Glossary of Terms

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There are currently 362 names in this directory
Abdomen
The belly; the part of the body that contains all of the structures between the chest and pelvis.
Abraxane (paclitaxel)
One of the approved chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer, it inhibits cell division and promotes cell death. It is often given with gemcitabine.
Acinar cells
Special cells in the pancreas that produce digestive enzymes.
Acquired mutations
Genetic changes that develop during a person’s lifetime, either as a random error made in DNA copying or as a result of harmful environmental factors.
Acupuncture
Practice of inserting needles through the skin into specific points on the body to reduce pain or induce anesthesia.
Acute pain
Sudden, short-lived pain that subsides when healing occurs.
Adenocarcinoma
Cancer that begins with cells that line certain internal organs and have gland-like properties.
Adjuvant drug
A drug that, when added to another drug speeds or improves its effect.
Adjuvant therapy
A treatment given after surgery.
Advance directives
Documents involved in a patient’s healthcare that allow others to know which types of care that patient wants and does not want, or to determine who will make medical decisions if the patient cannot do so.
Afinitor (everolimus)
An approved antineoplastic chemotherapy drug used to treat pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.
Alcohol nerve block
Procedure in which a local anesthetic is injected into the nerve root of the celiac plexus using guidance by ultrasonography or computed tomography to produce numbness or reduce pain.
Alternative therapies
Treatments that have not been scientifically tested and are used in place of traditional therapies. (See also Unconventional therapy.)
Ampulla of Vater
Enlargement of the ducts from the liver and pancreas at the point where they enter the small intestine; bile from the liver and secretions from the pancreas come through the Ampulla of Vater to mix with food in the duodenum and aid digestion.
Analgesic
A drug that reduces pain: acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin are analgesics.
Anemia
The condition of having a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells or quantity of hemoglobin. Anemia diminishes the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen.
Angiogenesis
Formation of new blood vessels; some cancer treatments work by blocking angiogenesis, called antiangiogenesis, with the goal of slowing or preventing tumor growth.
Anorexia
A condition marked by a diminished appetite and aversion to food. Patients with advanced cancer may have anorexia-related weight loss, or wasting.
Antibody
Proteins in the plasma and serum of the immune system that help the body fight infections. Also called immunoglobulin.
Anticoagulant
A drug that thins the blood to reduce the risk of blood clots.
Anticonvulsants
Drugs used to prevent or treat seizures; they may also be used to enhance the effect of pain medications.
Antidepressants
Drugs used to treat depression; they may also be used to enhance the effect of pain medications.
Antiemetics
Drugs that help to prevent and control nausea and vomiting.
Antimetabolite
A cancer drug that prevents the "building blocks" of the genetic code from being used.
Antioxidants
Human-made or natural substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage.
Ascites
Abnormal buildup of fluid in the belly area (abdomen) or pelvis.
Asymptomatic
Having no signs or symptoms of disease.
Baseline test
A first test, one which future test results are compared to.
Benign
Not cancerous; benign tumors do not spread to tissue near them or to other parts of the body.
Bile
Fluid made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder; bile is excreted into the small intestine, where it helps digest fat.
Bile duct
A tube in the liver through which bile passes.
Bilirubin
Dark-green substance formed when red blood cells are broken down. The bilirubin is part of the bile; the abnormal buildup of bilirubin because of an obstruction causes jaundice.
Biochemotherapy
Treatment with drugs that boost the body's disease-fighting ability (immunotherapy) and drugs that kill fast-growing cells (chemotherapy).
Bioelectromagnetic-based therapy
Involves the use of pulsed energy or magnetic fields to change the body’s electromagnetic fields and treat illness.
Biofield therapy
Various forms of energy work to assist in healing.
Biological therapy
Treatments used to help the immune system fight disease in the body.
Biomarker
A measurable substance found in body fluid or tissue that may be a sign of disease or infection.
Biopsy
Process of removing tissue samples, which are then examined under a microscope to check for disease.
Biopsy specimen
Tissue removed from the body and examined under a microscope to determine whether disease is present.
Borderline resectable pancreatic cancer
Cancer that is confined to the pancreas but that approaches nearby structures or causes severe symptoms, so that it might not be possible to remove all the cancer with surgery.
Bowel
The small and large intestine.
BRCA1 gene
A gene that normally helps to suppress cell growth; a person who inherits an altered version of this gene has a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer, and possibly pancreatic cancer.
BRCA2 gene
A gene that normally helps to suppress cell growth; a person who inherits an altered version of this gene has a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian, prostate, or pancreatic cancer.
Brush biopsy
A procedure used with endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP); a small brush is inserted through an endoscope and into the bile duct and pancreatic duct to scrape the inside of the ducts to collect cells for examination.
