Skip to main content

Glossary

Search Icon

A

Absolute neutrophil count (ANC)
The actual number of white blood cells that are neutrophils. The ANC is determined by multiplying the white blood cell count by the percent of neutrophils found in a differential white blood cell count.
Alopecia
Hair loss. Hair loss can be caused by some chemotherapy medications.
Anemia
When the number of red blood cells in the body is lower than normal. Red blood cells are needed to carry oxygen to the body’s cells. Anemia results in a lack of oxygen throughout the body, causing symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath and paleness of the skin.
Back to top

B

Bands
Neutrophils that are not yet fully mature.
Basophil
A type of white blood cell that contains and releases histamine, a substance that plays a key role in allergic reactions, and serotonin, a chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells.
Biologic response modifier
Immunotherapy medications that are given to strengthen the body’s own immune system. Examples include Interferon, Interleukin, and Growth Factors.
Blood count
A test to check the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in a sample of blood. Also called complete blood count (CBC).
Bone marrow
Spongy tissue inside the bones. Bone marrow makes 95% of the body’s blood cells, including white blood cells (which fight infections), red blood cells (which carry oxygen to the body’s cells), and platelets (which are essential for blood clotting).
Back to top

C

Cancer therapies
Treatments of cancer, for example: chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery and hormonal therapy.
Catheter
A soft, thin, flexible tube that is placed in a large vein in the body and remains there as long as it is needed. Medications can be given and blood samples can be drawn through this tube.
Cell
The unit from which the tissues of the body are formed. Different tissues contain different types of cells, such as muscle cells, blood cells and lung cells.
Cell division
The process by which cells produce copies of themselves. Generally, the cell duplicates all its parts and then divides into two identical cells.
Chemotherapy
A medication therapy, or combination of therapies, used to treat cancer. Most chemotherapy is administered intravenously and in cycles: a treatment period is followed by a recovery period, then another treatment period begins. The side effects a patient experiences usually depend on the specific medications and the doses received. Chemotherapy-related side effects gradually diminish during the recovery period or after treatment stops.
Chemotherapy cycles
A period of treatment with an anticancer medication or combination of medications that is often repeated.
Clinical outcome
The result of the treatment.
Clinical trial
A study that compares the benefits and safety of different treatments in groups of patients.
Complete blood count (CBC)
A test that evaluates the different components of blood, including hemoglobin, platelets, and separate counts for red and white blood cells.
Coordination of benefits
When both you and your spouse are covered by private insurance, the payments for benefits will be coordinated such that the individual's plan covers them first, then the spousal plan coverage takes effect secondarily. Please check with your insurance company for details of your policy.
Cycle
A treatment period which is followed by a recovery period, before another treatment period begins. Most chemotherapy is administered intravenously and in cycles.
Cytotoxic
Any therapy or process that kills cells. Chemotherapy and radiation (radiotherapy) are both forms of cytotoxic therapy.
Back to top

D

Differential
A white blood cell count in which the proportions of the different types of white cells are evaluated – usually split into types of granulocytes, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils and basophils.
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid. The material inside the nucleus of cells that carries genetic information in humans.
Dyspnea
Shortness of breath.
Back to top

E

Eosinophil
A type of white blood cell that is often elevated in association with allergic or inflammatory reactions.
Erythrocytes
Red blood cells.
Erythropoiesis-stimulating agent
A medication that mimics the naturally-occurring hormone erythropoietin, which stimulates the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow. Sometimes the abbreviation "ESA" is used.
Erythropoietic protein
A medication that mimics the naturally occurring hormone erythropoietin, which stimulates the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow.
Erythropoietin
A hormone that is produced by the body, primarily in the kidney, that stimulates red blood cell formation in the bone marrow. Sometimes the abbreviation "EPO" is used.
Back to top

F

Fatigue
Extreme tiredness or exhaustion and a reduced capacity for work or activity. Fatigue can appear suddenly (acute) or persist for a long time (chronic).
Febrile
Pertaining to having a fever.
Fertility
Being able to have children.
Back to top

G

Genetic material
A component of all cells that is unique to each individual. It is the hereditary information that is passed on from generation to generation.
g/L
Grams per litre.
Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF):
A type of colony-stimulating factor medication that stimulates the production of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell).
Granulocytes
Types of white blood cells that contain microscopic, enzyme-filled granules.
Back to top

H

Hematologic malignancies
Cancers of the blood or bone marrow.
Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT)
Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation involves the intravenous administration of stem cells that have been collected from bone marrow or umbilical cord blood. This procedure is used to reestablish normal blood cell production in patients whose bone marrow or immune systems have been damaged by disease.
Hemoglobin
An iron-containing pigment found in red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs to the tissues throughout the body. Sometimes the abbreviation “Hb” or “Hgb” is used.
Hormone
A substance produced by the body that has a specific (often stimulatory) effect on the activity of certain cells.
Back to top

I

Imaging exams
Methods of producing pictures of areas inside the body. Examples of these are X-ray, CT scan, MRI, mammograms and ultrasounds.
In vitro
Outside the living body and in an artificial environment.
Infection
The growth of a harmful organism, a “germ” such as a bacterium or virus, in the body.
Infusion
The intravenous administration of a medication or fluid.
Intravenous
Into or within a vein.
Back to top

K

Keratinocyte
A specialized type of epithelial cell that lines the surface of the mouth and intestinal tract and produces keratin: a structural protein that is a primary component of hair, nails and skin.
Back to top

