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Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer: Glossary

Friday, June 29, 2012 - 13:23

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here are definitions of medical terms related to skin cancer.

Actinic keratosis: a precancerous skin growth that occurs on sun-damaged skin often looks like a red scaly patch and feels like "sandpaper".

Basal cell carcinoma: the most common form of skin cancer that involves cells in the lower part, or base, of the epidermis, the outer layer of skin.

Benign: non-cancerous, a growth that does not spread to other parts of the body or damage normal tissue.

Biopsy: removal and examination of cells or tissue under a microscope to check for cancer.

Carcinoma: cancer that starts in tissues that cover or line organs in the body.

Chemotherapy: treatment with anti-cancer drugs.

Clinical trial: a research study done on human volunteers to decide if a new treatment is safe and effective.

Curettage: a surgical method of removing diseased tissue with a curette, a sharp-edged instrument.

Curette: a spoon-shaped surgical instrument with a sharp edge.

Dermatologist: a medical doctor who specializes in treatment of skin cancer and other skin diseases.

Dermatopathologist: a medical doctor, generally a dermatologist with subspeciatyl training in skin pathology.

Dermis: the layer of skin, located under the epidermis.

Electrodessication: a surgical method of drying-out tissue by touching it with a needle-like electrode that passes electric current into the tissue.

Epidermis: the outermost layer of skin, which is in contact with the environment, located above the dermis.

Laser: an electronic device that focuses light into an intense beam used in skin cancer surgery to cut or destroy tissue.

Localized: cancer that is limited to one small area of the body and has not spread.

Lymph nodes: clusters of tissue found in the underarms, groin, neck, and other parts of the body that help fight disease. When cancer spreads, they often trap cancer cells.

Malignant: a cancerous growth that may destroy nearby normal tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

Melanocytes: skin cells that produce a pigment called melanin and can change into malignant melanoma.

Melanoma: cancer that occurs in melanocytes and is the most serious kind of skin cancer.

Metastasize: the spread of cancer cells from the original tumor to distant parts of the body.

Mohs micrographic surgery: a method of treating skin cancer in which all the cancer and as little normal tissue as possible is removed.

Mole: a small usually dark skin growth that develops from pigment-producing cells called melanocytes.

Pathologist: a doctor who helps diagnose disease by examining cells and tissues under a microscope.

Photodynamic therapy: treatment with drugs that kill cancer cells when exposed to a special light.

Precancerous: a growth that may eventually turn malignant and become cancerous.

Radiation therapy: treatment that uses x-rays and other sources of radiation to kill cancer cells.

Recur: cancer that returns after treatment to the same site or a new site in the body.

Staging: determining the stage or extent to which a cancer has advanced.

Squamous cell carcinoma: cancer that occurs in squamous cells, which are specialized cells near the skin surface that produce protective keratin.

Sunscreen solution: a lotion, cream or oil that protects the skin from harmful ultraviolet radiation, premature aging, and skin cancer.

Topical chemotherapy: treatment with anticancer drugs in a cream or solution applied to the skin over a period of time

Tumor: any abnormal growth of tissue that can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Ultraviolet radiation: invisible rays in sunlight that cause suntan, sunburn, premature skin aging, and most cases of skin cancer.

Skin Cancer