Glossary of Terms

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

anaplastic (an-ah-PLAS-tik)

A term used to describe cancer cells that divide rapidly and have little or no resemblance to normal cells.

angiogram (AN-jee-oh-gram)

An x-ray of blood vessels. The person receives an injection of dye to outline the vessels on the x-ray.

antibiotic (an-tih-by-AH-tik)

A drug used to treat infections caused by bacteria and other microorganisms.

astrocyte (AS-troh-site)

A star-shaped cell that helps nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord work the way they should. An astrocyte is a type of glial cell.

astrocytoma (AS-troh-sy-TOH-muh)

A tumor that begins in the brain or spinal cord in small, star-shaped cells called astrocytes.

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B

benign (beh-NINE)

Not cancerous. Benign tumors may grow larger but do not spread to other parts of the body.

biopsy (BY-op-see)

The removal of cells or tissues for examination by a pathologist. The pathologist may study the tissue under a microscope or perform other tests on the cells or tissue. There are many different types of biopsy procedures. The most common types include: (1) incisional biopsy, in which only a sample of tissue is removed; (2) excisional biopsy, in which an entire lump or suspicious area is removed; and (3) needle biopsy, in which a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle. When a wide needle is used, the procedure is called a core biopsy. When a thin needle is used, the procedure is called a fine-needle aspiration biopsy.

brain stem

The part of the brain that is connected to the spinal cord.

brain stem glioma (...glee-OH-muh)

A tumor located in the part of the brain that connects to the spinal cord (the brain stem). It may grow rapidly or slowly, depending on the grade of the tumor.

burr hole

A small opening in the skull made with a surgical drill.

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C

cancer (KAN-ser)

A term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control. Cancer cells can invade nearby tissues and can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems. Central nervous system cancers are cancers that begin in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.

cell (sel)

The individual unit that makes up the tissues of the body. All living things are made up of one or more cells.

central nervous system primitive neuroectodermal tumor

A type of cancer that arises from a particular type of cell within the brain or spinal cord. Also called CNS PNET.

cerebellum (ser-uh-BEL-um)

The portion of the brain in the back of the head between the cerebrum and the brain stem. The cerebellum controls balance for walking and standing, and other complex motor functions.

cerebral hemisphere (seh-REE-bral HEM-is-feer)

One half of the cerebrum, the part of the brain that controls muscle functions and also controls speech, thought, emotions, reading, writing, and learning. The right hemisphere controls the muscles on the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere controls the muscles on the right side of the body.

cerebrospinal fluid (seh-REE-broh-SPY-nul...)

The fluid that flows in and around the hollow spaces of the brain and spinal cord, and between two of the meninges (the thin layers of tissue that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord). Cerebrospinal fluid is made by tissue called the choroid plexus in the ventricles (hollow spaces) in the brain. Also called CSF.

cerebrum (seh-REE-brum)

The largest part of the brain. It is divided into two hemispheres, or halves, called the cerebral hemispheres. Areas within the cerebrum control muscle functions and also control speech, thought, emotions, reading, writing, and learning.

chemotherapy (KEE-moh-THAYR-uh-pee)

Treatment with drugs that kill cancer cells.

clinical trial

A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of a disease. Also called clinical study.

craniopharyngioma (KRAY-nee-oh-fuh-RIN-jee-OH-muh)

A benign brain tumor that may be considered malignant because it can damage the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that controls body temperature, hunger, and thirst.

craniotomy (KRAY-nee-AH-toh-mee)

An operation in which an opening is made in the skull.

CT scan

A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body taken from different angles. The pictures are created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. Also called CAT scan, computed tomography scan, computerized axial tomography scan, and computerized tomography.

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D

dietitian (dy-eh-TIH-shun)

A health professional with special training in nutrition who can help with dietary choices. Also called nutritionist.

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E

edema (eh-DEE-ma)

Swelling caused by excess fluid in body tissues.

encapsulated (en-KAP-soo-lay-ted)

Confined to a specific, localized area and surrounded by a thin layer of tissue.

ependymoma (eh-PEN-dih-MOH-muh)

A type of brain tumor that begins in cells lining the spinal cord central canal (fluid-filled space down the center) or the ventricles (fluid-filled spaces of the brain). Ependymomas may also form in the choroid plexus (tissue in the ventricles that makes cerebrospinal fluid). Also called ependymal tumor.

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F

fractionation

Dividing the total dose of radiation therapy into several smaller, equal doses delivered over a period of several days.