CA 19-9 (cancer antigen 19-9)
A protein on the surface of certain types of cells that is shed by tumor cells into the bloodstream; higher-than-normal amounts of CA 19-9 in the blood can sometimes be a sign of colorectal or pancreatic cancer. In pancreatic cancer patients, higher levels of CA 19-9 tend to be associated with more advanced disease. Noncancerous conditions that may elevate CA 19-9 levels include gallstones, pancreatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, and cholecystitis. Not all pancreatic cancer patients have elevated levels of CA 19-9.
Cachexia
A condition causing weight loss and muscle wasting that occurs in advanced cancer, among other diseases.
Cancer
Any of a group of diseases in which the cells are abnormal, grow out of control, and can spread.
Cancer screening
The use of tests to find cancer before signs of cancer appear.
Cancer stage
See Clinical stage, Staging cancer, and Stage.
Cancer stem cells
Subpopulation of cancer cells believed to be responsible for starting and maintaining the cancer.
Capecitabine (Xeloda)
One of the approved chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer, it gets metabolized into 5-FU; in either form the drug disrupts the cell replication cycle.
Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)
A protein that may sometimes be found in the blood of people who have certain types of cancers, and not usually found in healthy persons.
Carcinogen
Cancer-causing agent.
Carcinoma
Cancer that starts in cells that form the lining of structures of the body.
Carcinoma in situ
Abnormal or cancer cells that have not grown into the next layer of tissue.
Caregivers
Persons who provide help with daily activities, coordinate healthcare and other services, and provide emotional and other types of support for patients.
Catheter
A flexible tube used to deliver fluids into, or withdraw fluids out of, the body.
Celiac artery
Supplies oxygenated blood to the stomach, liver, spleen, and parts of the esophagus, duodenum, and pancreas. Also known as the celiac axis.
Celiac plexus
Complex network of nerves in the abdomen.
Celiac plexus block
Injections of pain medications given to relieve abdominal pain, often used in cancer treatment or chronic pancreatitis. The pain is believed to be caused by irritation of the celiac plexus, a network of nerves surrounding the aorta.
Chemo brain
A problem with thinking and memory that can happen during and especially after chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Also known as chemo fog.
Chemoradiation
Radiation therapy used in combination with chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy
Use of drugs to kill cancer cells.
Chemotherapy cycle
Days of treatment followed by days of rest.
Chemotherapy sensitivity testing
Pre-testing chemotherapies to determine which drugs are most effective against a cancer before undergoing a complete course of therapy.
Chiropractic
A health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mechanical disorders of the muscles and bones, and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health; it emphasizes manual treatments, including spinal manipulation.
Chronic pain
Pain that occurs over a long period of time that may range from mild to severe.
Chronic pancreatitis
Condition in which inflammation irreversibly damages the pancreas; or chronic damage with persistent pain or malabsorption.
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs)
Cells may shed from tumors and be found in small numbers in the bloodstream of certain cancer patients. These cells are known as circulating tumor cells (CTCs). CTCs are considered to be the source of cells that spread and form metastases in other organs.
Cisplatin
One of the approved chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer, it is a platinum-based drug that disrupts DNA and kills cancer cells.
Clinical stage
The rating of the extent of cancer based on tests before treatment. (See also Stage and Staging cancer.)
Clinical trial
The study of a drug, procedure, or medical device to determine its safety and effectiveness in people; there are many types of clinical trials used to find better ways to prevent, screen for, diagnose, and treat disease, and to improve quality of life. (See also Phases of clinical trials.)
Coexisting condition
Occurring at the same time but independent of another condition or illness.
Complementary therapy
Treatment methods added to conventional or traditional therapy.
Computed tomography (CT) scan
Medical imaging test in which a scanner takes detailed, cross-sectional, X-ray images from many different angles that are combined by a computer.
Constipation
A condition of the digestive system in which a person experiences hard stools that are difficult to eliminate; constipation may be painful and, in severe cases, may lead to a blockage of the bowel.
Contrast agent
A dye or other compound injected into the body to make specific tissue more visible during diagnostic imaging.
Coping
How people or family members come to terms with an illness, make decisions, solve problems, and adapt to life’s changes, while still feeling good about themselves.
Curative treatment
Treatment used to fully rid the body of a disease.
Debulking surgery
Surgery that removes as much of the cancer as possible.
Deep margin
Normal-looking tissue beneath a tumor.
Deep margin status
The presence or absence of cancer cells in the normal-looking tissue under a tumor that is removed by surgery.
Diabetes mellitus
Disease in which the body does not properly control the amount of sugar in the blood, resulting in high levels; it occurs when the body does not produce enough or any insulin or does not use it properly.
Distal pancreatectomy
Surgical procedure in which the tail and body of the pancreas are removed, usually along with the entire spleen; sometimes, part of the body of the pancreas can be preserved.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)
The molecule in the cell nucleus that carries the instructions for making living organisms.
Drug interaction
A change in the way a drug acts or works in the body when it is taken with another drug or substance; the interaction can cause unwanted effects.
Drug resistance
When a formerly effective medication stops being effective against a disease.
