being and the physical, mental, emotional, and social ability to do the things he or she wants to do.

Radiation therapy: Using high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill cancer cells.

Radiologist: Doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases and injuries using medical imaging techniques, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography (PET), and ultrasound.

Recurrence: When cancer comes back in the same place after treatment or after remission.

Remission: When cancer has gotten smaller, is gone, or is under control. Partial remission means that the cancer is still there, but the tumor is smaller or there is less cancer throughout the body. Complete remission means doctors cannot find any signs of cancer in the body.

Survivorship care plan: A complete record of a cancer patient’s cancer history, treatments given, the need for future checkups and cancer tests, possible long-term effects of the treatment, and ideas for staying healthy. The plan needs to identify the health care providers that were responsible for care.

Traditional Chinese Medicine: It is based on the belief that qi (the body’s vital energy) flows along meridians (channels) in the body and keeps a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health in balance. It restores the body’s balance between two forces called yin and yang.

Tumor: A tumor is an abnormal growth of body tissue. Tumors can be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign). Cancerous tumors can have uncontrolled growth and may spread to other parts of the body. Noncancerous tumors do not grow or spread.

If you want a partner to help you navigate your cancer journey, including health, emotional, and support, click here to learn more about how I can support you.

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