Monday, March 11, 2013

Pancreatic Cancer: Glossary of Terms (C)

- C –

CA 19-9: A tumor marker initially found in colorectal cancer patients, but subsequently also identified in patients with pancreatic, stomach, and bile duct cancer. In those who have pancreatic cancer, higher levels of CA 19-9 tend to be associated with more advanced disease. Noncancerous conditions that may elevate CA 19-9 levels include gallstones, pancreatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, and cholecystitis.

Cachexia: A dramatic weight loss and general wasting that occurs during chronic disease.

Cancer: An abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and, in some cases, to metastasize (spread).

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Cancer causes: In most individual cases of cancer, the exact cause of cancer is unknown. The causes may include increased genetic susceptibility; environmental insults, such as chemical exposure or smoking cigarettes; lifestyle factors, including diet; damage caused by infectious disease; and many more.

Cancer symptoms: Abnormal sensations or conditions that persons can notice that are a result of a cancer. It is important to see your doctor for regular checkups and not wait for problems to occur. But you should also know that the following symptoms may be associated with cancer: changes in bowel or bladder habits, a sore that does not heal, unusual bleeding or discharge, thickening or lump in the breast or any other part of the body, indigestion or difficulty swallowing, obvious change in a wart or mole, or nagging cough or hoarseness. These symptoms are not always a sign of cancer. They can also be caused by less serious conditions. Only a doctor can make a diagnosis. It is important to see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Don't wait to feel pain. Early cancer often does not cause pain.

Carbohydrate: A nutrient found in food. Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for most body functions. With the exception of milk, foods high in carbohydrates are derived from plant sources.

Carboxypeptidase: An enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of a terminal amino acid from the end of a peptide or polypeptide that contains a free carboxyl group.

Carcinogen: A cancer-causing agent.

Carcinoma: Cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover body organs. Examples are carcinoma of the breast, colon, liver, lung, pancreas, prostate, or stomach.

Care Plan: A strategy that is based on meeting the cancer survivor's individualized needs.

Catheter: A small, flexible tube inserted into the body to inject or suck out fluids. When a catheter is placed in a vein, it provides a pathway for drugs, nutrients, or blood products. Blood samples also can be removed through the catheter. When placed in a body cavity (bladder) it provides a pathway to drain fluid away from the body.

Celiac Axis: A short, thick artery arising from the largest artery in the body, the aorta. The celiac axis starts just below the diaphragm and divides almost immediately into the gastric, hepatic and splenic arteries.

Celiac Disease: A disorder resulting from an immune reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat and related grains, and present in many foods. Celiac disease causes impaired absorption and digestion of nutrients through the small intestine. Symptoms include frequent diarrhea and weight loss. A skin condition dermatitis herpetiformis can be associated with celiac disease. The most accurate test for celiac disease is a biopsy of the involved small bowel. Treatment is to avoid gluten in the diet. Medications are used for refractory (stubborn) celiac disease.

Celiac Plexus: A bundle of nerves in the upper abdomen that extends from the pancreas, gall bladder, intestines, liver, and stomach. If the tumor presses on the nerve bundle, pain signals are transmitted to the brain.

Celiac Plexus Block: A procedure in which a substance such as alcohol is injected into the celiac plexus to destroy the nerves. These nerve destroying substances prevent pain signals from traveling to the brain so the patient no longer feels pain.

Cell: The basic structural and functional unit of any living thing. Each cell is a small container of chemicals and water wrapped in a membrane. There are 100 trillion cells in a human, and each contains all of the genetic information necessary to manufacture a human being. This information is encoded within the cell nucleus in 6 billion subunits of DNA called base pairs. These base pairs are packaged in 23 pairs of chromosomes, with 1 chromosome in each pair coming from each parent. Each of the 46 human chromosomes contains the DNA for thousands of individual genes.

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Chemotherapy: 1. In the original sense, a chemical that binds to and specifically kills microbes or tumor cells. The term chemotherapy was coined in this regard by Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915).
2. In oncology, drug therapy for cancer. Also called "chemo" for short.

Chime:  The thick semi-fluid mass of partly digested food that is passed from the stomach to the duodenum.