Dual-phase helical CT scan
Imaging test for evaluating patients suspected of having pancreatic cancer; this type of computed tomography scan can detect about 98 percent of pancreatic cancers.
Duct
A channel leading from an exocrine gland or organ.
Duodenum
The first part of the small intestine that connects to the stomach.
Durable power of attorney for healthcare
The legal designation of a person responsible to make medical decisions for a patient when that patient cannot do so.
Early-stage cancer
Cancer that has had little or no growth into nearby tissues.
Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) Performance Scale
A rating scale of one's ability to do daily activities.
Edema
Swelling around tissue due to the buildup of fluid.
Efficacy
Effectiveness; the power to produce a desired result.
Endocrine gland
A gland that secretes its hormone directly into the bloodstream that flows through it, rather than through an opening; endocrine tissue comprises 5 percent of the pancreas.
Endocrinologist
A physician who specializes in disorders of glands of the endocrine system.
Endoscope
Thin, tube-like instrument used to look at tissue inside the body; an endoscope has a light and a lens for viewing and may have a tool to remove tissue.
Endoscopic biopsy
A type of biopsy that uses a long, thin tube with a camera on the end to go down the esophagus to remove tissue samples.
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
Minimally invasive procedure during which a thin, lighted tube is passed down the throat, through the stomach and small intestine, and into the bile duct and pancreatic duct to view them for obstruction and to take X-rays.
Endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS)
Procedure in which an endoscope is inserted down the throat and into the stomach and duodenum; a probe at the end of the endoscope is used to bounce high-energy sound waves off internal organs to make images.
Enzymes
Proteins that speed up chemical reactions in the body and that the body produces naturally; enzymes help the body with functions such as digesting food.
Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)
A protein on the edge of a cell that sends signals for the cell to grow.
Erlotinib hydrochloride (Tarceva)
One of the approved chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer, it is a receptor kinase inhibitor and prevents cancer cells from multiplying.
Esophagus
The tube that connects the throat with the stomach; the esophagus lies between the trachea (windpipe) and the spine; it passes down the neck, pierces the diaphragm, and joins the upper end of the stomach.
Everolimus
An approved antineoplastic chemotherapy drug used to treat pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.
Excision
Removal by surgery.
Excisional biopsy
Removal of an entire tumor to test for disease.
Exocrine gland
A gland that secretes its fluid through a duct; exocrine tissue comprises 95 percent of the pancreas.
External beam radiation therapy
Treatment for cancer in which a beam of high-dose radiation is focused on the tumor from outside of the body.
Familial atypical multiple mole melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome
Genetic syndrome in which many different-sized, asymmetrical, raised moles are present; may be associated with melanoma or pancreatic cancer.
Familial breast cancer syndrome
Breast cancer that occurs more often in a family than would normally occur by chance. There is often a genetic factor, such as a BRCA mutation, which increases the risk of several cancers, including pancreatic cancer.
Familial pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer that occurs more often in a family than would normally occur by chance. There is often a genetic factor (known or unknown) involved.
Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy
Technique in which a thin needle is inserted into a tumor; cells are removed and examined under a microscope.
First-degree relative
Parents, children, or siblings of an individual.
First-line treatment
The first set of treatments given to treat a disease.
Fluorouracil (also knowns as 5-FU and 5-fluorouracil)
A chemotherapy drug used to treat pancreatic cancer. It is also used as part of the combination of drugs known as FOLFIRINOX.
FOLFIRINOX
One of the standard treatments for advanced pancreatic cancer. It is a four-drug combination: FOL (leucovorin calcium, or folinic acid), F (fluorouracil, or 5-FU), IRIN (irinotecan), OX (oxaliplatin). Each of these drugs enhances the action of the others.
FOLFOX
A combination chemotherapy consisting of leucovorin (folinic acid), fluorouracil, and oxaliplatin.
Follow-up testing
Tests done after treatment to check for signs that the cancer has come back.
Four-dimensional computed tomography (4D-CT)
A CT scan that can show the movement of organs.
Gall bladder
Pear-shaped organ located under the liver in which bile is concentrated and stored.
Gastroenterologist
A physician who specializes in disorders of the digestive system.
Gastrointestinal (GI) tract
The group of organs through which food passes after being eaten.
Gemcitabine (Gemzar)
A chemotherapy drug frequently used to treat pancreatic cancer. It has been shown, in controlled clinical trials, to improve quality of life.
Gemzar (gemcitabine)
The trade name for gemcitabine.
Gene
The functional and physical unit of heredity passed from parent to child; most genes contain the information for making a specific protein. Genes are composed of DNA.
Genetic
Having to do with genes and the information in genes.
Genetic counseling
Discussion with a counselor with specific expertise in diseases caused by abnormal cells that are inherited from family members.
Genetic mutation
A change in the DNA sequence that makes a gene different from what is normally seen. Mutations cause many different variances in genes, and the majority are harmless. But some mutations make people more likely to develop certain diseases, including cancer.
Genetic risk
The chance of getting a disease due to gene mutations that are inherited.
