Home » Lung Cancer Choices » Lung Cancer Choices Glossary
abnormality (ab-nohr-MAL-uh-tee): A growth or area of tissue that is not normal. An
abnormality may or may not be cancer or likely to become cancer.

adenocarcinoma (ADD-in-oh-kar-sin-OH-muh): A type of non-small cell lung cancer.
Types of lung cancer are determined by the type of cells in the cancer.

adjuvant therapy (ADD-joo-vent THAIR-uh-pee): Treatment given after the main
treatment to help cure a disease.

alcohol (AL-kuh-hall): Wine, beer, or liquor (such as gin or whiskey).

antiangiogenesis therapy (AN-tee-an-jee-oh-JEN-uh-sis THAIR-uh-pee): Using drugs or
other treatments to stop new blood vessels from forming in tumors to try to limit tumor

antibodies (AN-tee-BAH-deez): Proteins in the body made by the immune system that
fight infection and disease.

arsenic (AHR-sin-ik): A mineral that can occur naturally in rocks and soil, sometimes used
as a poison used to kill weeds and pests. Arsenic is also used in some cancer treatments to
kill cancer cells.

asbestos (ess-BEST-iss): A natural material that is made of tiny threads or fibers. The fibers
can enter the lungs as a person breathes. Asbestos can cause many diseases, including cancer.
Asbestos was used to insulate houses from heat and cold. It has also been used in car brakes,
in shipyards, and for other purposes. Some old houses still have asbestos in their walls or

beta-carotene (BAY-tuh KAYR-uh-teen): A vitamin found in orange, bright yellow, and
dark green fruits and vegetables.

biological therapy (bye-uh-LAH-juh-kul THAIR-uh-pee): Treatment to boost the immune
system’s power to fight infections and other diseases. It can also be used to lessen side
effects of some treatments. Also called immunotherapy, biotherapy, or biological response
modifier (BRM) therapy.

biopsy (BY-ah-psee): To remove cells or tissues from the body for testing and examination
under a microscope.

bladder (BLAD-ur): A small sac that holds urine before it passes from the body. The
bladder is in the lower part of the belly.

bronchi (BRAHNK-eye): The large airways connecting the windpipe to the lungs. The
single form is bronchus. See also bronchial carcinoma.

bronchial carcinoma (BRAHN-kee-yul kar-sin-OH-muh): Cancer that grows in the
bronchi, which are the large airways connecting the windpipe to the lungs.

bronchoalveolar carcinoma (BRAHN-koh-al-vee-OH-lur kar-sin-OH-muh):
Bronchoalveolar carcinoma (BAC) is a subtype of lung cancer. BAC tumors can be more
diffuse (spread out) than other lung cancers.

bronchoscopy (brahn-KAH-skuh-pee): A way to look at the inside of the windpipe, the
bronchi, and/or the lungs using a lighted tube. The tube is inserted through the patient’s
nose or mouth. Bronchoscopy may be used to find cancer or as part of some treatments.

cancer registry: A database of cancer cases including information about when they
occurred, the type of cancer, and other information.

carcinogen (kar-SIN-uh-jin): Something that causes cancer.

carotenoids (kuh-RAH-tuh-noydz): Pigments made by plants that are commonly found in
orange fruits and vegetables and some dark green vegetables. Some carotenoids are used to
make vitamin A.

CAT scan: A set of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles.
The pictures are made by a computer linked to an X-ray machine. Other names for a CAT
scan are computerized axial tomography, computed tomography (CT scan), and
computerized spiral (helical) CT scan.

cervical mediastinoscopy (SUR-vuh-kul MEE-dee-eh-stye-NAH-skuh-pee): A surgical
procedure to examine the central area of the chest, called the mediastinum. (The heart,
windpipe, bronchi, blood vessels, lymph nodes, and esophagus are found here.) The doctor
makes a small incision (cut) in the neck to get to the mediastinum. Cervical mediastinoscopy
can be used to help learn the stage of disease. It also helps doctors see if cancer has spread
to the lymph nodes.

chemoprevention (KEE-moh-preh-VEN-shin): Using things such as drugs or vitamins to
try to prevent or slow down cancer. Chemoprevention may be used to help keep someone
from ever getting cancer. It is also used to help keep some cancers from coming back.

chemotherapy (KEE-moh-THAIR-up-ee): primarily refers to the treatment of cancer with
an antineoplastic drug or with a combination of such drugs into a standardized treatment

chest radiograph: a picture of the inside of the chest, made with x-rays.

