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Home >About Cancer > Glossary of Medical Terms

The cancer terms and definitions on this page have been compiled by the Nursing Advisory Board of Pharmacia & Upjohn Company to provide you with a better understanding of words frequently used in cancer care. If you have any questions related to the definitions in this somewhat abbreviated dictionary/glossary of cancer terms, please consult your health care provider.



Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS):  AIDS is a viral disease that destroys the body's ability to fight infections, leaving the body susceptible to many other diseases. AIDS is also known as Autoimmune Immunodeficiency Syndrome

Acute:  A sudden onset of symptoms or disease.

Adenocarcinoma:  See Carcinoma.

Adenocarcinoma: A malignant tumor arising from glandular tissue.

Adenoma: A benign tumor made up of glandular tissue. For example, an adenoma of the pituitary gland may cause it to produce abnormal amounts of hormones. 

Adjuvant chemotherapy: Chemotherapy given to kill any remaining cancer cells, usually after all detectable tumor is removed by Surgery or Radiotherapy.

Adjuvant Therapy: Anticancer drugs or hormones given after surgery and/or radiation to help prevent the cancer from coming back.

Adrenal glands: Two small organs near the kidneys that release hormones.

AFP (Alpha fetoprotein): A tumor marker.

Aggressive: A fast-growing cancer.

Allogeneic: The infusion of bone marrow from one individual (donor) to another.
Alternative Therapy: Refers to treatments that are promoted as cancer cures often by nonmedical people. They are unproven because they have not been scientifically tested, or were tested and found to be ineffective. It can be harmful to the patient if used instead of standard treatment.

Analgesic: Any drug that relieves pain. Aspirin and acetaminophen are mild analgesics.

Anemia: Having too few red blood cells. Symptoms of anemia include feeling tired, weak, short of breath, or dizzy.

Angiogenesis: Blood vessel formation. Tumor angiogenesis is the growth of blood vessels from surrounding tissue to a solid tumor. This is caused by the release of chemicals by the tumor.

Anorexia: Poor appetite.

Antibody: A substance formed by the body to help defend it against infection.
Antibody therapy: Treatment with an antibody, a substance that can directly kill specific tumor cells or stimulate the immune system to kill tumor cells. (Read about "The Immune System")

Antifungal agent: A drug used to treat fungal infections.

Antiemetic: A medicine that prevents or controls nausea and vomiting.

Antigen: Any substance that causes the body to produce natural antibodies.

Antineoplastic agent: A drug that prevents, kills, or blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Arrhythmia: An irregular heartbeat.

Aspiration: Removal of fluid from a cyst or cells from a lump, using a needle and syringe.

Atypical hyperplasia: Cells that are both abnormal (atypical) and increased in number.

Autoimmunity: A condition in which the body's immune system mistakenly fights and rejects the body's own tissues. 

Autologous: The infusion of a patient's own bone marrow previously removed and stored.
Average risk: A measure of the chances of getting cancer without the presence of any specific factors known to be associated with the disease. 

Axilla: The armpit.

Axillary nodes: Lymph nodes -  also called lymph glands  found in the armpit (axilla).




Barium enema: The use of a milky solution (barium sulfate) given by an enema to allow x-ray examination of the lower intestinal tract.

Barium swallow: The use of a milky solution (barium sulfate) given orally to allow x-ray examination of the upper intestinal tract.

Basal cell carcinoma: The most common type of Skin Cancer.

Benign: A term used to describe a tumor that is not cancerous.

Benign growth: A swelling or growth that is not cancerous and does not spread from one part of the body to another.

Biological Therapy: Treatment to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune system to fight infection and disease; also called "Immunotherapy."

Biomarkers: Substances sometimes found in an increased amount in the blood, other body fluids, or tissues and that may suggest the presence of some types of cancer.

Biopsy: The removal of a sample of tissue to see whether cancer cells are present.

Blood cells: Minute structures produced in the bone marrow; they consist of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Blood Count: The number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in a sample of blood. This is also called a complete blood count (CBC).

Bone Marrow: The inner, spongy tissue of bones where blood cells are made.

Bone marrow biopsy and aspiration: The procedure by which a needle is inserted into a bone to withdraw a sample of bone marrow.

