Words to Know


We want you to be involved, and so it is important to us that you understand what is happening to your child and what we are doing. During your child's treatment you may hear many new words. Following is a list of some of the words you are likely to come across.


acute: developing rapidly, quick, sudden. Acute is the opposite of chronic.

afebrile (a-FEE-brill): without a fever, a normal temperature.

alopecia (al-uh-PEE-sha): loss of hair, baldness.

anaphylaxis (ANN-uh-fuh-LAX-sis): an allergic reaction ranging from mild (hives) to severe (shock).

ANC (absolute neutrophil count): the number of neutrophils in a specific amount of blood.

anemia (uh-NEE-mee-uh): an abnormally low number of red blood cells in the blood; less hemoglobin than normal. Hemoglobin is the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen through the body.

anesthesia (ANN-us-THEE-zyuh): medicines that keep a person from feeling pain. Local anesthesia makes part of the body numb. General anesthesia puts the whole body to sleep.

anorexia (ann-uh-REKS-see-uh): loss of appetite. antibiotic (ANN-tie-by-OTT-ick): a medicine that can destroy bacteria. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections.

anticipatory nausea: nausea or vomiting that happens before a treatment. This is a conditioned response; your child cannot stop it without medical help.

anti-emetics (ANN-tea-uh-MET-icks): medicines that can decrease or stop nausea and vomiting. antigens (ANN-tea-jens): chemical substances that can be recognized by the body as being foreign and therefore stimulate an immune response.

ataxia (uh-TACK-see-uh): loss of muscle coordination. A person with ataxia tends to stagger.

attending physician: a physician who has completed all training in an area of specialization and who now oversees the care of patients followed by fellows, pediatric nurse practitioners, residents, and interns. The attending physician has ultimate responsibility for the care of a particular group of patients (usually by specialty area).

audiogram (AH-dee-uh-gram): a hearing test. 


bacteria (back-TERE-ee-uh): a type of living organism too small to be seen without a microscope. Most are harmless unless the body's resistance is lowered, as with neutropenia, then the organism can cause infection.

bacteremia (back-ter-EE-me-uh): infection of the blood; sepsis.

barium (BARE-ee-um): a substance used for certain intestinal diagnostic tests that will show up in the body on x-ray.

benign (bee-NINE) tumor: not cancerous. A benign tumor does not invade neighboring tissue and does not spread to other parts of the body.

bile: a greenish-yellow fluid made by the liver from discarded red blood cells. In the intestine, bile helps to digest fat.

biopsy (BY-op-see): a small tissue sample taken from the body and examined under a microscope.

blast a "primitive" or immature form of blood cell.

blood composed of red blood cells (that carry hemoglobin), white blood cells (that fight infection), and platelets (that cause bleeding to stop). It also contains plasma, which is the liquid portion of the blood.

blood chemistries blood test to determine the levels of certain chemicals normally found in the blood that the body needs for normal function.

blood count: the number of red cells, white cells, and platelets in a specific amount of blood. This is usually referred to as a complete blood count or CBC.

blood sample: blood taken from the body for testing.

blood transfusion: taking blood from a person, testing it, and then giving the whole blood or blood products to another person.

blood typing and cross-match: the blood cells contain factors that are not the same in all people. Before a red blood cell transfusion can be given, blood samples from the donor (the person donating the blood) and recipient (the person receiving the blood) are typed, or classified (type A, B, AB, or O). Once the two blood samples have been typed, they are cross-matched to be absolutely sure that they are compatible. This is done by placing red blood cells of the donor in a sample of the recipient's serum (liquid portion of the blood or plasma) and red blood cells of the recipient in a sample of the donor's serum. If the blood does not "clump," or agglutinate, the two bloods are compatible. Techniques for typing white blood cells and platelets are different.

bone marrow: the spongy material that fills the cavities of the bones and is the substance in which many of the blood elements (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets) are produced. To determine the condition of the marrow, a small sample is taken from one of the bones, usually in the hip. Such examinations are done using local anesthesia to decrease the discomfort.

bone marrow aspiration: taking a sample of bone marrow.