Genetic testing
Medical testing of a person’s DNA, which can identify changes in chromosomes, genes, or proteins that indicate the existence of a genetic disorder or disease.
Genome
The full set of genes of an organism.
Germline mutation
A change in the genes of the sperm or egg cells, which becomes part of the DNA of any offspring. Also called hereditary mutation.
GVAX pancreas vaccine
An experimental immunotherapy that stimulates different aspects of the immune system to kill tumor cells.
Head of the pancreas
The widest part of the pancreas. It is found in the right part of the abdomen, nestled in the curve of the duodenum.
Health care proxy
A person chosen by the patient to make medical decisions for that patient.
Hepatic artery
A short blood vessel branching off the celiac artery. It brings oxygenated blood to the liver, pylorus of the stomach, pancreas, and duodenum.
Hepatitis
Inflammation of the liver.
Hereditary cancer
Cancer that is caused by a genetic abnormality that was passed from parent to child.
Hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC; Lynch syndrome)
Syndrome in which there is a higher-than-normal chance of developing colon, pancreatic, uterine, stomach, or ovarian cancer.
Hereditary pancreatitis
Rare disease in which patients develop episodes of recurrent pancreatitis at an early age.
Homeopathic medicine
System of medicine based on the premise that “like cures like”; practitioners believe that a substance that produces a set of symptoms in a healthy person will, in small doses, cure those symptoms in a person with a disease.
Hospice
Concept of care that emphasizes palliative care rather than cures, quality of life over quantity, and comfort measures for patients provided at home, at a hospice facility, or in a hospital.
Ileum
Lowest part of the small intestine, located beyond the duodenum and jejunum, just before the large intestine (the colon).
Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT)
Treatment with radiation that uses imaging tests to better target the tumor.
Imaging tests
Methods used to produce pictures of internal body structures; for example, X-ray films, ultrasonography, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Immune cells
Cells that are part of the body's natural defense against infection and disease.
Immune response
The action of the body’s natural defense against infection and disease in response to a foreign substance.
Immune suppression
The condition in which the body's immune system, its natural defense against infection and disease, is weakened. This can occur because of illness or because of treatment for some diseases.
Immune system
The body's natural defense against disease, made up of a variety of organs, cells, and proteins.
Immunoglobulin
Proteins in the serum and cells of the immune system that help fight off infection. Also called antibodies.
Immunohistochemistry (IHC)
A test of proteins within cells to detect specific cell traits involved in abnormal cell growth. It is used to diagnose types of cancer.
Immunotherapy
Treatment that boosts the body's natural defense against disease. Also called immune therapy.
In situ
Literally, something found in its original place. In cancer in situ describes cancer cells that have not spread from their original location.
Incidental finding
During evaluation for a disease, finding another disease unintentionally.
Incisional biopsy
Surgery that removes a tissue sample from a tumor to test for cancer cells.
Inflammation
A reaction in one part of the body that produces redness, warmth, swelling, and pain as a result of infection, irritation, or injury. Inflammation can be external or internal.
Informed consent
Process in which a person is given important facts, such as the risks and benefits, about a medical procedure or treatment or a clinical trial before deciding whether to participate.
Informed consent form
A document that must be read, understood, and signed by a person wanting to take part in a research study or clinical trial.
Infusion
A method of giving drugs slowly through a needle into a vein.
Inherited mutations
DNA mutations carried in a person’s reproductive cells and potentially passed on to that person’s children. (see also Mutations.)
Insulin
A hormone made by islet cells of the pancreas that controls the amount of sugar in the blood by moving it into the cells, where it can be used for energy.
Integrative therapy
Combined use of a proven treatment and a complementary therapy.
Interstitial radiation
A type of internal radiation therapy that places radioactive objects in the tumor.
Interventional radiologist
A radiologist who uses image guidance methods to gain access to vessels and organs to treat diseases.
Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN)
A tumor of the pancreas that produces mucus that clogs and enlarges the pancreatic duct; IPMNs may progress to invasive pancreatic cancer if left untreated.
Intraoperative
During the course of surgery.
Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT)
Radiation therapy given during surgery.
Intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy
Drugs given by a small tube surgically placed in the abdomen.
Intrathecal injection
Injection into the space surrounding the spinal cord.
Intravenous (IV) chemotherapy
Drugs given by a needle or tube inserted into a vein.
Intravenous injection
Injection directly into a vein.
Irinotecan
One of the approved chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer, it inhibits the replication and transcription of DNA, and so interferes with cell growth.
Islet cell tumor
A tumor that arises from the islet cells of the pancreas, which may be benign or cancerous.
Islets of Langerhans
Collections of cells in the pancreas that produce insulin and glucagon, important regulators of sugar metabolism.
Jaundice
Condition in which the skin and the whites of the eyes become yellow, urine may become dark, and stool may become clay-colored; occurs when the liver is not working properly or a bile duct is blocked.
Jejunum
Portion of the small intestine that extends from the duodenum to the ileum.