Bone marrow suppression: A decrease in the production of blood cells. Bone marrow suppression is a side effect of chemotherapy treatment in some cases.

Bone marrow transplant: The infusion of bone marrow into a patient who has been treated with high dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Patients may use their own marrow, which in some cases has been frozen.

Bone scan: A picture of the bones using a radioactive dye that shows any injury, disease, or healing. This is a valuable test to determine if cancer has spread to the bone, if anticancer therapy has been successful, and if affected bony areas are healing.

Brachytherapy:  A procedure in which radioactive material sealed in needles, seeds, wires or catheters is placed directly into or near a tumor. Also called internal radiation, implant radiation or interstitial radiation therapy.

Breast Self-Examination (BSE): A manual self-examination of the breasts.

Bronchogenic carcinoma: A cancer originating in the lungs or airways.

Bronchoscopy: The insertion of a flexible, lighted tube through the mouth into the lungs to examine the lungs and airways.




Cancer: A group of diseases in which malignant cells grow out of control and spread to other parts of the body. Find more information on Cancer.

Cancer in situ: The stage where the cancer is still confined to the tissue in which it started.

Candidiasis: A common fungal infection.

A substance that causes cancer. For example, nicotine in cigarettes is a carcinogen that

Carcinoma: Cancer that begins in tissues lining or covering the surfaces (epithelial tissues) of organs, glands, or other body structures. Most cancers are carcinomas.

Carcinoma in situ: Cancer that is confined to the cells where it began, and has not spread into surrounding tissues.

Cervical carcinoma: A cancer of the cervix (the neck of the uterus).

Cardiomegaly: An enlargement of the heart.

CAT scan (CT scan): A test using computers and x-rays to create images of various parts of the body.

Catheter: A thin flexible tube through which fluids can enter or leave the body.

CEA (Carcinoembryonic antigen): A blood tumor marker.

Cellulitis: The inflammation of an area of the skin (epithelial layer).

Central Venous Catheter: A special thin, flexible tube placed in a large vein. It remains there for as long as it is needed to deliver and withdraw fluids.

Cervical nodes: Lymph nodes in the neck.

Chemoprevention: The use of drugs or vitamins to prevent cancer in people who have precancerous conditions or a high risk of cancer, or to prevent the recurrence of cancer in people who have already been treated for it. (Read about "Vitamins & Minerals")

The use of drugs to treat cancer.

Chondrosarcoma: A malignant tumor of cartilage that usually occurs near the ends of the long bones.

Chromosomes: Structures located in the nucleus of a cell, containing genes.

Chronic: Persisting over a long period of time.

Clinical Trials: Medical research studies conducted with volunteers. Each study is designed to answer scientific questions and to find better ways to prevent or treat cancer.

Colonoscopy:  A procedure to look at the colon or large bowel through a lighted, flexible tube.

Colony-stimulating factor (CSF): An injectable substance used to stimulate the bone marrow to produce more cells.

Colostomy: A surgical procedure by which an opening is created between the colon and the outside of the abdomen to allow stool to be emptied into a collection bag.

Colposcopy: Examination of the vagina and cervix with an instrument called a colposcope.

Combination Chemotherapy: The use of more than one drug to treat cancer.

Complementary Therapy: Therapies used in addition to standard medical treatment to improve wellbeing, prevent illness, reduce stress, and prevent or reduce side effects and symptoms. They are not intended to replace standard medical treatment. Some examples include meditation, yoga, guided imagery, healing touch, massage, and herbal therapies.

Computed tomography (CT) scanning:  An imaging technique that uses a computer to organize the information from multiple x-ray views and construct a cross-sectional image of areas inside the body. (Read about "CT Scan - Computerized Tomography")

Congestive heart failure:
A buildup of fluid in the lungs or extremities, or both (especially the legs). This occurs if the heart cannot pump the blood adequately.

Core needle biopsy: The use of a small cutting needle to remove a core of tissue for microscopic examination. (Read about "Biopsy")

Cyst: An accumulation of fluid or semisolid material within a sac.

Cystitis: An inflammation of the bladder.



Drug resistance: The result of cells' ability to resist the effects of a specific drug.

Dysphagia: Difficulty in swallowing.

Dyspnea: Difficult or painful breathing; shortness of breath.

Dysuria: Difficult or painful urination.