bone marrow biopsy: a procedure during which a piece of bone and bone marrow are taken usually from the hip bone.

bone marrow suppression: decrease in the production of normal blood cells. This may be the result of chemotherapy or radiation.

bone marrow transplantation: taking healthy bone marrow from one person (the donor) and giving it to another person (the recipient) through an intravenous catheter is an allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. The bone marrow then finds its way to its proper place inside the bones. This is done when a person's own bone marrow can no longer make healthy blood cells. Sometimes some of a person's bone marrow will be taken out and given back later. This is an autologous bone marrow transplantation. A bone marrow transplantation is not the same as a bone marrow aspiration, which is much more common. When you say your child is having a "bone marrow," people may think you mean a bone marrow transplantation.

bone scan: a nuclear medicine examination of the bones.

bowel: refers to the intestines.


cancer: a general term for diseases in which there is uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. It is also called malignant neoplasm or malignancy.

carcinoma (CAR-suh-NO-muh): cancer of the body's glands or epithelial cells (which line body tissues).

cardiac (CAR-dee-ack): refers to the heart.

CT (CAT) scan: computed tomograph

catheter (KATH-ih-ter): a hollow tube (rubber, plastic, glass or metal) that is inserted into a major vein or artery so medicine and chemotherapy can be given through it.

cells: the basic structural unit of all living matter.

cellulitis (SELL-yuh-LIE-tis): inflammation (infection) of the skin and its underlying tissue.

centiGray: a unit of measurement of radiation.

central line: a central venous catheter or PortaCath.

central nervous system (CNS): the brain and spinal cord.

central venous catheter: a small flexible tube that is inserted into a major blood vessel, usually in the chest area. See the information sheet Intravenous Catheters for more information.

cerebrospinal fluid (CSF): the fluid around the brain and spinal cord. A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is done to take a sample of this fluid.

chemotherapy (KEY-mo-THARE-uh-pee): the use of drugs to treat disease, especially cancer. Chemotherapy is used to destroy cancer cells and keep them from reproducing. See the chapter on Cancer Treatment for more information.

chronic (KRON-ick): continuous or of long duration. Chronic is the opposite of acute.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): a registered nurse who has a master’s degree in nursing in an area of specialization.

clinical research: refers to the study and treatment of patients.

clinical trial: a research study in which patients are treated according to a set plan (called a protocol). Doctors review the results. Clinical trials are how therapies are improved and refined.

CNS (central nervous system): includes the brain and spinal cord.

COG (Children’s Oncology Group): COG is a group of researchers across the country who share research results and information.

complete blood count (CBC): a blood test done to measure the blood components (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets). This test is useful in diagnosing certain health problems and in following the results of treatment.

white blood count (WBC): refers to the total number of white blood cells per cubic millimeter of peripheral blood.

differential (diff) : refers to the percentage of different types of white blood cells that make up the WBC.

platelet count: the number of platelets present per cubic millimeter of peripheral blood.

hemoglobin (HE-muh-GLOE-bin): the amount of hemoglobin present in the peripheral blood is measured as percentage of hemoglobin per gram of blood.

hematocrit (hih-MAT-uh-krit): the packed volume of red blood cells that can be separated from plasma (liquid portion of the blood). It is measured as percentage of red blood cells per gram of plasma.

reticulocyte count (retic) (rih-TICK-yuh-luh-SITE): the percentage of immature red blood cells present in the peripheral blood.

consent form: a written description of a treatment and medications to be used. A child's parents or guardian must understand and agree to a treatment before it is given. Signing the consent form shows that they give their permission. 

consolidation: (sometimes called intensification) the second phase of chemotherapy, following induction, in which the child receives the most intense chemotherapy.

consultation: the formal process of getting the opinion of a specialist.

contagious (cun-TAY-juhs): able to be passed from one person to another. A contagious disease can be caught from someone who has it.

culture: a way of identifying what germ is causing an infection. It requires a sample of tissue, fluid, or other material from the body to be placed in a special container to see if germs grow. It can often take several days. If a particular germ grows in the sample, it is probably also growing in the body and causing the problem. Knowing which germ it is lets the doctor prescribe the most effective antibiotic. 


dehydration (dee-hi-DRAY-shun): losing too much water and too many minerals from the body.

diagnosis (DIE-ugh-NO-sis): the process by which a disease is identified.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid): The basic material of life. DNA is a long, chain-like chemical found in the nucleus of all cells. The segments of the chain are the genetic code that guides the development of every cell. 


