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Cancer Dictionary


Malignant tumour in glandular tissue (for example, the breast, colon or rectum).


The person notices no discomfort nor symptom characteristic of a specific disease. In other words, it is a person who feels healthy.


Extraction of small fragments of an organ of the body to examine them under a microscope to verify the possible presence of alterations in cells. The test is carried out using specific instruments (forceps or needles), sometimes after light anaesthesia.


Malignant tumour.


Chemical, physical or biological factor which favours the development of cancer.


Malignant tumour of epithelial origin. It can occur in any epithelial tissue, whether lining (mucous membranes, skin) or glandular. The most frequent type of carcinoma is adenocarcinoma.

Clinical examination

It is a physical examination carried out by a doctor. It is also referred to as a medical check-up.

Colon - rectum

It is the last part of the intestine, called the large intestine, and is divided into six parts: cecum, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon and rectum.


Test that permits the direct viewing of the inner walls of the colon-rectum. The test is carried out with a colonoscope, a flexible tube as wide as the pinkie finger with a camera on the end which, lighting up the inner walls of the colon, allows possible alterations to be seen.

Cyptological examination

Laboratory test that allows cell structure to be studied under a microscope. It serves to determine if a cell is healthy or altered and, eventually, the degree of alteration (benign or malignant).


Medical judgement on the nature of an illness or alterations. The doctor issues his conclusion based on the medical history explained by the patient (anamnesis), the medical consultation and the results of the different tests carried out.


Test used only when blood or discharge is excreted by the nipple. The mammary glands and milk ducts (lactiferous ducts) from which the liquid is being released are analysed. An ultra-thin tube is inserted into the duct and a fluid is introduced. An x-ray of the breast (mammogram) is then taken, which allows the shape of the lactiferous ducts to be seen. Normally the test is not painful, although there can be some discomfort when the fluid is introduced.


Abnormality of development; alteration in the size, form and/or organisation of adult cells. It signifies a lesion which histologically precedes a carcinoma. Although histologically there are many analogies between dysplasia and carcinoma, dysplasia may disappear.

Early diagnosis

Consists of the detection of a disease in a person well before signs of discomfort appear (in asymptomatic patients).

Faecal occult blood test

Check for blood in faeces no visible to the naked eye. The test is performed by collecting a stool sample and later analysing it in the laboratory.

Fibroma / Fibromyoma / Uterine Fibroid

Benign tumour of the muscular and fibrous tissue of the uterus.

FNAD (fine-needle aspiration biopsy)

Extraction, with a needle, of a sampling of cells from a part of the body (for example, mammary or thyroid nodules) to examine them under a microscope (cytological examination). The exam is harmless, though it can cause minor pain similar to that of an intramuscular injection.

Funcional unit

Multidisciplinary team of doctors from different specialties that assess and make the most suitable decisions for each type of cancer and each specific patient.

Histological examination

Observation under a microscope of a tissue, that is, a group of cells from a part of the body, extracted via biopsy.

Incidence (rate)

Number of new cases of a disease in a set period of time (month, year, etc.) in relation to the number of subjects at risk present in the area of study in this set time period.


Removal of a tumour.


An x-ray of the breasts. The test is carried out with a mammography unit, which is a machine that examines the breasts using x-rays. The breasts, first one and then the other, must be placed on a surface where they are lightly squeezed and x-rayed horizontally and vertically. Normally the test is not painful, but occasionally it may cause slight discomfort. Modern mammography units emit very low doses of radiation, and therefore are not a health risk.


 Surgical removal of the mammary gland.


One of the biological characteristics of a malignant tumour. It means the tumour cells are multiplying and spreading through the lymphatic system and blood vessels (veins, arteries) to other parts of the body.


Number of deaths occurring in a specific period in a specific population.


Synonym for tumour.


Area of medicine that studies tumours from various aspects: research, prevention, diagnosis and treatment.


Formation more or less round in shape that grows on the mucous membrane of an organ. They can be diverse in nature, depending on the histological type, that is, the type of tissue of which they are made.

Prevalence (of a disease)

Total number of cases of a disease that exist at a given point in time in a populace.

Primary cancer prevention

Action aimed at eliminating the various causes putting one at risk of developing cancer. For example, quitting smoking, which causes lung cancer, is an action of primary prevention.

Radiographic examination

It is a test that can be carried out on various parts of the body (for example, the thorax or breast) and uses x-ray instruments.

Risk factors

Characteristics that increase or decrease (protective factors) the probability of developing a certain disease, both in an individual and a populace. There are risk factors that are not modifiable, such as genetic inheritance, age or sex, and important facts defined as modifiable, to highlight the fact that it is possible to reduce their severity through external interventions, in turn reducing the probability of getting sick. In this category, there are habits and tendencies connected to lifestyle, such as smoking, limited physical activity and improper nutrition.

Screening or early detection

It is used to describe the tests carried out to identify a disease before symptoms appear. These tests, called screening tests, allow a disease in the early stages to be identified, when people do not yet feel ill (asymptomatic). Screening or early detection programme: It is an organised programme in which all members of the population of a certain age at risk are systematically invited to undergo voluntary testing. The healthcare system initiates contact, is responsible for the targets and, if necessary, guarantees additional testing necessary for further analysis and study. The programme is monitored for quality.

Secondary cancer prevention

Consists of healthcare activities aimed at reducing the undesirable effects of the disease through actions focused on detecting tumours as early on as possible and alterations that, although not cancerous, precede this disease.


This is an exam consisting in the introduction, through the anus, of a short, thin tube equipped with a lighting system that allows the rectum and lower part of the colon to be examined. As with other procedures to study the inside of the colon, it requires the correct diet and preparation of the intestine.

Survival (survival rate)

The percentage of those living in a group of patients for a specific pathology, studied and monitored over a specific period of time (alive at the start of the interval and surviving at the close of said interval). In oncology, survival is the period of time a patient is alive after first diagnosis.


Feelings of discomfort characteristic of a specific disease.


Organised group of specialised cells that carry out a particular function (nervous, epithelial, connective or muscular tissue).


The abnormal development of a tissue which forms a mass that grows. A benign tumour is when there is a localised growth on an organ that can be kept from growing. A malignant tumour or cancer is when the growth is uncontrolled and tends to spread to other organs (metastasis). A tumour can be treated with surgery (resection), drugs (chemotherapy), radiation (radiotherapy) or with other treatments. For certain tumours, especially tumours in the breast, uterus and intestine, the possibilities of remission increase the earlier they are diagnosed (early detection).


Test that serves to monitor many organs of the body, such as the liver, uterus, breast, thyroid, etc. It is performed using a sonographic scanner, an instrument that uses a hand-held probe, or transducer, that produces a series of ultrasounds. The probe is placed on the skin of a specific area of the body, depending on the organ to be examined, or is introduced in the anus or vagina. The ultrasounds emitted reach the organ and when they are sent back they form an image on the screen. It is a mechanism similar to the echo we hear when we shout from a mountaintop. The test is totally harmless.

Update:  26.10.2011