Edema: The accumulation of fluid in part of the body.

Effusion: A collection of fluid in a body cavity, usually between two adjoining tissues. For example, a pleural effusion is the collection of fluid between two layers of the pleura (the lung's covering).

Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG): A test that takes recordings of the electrical activity of the heart.

Endometrial carcinoma:
A cancer of the lining of the uterus.

Endoscopy: A procedure looking at the inside of body cavities, such as the esophagus (food pipe) or stomach.

Erythema: Redness of the skin.

Erythrocyte: The red blood cell that carries oxygen to body cells and carbon dioxide away from body cells.

Esophagitis: Inflammation of the esophagus (food pipe).

Estrogen: A female hormone produced primarily by the ovaries.

Estrogen receptor assay (ER assay): A test that determines if breast cancer is stimulated by the hormone estrogen.

Ewing's sarcoma: A malignant tumor starting in bone, affecting the bones of extremities. It often appears before the age of 20.

Excisional biopsy: The surgical removal (excision) of an abnormal area of tissue, usually along with a margin of healthy tissue, for microscopic examination. (Read about "Biopsy")

Excision: Surgical removal.

Extravasation: The leaking of intravenous fluids or medications into tissue surrounding the infusion site. Extravasation may cause tissue damage.



Fine needle aspiration: The use of a slender needle to remove fluid from a cyst or clusters of cells from a solid lump.

False negative: Test results that miss cancer when it is present.

False positive: Test results that indicate cancer is present when the disease is truly absent.

Fine-needle aspirate: A procedure in which a needle is inserted, under local anesthesia, to obtain a sample for the evaluation of suspicious tissue.

Fistula: An abnormal opening between two areas of the body.

Frozen section: A sliver of frozen biopsy tissue. A frozen section provides a quick preliminary diagnosis but is not 100 percent reliable. (Read about "Biopsy")




Gastrointestinal:  Having to do with the digestive tract, which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines.

Gene: Segment of a DNA molecule and the fundamental biological unit of heredity.

Genetic change: An alteration in a segment of DNA, which can disturb a gene's behavior and sometimes leads to disease.

Granulocyte: A type of white blood cell that kills bacteria.

Guaiac test:
A test that checks for hidden blood in the stool.





Hematocrit (Hct): The percentage of red blood cells in the blood. A low hematocrit measurement indicates anemia.

A doctor who specializes in the problems of blood and bone marrow.

The science that studies the blood.

Hematuria: Blood in the urine.

Hemoccult (Guaiac) test: A test that checks for hidden blood in the stool.

Herpes simplex
The most common virus that causes sores often seen around the mouth, commonly called cold sores.

Herpes zoster
A virus that settles around certain nerves causing blisters, swelling, and pain. This condition is also called shingles.

Higher risk: A measure of the chances of getting cancer when factor(s) known to be associated with the disease are present.

Hodgkin's disease
A cancer that affects the lymph nodes. See Lymphoma.

Hormones: Natural substances released by an organ that can influence the function of other organs in the body.

A concept of supportive care to meet the special needs of patients and family during the terminal stages of illness. The care may be delivered in the home or hospital by a specially trained team of professionals.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
The virus that causes AIDS.

Human leukocyte antigen test (HLA)
A special blood test used to match a blood or bone marrow donor to a recipient for transfusion or transplant.

The intravenous administration of a highly nutritious solution.

Hyperplasia: Excessive growth of cells.




Ileostomy: A surgical opening in the abdomen connected to the small intestine to allow stool to be emptied into a collection bag.

Immunity (Immune system):  The body's ability to fight infection and disease.


Immunosuppression: Weakening of the immune system that causes a lowered ability to fight infection and disease.


Immunotherapy: The artificial stimulation of the body's immune system to treat or fight disease.

Incisional biopsy: The surgical removal of a portion of an abnormal area of tissue, by cutting into (incising) it, for microscopic examination. (Read about "Biopsy")

Infection: Invasion of body tissues by micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses. (Read about "Micro-organisms")

Infiltrating cancer: Cancer that has spread to nearby tissue, lymph nodes or other parts of the body. (Same as Invasive cancer.)

Infiltration: The leaking of fluid or medicines into tissues, which can cause swelling.

