Lymphoma: Glossary

Here are definitions of medical terms related to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Abdomen: The center part of the body that contains the stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder, and other organs.

Aggressive lymphoma: A lymphoma that is fast-growing.

Alternative medicine: Treatments that have not traditionally been used in standard Western medicine, and are not widely taught in medical schools. These may include naturopathic medicine (herbs and plants), homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, and others.

Anemia: Too few red blood cells. Anemia can cause tiredness, shortness of breath, and make it harder for the body to fight infection.

Angiogenesis inhibitors: Chemicals produced by the body which stop the growth of new blood vessels. Because cancerous tumors must have a supply of new blood vessels in order to keep growing, angiogenesis inhibitors are being tested as a treatment for lymphoma and other cancers.

Antibody: Antibodies are proteins that help white blood cells fight off viruses and bacteria, by binding to foreign invaders and signaling the immune cells to attack.

Autoimmune disease: A disease in which the immune system attacks body’s own tissues.

B cells: White blood cells that make antibodies. Some forms of lymphoma are made of B cells.

B symptoms: Symptoms that some people experience when they have lymphoma. B symptoms are non-specific In other words, they don’t mean that lymphoma is present for sure, but it should be ruled out if the symptoms last longer than a couple of weeks. B symptoms include: drenching night sweats, unexplained weight loss (usually more than 10% of total body weight), fever of more than 100 degrees F., itching skin, and unusual tiredness.

Biological therapy: Uses chemicals or proteins made by the body’s own cells to activate the body’s defenses against a cancer. Also called immunotherapy or biological response modifier (BRM) therapy.

Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues for examination under a microscope.

Bone marrow: The soft, spongy tissue in the center of large bones that produces white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

Bone marrow transplantation: A treatment that replaces bone marrow destroyed by treatment with high doses of anticancer drugs or radiation.

Cancer: A disease in which any of the body’s cells begin to divide out of control, causing a tumor to form or too many of these cells to spread throughout the body.

Chemotherapy: Treatment with anti-cancer drugs.

Clinical trial: A research study that tests the effectiveness of new treatments in people.

Complementary therapies: Treatments that have not been considered part of standard Western medicine, but that are increasingly being used in combination with standard medical treatments. These may include therapies for pain such as massage, relaxation techniques and some nutritional therapies.

Connective tissue: The type of tissue that makes up the supporting structure of the lymph nodes and other organs, in the same way that beams and girders make up the supporting structure of a building.

CT scan: Computed tomography scan. A series of detailed pictures inside the body; the pictures are created by a computer linked to a special x-ray machine. Also called a CAT scan.

Cytokines: chemicals produced by the immune system that stimulate white blood cells to attack and kill viruses, bacteria, foreign cells, or cancer cells.

Diaphragm: The thin muscle below the lungs and heart that separates the chest from the abdomen.

DNA: The molecule that is used to build the genetic code in every cell. Genes are made of DNA.

Gene: A piece of DNA that carries the code for a certain cell protein. Genes carry the genetic information that is passed from parent to child, such as eye color or hair color. Genes also carry the information to make many proteins that are important in disease. In cancer, for instance, oncogenes can make cells grow out of control, unless other genes keep this from happening.

Gene therapy: Treating a disease by putting good copies of a gene into cells. For cancer, this might include putting genes into the cancer cells that will make them stop growing out of control, or it might mean putting genes into the cancer cells that will make them self-destruct.

Grade: A measure of how quickly a tumor is growing

Groin: The area in the body where the thigh meets the abdomen.

Hematologist: A doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the blood.

High grade lymphoma: a lymphoma that is fast-growing and aggressive.

Histology: The appearance of the cancer cells under the microscope.

Immunotherapy: A form of biological therapy that stimulates the immune system to fight and kill cancer cells. Some forms include cytokine therapy, monoclonal antibodies, and tumor vaccines.