ECG (also called EKG ) (electrocardiogram): a test to study the electrical activity of the heart.

echo (echocardiogram): a way to see the heart function by using sound waves. See the information sheet

EEG (electroencephalogram): a test to study the electrical activity of the brain. See the information sheet

edema (ih-DEE-muh): an accumulation of fluids within the body's tissues.

electrolytes (ih-LECK-truh-LITES): a term used for the many chemicals and minerals necessary for the body to function normally.

emesis (EM-uh-sis): vomit.

excision (eck-SIZH-un): surgical removal (cutting out) of body tissue.

extravasation (eck-stra-vay-SAY-shun): leaking of a drug out of the vein and into the surrounding skin. 


febrile (FEE-brill): feverish. Someone who is febrile has an elevated body temperature.

fever: temperature of 101°F or more.

fellow: a physician who has completed internship and residency and is doing further study and training to become a specialist in a particular field of medicine.

fungus: A group of micro-organisms larger than either bacteria or viruses that occasionally cause serious infection in patients who have lowered resistance. 


gallium scan (GAL-ee-um): a nuclear medicine examination of the soft tissues.

gammaglobulin (GAM-uh GLOB-yuh-lin): a protein component of the blood that contains antibodies that are effective in protecting the body from certain micro-organisms.

general anesthesia: a drug, or combination of drugs, that puts a patient to sleep to prevent pain during an operation or other procedure. 


hematocrit (Hct) (him-MAT-uh-krit): a measure of the percentage of red blood cells in the blood.

Hematologist: doctors who specialize in the study and treatment of blood diseases.

hematology (he-muh-TALL-uh-gee): the scientific study of blood and the blood-forming organs.

hematuria (he-muh-TURE-ee-uh): blood in the urine.

hemoglobin (Hgb) (HEEM-uh-gloe-bin): the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen.

hemorrhage (HEM-ur-ij): loss of blood. Hemorrhage can occur either because of damage to the blood vessels or because of a deficiency in certain elements of the blood.

HLA (human histocompatibility antigens): these antigens appear on white blood cells as well as on cells of almost all other tissues and are similar in function to red blood cell antigens (A, B, etc). By typing for HL-A antigens, donor and recipients of white blood cells, platelets, and organs can be "matched" to ensure good performance and survival of transfused and transplanted cells.

Hodgkin's disease: a form of cancer affecting the lymphatic system. Hodgkin's disease is one of the more common lymphomas of young adults.

hormone (HORE-moan): a chemical substance produced by a gland and carried by the blood to certain organs of the body, which then respond in a specific way. Hormones help to regulate and coordinate various bodily functions.

hydration (hi-DRAY-shun): a term used to describe whether a person has too little, too much or adequate amounts of water in the body.

hyper- (HI-per): a prefix meaning "more than normal."

hyperalimentation (hi-per-al-uh-men-TAY-shun): see TPN.

hypertension (hi-per-TEN-shun): higher than normal blood pressure.

hypo- (HI-poe): prefix meaning "too little."

hypocalcemia (hi-poe-kal-SEE-me-uh): lower than normal level of calcium in the blood.

hypocellular (HI-poe-SELL-yuh-ler): fewer than the normal number of cells.

hypoglycemia (hi-poe-GLIE-SEE-me-uh): low blood sugar.

hypokalemia (hi-poe-kay-LEE-me-uh): lower than normal level of potassium in the blood.

hypotension (hi-poe-TEN-shun): low blood pressure


ileostomy (ill-ee-OS-tuh-me): surgical creation of an opening between the lower portion of the small intestine and the abdominal wall for elimination of digestive waste (stool).