Inflammation: The body's protective response to injury (including infection). Inflammation is marked by heat, redness, swelling, pain and loss of function.

Infusion: Slow and/or prolonged delivery of a drug or fluids which is usually given Intravenously (into a vein).

Infusion pump: A device that delivers measured amounts of fluids or medications into the bloodstream over a period of time.

Injection: Using a syringe and needle to push fluids or drugs into the body, often called a "shot."

Intramuscular (IM) injection: Into the muscle.

Integrative Therapy: The combined offering of standard medical treatment with complementary therapies.

Interferon: A naturally produced chemical released by the body in response to viral infections. Interferon can be artificially produced and used as a form of immunotherapy.

Interleukin: A naturally produced chemical released by the body.

Intraarterial (IA): Into an artery.

Intracavitary (IC): Into a cavity or space, specifically the abdomen, pelvis, or the chest.

Intrathecal (IT): Into the spinal fluid.

Intravenous (IV): Into a vein.

Invasive cancer: Cancer that has spread to nearby tissue, lymph nodes or other parts of the body. (Same as Infiltrating cancer.)


Laryngectomy: The surgical removal of the larynx.

Lesion: A lump or abscess that may be caused by injury or disease, such as cancer.


Leukemia: Cancer of the blood. White blood cells may be produced in excessive amounts and are unable to work properly.

Leukocyte: See White blood cell.

Leukopenia: A low number of white blood cells.

Lumpectomy: See Mastectomy-Segmental.

Lymphangiogram: A test to look at the lymph nodes.

Lymphatic system: A network that includes lymph nodes, lymph, and lymph vessels that serves as a filtering system for the blood.

Lymphedema: Swelling either from obstructed cancerous lymph nodes or from surgically removed lymph nodes.

Lymph nodes: Hundreds of small oval bodies that contain lymph. Lymph nodes act as our first line of defense against infections and cancer.

Lymphocytes: White blood cells that kill viruses and defend against the invasion of foreign material.

Lymphoma: A cancer of the lymphatic system. Doctors differentiate the different lymphomas by the type of cell that is involved in the makeup of the tumor. Treatments depend on the type of cell that is seen.




Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A technique that uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. (Read about "MRI - Magnetic Resonance Imaging")

Malignancy: State of being cancerous. Malignant tumors can invade surrounding tissues and spread to other parts of the body.

Malignant: A term used to describe a cancerous tumor.

Malignant tumor: A tumor made up of cancer cells of the type that can spread to other parts of the body.

Mammogram (Mammography): A low-dose x-ray / picture of the breasts to determine whether abnormal growths or cysts are present.

Margin: The edge or border of the tissue removed in cancer surgery. The margin is described as negative or clean when the pathologist finds no cancer cells at the edge of the tissue, suggesting that all of the cancer has been removed. The margin is described as positive or involved when the pathologist finds cancer cells at the edge of the tissue, suggesting that not all of the cancer has been removed.

Mastectomy : The surgical removal of the breast.

Mastectomy - Segmental (lumpectomy): Removal of the lump and a small amount of surrounding breast tissue.

Mastectomy - Radical: Removal of the entire breast along with underlying muscle and lymph nodes of the armpit.

Mastectomy - Simple (modified mastectomy): Removal of the entire breast.

Medical Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in using chemotherapy to treat cancer.

Melanoma: A cancer of the pigment-forming cells of the skin or the retina of the eye.

Metastasis: When cancer cells break away from their original site and spread to other parts of the body.

Metastasize: To spread from the first cancer site, for example, breast cancer that spreads to the bone.

Monoclonal antibody: Laboratory-produced substances that can locate and bind to cancer cells wherever they are in the body. Many monoclonal antibodies are used in cancer detection or therapy; each one recognizes a different protein on certain cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies can be used alone, or they can be used to deliver drugs, toxins or radioactive material directly to a tumor.

MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging): A sophisticated test that provides in-depth images of organs and structures in the body.

Mucosa (Mucous membranes):The lining of the mouth and gastrointestinal tract.

Mucositis:Inflammation of the lining of the mouth or gastrointestinal tract.

Mutation: A change in the number, arrangement or molecular sequence of a gene.

Myelogram: An x-ray procedure by which a dye is injected into the spinal column to show any pathology of the spinal cord.