cholesterol (kuh-LES-tur-all): Cholesterol comes from many foods, especially animal
products like meat, milk, and cheese. It is used to make hormones and for several other
purposes. It also is made by the cells of the body.

chromium (KROH-mee-yum): A kind of metal that comes in different forms and is found
in rocks and soil. Some forms are also produced during industrial processes. Chromium is
also one of the chemicals found in cigarette smoke.

clinical trial: Process used to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of new medications,
procedures, or medical devices by monitoring their effects on large groups of people; the
testing usually required by the Food and Drug Administration before approving a new drug,
procedure or medical device.

     phase 1 trial – This is the first clinical trial for studying an experimental drug
or treatment in humans. Phase 1 trials are usually small (10-100 people) and
are used to determine safety and the best dose for a drug. These trials provide
information about side effects, and how the body absorbs and handles the
drug. People in these trials usually have advanced disease and have already
received the best available treatment.
     phase 2 trial – Phase 2 trials examine whether a drug or therapy is active
against the disease it is intended to treat. Side effects are studied. A phase 2
trial is a noncomparative study, meaning the therapeutic effects and side
effects of the experimental treatment are not compared to another drug or a
     phase 3 trial – Phase 3 trials are conducted to find out how well a drug or
therapy works compared to standard treatment or no treatment. Phase 3 trials
are large studies and usually involve several hundred to thousands of patients.
     controlled clinical trial – A controlled clinical trial divides participants into
study groups to determine the effectiveness and safety of a new treatment.
One group receives the experimental treatment. The other group receives
placebo (an inactive substance) or the standard therapy; this group is called the control group. Comparison of the experimental group with the control group
is the basis of determining the safety and effectiveness of the new treatment.
     randomized clinical trial – A randomized clinical trial involves patients who
are randomly (by chance) assigned to receive either the experimental treatment
or the control treatment (placebo or standard therapy).

colon cancer (KOH-lin KAN-sur): Cancer that begins in the colon, or large intestine.

dosimetrists: carefully calculate the dose of radiation to make sure the tumor gets enough
radiation. They develop a number of treatment plans that can best destroy the tumor while
sparing the normal tissues. Many of these treatment plans are very complex. Dosimetrists
work with the doctor and the medical physicist to choose the treatment plan that is just right
for each patient. Many dosimetrists start as radiation therapists, and then, with very intensive
training, become dosimetrists. Others are graduates of one-to-two-year dosimetry programs.
The Medical Dosimetrist Certification Board certifies dosimetrists. (

dysphagia (dis-FAY-jee-yuh): Trouble swallowing.

dyspnea (DISP-nee-yuh): Shortness of breath.

EGFR inhibitors: Stands for epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors. Epidermal
growth factor is a protein in the body that stimulates some cells, including some cancer cells,
to grow and multiply. EGFR inhibitors are a class of anti-cancer drugs. They work by
blocking epidermal growth factor from stimulating cells to grow.

emphysema (em-fuh-ZEE-muh): A disease that affects the tiny air sacs in the lungs.
Emphysema makes it harder to breathe. People who smoke have a greater chance of getting

esophagitis (ee-SAH-fuh-JY-tis): Inflammation of the esophagus (the tube that carries food
from the mouth to the stomach).

esophagus (eh-SAH-fuh-gus): The tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach.

evidence (EV-uh-dins): Information that is collected in an orderly way about a disease or its
treatment. This information often comes from research. Evidence helps doctors and
scientists understand what treatments work best on different diseases.

extensive stage SCLC: SCLC stands for small cell lung cancer. SCLC is usually staged as
either “limited” or “extensive.” Extensive SCLC is cancer that has spread beyond the lung to
other parts of the body. See also oat cell and small cell lung cancer.

fibrosis (fy-BROH-sis): The growth of fibrous (resembling fibers) tissue.

first line therapy: The first course of treatment used against a disease.

gene (jeen): The basic unit of heredity. Genes decide eye color and other traits. Genes also
play a role in how high a person’s risk is for certain diseases. See also inherited.

gene therapy: Treatment that changes a gene. Gene therapy is used to help the body fight
cancer. It also can be used to make cancer cells more sensitive to treatment.

genetic mutation: a change in the structure of a gene

Gray (Gy): The amount of radiation used in radiation therapy is measured in gray (Gy), and
varies depending on the type and stage of cancer being treated.

