Glossary

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Abdomen: The area of the body that contains the pancreas, stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder, and other organs. Acupuncture: The technique of inserting thin needles through the skin at specific points on the body to control pain and other symptoms. Adjuvant therapy: Additional cancer treatment given after the primary treatment to lower the risk that the disease will come back. Adjuvant therapy may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy.

Alopecia: The loss of hair from some or all areas of the body, usually from the scalp. Alopecia is a potential side effect of chemotherapy.

Alternative medicine: Practices used instead of standard treatments. They generally are not recognized by the medical community as standard or conventional medical approaches. Examples of alternative medicine include megadose vitamins, herbal preparations, special teas, acupuncture, massage therapy, and spiritual healing.

Anemia: A condition in which the number of red blood cells is below normal, often as a result of cancer treatment, causing fatigue, weakness and shortness of breath.

Antiemetic: A drug that controls or prevents nausea and vomiting.

Ascites: Abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdomen that can cause swelling.

Avastin: Trade name for the drug bevacizumab.

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

Bevacizumab: Generic name for the drug Avastin. A chemotherapeutic agent that is an angiogenesis inhibitor, slowing the growth of blood vessels that feed tumors.

Biomarker: A unique biological indicator of an event, or the presence of a substance in the body.

Biopsy: The surgical removal of a small amount of tissue from the body for examination by a pathologist to determine whether disease is present. There are several types of biopsy procedures including the incisional biopsy, in which only a sample of tissue is removed; a needle biopsy, in which a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle, and the excisional biopsy, in which an entire lump or suspicious area is removed for diagnosis.

Blinded study: A type of research study in which the patients (single-blinded) or the patients and their doctors (double-blinded) do not know which drug or treatment is being given.

Board certified: Board certified in medicine means a physician has taken and passed a medical specialty examination.

BRCA1: A gene on chromosome 17 that normally helps to suppress cell growth. A person who inherits an altered, or “mutated,” version of the BRCA1 gene has a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer.

BRCA2: A gene on chromosome 13 that normally helps to suppress cell growth. A person who inherits an altered, or “mutated,” version of the BRCA2 gene has a higher risk of getting breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer.

CAM: Complementary or Alternative Medicine. A group of diverse practices and products that are used in addition to (complementary) or instead of (alternative) conventional medical treatments. CAM may include acupuncture, dietary supplements, herbal medicine, massage, meditation, prayer, yoga.

CA 125: A protein that may be found in high amounts in the blood of patients with ovarian cancer. CA125 levels may also help monitor how well cancer treatments are working or if ovarian cancer has recurred. CA 125 stands for cancer antigen 125.

Cancer: A term for diseases that develop when abnormal cells in the body begin to divide out of control. Cancer cells can invade nearby tissues and can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.

Carboplatin: Generic name for the drug Paraplatin. A drug that is used to treat advanced ovarian cancer that has never been treated, or ovarian cancer that has come back after treatment with other anticancer drugs. Carboplatin is a form of the anticancer drug cisplatin and causes fewer side effects in patients. It is a type of platinum compound. Carcinogens: Substances that cause cancer.

Carcinoma: A malignant tumor that begins in the skin or in tissues that line internal organs.

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

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

Cervix: The lower, narrow end of the uterus that forms a canal between the uterus and vagina.

Chemotherapy: Treatment with drugs that destroy or reduce cancer cells. Used with surgery, chemotherapy extends the lives of women with ovarian cancer.

Cisplatin: Generic name for the drug Platinol. A drug used to treat many types of cancer. Cisplatin contains the metal platinum. It kills cancer cells by damaging their DNA and stopping them from dividing.

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. A clinical trial is also called a clinical study.

Clinical trial phase: A part of the clinical research process that answers specific questions about whether treatments that are being studied work and are safe. Phase 1 trials test the best way to give a new treatment and the best dose. Phase 2 trials test whether a new treatment has an effect on the disease. Phase 3 trials compare the results of people taking a new treatment with the results of people taking the standard treatment. Phase 4 trials are done using thousands of people after a treatment has been approved and marketed, to check for side effects that were not seen in the phase 3 trial.

