Adjuvant therapy: To lower the risk of cancer coming back (relapse), sometimes additional treatment is given after the main treatment. This is called adjuvant chemotherapy and may include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy, hormone therapy or biological therapy. For e.g. in some cancers chemotherapy is given to shrink the tumour to minimise the destruction and increase effectiveness of surgery or radiotherapy.

Adenoma: A benign tumour of gland-like cells of the tissue that covers organs, glands, and other structures within the body. Adenoma may be seen in organs like colon, thyroid, prostate, adrenal glands, pituitary gland, etc. They may compress other structures or may produce excess amounts of hormones leading to serious health problems. With time they may also progress to become malignant.

Angiogenesis inhibitor: Angiogenesis means formation of new blood vessels. Angiogenesis inhibitors are substances that prevent the formation of blood vessels. In cancer therapy, they are used to prevent the growth or spread of tumour by preventing new blood vessels formation. They do not completely eradicate the cancer. They are also used to treat age-related macular degeneration. Several angiogenesis inhibitors are produced by the body. Some are administered as drugs while others come from diet. Treatment with angiogenesis inhibitors can cause side effects like bleeding problem, clots in the arteries, protein in the urine, hypertension, etc.

Antineoplastic: Neoplasms are growths that may become cancer. Antineoplastic drugs are chemotherapy agents that prevent, inhibit or kill the development of a cancer cells. They inhibit the synthesis of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and prevent the proliferation of cells. These drugs cause more damage to dividing cells than to resting cells. There are two types of antineoplastic drugs – Cycle-specific drugs (e.g. alkylating agents)) are more effective in killing cells at specific points of the cell’s multiplying cycle, and cycle non-specific drugs (e.g. Antimetabolites) are effective at any point in the cell cycle.

Antioxidant: ‘Free radicals’ are formed in our body when we get exposed to environmental factors such as pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke and pesticides. Once formed, they can cause damage to our body. Antioxidants are those compounds found in nature that can prevent the damage caused due to free radicals. Various pigments such as phytoestrogen, caretenoid, carotenoids and non-flavonoids found commonly in fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants.  

B lymphocytes: B lymphocytes (bursa-derived cells) are primarily responsible for immunity relating to antibodies (humoral immunity). B cells produce large quantities of antibodies in response to antigen from disease-producing agents (bacteria, viruses, etc.) and neutralize them. Specialized protein on the B cell’s outer surface (B cell receptor) allows it to bind to a specific antigen. During an immune reaction B cells produce plasma cells which are specialized in producing antibody, and B memory cells which ‘remember’ specific pathogens and start a strong and rapid response to them during subsequent infections. Memory cells give our body immunity against the invader.

Benign tumour: Benign is the opposite of malignant. A growth that is not cancerous, non-malignant. It indicates a mild and non-progressive tumour that does not invade surrounding tissues. It does not metastasise (spread) to other parts of the body. The tumour is surrounded by an outer fibrous sheath. Some benign tumours, like teratoma, may become malignant.

Biological therapy: Also called biotherapy, biological response modifier (BRM) therapy and immunotherapy. It aims at improving or restoring the ability of the immune system to fight cancer and other diseases. It may also be used to reduce certain side effects caused by some cancer therapies. Monoclonal antibodies, growth factors, and vaccines are used in biological therapy. These agents may also directly act on the tumour cells.

Biomarker: Also called molecular marker or signature molecule, it is a biological molecule found in blood, other body fluids, or tissues. It is a sign of a condition or disease. It may be used to see the body’s response to a treatment for a disease or condition. They can be used to detect cancer and its prognosis. It makes possible to predict patient’s response to cancer drugs and thus help in individualized drug development plans in cancer patients. Prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, is one of the most well-known cancer biomarkers. Men with prostate cancer may have elevated levels of PSA.

Biopsy: Biopsy is a procedure wherein cells or tissues from an organ or other parts of the body are removed for examination under a microscope by a pathologist. It is done to diagnose or evaluate prognosis of a disease. In majority of cancers, a definitive diagnosis is done using a biopsy. It can also determine the type of cancer and define whether a lesion is benign or malignant. Different types of biopsy procedures are: Incisional biopsy – only a sample of tissue is removed; Excisional biopsy – an entire lump or suspicious lesion area is removed; Needle aspiration biopsy – a needle is used to remove a sample of tissue or fluid. In core needle biopsy a needle with a special tip is used. When a thin needle is used, the procedure is called a fine-needle aspiration biopsy.