Myeloma: A malignant tumor of the bone marrow associated with the production of abnormal proteins.


Myelosuppression: A decrease in the production of red blood cells, platelets, and some white blood cells by the bone marrow.





Needle biopsy: Use of a needle to extract cells or bits of tissue for microscopic examination. (Read about "Biopsy")

Neo-adjuvant Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy that is given before breast cancer surgery to shrink the tumor. Additional chemotherapy will be given after surgery.

Neoplasm: A new growth of tissue or cells; a tumor that is generally malignant.


Neutropenia: A decreased number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell.


Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: A cancer of the lymphatic system. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is related to Hodgkin's disease but is made up of different cell types. See Lymphoma.




OCN (Oncology certified nurse): A registered nurse who has met the requirements and successfully completed a certification examination in Oncology.


Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in Oncology.

Oncology: The study and treatment of cancer. Doctors who specialize in oncology are called Oncologists.


Oncology clinical nurse specialist: A registered nurse with a master's degree who specializes in the education and treatment of cancer patients.

One-step procedure: Biopsy and surgical treatment combined into a single operation. (Read about "Biopsy")





Palliative Care or Hospice Care: Treatment to relieve, rather than cure, symptoms caused by cancer. Palliative care can help people live more comfortably.

Palpation: Use of the fingers to press body surfaces, so as to feel tissues and organs underneath.

Pap (Papanicolaou) smear: A test to detect cancer of the cervix.


Paracentesis : Removing fluid from the abdomen using local anesthesia and needle and syringe.

Pathological fractureA break in a bone usually caused by cancer or some disease condition.

Pathologist: A doctor who diagnoses disease by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

Pathology: The study of disease by the examination of tissues and body fluids under the microscope. A doctor who specializes in pathology is called a Pathologist.

Peripheral Neuropathy: A condition of the nervous system that usually begins in the hands and/or feet with symptoms of numbness, tingling, burning and/or weakness. It can be caused by certain anticancer drugs.

Permanent section: Biopsy tissue specially prepared and mounted on slides so that it can be examined under a microscope by a pathologist. (Read about "Biopsy")

Petechiae: Tiny areas of bleeding under the skin, usually caused by a low platelet count.

Phlebitis: A painful inflammation of the veins.

Photosensitivity: Extreme sensitivity to the sun, leaving the patient prone to sunburns. This can be a side effect of some cancer drugs and radiation.

Phytochemicals: Naturally occurring chemicals found in plants that may be important nutrients for reducing a person's cancer risk.

Placebo: An inert substance often used in clinical trials for comparison.

Platelet (Plt): Cells in the blood that are responsible for clotting.

Platelet count: The number of platelets in a blood sample.

Polyp: A growth of tissue protruding into a body cavity, such as a nasal or rectal polyp. Polyps may be benign or malignant.

Port: A small plastic or metal container surgically placed under the skin and attached to a central venous catheter inside the body. Blood and fluids can enter the body through the port using a special needle.

Port - Implanted: A catheter connected to a quarter-sized disc that is surgically placed just below the skin in the chest or abdomen. The tube is inserted into a large vein or artery directly into the bloodstream. Fluids, drugs, or blood products can be infused, and blood can be drawn through a needle that is stuck into the disc. Examples: Port-o-cath, Infusaport, Lifeport.

Port - Peritoneal: A catheter connected to a quarter-sized disc that is surgically placed in the abdomen. The catheter is inserted to deliver chemotherapy to the peritoneum (abdominal cavity).

Positron emission tomography (PET scanning): A technique that uses signals emitted by radioactive tracers to construct images of the distribution of the tracers in the human body.(Read about "PET - Positron Emission Tomography")

Primary tumor
: The original cancer site. For example, breast cancer that has spread to the bone is still called breast cancer.

Progesterone: One of the female hormones produced by the ovaries.

Progesterone-receptor assay: A test that determines if breast cancer is stimulated by the hormone progesterone.

Prognosis: The projected outcome of a disease; the life expectancy.

Prosthesis: Artificial replacement of a missing body part.

Protocol: A treatment plan.

PSA (Prostate-specific antigen): A marker used to determine prostate disease; it may be benign or malignant.





Rad: A unit of measure for radiation. It stands for radiation absorbed dose.