L

Leukocytes
A general term for white blood cells.
Leukopenia
A low number of white blood cells.
Lymphocyte
A small white blood cell that plays an important role in the body's immune system. B cells and T cells are two common types of lymphocytes.
Back to top

M

Microlitre
One millionth of a litre, sometimes shown as µL.
Monocyte
A type of white blood cell that has the ability to digest foreign material and microbes and help protect the body against certain types of bacteria.
Mucosa
The mucosal lining. A thick, slippery fluid produced by the membranes that line certain organs of the body such as the nose, mouth, throat and vagina.
Mucosal
Affecting the mucous membranes, such as the cells lining the digestive tract.
Mucositis
A condition in which the mucosa becomes swollen, red and sore. Sores can develop in the mouth. It is a side effect of chemotherapy.
Myelosuppressive
Any medication or therapy that inhibits the production of blood cells in the bone marrow.
Myelotoxic
Any medication or therapy that is destructive to bone marrow or any of the elements it is composed of.
Back to top

N

Nadir
The point at which your blood count is the lowest following chemotherapy, which may also coincide with the time you are most susceptible to getting an infection.
Neutropenia
A neutrophil (white blood cells) count is below normal levels. Neutropenia can be caused by chemotherapy. It places patients at risk of serious infection and chemotherapy dose reductions and delays.
Neutrophil
A type of white blood cell.
Back to top

O

Oral
Taken by or having to do with the mouth.
Outpatient clinic
Patients receive medical attention (treatment, examination, testing), but do not stay overnight.
Back to top

P

Pain
An unpleasant sensation that can range from mild to severe discomfort, either in a limited area or throughout the body. Nerve fibres carry sensory impulses from damaged tissue to the brain where these impulses are experienced as a dull, aching, burning or tingling sensation. Pain can have both physical and emotional components and can usually be well-controlled with medication.
Peripheral neuropathy
Damage to the peripheral nervous system, which transmits information from the brain and spinal cord to other parts of the body. Symptoms will vary depending on which nerves are affected. In many people with cancer, the neuropathy affects the hands, feet and lower legs. Sensations may include weakness, pain, numbness, burning, “pins and needles” or a loss of coordination.
Platelet
A type of blood cell that is necessary for blood clotting (i.e., to stop cuts from bleeding).
Port
A small round plastic or metal disc placed under the skin. A catheter can be attached to a port to give medications or take blood samples.
Prophylactic
A preventive measure such as a medication or treatment used in advance to prevent a disease from occurring.
Protein
A small, complex molecule that is found throughout the body. There are many different types of proteins; some are involved in chemical reactions, others are involved in physiological processes such as immune system responses and some provide structural support (such as hair and nails).
Protocol
A chemotherapy recipe which specifies the medications, their dosages, their timing, their frequency and their total amounts. Also known as “regimen”.
Back to top

R

Radiation
The treatment of disease with high-energy rays that may be used to locally target cancer cells and stop them from growing. Radiation (also referred to as radiotherapy) can be delivered externally by machine or from a small implant placed directly in or near the tumour.
Red blood cell count
The number of red blood cells (RBCs) in a particular volume of blood. This may also be referred to as an “erythrocyte count”.
Regimen
A chemotherapy recipe which specifies the medications, their dosages, their timing, their frequency and their total amounts. Also known as a “protocol”.
Reimbursement
The process by which the government, other institutions, or insurance companies provide financial assistance to patients receiving medical treatments.
Remission
The period when the disease is lessened or is cured. For cancer, complete remission means the disappearance of all evidence of the cancer for at least four weeks.
Resistance
When the disease or tumour is no longer affected by the treatment.
RNA
Ribonucleic acid. A nucleic acid molecule similar to DNA but containing ribose rather than deoxyribose. Different classes of RNA molecules play crucial roles in protein synthesis and other cell activities.
Back to top

S

Segs
An abbreviation of segmented (fully mature) neutrophils, evaluated as part of an absolute neutrophil count.
Side effects
Problems that occur in patients taking a certain medication or following a particular treatment, in addition to the desired therapeutic effect.
Stage of the cancer
The level to which the cancer has progressed.
Stem cells
Specialized, immature cells that have the ability to grow into any one of the body's more than 200 cell types.
Support group
A group of people who meet regularly to support or sustain each other by discussing common problems affecting them, such as cancer.
Supportive care medications
Medications that help reduce the side effects of an illness or treatment. When receiving chemotherapy, these medications may allow patients to receive their chemotherapy dose without interruption.
Back to top

T

Thrombocytopenia
A condition characterized by an abnormally low platelet count. Because platelets are required for the blood to clot, low numbers may lead to easy bruising or a tendency to bleed. Thrombocytopenia is a potential side effect of chemotherapy.
Transfusion
Injecting blood or blood cells into a patient. The injected blood can be taken from a donor, or it can be the patient's own blood that was taken at an earlier time and reinjected.
Tumour growth
The uncontrollable multiplication of the cancer cells that make up a tumour.
Back to top

W

White blood cell (WBC) count
The number of infection-fighting white blood cells (WBCs) in the blood. This may also be referred to as a “leukocyte count”.
Back to top
Share

You are now leaving the ChemoReady.ca Web site.

Links to any other organizations or information are provided solely as a service to our users. These links do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations or their programs by ChemoReady.ca or its sponsors, and none should be inferred. Any reference to a commercial product, process, service, or company is not an endorsement or recommendation by ChemoReady.ca or its sponsors. ChemoReady.ca is not responsible for the content of the Web pages found at these links.