Karnofsky Performance Status Scale (KPS)
A rating scale of one's ability to do daily activities.
Karyotype
A map of chromosomes according to their size and shape. Karyotyping is a process that examines a map (karyotype) of a cell's chromosomes.
KRAS gene
A gene capable of causing cancer when altered; drugs that block its activity may stop cancer growth. Sometimes called K-ras oncogene.
Lanreotide acetate (Somatuline Depot)
One of the approved drugs for treating symptoms of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.
Laparoscope
Small telescope-like instrument connected to a video monitor.
Laparoscopic ultrasonography
Procedure that uses a laparoscope, inserted through the abdominal wall, and is guided by ultrasonography.
Laparoscopy
Procedure during which a laparoscope is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen by which the internal organs can be viewed and tissue samples removed for examination.
Leucovorin calcium
A drug derived from folic acid that improves how well 5-FU, a type of chemotherapy, works.
Liquid biopsy
Tests on blood samples that look for pieces of tumor or tumor DNA circulating in the blood.
Liver
The largest solid organ in the body, situated in the upper part of the abdomen on the right side, the liver filters toxins out of the blood and synthesizes a number of important proteins and biochemicals.
Living will
One of several documents called advance directives that designate what kind of medical care a patient wants, or does not want, in the event the patient cannot speak for himself or herself.
Local anesthesia
Drugs given to cause a loss of feeling in a small area of the body.
Locally advanced
Cancer that is confined to the area around affected organ but cannot be surgically removed because the tumor may be intertwined with major blood vessels and may have invaded surrounding organs. There is no evidence of spread to other areas of the body.
Long-term side effect
A negative physical response to treatment that continues for months or years after finishing treatment.
Low-dose computed tomography (LDCT)
A test that uses little amounts of radiation to make pictures of the inside of the body.
Low-dose rate brachytherapy
Treatment with radioactive objects that are inserted into a tumor and left to decay.
Lutathera (lutetium Lu 177 dotatate)
One of the approved chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer, this radioactive drug binds to a cell receptor and enters the cell, allowing radiation to cause damage to the tumor cells.
Lymph nodes
Small, bean-shaped structures in the neck, underarm, groin, chest, abdomen, pelvis, near the pancreas, and throughout the body; they store white blood cells.
Lymphatic fluid
Fluid that circulates through the lymph vessels and empties into blood vessels in the upper chest.
Lymphatic system
The body’s complex set of lymph nodes, lymph cells, and lymph vessels that fight infection and disease.
Lymphocyte
A type of white blood cell that helps fight infection and disease.
Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)
Imaging method that is safe and fast; a form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) used to view the bile duct and pancreatic duct.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Imaging method that uses powerful magnets to view internal organs and structures; the energy from the magnets is absorbed by the body and released. A computer translates the energy patterns into detailed images of areas inside the body.
Magnetic resonance spectroscopy
A test that measures chemicals in cells without removing tissue from the body.
Main pancreatic duct
A tube-shaped vessel that drains digestive fluids from the pancreas into the gut.
Maintenance treatment
Treatment given to help sustain good treatment results.
Malignant
Cancerous; malignant tumors can invade and destroy nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body.
Medical oncologist
A physician who is trained to prescribe anticancer medications.
Melanoma
Serious form of skin cancer that begins in melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin).
Metastatic
Cancer that has spread beyond the area of the affected organ or part of the body and involves other organs, such as the liver or lungs, or other areas.
Microsatellitosis
Tiny tumors near the main tumor that can only be seen with a microscope.
Microscopic metastases
Cancer cells that have spread from the first tumor and cannot be seen by the naked eye.
Minimal residual disease (MRD)
A very small number of cancer cells left in the body after treatment that can’t be seen with a microscope.
Minimally invasive surgery
The use of small tools inserted through small incisions to do surgery.
Mitomycin C
One of the approved chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer, it works by sticking the cancer cell’s DNA (the cell’s genetic code) together so that it can't come apart again. The cell can't divide so the cancer cannot grow.
Monitoring tests
Tests done during treatment to check if treatment is working.
Monoclonal antibody
A type of immune system protein made in a lab that can attach to substances in the body such as cancer cells.
Multiagent chemotherapy
The use of two or more cancer drugs in one treatment, to get a stronger effect against the disease.
Multidetector row helical CT (MDCT) Scan
Helical CT scanner with multiple detector rows; advantages over other CT scanners include improved image resolution and rapid scanning of large volumes.
Multidisciplinary care
Team approach to the care of patients with cancer in which physicians in many different areas of specialization join to provide their expertise and experience.
Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 syndrome (MEN1; Wermer’s syndrome)
A rare, inherited disorder that affects the endocrine glands and can cause tumors in the pancreas and other organs, which usually are not cancerous.
Mutations
Errors in the DNA code that occur in the process of cell replication and division; certain mutations may lead to cancer or other diseases. (See also Inherited Mutations.)
Nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane)
One of the approved chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer, it inhibits cell division and promotes cell death. It is often given with gemcitabine.
Naturopathic medicine
Practitioners work with patients to provide nutritional and lifestyle counseling using dietary supplements, medicinal plants, and traditional Chinese medicine.
NED
No evidence of disease.
Neoadjuvant therapy
A treatment given before surgery.
Neoplasm
New growth; a tumor that may be benign or malignant.
Nerve block
Procedure in which a local anesthetic is injected around a nerve to produce numbness or pain reduction.
Neuroablation
Cutting or destroying part of pain fibers to help control pain.
Neuroendocrine
Having to do with the interactions between the nervous system and the endocrine system.
Neuropathy
A nerve problem that causes pain, tingling, and numbness in the hands and feet.
Neutropenia
A disorder caused by low levels of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell.
Nodule
A small mass of tissue.
Nonmetastatic recurrence
Cancer that has come back after treatment but has not spread to parts of the body far away from the first (primary) tumor.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Drugs that reduce inflammation and pain.
Oncologist
A physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Oncology
A branch of medicine that treats cancer.
Oncology nurses
Nurses with specialized training in managing the treatment and care of patients with cancer; they may administer chemotherapy drugs, help in management of side effects, and provide patient education.
Oncology social workers
Social workers professionally trained to counsel patients with cancer and help provide practical assistance, for example, by helping patients find support groups and locate services.
Oncology surgeons
A doctor who is an expert in cancer surgery.
Onivyde (irinotecan hydrochloride liposome)
One of the approved chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer, this form of irinotecan is enclosed in a lipid sphere to extend the time the drug remains in the body, thus increasing treatment effect.
Onset
In medicine, the first appearance of the signs or symptoms of an illness.
Opioids
Strongest pain relievers available.
Organoid
Tiny three-dimensional biological replica of a patient’s pancreatic tumor, cultured in the lab to allow researchers to test treatments to see what might work best for that patient.
Osteopathic
Form of conventional medicine that emphasizes diseases arising in the musculoskeletal system.
Oxaliplatin
One of the approved chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer, it is a platinum compound that disrupts DNA and kills cancer cells.
Paclitaxel (Abraxane)
One of the approved chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer, it inhibits cell division and promotes cell death. It is often given with gemcitabine. (See also Nab-paclitaxel.)
Palliative care
Healthcare that specializes in the relief of suffering and improvement in quality of life.
Palliative surgery
Any noncurative surgical procedure that may be used in patients with pancreatic cancer to help relieve symptoms such as jaundice, nausea, vomiting, and pain to improve quality of life.
Pancreas
An organ of the digestive system located deep in the abdomen that produces both pancreatic enzymes to aid in the digestion of food and hormones such as insulin.
Pancreatectomy
A surgical procedure in which part or all of the pancreas is removed.
Pancreatic cancer
A malignant tumor of the pancreas. There are two main types: adenocarcinoma, which makes up the vast majority of cases, and neuroendocrine cancer, which is the remaining 5 percent of cases.
Pancreatic cyst
Saclike pouches of fluid within the pancreas. Most do not cause symptoms and are not cancerous, but some can become malignant.
Pancreatic duct
Main duct that runs along the entire length of the pancreas and merges with the bile duct.
Pancreatic enzymes
Proteins produced by the pancreas to aid in the digestion of food.
Pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN)
Lesions too small to see with the naked eye that can progress to invasive pancreatic cancer over time.
Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (PNET)
This type of pancreatic tumor develops from the abnormal growth of endocrine (hormone-producing) cells in the pancreas called islet cells. PNETs grow more slowly and may have a higher survival rate. Not all types of PNETs are cancerous.
Pancreaticoduodenectomy
Surgical procedure in patients with pancreatic cancer that removes part of the stomach, the duodenum, the head of the pancreas, part of the bile duct, the gallbladder, and lymph nodes in the area of the pancreas (See Whipple procedure.)
Pancreatitis
Inflammation of the pancreas.
Pancreatoduodenectomy
Removal of the head of the pancreas and parts of other nearby organs. Also called a Whipple procedure.
Pathologist
A physician trained to examine cells under a microscope for the diagnosis of cancer and other diseases.
Pathology report
A document with information about cells and tissue removed from the body and examined with a microscope for disease.
Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA)
Method of pain relief, commonly used after surgery in the immediate postoperative period, in which the patient controls the amount of pain medication by pressing a button on a computerized pump connected to a small tube in the body; patients cannot use more than the prescribed amount because the device is programmed for a maximum dosage.
Peritoneum
Membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and covers most of the abdominal organs.
Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS)
Genetic disorder in which polyps form in the intestine and dark spots appear on the mouth and fingers, and that increases the risk of developing many types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer.
Phases of clinical trials
Sequential steps of clinical trials designed to answer specific questions and build on information from the previous phase. Phase 1: Determines the side effects of a new drug by gradually increasing the dosage and analyzing patients’ responses. Phase 2: Determines if the new drug has the potential to be better than current treatments. Phase 3: Determines if the treatment is better than, as good as, or not as good as the accepted standard treatment.