Radiation: Energy carried by waves or by streams of particles. Various forms of radiation can be used in low doses to diagnose disease and in high doses to treat disease. (Read about "X-rays")
Radiation Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.

Radiation Therapy: Cancer treatment with radiation (high-energy rays or radioactive implanted "seeds").

Radiologist: A doctor with special training in the use of diagnostic imaging such as CT, MRI, PET and ultrasound, to image body tissues and to treat disease. (Read about "CT Scan - Computerized Tomography" "MRI - Magnetic Resonance Imaging" "PET - Positron Emission Tomography" "Ultrasound Imaging")

Recurrence: When a cancer that was in remission returns.

Red Blood Cells: Cells that supply oxygen to tissues throughout the body.

Red blood count (RBC): The number of red blood cells seen in a blood sample.


Regression: The shrinkage of cancer growth.

Relapse: The reappearance of a disease after its apparent cessation.

Remission: The partial or complete disappearance of signs and symptoms of disease.

Risk: A measure of the likelihood of some uncertain or random event with negative consequences for human life or health.

Risk factors (for cancer): Conditions or agents that increase a person's chances of getting cancer. Risk factors do not necessarily cause cancer; rather, they are indicators, statistically associated with an increase in likelihood.



Sarcoma: A malignant tumor of muscles or connective tissue such as bone and cartilage.


Shingles: See Herpes zoster.

Side effects: Secondary effects of drugs used for disease treatment.

Sigmoidoscopy: The visual examination of the rectum and lower colon using a tubular instrument called a sigmoidoscope.

Sonogram: The image produced by ultrasound. (Read about "Ultrasound Imaging")

Specimen x-ray: An x-ray of tissue that has been surgically removed (surgical specimen). (Read about "X-rays")

: Secretions produced by the lungs.

Squamous cell carcinomaCancer arising from the skin or the surfaces of other structures, such as the mouth, cervix, or lungs.

Staging: Determination of extent of the cancer in the body.

SteroidsA type of hormone.

Stoma: An artificial opening between two cavities or between a cavity and the surface of the body.

Stomatitis: Sores on the lining of the mouth.

Subcutaneous (SQ or SC): Under the skin.

Subcutaneous injection: Into the fatty tissue under the skin.

Surgery: To cut out a tumor or cancer.

Surgical biopsy: The surgical removal of tissue for microscopic examination and diagnosis. Surgical biopsies can be either excisional or incisional. (See Excisional biopsy and Incisional biopsy.) (Read about "Biopsy")

Systemic disease: A disease that affects the entire body instead of a specific organ.

Symptom Management: To control problems the cancer or cancer treatment may cause such as pain, nausea, vomiting, or shortness of breath.

Syngeneic: The infusion of bone marrow from one identical twin into another.



Taste alteration: A temporary change in taste perception.

Testicular self-examination (TSE)A simple manual self-examination of the testes.

Thoracentesis (Pleural tap): A procedure to remove fluids from the area between the two layers (pleura) covering the lung.

Thrombocytopenia: An abnormally low number of platelets (thrombocytes). If the platelet count is too low, bleeding could occur.

Tracheostomy: A surgical opening through the trachea in the neck to provide an artifical airway.

Tumor: An abnormal growth of cells or tissues. Tumors may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Tumor markers: Proteins (either amounts or unique variants) made by altered genes in cancer cells that are involved in the progression of the disease.

Two-step procedure: Biopsy and treatment done in two stages, usually a week or two apart. (Read about "Biopsy")


Ultrasound examination: The use of high frequency sound waves to aid in diagnosis.


Ureterostomy: A surgical procedure consisting of cutting the ureters from the bladder and connecting them to an opening (see Stoma) on the abdomen, allowing urine to flow into a collection bag.


Venipuncture: Puncturing a vein in order to obtain blood samples, to start an intravenous drip, or to give medication.


Vesicant: A medication or agent that may cause blistering.

Virus: A tiny infectious agent that is smaller than bacteria. The common cold is caused by a virus, and the herpes simplex virus causes cold sores.



White Blood Cells: The blood cells that fight infection.

White blood count (WBC): The actual number of white blood cells seen in a blood sample.




X-ray: High-energy electromagnetic radiation used to diagnose and treat disease. Diagnostic test using high energy to visualize internal body organs. See Radiation therapy.



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