IM (intramuscular): meaning "in the muscle."

immune (im-MYUNE) reaction: a reaction of normal tissues to substances recognized as "foreign" to the body.

immune system: the body's system of defenses against disease, made up of certain white blood cells and antibodies. Antibodies are protein substances that react against bacteria and other harmful material.

immunosuppression (im-myoo-no-suh-PRESS-shun): inability of the immune system to fight disease. The body's defense system against disease is not working well. Temporary immunosuppression is a common result of chemotherapy and radiation.

induction (in-DUCK-shun): the first month (or beginning phase) of chemotherapy for leukemia with the goal of putting the cancer into remission.

infection (in-FECK-shun): the invasion of the body by disease-producing organisms.

inflammation (in-fluh-MAY-shun): the triggering of local body defenses that results in the outpouring of defensive cells ("polys" or "segs") from the circulation into the tissues and is frequently associated with pain and swelling.

informed consent: the permission given by a person before surgery or other kinds of treatment. The patient, parent, or guardian must understand the potential risks and benefits of the treatment and legally agree to accept those risks.

infusion (in-FYOO-shun): giving fluid into a vein.

injection: giving medicine through a needle directly into the muscle (intramuscular; IM), into the vein (intravenous; IV), into the spine (intrathecal), or just under the skin (subcutaneous).

inpatient: a patient being treated at the Hospital who checks into a room and spends the night.

intern: a doctor in his or her first year of training after graduation from medical school. May also be called a "first-year resident."

intralipids (in-truh-LIP-ids): see lipids.

intramuscular (in-truh-mus-cu-lar): within the muscle

intrathecal or IT (in-truh-THE-cal): within the spinal fluid

intravenous (in-truh-VEE-nus): directly into a vein.

isolation (EYE-so-LAY-shun): protecting your child from other people's germs. Strict isolation means all visitors wear gowns, masks and gloves. Generally children on the oncology floor are not put on strict isolation.

IV (intravenous): meaning "in the vein." Often short for "intravenous catheter," a tube that puts blood, fluids, or medication directly into a person's bloodstream. See the information sheet Intravenous Catheters for more information.


jaundice (JAWN-diss): a yellowish color of the skin and white portion of the eyes. Jaundice may be associated with liver problems or with increased breakdown (hemolysis) of red blood cells in the body. 


kidney: the major organ in the body responsible for clearing and excreting certain body wastes and keeping a proper balance of water and minerals. 


lesion (LEE-zhun): a change in tissue structure due to injury or disease.

lethargy (LETH-uhr-jee): a feeling of sluggishness; having little energy.

leukemia (loo-KEY-mee-uh): cancer of the parts of the body that produce blood cells. Leukemia involves the bone marrow and is characterized by the presence of abnormal white blood cells. The different kinds of leukemia account for about one-third of childhood cancer cases.

leukocyte (LOO-kuh-SITE): a white blood cell. There are several kinds of white blood cells, including granulocytes (neutrophils), lymphocytes (called lymphs), and monocytes (monos).

leukopenia (LOO-kuh-PEE-nee-uh): an abnormally low number of white blood cells in the blood. This condition often results from chemotherapy. See the chapter on Blood Counts for more information. Rather than leukopenia in general, we are most concerned if your child has neutropenia (an abnormally low count of a particular kind of white blood cell).

lipids: high-calorie forms of fats that your body needs every day. They can be given through a vein, usually through a central venous catheter, along with total parenteral nutrition (TPN). Also called intralipids.

liver/spleen scan: A nuclear medicine examination of the liver and spleen.

local anesthetic: a medicine given by injection into a part of the body to prevent pain in the area without putting the patient to sleep (examples: lidocaine and procaine).

lumbar puncture (LP): refers to a spinal tap, a technique for removing small amounts of a fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. In children with leukemia and some other types of malignancies, the fluid is examined for the possible presence of blast or tumor cells as well as other elements.

lymph nodes: a part of the body important in the defense against infections. Commonly called glands, they enlarge with infections and also when they become filled with malignant cells, as in leukemia and lymphoma.

lymphatic (lim-FAT-ick) system: the lymph nodes, spleen, and thymus. These produce and store certain kinds of white blood cells.