Photon beam radiation therapy
Uses X-ray beams to get to the tumor but also can damage healthy tissue around the tumor. Also known as external beam radiation therapy.
Physician assistant
Trained professional who has completed an accredited program and is board-certified to perform certain duties of a physician, under the supervision of a licensed physician; some duties include history-taking, physical examination, and minor surgical procedures.
Placebo
A substance that has no active ingredient.
Port
A device that is surgically installed to create an opening into the body.
Portal vein (hepatic portal vein)
Carries blood to the liver from the spleen, stomach, pancreas, and intestines.
Positron emission tomography (PET scan)
Imaging test in which a small amount of radioactive glucose is injected into a vein, a camera detects the radioactivity, and a computer generates detailed images; because cancer cells absorb much more glucose than normal cells, images created by a PET scan can be used to find cancer cells in the pancreas and other parts of the body.
Power of attorney
Legal document that appoints a person to make financial decisions for the patient when the patient cannot.
Prognosis
The expected pattern and outcome of a disease based on tests.
Progression
The growth or spread of cancer after being tested or treated.
Protein
A molecule made up of amino acids needed for the body to function properly; proteins are the basis of body structures such as the skin and hair, and of substances such as enzymes.
Protocol
A detailed plan of a medical study, treatment, or procedure.
Proton beam radiation therapy
Treatment with radiation that uses a stream of positively charged particles that can be focused to reach only the targeted area.
Proven therapy
A conventional, traditional, or standard treatment that has been tested and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Pylorus
A thick ring of muscle (a sphincter) between the stomach and duodenum. This sphincter helps control the release of the stomach contents into the small intestine.
Pylorus-preserving Whipple procedure
Surgical procedure in patients with pancreatic cancer that removes most of the duodenum, the head of the pancreas, part of the bile duct, the gallbladder, and lymph nodes in the area of the pancreas; in this procedure, the stomach is spared.
Quality of life
The standard of one's well-being.
Questionable therapy
Unproven or untested treatments.
R0 resection
After surgery to remove a tumor, no tumor remains in the edges of the location where the tumor was removed, either visible to the eye or under a microscope.
R1 resection
After surgery to remove a tumor, all the visible tumor was removed but under the microscope there are still visible tumor cells on the edges of the location where the tumor was removed.
Radiation
The use of energy waves to diagnose or treat disease.
Radiation field
The area of the body that receives radiation.
Radiation oncologist
A physician trained in treating cancer with high-dose X-rays.
Radiation therapy
Also called radiotherapy; treatment of cancer with irradiation.
Radioactive
Giving off radiation.
Radioactive glucose
Sugar injected into the body to make specific tissue more visible during a PET scan.
Radiologist
A physician trained to interpret many different imaging techniques.
Radiotherapy
Also called radiation therapy; treatment of cancer with irradiation.
Randomized trial
A clinical trial in which patients are assigned by chance to the different treatments being tested in that trial.
Recurrent cancer
Cancer that has returned after a disease-free period.
Regimen
A plan or a regulated course, such as a diet, exercise, or disease treatment, designed to give a good result.
Regional anesthesia
A type of drug used for short-term loss of feeling or awareness in a part of the body while awake.
Relapse
The return of signs and symptoms of a disease after a remission.
Remission
The signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared as a result of treatment.
Resectable
Cancer that can be surgically removed. In pancreatic cancer, these tumors may lie within the pancreas or extend beyond it, but there is no involvement of the critical arteries or veins in the area. There is no evidence of any spread to areas outside of the tissue removed during a typical surgery for pancreatic cancer.
Resection
Surgery to remove a tumor.
Risk factors
Characteristics, habits, or environmental exposures shown to increase the odds of developing a disease.
RNA (ribonucleic acid)
A molecule that carries information for DNA and carries the same genetic code as DNA.
Second-line treatment
The next treatment used against a disease when the first treatment fails.
Sedative
A drug that helps a person to relax or go to sleep.
Shave biopsy
Surgery to remove a thin tissue sample from the top of a tumor to test for cancer cells.
Signs
Any objective evidence of a disease, for example, evidence perceptible to the examining physician. (See also Symptoms.)
Single-agent drug
A drug that is used as the only treatment.
Somatuline Depot (lanreotide acetate)
One of the approved drugs for treating symptoms of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.
Sonogram
A computer picture of areas inside the body, created by sound waves bounced off tissues and organs.
Spleen
An organ located on the left side of the abdomen, near the stomach, that is part of the lymphatic system; it produces white blood cells, filters the blood, stores blood cells, and destroys old blood cells.
Splenic artery
The blood vessel that brings oxygenated blood to the spleen. It branches from the celiac artery.
Splenic vein
Drains blood from the spleen, part of the stomach, and part of the pancreas.