hilar (HIGH-lar): Referring to the central portion of each lung where the bronchi, arteries,
veins, and nerves enter and exit the lungs.

hypofractionation (HY-poh-FRAK-shuh-NAY-shun): Radiation treatment in which the
total dose of radiation is divided into large doses and treatments are given less than once a
day. Also called hypofractionated radiation therapy

immune system (ih-MYOON SIS-tim): The complex group of organs and cells that
defends the body against infections and other diseases.

infusion: the therapeutic introduction of fluid other than blood into a vein.

inherited (in-HAIR-uh-tid): Something that is passed on from parents to their children.
When traits are passed on from one generation to the next, it is called heredity.


kidney (KID-nee): A bean-shaped organ that filters waste products from the body and
forms urine that is passed into the bladder. Human beings are born with two kidneys, one on
each side of the lower back.
large cell cancer: A type of non-small cell lung cancer where the cancer cells are large and

larynx (LAIR-inks): Voice box. The larynx is part of the breathing system and is found in
the throat.

limited stage small cell lung cancer (SCLC): SCLC stands for small cell lung cancer.
SCLC is usually staged as either “limited” or “extensive.” Limited stage generally means the
cancer is found only in one lung and its nearby tissue. See also oat cell and small cell lung

linear accelerator (LIH-nee-er ak-SEH-leh-RAY-ter): A machine that uses electricity to
form a stream of fast-moving subatomic particles. This creates high-energy radiation that
may be used to treat cancer. Also called linac, mega-voltage linear accelerator, and MeV
linear accelerator.

lobe: A part of an organ, such as the lung.

lobectomy (loh-BEK-tuh-mee): Surgery to remove a lobe of an organ.

low-dose CAT scan: A CAT scan that uses smaller amounts of X-rays than a regular CAT

lymph nodes (LIMF nohdz): Small glands that help the body fight infection and disease.
They filter a fluid called lymph and contain white blood cells.

mediastinum (mee-dee-uh-STYE-nim): The part of the body between the lungs. The heart,
windpipe, esophagus, bronchi, and lymph nodes are found in this area.

medical physics: generally speaking the application of physics concepts, theories and
methods to medicine. A medical physics department may be based in either a hospital or a
university. Clinical medical physicists are often found in Diagnostic and Interventional
Radiology, Nuclear Medicine, and Radiation Oncology.

mesothelioma (mez-uh-thee-lee-YOH-muh): A tumor in the lining of the chest or
abdomen (stomach area).

metastasis (muh-TASS-tuh-sis): When cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
Molecular testing: also called assays or profiles, can help your treatment team identify
specific biomarkers in a tumor.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): A type of body scan that uses a magnet linked to a
computer to make detailed pictures of areas inside the body. An MRI can be used to find

neoadjuvant therapy (NEE-oh-ADD-joo-vent THAIR-uh-pee): Treatment given before
the main treatment to help cure a disease.

neutropenia (noo-truh-PEE-nee-yuh): An abnormal decrease in a type of white blood cells.
The body needs white blood cells to fight disease and infection.

nickel (NIK-ul): A kind of metal found in soil and often used in alloys and in industry.

oat cell: Another name for small cell lung cancer. The name “oat cell” comes from the fact
that the cells look like oats. See also extensive SCLC and limited SCLC.

oncologist (ahn-KAH-luh-jist): A doctor who specializes in studying and treating cancer.

ototoxicity (oh-tuh-tok-sis-i-tee): having a harmful effect on the organs or nerves concerned
with hearing and balance.

pancreas (PAN-kree-yus): A large gland that helps digest food and also makes some
important hormones.

pericarditis: Inflammation of the pericardium (the fibrous sac surrounding the heart).

peripheral neuropathy (puh-RIF-uh-rul noo-RAH-puh-thee): Numbness, tingling, burning,
or weakness that usually begins in the hands or feet. Some anticancer drugs can cause this

PET scan (Positron Emission Tomography Scan): A PET scan is a way to find cancer in
the body. In a PET scan, the patient is given radioactive glucose (sugar) through a vein. A
scanner then tracks the glucose in the body. The scanner’s pictures can be used to find
cancer, since cancer cells tend to use more sugar than other cells.

phlegm (flem): Thick mucus from the airways of the body.

pleura (PLOO-rah): The thin lining that covers the lungs and the inside of the chest wall
that cushions the lungs. The pleura normally releases a small amount of fluid. The fluid helps
the lungs move freely during breathing.