lymphocytes (lim-FOE-sites): white blood cells that make antibodies. Antibodies fight bacteria and viruses in the body.

lymphoma (lim-FOE-muh): cancer that originates in a lymphatic system. There are two categories of lymphoma: Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

lymphopenia (lim-foe-PEE-nee-uh): an abnormally low number of lymphocytes in the blood. 


maintenance: the last phase of chemotherapy (it follows consolidation), in which the child receives less intense chemotherapy. This phase is intended to solidify and maintain remission.

malignant (muh-LIG-nunt): tending to become progressively worse. In cancer, it implies the ability to invade, spread, and actively destroy normal tissue.

metastasis (muh-TASS-tuh-sis): the spread of cancer from its original site to other parts of the body.

MRI: abbreviation for magnetic resonance imaging, sometimes called NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance). A diagnostic test that uses a magnetic field instead of x-rays to look inside the body.

mucositis (MEW-coe-site-us): redness, swelling, or ulceration of the mucous membranes (usually in the mouth) caused by chemotherapy.

MUGA scan: a nuclear medicine examination that shows a motion picture of the beating heart.


nausea (NAW-zee-uh): the feeling that one may vomit.

NCI (National Cancer Institute): A U.S. government agency that supports and conducts research on cancer. NCI funds the Childrens Oncology Group (COG).

neoplasm (NEE-oe-plaz-um): a new growth of different or abnormal tissue; a tumor.

neuroblastoma (nure-oe-blast-TOE-muh): cancer of a part of the nervous system other than the brain or spinal cord.

neurology (nure-OLL-uh-jee): the branch of medical science that deals with the nervous system.

neurotoxicity (nure-oe-tok-SIS-uh-tee): a toxic (poisonous) effect on nerve tissues.

neutropenia (new-truh-PEE-nee-uh): an abnormally low number ofneutrophils ("polys" or "segs") in the circulating blood. The adjective is neutropenic.

neutrophils (NEW-truh-fills): the kinds of white blood cells that help protect against bacterial infection. Mature neutrophils are also known as "polys" and "segs." Immature neutrophils are called bands and stabs. Together (mature and immature), they are granulocytes. See the chapter on Blood Counts for more information.

NIH (National Institutes of Health): The parent agency of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: a kind of cancer of the lymphatic system.

noninvasive: may be used to describe a tumor that does not invade or destroy nearby tissues. May also describe a test or procedure that does not require puncturing or cutting the skin (example: ultrasound, x-rays).

NPO (non per os): Latin abbreviation for "nothing by mouth." This means the patient must have nothing to eat or drink.

nuclear medicine: tests that use radioactive materials to diagnose disease and treat certain cancers.

nuclear medicine examination: a diagnostic test that uses radioactive materials to help see the inside of the body. In most cases the radioactivity involved is very small, and parents can stay with their child in the exam room. Nuclear medicine exams may be used to make a diagnosis and to learn the extent of some diseases.

nurse practitioner: a registered nurse who has a master’s degree or PhD (doctor of philosophy) in nursing in an area of specialization. 


oncologist (on-CALL-uh-jist): a physician who specializes in the care of patients with cancer.

oncology (on-CALL-uh-jee): the study of physical, chemical, and biological properties and features of cancer.

osteogenic sarcoma (oss-tea-uh-JEN-ick sar-COE-muh): cancer of the bone or cartilage.

outpatient: a patient who is seen at the Hospital/Clinic but who does not stay overnight.

oxygen (OX-i-jen): an odorless gas naturally in the air that is necessary for life. The air we breathe is 21% oxygen.


packed red blood cell transfusion: transfusion in which only the red blood cells are given, not the plasma.

packed marrow: bone marrow filled with tumor cells (blasts).

palliation (pal-ee-AYE-shun): treatment that relieves pain and symptoms of disease but does not cure the disease.

palpable (PAL-puh-bull): something that is able to be touched or felt, such as a palpable tumor.

pancytopenia (pan-site-uh-PEE-nee-uh): the decrease of all blood cells in the blood.

pathology (puh-THAWL-uh-jee): the study of disease processes by examination of tissues and body fluids. Doctors who specialize in pathology (pathologists) examine biopsy specimens for the presence of malignant cells.