Chronic: In medicine, lasting a long time. A chronic condition is one that lasts 3 months or more. Chronic diseases are in contrast to those that are acute (abrupt, sharp, and brief) or subacute (within the interval between acute and chronic).

Chronic pancreatitis: Chronic pancreatitis is a long-standing inflammation of the pancreas that alters its normal structure and functions. It can present as episodes of acute inflammation in a previously injured pancreas, or as chronic damage with persistent pain or malabsorption.

Chymotrypsin: A pancreatic digestive enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of certain proteins in the small intestine into polypeptides and amino acids.

Clinical End Point: The specific medical measure(s) of a treatment's impact that may or may not be perceived by the participant.

Clinical trial: A study that is intended to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of medications or medical devices by monitoring their effects on large groups of people. Studies may be conducted by government health agencies (such as the National Institutes of Health [NIH]), researchers affiliated with hospital or university medical programs, independent researchers, or individuals from private industry. Usually volunteers are recruited, although in some cases research participants may be paid. For some patients, clinical research trials represent an avenue for receiving promising new therapies that would not otherwise be available. Patients with difficult-to-treat or 'incurable' diseases may pursue participation in clinical research trials if standard therapies are not effective.

Clinical trials: Trials to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of medications or medical devices by monitoring their effects on large groups of people.

Common Bile Duct: The duct that carries bile from the gallbladder and liver in into the upper part of the small intestine.

Complementary Therapy: A type of treatment in which an alternative therapy is used together with conventional medicine.

Complete Response: The disappearance of all signs of cancer in response to treatment. This does not necessarily mean the cancer has been cured.

Completion Pancreatectomy: Surgical removal of any remaining portion of the pancreas.

Comprehensive metabolic panel: A group of tests that may be used to evaluate why someone is jaundiced, to detect elevated levels of bilirubin and liver enzymes, and to monitor liver and kidney function.

Computed tomography: An x-ray procedure that uses the help of a computer to produce a detailed picture of a cross section of the body. Also called a CT scan or CAT scan.

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Constipation: A condition characterized by hard, dry bowel movements. It is associated with discomfort in passing stools and/or infrequent passing of stools.

Contrast agent (or medium): A dye, taken by mouth or injected, that is sometimes used during x-ray examinations to highlight areas that otherwise might not be seen.

Corpus: The body of the uterus.

Courvoisier's law: Courvoisier's law (or Courvoisier syndrome, or Courvoisier's sign or Courvoisier-Terrier's sign) states that in the presence of an enlarged gallbladder which is nontender and accompanied with mild jaundice, the cause is unlikely to be gallstones. Usually, the term is used to describe the physical examination finding of the right-upper quadrant of the abdomen. This sign implicated possible malignancy of the gall bladder or pancreas and the swelling is unlikely due to gallstones.

CT scan: Computerized tomography scan. Pictures of structures within the body created by a computer that takes the data from multiple X-ray images and turns them into pictures on a screen. CT stands for computerized tomography.

Cure: 1. To heal, to make well, to restore to good health. 2. A time without recurrence of a disease so that the risk of recurrence is small. 3. Particularly in the past, a course of treatment. For example, take a cure at a spa.

Cyst: A fluid filled sac. Some tumors of the pancreas, including the serous cystadenoma and mucinous cystadenocarcinomas are cystic. These have a distinct appearance in CT scans. They are important to recognize because the treatment of cystic tumors can differ from that for solid tumors.

Cystadenoma: Cystadenoma  (or "cystoma") refers to a type of cystic adenoma. When malignant, it is called cystadenocarcinoma.

Cystic fibrosis: A hereditary metabolic disorder of the exocrine glands, usually developing during early childhood and affecting mainly the pancreas, respiratory system, and sweat glands. It is marked by the production of abnormally viscous mucus by the affected glands, usually resulting in chronic respiratory infections and impaired pancreatic function. Also called Clarke-Hadfield syndrome , fibrocystic disease of pancreas , mucoviscidosis .

Cytokines: A group of compounds that allow cells to communicate with each other. During normal functioning, cytokines help the immune system respond quickly. In pancreatic cancer, cytokines can influence the rate at which nutrients are metabolized.

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Cytotoxic: Causing the death of cells - usually refers to drugs used in chemotherapy.

Sources and Additional Information:

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