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G

gamma ray

A type of high-energy radiation that is different from an x-ray.

general anesthesia (... A-nes-THEE-zhuh)

Drugs that cause loss of feeling or awareness and put the person to sleep.

germ cell (jurm sel)

A reproductive cell of the body. Germ cells are egg cells in females and sperm cells in males.

germ cell tumor (jurm sel TOO-mer)

A type of tumor that begins in the cells that give rise to sperm or eggs. Germ cell tumors can occur almost anywhere in the body and can be either benign or malignant.

germinoma (jer-mih-NO-ma)

The most common type of germ cell tumor in the brain.

glial cell (GLEE-ul sel)

Any of the cells that hold nerve cells in place and help them work the way they should. The types of glial cells include oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, microglia, and ependymal cells. Also called neuroglia

glioblastoma multiforme (GLEE-oh-blas-TOH-muh MUL-tih-form)

A fast-growing type of central nervous system tumor that forms from glial (supportive) tissue of the brain and spinal cord and has cells that look very different from normal cells. Glioblastoma multiforme usually occurs in adults and affects the brain more often than the spinal cord. Also called GBM, glioblastoma, and grade IV astrocytoma.

glioma (glee-OH-muh)

A cancer of the brain that begins in glial cells (cells that surround and support nerve cells).

grade

The grade of a tumor depends on how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how quickly the tumor is likely to grow and spread. Grading systems are different for each type of cancer.

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H

hyperfractionation (hy-per-FRAK-shun-AY-shun)

Radiation therapy that gives smaller doses (fractions) of radiation more often than standard radiation therapy so that the full treatment course can be given with fewer side effects. In hyperfractionation, individual doses are given more often than the standard dose of once a day. Also called hyperfractionated radiation therapy and superfractionated radiation therapy.

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I

imaging (IH-muh-jing)

In medicine, a process that makes pictures of areas inside the body. Imaging uses methods such as x-rays (high-energy radiation), ultrasound (high-energy sound waves), and radio waves.

incision (in-SIH-zhun)

A cut made in the body to perform surgery.

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L

local anesthesia (... A-nes-THEE-zhuh)

Drugs that cause a temporary loss of feeling in one part of the body. The patient remains awake but has no feeling in the part of the body treated with the anesthetic.

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M

malignant (muh-LIG-nunt)

Cancerous. Malignant tumors can invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

medulloblastoma (MED-yoo-loh-blas-TOH-muh)

A malignant brain tumor that begins in the lower part of the brain and that can spread to the spine or to other parts of the body. Medulloblastomas are a type of primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET).

meninges (meh-NIN-jees)

The three thin layers of tissue that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord.

meningioma (meh-NIN-jee-OH-muh)

A type of slow-growing tumor that forms in the meninges (thin layers of tissue that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord). Meningiomas usually occur in adults.

mental health counselor

A specialist who can talk with patients and their families about emotional and personal matters, and can help them make decisions.

metastasis (meh-TAS-tuh-sis)

The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. A tumor formed by cells that have spread is called a "metastatic tumor" or a "metastasis". The metastatic tumor contains cells that are like those in the original (primary) tumor.

metastatic (meh-tuh-STA-tik)

Having to do with metastasis, which is the spread of cancer from one part of the body to another.

MRI

A procedure in which radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer are used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures can show the difference between normal and diseased tissue. MRI makes better images of organs and soft tissue than other scanning techniques, such as computed tomography (CT) or x-ray. MRI is especially useful for imaging the brain, the spine, the soft tissue of joints, and the inside of bones. Also called magnetic resonance imaging, NMRI, and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.

myelogram (MY-eh-loh-gram)

An x-ray of the spinal cord after an injection of dye into the space between the lining of the spinal cord and brain.

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N

needle biopsy (NEE-dul BY-op-see)

The removal of tissue or fluid with a needle for examination under a microscope. When a wide needle is used, the procedure is called a core biopsy. When a thin needle is used, the procedure is called a fine-needle aspiration biopsy.

nerve cell

A type of cell that receives and sends messages from the body to the brain and back to the body. The messages are sent by a weak electrical current. Also called neuron.

neurologic (NOOR-oh-LAH-jik)

Having to do with nerves or the nervous system.

neuroma (NOOR-oh-ma)

A tumor that arises in nerve cells.

neuro-oncologist (NOOR-oh-on-KAH-loh-jist)

A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating brain tumors and other tumors of the nervous system.

neurosurgeon (NOO-ro-SER-jun)

A doctor who specializes in surgery on the brain, spine, and other parts of the nervous system.