Indolent lymphoma: a low-grade lymphoma that grows slowly and has few symptoms.

Lymph: The almost colorless fluid that travels through the lymphatic system and carries cells that help fight infection and disease.

Lymph nodes: Small, bean-shaped organs located throughout the body along the vessels of the lymphatic system. The lymph nodes filter impurities from the body and store white blood cells that fight infection and other diseases. Clusters of lymph nodes are found in the underarms, groin, neck, chest, and abdomen. Also known as lymph glands.

Lymphangiogram: X-ray of the lymphatic system. A dye is injected into a lymphatic vessel and travels throughout the lymphatic system. The dye makes them visible on the x-ray.

Lymphatic system: The tissues and organs that produce, store, and carry white blood cells that fight infection and other diseases. This system includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes and a network of vessels that carry lymph and white blood cells into all the tissues of the body.

Lymphoma: A cancer of the lymphatic system.

Monoclonal antibodies: Antibodies are proteins that help white blood cells fight off viruses and bacteria, by binding to foreign invaders and signaling the immune cells to attack. Monoclonal antibodies are antibodies that are made in the laboratory to bind to only one single type of molecule. They are currently being used to bind to tumor cells, either to signal to immune cells to attack, or to carry toxic agents directly to the tumor.

MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging. A procedure in which a magnet linked to a computer is used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body.

Mutation: a change in the DNA sequence of a gene.

Mycosis fungoides: another name for cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTLC), which affects the skin.

Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer.

Pathologist: A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

Phototherapy: A treatment in which a drug that makes cancer cells sensitive to light is given to the patient, and a special light is then shone on the cancer cells to kill them.

Plasma cells: White blood cells called B cells that have been triggered into make antibodies.

Prognosis: The likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery.

Radiation oncologist: A cancer specialist with experience in radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy: A form of treatment that uses high-energy radiation from x-rays, neutrons, and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.

Recur: To occur again, to come back. Even when lymphoma appears cured, it may recur.

Relapse: When a condition comes back after it has been successfully treated.

Remission: Disappearance of any sign of cancer cells and all symptoms of cancer. When this happens, the cancer is said to be in remission. A remission may be temporary or permanent.

Risk factor: Anything that increases the chance of developing a disease.

Side effects: Problems that occur due to treatment. Common side effects of cancer treatment are fatigue, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss, and mouth sores.

Spleen: An organ that is part of the lymphatic system. The spleen produces lymphocytes, filters the blood, stores blood cells, and destroys those that are aging. It is located on the left side of the abdomen near the stomach.

Stage: A measure of how far a cancer has spread throughout the body. Stages range from Stage I, which is a localized tumor that has not spread, to Stage IV, in which the cancer has spread to parts of the body far away from the original tumor. Stage I cancers have a better outlook than do Stage IV cancers.

Systemic therapy: A treatment that uses substances that travel through the bloodstream, reaching and affecting cells all over the body.

T cells: White blood cells that help fight infection. Many lymphomas are made of T cells.

Total skin electron-beam radiation therapy or TSEB: a treatment for cutaneous lymphoma in which the entire surface of the skin is exposed to radiation.

Thymus: An organ that is part of the lymphatic system in which T lymphocytes mature and multiply. It is located in the chest, behind the breastbone.

Tumor: An abnormal mass of tissue that occurs when cells divide out of control. Tumors may be either benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumors do not spread throughout the body and when they are removed they do not grow back. Malignant, or cancerous, tumors may do both.

Tumor vaccine: An experimental treatment for cancer. A patient’s own cancer cells are injected into the blood of the patient, or mixed with the patient’s white blood cells in the laboratory, which are then returned to the patient. The hope is that this will activate the white blood cells to attack the cancer, just as a polio vaccine keeps someone from getting polio by attacking any polio virus that enters the body.

White blood cells: The cells of the immune system that fight infection, attack foreign substances or cells, and sometimes kill cancer cells.

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