Clinical trial sponsor: A person, company, institution, organization or group that oversees or pays for a clinical trial and collects and analyzes the data. Also called the trial sponsor.

Complementary medicine: Practices often used to enhance or complement standard treatments. They generally are not recognized by the medical community as standard medical approaches. Complementary medicine may include dietary supplements, acupuncture, massage therapy, meditation.

Complete blood count: Sometimes called CBC. A test to check the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in a sample of blood.

Complete remission: The disappearance of all signs of cancer as a result of treatment. This does not always mean the cancer has been cured. Also called complete response.

Cyst: A sac or capsule in the body. It may be filled with fluid or other material.

Cytoreductive surgery: A type of surgery performed to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. There are two types, optimal and suboptimal. When optimal cytoreduction is completed, no cancerous tissue deposits larger than 1 centimeter remain. At completion of suboptimal cytoreduction, there are cancerous tissue deposits greater than 1 centimeter. Also called debulking surgery.

Cytotoxic: The ability to kill fast growing cells.

Diagnosis: The process of identifying a disease, such as ovarian cancer, from its signs and symptoms.

Debulking: Surgical removal of as much of a tumor as possible. Also called tumor debulking or cytoreductive surgery.

Differentiation: Refers to how mature (developed) the cancer cells are in a tumor. Differentiated tumor cells resemble normal cells and tend to grow and spread at a slower rate than undifferentiated or poorly differentiated tumor cells which lack the structure and function of normal cells and grow uncontrollably.

Disease-free survival: The length of time after treatment ends during which no evidence of cancer is found.

Distant cancer: Refers to cancer that has spread from the original tumor to distant organs or distant lymph nodes.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid): The molecules inside cells that carry genetic information and pass it from one generation to the next.

Doxil: Trade name for the drug doxorubicin.

Doxorubicin: Generic name for the drug Doxil. Doxorubicin is used to treat ovarian cancer in patients whose disease has not gotten better after treatment with other anticancer drugs.

Early menopause: A condition in which the ovaries stop working and menstrual periods stop before age 40. Early menopause can be caused by some cancer treatments, surgery to remove the ovaries, and certain diseases. Also called premature menopause. Edema: Swelling caused by excess fluid in body tissues.

Endometrial carcinoma: Cancer that forms in the tissue lining in the uterus.

Endometriosis: An often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus—the endometrium—grows outside the uterus.

Endometrium: The layer of tissue that lines the uterus.

Enzyme: A protein that speeds up the rate of chemical reactions in living cells.

Epithelial ovarian cancer: Cancer that occurs in the cells on the surface of the ovary. Also called ovarian epithelial cancer.

Estrogen: A type of hormone secreted by the ovaries that helps develop and maintain female sex characteristics. Estrogens can also be made in the laboratory. They may be used as a type of birth control and to treat symptoms of menopause, menstrual disorders, osteoporosis, and other conditions.

Estrogen receptor: A protein found inside the cells of the female reproductive tissue, some other types of tissue, and some cancer cells. The hormone estrogen will bind to the receptors inside the cells and may cause the cells to grow.

Fallopian tube: A slender tube through which eggs pass from an ovary to the uterus. In the female reproductive tract, there is one ovary and one fallopian tube on each side of the uterus.

Five-year survival: The percentage of people in a study or treatment group who have survived at least five years after diagnosis. Five years is the standard for most cancers when discussing survival.

Gemcitabine: Generic name for the drug Gemzar. A chemotherapy agent used to treat platinum-resistant recurrent ovarian cancer.

Gemzar: Trade name for the drug gemcitabine.

Gene: The basic unit of DNA that contains information on hereditary characteristics, such as hair or eye color, height, as well as susceptibility to certain diseases.

Genetic counseling: A communication process between a specially trained health professional (a genetic counselor) and a person concerned about the genetic risk of disease. The person’s family and personal medical history may be discussed, as well as whether or not the person would benefit from genetic testing.

Genetic testing: Analyzing DNA to see if a person has certain gene changes that may indicate an increased risk for developing a specific disease or disorder.

Germ cell ovarian cancer: An abnormal mass of tissue that forms in germ (egg) cells in the ovary. These tumors usually occur in teenage girls or young women, usually affect just one ovary, and can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). The most common ovarian germ cell tumor is called dysgerminoma.