Stage
In cancer, the stage denotes the extent of the disease, especially whether it has spread from the original site to other parts of the body.
Staging cancer
A standardized way to classify a tumor based on its size, whether it has spread, and where it has spread; staging measures the extent of the disease.
Standard of care
The process that a healthcare professional should follow to treat a medical problem.
Steatorrhea
Excessive amounts of fat in the stool. Sometimes this can appear as an oil slick on top of the toilet water after the patient has had a bowel movement.
Stent
Device placed in a body structure (such as the pancreatic duct) to keep it open.
Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)
Multiple beams of high-dose radiation focused on a specified location in the body. The technique enables the radiation oncologist to kill cancer cells and limit the exposure of healthy tissue to radiation.
Stroma
A kind of framework, made up of connective tissue, that provides support, structure, and anchoring for organs.
Subcutaneous
Under the skin.
Sunitinib malate (Sutent)
One of the approved chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, it is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor with potential anticancer activity.
Superior mesenteric artery
A major blood vessel for the intestines, colon, duodenum, and part of the pancreas. It branches off of the abdominal aorta.
Superior mesenteric vein
The blood vessel that drains the small intestine. Its endpoint is behind the head of the pancreas.
Supplement
A product that is added to the diet, such as a vitamin, mineral, or herb.
Supportive care
In patients with cancer, use of medications to prevent or counteract unwanted side effects of cancer or its treatment to increase quality of life.
Surgical oncologist
A doctor who is an expert in cancer surgery.
Surgical staging
Procedures done during surgery that are used to find out how far cancer has spread.
Surveillance
Follow-up testing that is done after treatment ends to look for new tumors.
Symptoms
Subjective sensations of the patient. (See also Signs.)
Systemic treatment
In cancer, a treatment in which a drug enters and travels throughout the body to reach tumor cells.
Tail of the pancreas
The thin tip of the organ in the left part of the abdomen, near the spleen.
Tarceva (erlotinib hydrochloride)
One of the approved chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer, it is a receptor kinase inhibitor and prevents cancer cells from multiplying.
Targeted therapy
Treatment designed to kill only cancer cells and not healthy cells.
Therapy
The treatment of disease.
Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT)
Treatment with radiation that uses beams matched to the shape of the tumor.
TNM system
A system used to evaluate cancer; T stands for tumor, N for node, and M for metastasis.
Total pancreatectomy
Procedure now seldom used to remove the entire pancreas and spleen in patients with pancreatic cancer.
Toxicity
The degree to which a substance can harm humans or animals.
Transdermal
Through the skin.
Transducer
A hand-held tool that bounces sound waves off tissue to make pictures of the inside of the body.
Treatment plan
A written course of action through cancer treatment and beyond.
Tumor
An abnormal mass of tissue. Tumors are a classic sign of inflammation, and can be benign or malignant (cancerous).
Tumor extension
How far the tumor has grown into nearby tissue.
Tumor grade
How closely the cancer cells look like normal cells.
Tumor markers
Substances, usually proteins, produced by a cancer or by the body’s response to the presence of cancer that can be detected in the blood.
Tumor regression
A decrease in the size of the tumor.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
A federal government agency that regulates drugs and food in the United States.
Ultrasonography
Also called a sonogram, ultrasonogram, or ultrasound scan; imaging method that bounces sound waves off internal organs to produce echoes; a computer creates patterns from these echoes that can determine whether tissue is normal or abnormal.
Uncinate process of the pancreas
The part of the gland that bends backwards and underneath the body of the pancreas. Two very important blood vessels, the superior mesenteric artery and vein, cross in front of this part of the pancreas.
Unconventional therapy
Term used to cover all types of complementary and alternative treatments that fall outside of proven therapies. (See also Alternative therapy.)
Unresectable
Cancer that has grown beyond the pancreas and has invaded vital structures around the pancreas. Unresectable cancer cannot be entirely removed by surgery.
Upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy
A process in which a thin, long tool is guided into the esophagus and stomach.
V
There are no terms in this letter at the moment.
Vaccine
A biological agent inserted into the body to prevent a disease.
Vaccine therapy
A treatment used to help the body's disease-fighting ability (immune system) prevent a disease.
Vital organ
A functional group of tissue in the body that is needed to live.
Whipple procedure
Surgical procedure in patients with pancreatic cancer that removes part of the stomach, the duodenum, the head of the pancreas, part of the bile duct, the gallbladder, and lymph nodes in the area of the pancreas.
Widespread metastatic disease
Cancer that has spread from the first tumor to many distant locations in the body.
Will
Legal document that describes how a person wants his or her money and property divided after death.
X-ray
High-energy radiation with waves shorter than those of visible light, used in low doses to make images that help to diagnose diseases and in high doses to treat cancer.
Xeloda (capecitabine)
One of the approved chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer, it gets metabolized into 5-FU; in either form the drug disrupts the cell replication cycle.
Y
There are no terms in this letter at the moment.
Z
There are no terms in this letter at the moment.