Blood cells: There are three types of blood cell. Red Blood Cells (RBCs or erythrocytes) are the most abundant cells in blood. They contain haemoglobin, an iron-containing protein, which is responsible for oxygen transportation around the body. White Blood Cells (WBCs or Leukocytes) form part of the body’s immune system and help defend the body against infection. They are characterized as granulocytes or agranulocytes. There are three types of granulocytes – Neutrophils, Eosinophil and Basophils and two types of agranulocytes – Monocytes and Lymphocytes. Platelets (Thrombocytes) are cells that help the blood to clot (thicken) when you cut yourself.

Bone marrow: It is the soft, fatty tissue found inside the bones. It is made up of fat and blood cell producing stem cells in a network of blood vessels and connective tissue fibres. The stem cells produce white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. There are two types of bone marrow – Red marrow which consists mainly of blood forming tissue, and Yellow marrow medulla which is mainly made up of fat cells.

Bone marrow transplant: Bone marrow transplant is done to restore stem cells that have been destroyed by high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. It is also used to treat certain cancers like multiple myeloma, leukaemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, etc. Under general anaesthesia the stem cells are harvested from a large bone of the donor, usually the pelvis bone, through a large needle. There are three different types of bone marrow transplants: Autologous – your own bone marrow is used for transplant; Allogenic – bone marrow from a donor; Syngeneic – bone marrow from your identical twin sibling.

Bone scan: Bone scan (nuclear scintigraphy) is generally done to evaluate various bone related ailments like infections, fracture, bone tumours, cancer that has spread to the bones, etc.  A radioactive substance, called a tracer, is injected into the blood which then travels into the bones. A special camera that scans the body detects the radiation from the tracer. In a normal bone scan the radioactive material is evenly distributed throughout the body. Areas with an increased accumulation of the radioactive material show up as ‘hot spots’ (e.g. tumour, arthritis) in the pictures. Problems like a lack of blood supply to the bone cause less uptake of radioactive materials and cause ‘cold spots’ in the picture.

Bone survey: A bone survey (skeletal survey) is a series of X-rays performed to assess all the major bones of the body. It includes X-rays of the skull, spine, pelvis, ribs and long bones (humerus and femur). It is most commonly used in the diagnosis of multiple myeloma, a cancer in which grow of plasma cells in bone marrow is uncontrolled and invasive.

Brachytherapy: Brachytherapy is a form of radiotherapy where a radioactive seeds (radioisotopes) are placed directly at to the area of cancer. They are designed to deliver high doses of radiation to tumours while minimizing the doses delivered to nearby healthy tissue. Radioisotopes are enclosed in a protective capsule which prevents them from dissolving in body fluids but allows the radiation from them to escape and kill the cancer tissue. Brachytherapy helps preserve greater amount of tissues, organs and limbs. It is commonly used for cervical, breast, prostate and skin cancer.

Brain scan: Neuroimaging or brain scan is a diagnostic procedure. Brain scans image the structure, or function of the brain. They are used for diagnosing brain tumors. A radioisotope which accumulates in abnormal brain tissue is used to localise and identify tumours. Tumors show up as differently colored masses in the image. Common techniques of brain scan include Computed tomography (CT), Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Positron emission tomography (PET), etc.

Breast cancer: Breast cancer is a cancer originating in the tissues of the breast. Two main types of breast cancer are: ductal carcinoma that originates in the ducts (tubes that carry milk from the breast to the nipple) and lobular carcinoma that originates in the milk producing lobules of the breast. Rarely, breast cancer can start in other areas of the breast. Invasive breast cancer spread from duct or lobule to other tissues in the breast. Non-invasive breast cancer does not invade other breast tissues. Though majority of breast cancer cases occur in women, it can occur in males too. The most common symptom is a lump or mass in the breast. There may be discharge from the nipples, rash around nipples or skin dimpling. No time for fitness, bad food, increased tobacco and alcohol consumption and lifestyle changes like late marriage are some of the biggest factors for breast cancer.

Breast self-exam: Self-examination of breast involves feeling the breast for lumps or other abnormalities and noting any changes in their appearance while standing and lying in different positions and while looking at your breasts in a mirror. Earlier breast self-exam was endorsed heavily as a means of finding cancer at an early stage. But now, many experts are of the opinion that its harm could outweigh its benefits because it has been found to be ineffective in preventing death and it could cause harm through unnecessary biopsies and surgery. The WHO does not recommend the use of breast self-examinations.

Also read: Chemotherapy, carcinoma, complete remission and other such cancer terms explained

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