Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Pancreatic Cancer: Glossary of Terms (A)



-A-

Abdomen: The belly, that part of the body that contains all of the structures between the chest and the pelvis. The abdomen is separated anatomically from the chest by the diaphragm, the powerful muscle spanning the body cavity below the lungs.

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Abdominal: Relating to the abdomen, the belly, that part of the body that contains all of the structures between the chest and the pelvis. The abdomen is separated anatomically from the chest by the diaphragm, the powerful muscle spanning the body cavity below the lungs.

Abdominal pain: Pain in the belly. Abdominal pain can be acute or chronic. It may reflect a major problem with one of the organs in the abdomen, such as appendicitis or a perforated intestine, or it may result from a fairly minor problem, such as excess buildup of intestinal gas.

Abnormal: Not normal. Describes a state, condition, or behavior that is unusual or different from what is considered normal. An abnormal lesion or growth in or on the body may be benign (not cancer), precancerous or premalignant (likely to become cancer), or malignant (cancer).

Abscess: A pus-filled cavity.

Acid reflux: The backward movement of stomach fluids into the lower esophagus. It is also known as heartburn.

Acute pancreatitis: Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas. Depending on its severity, it can have severe complications and high mortality despite treatment. While mild cases are often successfully treated with conservative measures, such as NPO (abstaining from any oral intake) and IV fluid rehydration, severe cases may require admission to the ICU or even surgery (often more than one intervention) to deal with complications of the disease process.

Adenocarcinoma: A cancer that develops in the lining or inner surface of an organ and usually has glandular (secretory) properties. More than 95 percent of prostate cancers are adenocarcinomas.

Adenoma: A benign (non-cancerous) tumor made up of cells that form glands (collections of cells surrounding an empty space).

Adjacent: Lying nearby. Related terms include superjacent, subjacent, and circumjacent.

Adjuvant: A substance that helps and enhances the effect of a drug, treatment, or biologic system.

Adjuvant therapy: Treatment that is given in addition to the primary (initial) treatment.

Administration: The method by which a medication is given, such as by injection or by mouth.

Adverse Event: Adverse Event (or side effect) - an unexpected negative problem that occurs during treatment that may or may not be related to the treatment. Adverse events may be mild, moderate, or severe. All adverse events must be reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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Advance directives: These directives pertain to treatment preferences and the designation of a surrogate decision-maker in the event that a person should become unable to make medical decisions on their own behalf. Advance directives generally fall into three categories: living will, power of attorney and health care proxy.

Alternative medicine: Healing arts not taught in traditional Western medical schools that promote options to conventional medicine that is taught in these schools.. An example of an alternative therapy is using a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy that has been recommended by a Western physician. Complementary medicine is different from alternative medicine. Whereas complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine.

Amino Acid: A building block of proteins.

Ampulla of Vater: This widening of the pancreatic duct is a landmark for physicians. It is where the bile duct and pancreatic duct join before draining into the duodenum (small intestine). Tumors in the head of the pancreas may squeeze this duct partially or completely closed. This can lead to problems with digestion and jaundice.

Amylase: An enzyme secreted in saliva and by the pancreas that breaks down starch (complex carbohydrates).

Anastamosis: A surgical joining of two hollow structures. It is similar to attaching two ends of a garden hose. For example, a gastrojejunostomy is a surgical procedure that connects the stomach and the jejunum (small intestine.)

Anemia: The condition of having a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells or quantity of hemoglobin. Anemia diminishes the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen. Patients with anemia may feel tired, fatigue easily, appear pale, develop palpitations, and become short of breath. Children with chronic anemia are prone to infections and learning problems. The main causes of anemia are bleeding, hemolysis (excessive destruction of red blood cells), underproduction of red blood cells (as in bone marrow diseases), and underproduction of normal hemoglobin (as in sickle cell anemia and in iron deficiency anemia). Women are more likely than men to have anemia because of menstrual blood loss. In children, anemia is most commonly due to insufficient iron in the diet. Anemia is also often due to gastrointestinal bleeding caused by medications, including such common drugs as aspirin and ibuprofen.

Anesthesia: The loss of feeling or awareness caused by drugs. Local anesthesia causes loss of feeling in a part of the body. General anesthesia puts the person to sleep.

Angiography: A radiographic technique used to visualize blood vessels. A contrast medium (a dye) is usually injected into the vessels to make them appear white on the x-rays.

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Anorexia: An eating disorder characterized by markedly reduced appetite or total aversion to food. Anorexia is a serious psychological disorder. It is a condition that goes well beyond out-of-control dieting. The person with anorexia, most often a girl or young woman, initially begins dieting to lose weight. Over time, the weight loss becomes a sign of mastery and control. The drive to become thinner is thought to be secondary to concerns about control and fears relating to one's body. The individual continues the endless cycle of restrictive eating, often to a point close to starvation. This becomes an obsession and is similar to an addiction to a drug. Anorexia can be life-threatening. Also called anorexia nervosa.

Antibiotics: These medicines are used to help your immune system fight infection. There are a number of different types of antibiotics that work in different ways to get rid of bacteria, parasites, and other infectious agents. Antibiotics do not work against viruses.

Antigen: A substance that causes the immune system to make a specific immune response.

Aorta: The large artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart. It descends into the abdomen where it gives off many branches to supply the organs. The superior mesenteric artery is a major branch of the aorta that is a common site of pancreatic cancer metastases.

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Ascites: The collection of excess amounts of fluid in the abdominal cavity (belly). It often is a sign that the cancer has spread to either the liver or the portal vein that goes to the liver. If normal liver function is affected, a complex set of biochemical checks and balances is disrupted and abnormal amounts of fluid are retained.


Sources and Additional Information:

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