peak and trough: blood drawn to check drug levels to make sure the medication dose is therapeutic. Trough is drawn just before a dose is due, and the peak is drawn after the medication dose is given.

peripheral (puh-RIFF-uh-ruhl): near the surface; distant. Peripheral nerves are in the arms and legs. Peripheral veins are distant from the heart; they are located in the hands, arms, and feet, and are generally the ones used for IVs.

petechiae (pih-TEE-kee-aye): tiny pin-point-size hemorrhages from small blood vessels just beneath the surface of the skin. These may occur normally in children after crying or coughing. Their appearance may indicate a low platelet count.

pharmacology (farm-uh-CALL-uh-gee): the study of drugs and their effects on the body.

plasma (PLAZ-muh): the liquid portion of the blood in which the cells and other elements are suspended.

platelets (PLATE-lits): a part of the blood that helps with clotting. See the chapter on Blood Counts for more information.

platelet transfusion: giving a person platelets from a blood donor. Platelets are obtained by taking whole blood and spinning it. This separates the plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Each of these can then be given to people who need them.

PO (per os): a Latin abbreviation for "by mouth." This means that food or medication is given orally.

polys: polymorphonuclear cells. A common term for granulocytes, which are a type of white blood cell that protects against bacterial infection. Polys are also known as segs, bands, neutrophils, and granulocytes.

PortaCath: a central line that is completely hidden under the skin. There is a bulge under the skin that may be about the size of a small walnut. This is the port. To use this line, a special needle is inserted through the skin and into the port.

post-op: after a surgical procedure.

potassium (puh-TASS-ee-um): a chemical found in the blood that is important for the heart and muscle to function normally.

pre-op: before surgery.

procedure: a bone marrow aspiration, spinal tap, or other action that is invasive to the body.

prognosis (prog-NO-sis): the estimated length and outcome of a disease, including the chance of recovery.

prophylactic (pro-fuh-LACK-tik): treatment given to prevent a disease or possible complication.

protocol (PRO-tuh-call): a document that outlines the tests and treatments we use for your child. See the chapter on Cancer Treatment for more information. 


radiation (ray-dee-AYE-shun): directing high-powered rays to a certain part of the body to kill or injure cancer cells. Often radiation is used along with chemotherapy to treat cancer.

radiation therapist: also called radiation oncologist. A physician who has had additional specialized training in using radiation to treat disease. This person is different from a radiologist whose primary role is to diagnose by looking at x-ray and special scans.

red blood cells: blood cells that carry oxygen to all the organs and tissues in the body.

reinduction (re-in-DUCK-shun): to start over (as in a new protocol or treatment). Some protocols have a phase called reinduction, which is similar to the original induction phase of therapy.

relapse (REE-laps): return of cancer after there has been no evidence of its presence in the body or blood. (This is different from a secondary cancer.)

remission (ree-MISS-shun): complete or partial disappearance of the signs and symptoms of a disease. While a patient is in remission a disease is under control.

resectable (ree-SECKT-uh-bull): a resectable tumor is one that can be surgically removed.

resident: a physician, in his or her first, second or third year of training after medical school.

resistance: a person's ability to fight off infections and disease.

rhabdomyosarcoma (rhabdo) (RAB-doe-my-oh-sar-COE-muh): a kind of cancer of the soft tissue (usually primitive muscle tissue). Rhabdo occurs most often in the arms, legs, pelvic region, and head.

roadmap: an outline of the tests and treatments that will be used for your child. The roadmap summarizes your child's protocol. 


sarcoma (sar-COE-muh): a cancer of the connective or supportive tissues of the body, such as bone, cartilage, fat, or muscle. Soft tissue sarcoma is cancer of the connective tissues, muscles, or blood vessels.

scan: a type of diagnostic procedure used to evaluate body organs during which special dyes are given PO of IV, allowing better viewing of the organs.

sedative (SED-duh-tiv): a medicine to make a patient sleepy.

seizure (SEE-zhure): a sudden event that may include shaking of the arms, legs, or body and twitching of eyes or mouth.