pleural effusion (PLOO-rul eh-FYOO-zhin): When too much fluid collects between the
lining of the lung and the lining of the inside wall of the chest.

pneumonectomy (noo-muh-NEK-tuh-mee): Surgery to remove a lung.

pneumonitis (NOO-moh-NY-tis): Inflammation of the lungs. This may be caused by
disease, infection, radiation therapy, allergy, or irritation of lung tissue by inhaled substances.

primary cancer: The first or original cancer diagnosis.

prognosis (prahg-NOH-sis): The course a disease is likely to follow, including how long it
will last, what the result will be, and the chances for recovery.

prostate cancer (PRAH-stayt KAN-sur): Cancer that begins in the prostate, which is a
gland in men. The prostate is about the size of a walnut and sits just below the bladder.

pulmonologist (pull-min-AH-luh-jist): A doctor who specializes in studying and treating
diseases of the lungs.

quartile (KWOR-tyl): A term used in medical statistics to mean a group containing onequarter
or 25 percent of the total.
radiation (ray-dee-AY-shin): The emission of energy in waves or particles. Often used to
treat cancer cells.

radiation oncologist (RAY-dee-YAY-shun ahn-KAH-luh-jist): A doctor who has special
training to treat cancer patients with radiation.

radiation therapist (RAY-dee-AY-shun THAYR-uh-pist): A health professional who gives
radiation treatment.

radon (RAY-dahn): An odorless, colorless gas known to increase risk of cancer. Radon
comes from rocks and dirt and can get trapped in houses and buildings.

recurrence: When cancer comes back after a period when no cancer could be found.

resection: Surgery to remove tissue, an organ, or part of an organ.

selenium (seh-LEE-nee-um): A mineral found in rocks and soil, often used in electronics
and other industries. It is also a mineral the body needs in small amounts.

silica (SILL-uh-kuh): A substance found in rocks, sand, and quartz as well as some

small cell lung cancer: A type of lung cancer made up of small, round cells. Small cell lung
cancer is less common than non-small cell lung cancer and often grows more quickly. The
name is often shortened to SCLC. Another name for SCLC is oat cell cancer. See also
extensive SCLC and limited SCLC.

spiral (helical) CT scan: Pictures created by a computer linked to an X-ray machine that
scans the body in a spiral path. Also called helical computed tomography.

sputum (SPEW-tim): Mucus and other things brought up from the lungs in coughing.

sputum cytology (SPEW-tim sie-TAH-luh-jee): A screening test for lung cancer. In this
test, doctors look at phlegm under the microscope to check for cancer cells.

squamous cell carcinoma (SQUAY-mus SEL kar-sin-OH-muh): A type of non-small cell
lung cancer that begins in the squamous cells of the lungs. Squamous cells are found in the
skin, the lining of the hollow organs (such as the stomach), and in the breathing and
digestive tracts.
stage: How much cancer is in the body and how far it has spread.

stereotactic radiosurgery (STAYR-ee-oh-TAK-tik RAY-dee-oh-SER-juh-ree): A type of
external radiation therapy that uses special equipment to position the patient and precisely
give a single large dose of radiation to a tumor. It is used to treat brain tumors and other
brain disorders that cannot be treated by regular surgery. It is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. Also called radiation surgery, radiosurgery, and stereotaxic radiosurgery.

stereotactic body radiation therapy (STAYR-ee-oh-TAK-tik): A type of external radiation
therapy that uses special equipment to position a patient and precisely deliver radiation to
tumors in the body (except the brain). The total dose of radiation is divided into smaller
doses given over several days. This type of radiation therapy helps spare normal tissue.

thoracic surgeon (thuh-RASS-ik): A doctor who specializes in chest, heart, and lung

TNM — A system for describing stages of cancer. T describes the size of the tumor and
whether it has grown into nearby tissues. N describes any lymph nodes involved. M
describes metastasis.

toxicity (tahx-SIS-uh-tee): How toxic or poisonous something is.

trachea (TRAY-kee-yuh): The airway connecting the larynx to the lungs; windpipe.

vaccine (vax-EEN): A substance meant to help the immune system respond to and resist

VATS (Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery): A surgical procedure performed inside the
chest with the help of a camera on a tube. In VATS, several small incisions (cuts) are made
in the chest. Doctors insert the tube with the camera through one incision, and tools to work
with through the others. The camera helps the doctors see inside the chest to operate.

wedge resection: Surgery to remove a wedge-shaped piece of tissue.