Here are 17 words about cancer that your family might need to know. You may want to explain them in a family meeting, so that all the children (and adults) know what you mean when you use these words. Find out if there are other words they have heard that they do not understand, also tell them who they should ask if they hear other words they may be unfamiliar with.
- Benign (be-nine): not cancer or malignant (muh-lig-nunt) which is another word for cancerous.
- Biopsy (by-op-see): A procedure that removes a piece of tissue from a person’s body so that a doctor can look at it under a microscope. This test is used to see if a person has cancer, and if so, what kind it is (see also tissue.)
- Cancer: A name for the more than 100 diseases in which cells that are not normal grow and divide rapidly. These abnormal cells usually develop into a tumor (mass or lump). Cancer can also spread to other parts of the body from where it started. Certain kinds of cancers can grow in places like the bone marrow where they will not make a tumor.
- Chemotherapy (key-mo-ther-uh-pee) also called chemo: Treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Common side effects of chemo include short-term hair loss, nausea and vomiting, mouth sores, feeling tired (fatigue), and a greater chance of getting infections.
- Clinical trials: Research studies that are set up to compare new cancer treatments with the standard or usual treatments.
- Fatigue (fuh-teeg): A common symptom during cancer treatment; a bone-weary exhaustion that does not get better with rest. For some, this can last for some time after treatment.
- Metastasis (meh-tass-tuh-sis): The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. The plural is metastases (meh-tass-tuh-sees).
- Oncologist (on-call-uh-jist): A doctor who specializes in treating cancer. There are medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists.
- Prognosis (prog-no-sis): A prediction of the course of disease; the outlook for the chances of survival.
- Protocol (pro-tuh-call): A detailed, standard plan that doctors follow when treating cancer patients.
- Radiation therapy: Treatment of cancer with high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. This treatment is given by a machine or by materials put in or near the body. The side effects of radiation therapy usually show up in the part of the body being treated. For example: reddening of the skin where the radiation is given, hair loss if the head is being treated, nausea if the stomach is being treated, and trouble swallowing and eating if the head and neck area is being radiated. Tiredness (fatigue) is the most common side effect of radiation.
- Recurrence or relapse: The return of cancer cells and signs of cancer after a remission.
- Remission: The disappearance of cancer symptoms and cells as a result of treatment.
- Side effects: Problems caused by cancer treatments. Two people with the same cancer and even the same treatments may not have the same side effects. Your doctor can tell you what happens to most people, but cannot say for certain what will happen to you. Not having side effects does not mean that the treatment is not working. Tell your children what the doctor has told you, and promise to tell them if you start to feel the effects of the treatment.
- Surgery: A procedure done by a doctor who is an expert in doing operations.
- Tissue (tish-u): a collection of cells that work together to perform a certain job or function in the body. Different parts of the body, such as the skin, lungs, liver, or nerves can be called tissue. Tissue can be cancerous or normal. Doctors often biopsy tissue in a certain area to find out if it has cancer cells in it. (See also malignant, benign, biopsy.)
- Tumor: An abnormal mass of tissue. Some tumors are cancer and some are not.
There will be other words that apply to you or your family member’s treatment that your child may want to learn. You can learn more about these words and what they mean on www.cancer.org.
Contact Heart ‘n Home today at 1-800-HOSPICE if you need additional questions about your cancer support or diagnosis answered.
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National Cancer Institute. Pediatric supportive care (PDQ®). Accessed at: www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/pediatric/HealthProfessional on April 2, 2009.
National Cancer Institute: When Someone In Your Family Has Cancer. Accessed at: www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/when-someone-in-your-family/page1 on April 2, 2009.
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