sepsis: the growth of bacteria in the bloodstream.

shingles (herpes zoster) (her-PEEZ ZOS-ter): a viral infection of the nerve endings in the skin. It is characterized by the formation of blisters, crusts, and severe pain along the course of the involved nerve. The same virus causes chicken pox. Children who have not had chicken pox may get it from contact with someone who has shingles.

shock: decreased blood volume. It causes a drop in blood pressure, rapid weak pulse, pale moist clammy skin, increased thirst, and feelings of anxiety.

sibling: brother or sister.

side effect: an undesirable physical reaction to a treatment.

solid tumor: cancer of body tissues, as opposed to cancer of the blood cells (leukemia). Also called simply a tumor.

spinal tap: see lumbar puncture.

spleen: a body organ that filters blood. The spleen is next to the stomach.

staging: determining the level (stage) of illness (solid tumors, Hodgkin's disease). Staging usually requires laboratory tests and biopsies and sometimes surgery or diagnostic scans.

stomatitis (stoe-muh-TITE-is): mouth sores that are a side effect of certain chemotherapy drugs.

suppository (rectal): a medicine prepared to be inserted into the rectum, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream. Most patients with cancer are told not to use suppositories because of the risk of infection and bleeding.

supportive therapy: includes all patient care not directly concerned with treatment of the disease process.

susceptible: the tendency to develop a disease if exposed to it; not having adequate immunity.

symptom (simp-tum): a change or sign in the body or its function that indicates infection or disease. 


temperature spike: when the temperature suddenly goes up and fever develops.

therapeutic (ther-uh-PEW-tik): refers to treatment.

therapy (THER-uh-pee): treatment of a disease. In treating cancer, therapy is usually divided into stages. For instance, induction therapy is initial treatment designed to destroy as many malignant cells as possible. Maintenance therapy is treatment used to kill any remaining cancer cells and prevent their return.

thrombocytopenia (THROM-boe-cy-toe-PEE-nee-uh): an abnormally low number of platelets in the blood. This may result in bleeding. See the chapter on Blood Counts for more information.

tissue: a collection of cells similar in structure and function.

tissue typing: blood testing used to find a donor for bone marrow transplantation. The testing is done on the patient's blood as well as the potential donor's to see whether they are compatible.

toxicity (tox-ISS-uh-tee): describes the undesirable side effects caused by a drug or combination of drugs.

TPN (total parenteral nutrition): meeting a child's nutritional needs with solutions containing vitamins, minerals, sugar, electrolytes, lipids, and proteins. TPN is given through an IV or a central venous catheter. If your child is placed on TPN, you will be given a copy of a booklet called Introduction to TPN. If you don't receive a copy, ask one of the nutritional support nurses (TPN nurses) for one.

transfusion (trans-FEW-zhun): administration of blood or blood products through an IV or central venous catheter.

treatment plan: see roadmap.

tumor: any abnormal growth in one area. May be benign or malignant.


ultrasound: a test that outlines the shape of specific organs in the body. Ultrasound uses sound waves instead of x-rays. 


varicella (vare-uh-SELL-uh): the chicken pox virus.

vein: the blood vessels that carry blood toward the heart and lungs. The blood in the veins is lower in oxygen than the blood in the arteries.

vesicant (VESS-ih-cunt): a type of chemotherapy given in a vein that can cause a chemical burn if it leaks out of the vein.

virus: a micro-organism smaller than bacteria that can cause disease. Common viral infections are measles, mumps, chicken pox, flu, and the common cold.

volunteers: people from the community who help patients and families at hospitals and treatment centers. They play with children, give directions, and try to make your time at the Hospital more pleasant.

VZIG (Varicella - Zoster immune globin): a special plasma containing antibodies against chicken pox. If given within 96 hours after exposure to chicken pox, it seems to be effective in making the infection less serious. 


white blood cells: also called leukocytes. White blood cells fight infection. They decrease in number after chemotherapy. See the chapter on Blood Counts for more information.

Wilms' tumor: cancer of the kidney.


x-rays: high-energy radiation used in high doses to treat cancer or in low doses to diagnose disease.