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O

occupational therapist

A health professional trained to help people who are ill or disabled learn to manage their daily activities.

oligodendroglioma (AH-lih-goh-DEN-droh-glee-OH-muh)

A rare, slow-growing tumor that begins in oligodendrocytes (cells that cover and protect nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord). Also called oligodendroglial tumor.

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P

palliative care (PA-lee-uh-tiv...)

Care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease. The goal of palliative care is to prevent or treat as early as possible the symptoms of a disease, side effects caused by treatment of a disease, and psychological, social, and spiritual problems related to a disease or its treatment.

pathologist (puh-THAH-loh-jist)

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

physical therapist

A health professional who teaches exercises and physical activities that help condition muscles and restore strength and movement.

pineal gland (PIN-ee-al)

A tiny organ in the cerebrum that produces melatonin. Also called pineal body and pineal organ.

pineal region tumor (PIN-ee-al...)

A type of brain tumor that occurs in or around the pineal gland, a tiny organ near the center of the brain.

primary tumor

The original tumor.

proton

A small, positively charged particle of matter found in the atoms of all elements. Streams of protons generated by special equipment can be used for radiation treatment.

proton beam radiation therapy (PROH-ton beem RAY-dee-AY-shun THAYR-uh-pee)

A type of high-energy, external radiation therapy that uses streams of protons (small, positively charged particles) that come from a special machine. Proton beam radiation is different from x-ray radiation.

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Q

quality of life

The overall enjoyment of life. Many clinical trials assess the effects of cancer and its treatment on the quality of life. These studies measure aspects of an individualÂ’s sense of well-being and ability to carry out various activities.

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R

radiation (RAY-dee-AY-shun)

Energy released in the form of particle or electromagnetic waves.

radiation therapy (RAY-dee-AY-shun THAYR-uh-pee)

The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons, and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy).

recurrent cancer (ree-KER-ent KAN-ser)

Cancer that has recurred (come back), usually after a period of time during which the cancer could not be detected. The cancer may come back to the same place as the original (primary) tumor or to another place in the body. Also called recurrence.

risk factor

Something that may increase the chance of developing a disease. Some examples of risk factors for cancer include age, a family history of certain cancers, use of tobacco products, certain eating habits, obesity, lack of exercise, exposure to radiation or other cancer-causing agents, and certain genetic changes.

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S

Schwann cell

A type of glial cell of the peripheral nervous system that helps separate and insulate nerve cells.

schwannoma (shwah-NO-ma)

A tumor of the peripheral nervous system that arises in the nerve sheath (protective covering). It is almost always benign, but rare malignant schwannomas have been reported.

social worker

A professional trained to talk with people and their families about emotional or physical needs, and to find them support services.

speech therapist

A specialist who evaluates and treats people with communication and swallowing problems. Also called speech pathologist.

spinal tap (SPY-nul ...)

A procedure in which a thin needle called a spinal needle is put into the lower part of the spinal column to collect cerebrospinal fluid or to give drugs. Also called lumbar puncture.

stage

The extent of a cancer in the body. Staging is usually based on the size of the tumor, whether lymph nodes contain cancer, and whether the cancer has spread from the original site to other parts of the body.

stereotactic biopsy (STAYR-ee-oh-TAK-tik BY-op-see)

A biopsy procedure that uses a computer and a 3-dimensional scanning device to find a tumor site and guide the removal of tissue for examination under a microscope.

stereotactic radiation therapy (STAYR-ee-oh-TAK-tik RAY-dee-AY-shun THAYR-uh-pee)

A type of external radiation therapy that uses special equipment to position the patient and precisely deliver radiation to a tumor. The total dose of radiation is divided into several smaller doses given over several days. Also called stereotactic external-beam radiation therapy and stereotaxic radiation therapy.

supportive care

Care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease. The goal of supportive care is to prevent or treat as early as possible the symptoms of a disease, side effects caused by treatment of a disease, and psychological, social, and spiritual problems related to a disease or its treatment.

symptom

An indication that a person has a condition or disease. Some examples of symptoms are headache, fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and pain.

symptom management

Care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease. The goal of symptom management is to prevent or treat as early as possible the symptoms of a disease, side effects caused by treatment of a disease, and psychological, social, and spiritual problems related to a disease or its treatment. Also called comfort care, palliative care, and supportive care.

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T

tissue (TISH-oo)

A group or layer of cells that work together to perform a specific function.

tumor (TOO-mer)

An abnormal mass of tissue that results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Tumors may be benign (not cancerous), or malignant (cancerous). Also called neoplasm.

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X

x-ray

A type of high-energy radiation. In low doses, x-rays are used to diagnose diseases by making pictures of the inside of the body. In high doses, x-rays are used to treat cancer.