Gynecologic cancer: Cancer of the female reproductive tract, including the ovaries, cervix, endometrium, fallopian tubes, uterus, and vagina.

Gynecologic Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in treating cancers of the female reproductive organs. The training to become a gynecologic oncologist is first that of an obstetrician/gynecologist, followed by 2-4 years of training in all effective forms of treatment of gynecologic cancers and experimental treatments, as well as in the biology and pathology of gynecologic cancers. Gynecologic oncologists are expert surgeons.

Hematologist: A doctor who specializes in treating blood disorders.

Hormones: Naturally occurring substances made by glands in the body. Hormones circulate in the bloodstream and control the actions of certain cells or organs.

Hormone therapy: Treatment that removes female hormones or blocks their action as a way to prevent ovarian cancer cells from getting or using the hormones they may need. For certain conditions such as menopause, hormones are given to adjust low hormone levels.

Hospice: A type and philosophy of care that focuses on the relief of a terminally ill or seriously ill patient’s symptoms, rather than on the cure of the disease.

HRT: Hormones (estrogen, progesterone, or both) given to women after menopause to replace the hormones no longer produced by the ovaries. Also called hormone replacement therapy and menopausal hormone therapy.

Hycamtin: Trade name for the drug topotecan.

Hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus and, sometimes, the cervix. When the uterus and cervix are removed, it is called a total hysterectomy. When only the uterus is removed, it is called a partial hysterectomy.

Immunotherapy: Treatment to boost or restore the ability of the immune system to fight cancer, infections, and other diseases. Also used to lessen the side effects that may be caused by some other cancer treatments.

Induction therapy: Initial treatment used to reduce ovarian cancer. Induction therapy is followed by other treatments, such as chemotherapy, to get rid of cancer that remains. Also called first-line therapy, primary therapy, and primary treatment.

Informed consent: A process by which individuals are given important information, including possible risks and benefits, about a medical procedure, a clinical trial, or genetic testing. This is to help them decide if they want to be treated, tested or take part in the trial.

Infusion: A method of putting fluids, including drugs, into the bloodstream. Also called intravenous infusion.

Integrative medicine: A type of medical care that combines conventional (standard) medical treatment with complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies that have been shown to be safe and effective. CAM therapies treat the mind, body, and spirit.

Intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy: Treatment in which chemotherapy is delivered directly into the abdomen through a thin tube.

Intravenous: Into or within a vein. It usually refers to a way of giving a drug through a needle or tube inserted into a vein. Also called IV.

Investigational: In clinical trials, refers to a drug (including a new drug, dose, combination, or route of administration) or procedure that that undergone basic laboratory testing and received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be tested in human subjects. Also called experimental.

Laparoscope: A thin, tube-like instrument used to look at tissues and organs inside the abdomen. A laparoscope has a light and a lens for viewing and may have a tool to remove tissue.

Laparoscopy: A procedure that uses a laparoscope, inserted through the abdominal wall, to examine the inside of the abdomen. When a surgical incision is made in the wall of the abdomen it is called a laparotomy.

Low malignant potential (LMP) tumor: A condition in which cells that may become cancer form in the thin tissue that covers the ovary. In this condition, tumor cells rarely spread outside of the ovary. Also called ovarian borderline malignant tumor.

Lymph: The clear fluid that travels through the lymphatic system and carries cells that help fight infections and other diseases.

Lymph nodes: A rounded mass of lymphatic tissue that is surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue. Lymph nodes filter lymph, store white blood cells and help the immune system fight disease.

Lymphatic system: The tissues and organs that produce, store and carry white blood cells that fight infections and other diseases. The system includes the bone marrow, spleen, lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels (a network of thin tubes that carry lymph and white blood cells). Like blood vessels, lymphatic vessels branch into all the tissues of the body.

Lynch syndrome: An inherited disorder also known as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer. In addition to being at higher than average risk for colon cancer, a woman has a higher-than-normal chance of developing ovarian and uterine cancer, often before the age of 50, if she has Lynch syndrome.

Malignant: Cancerous. Malignant tumors can invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor is a growth that is not cancerous.

Medical history: A record of information about an individual’s health. It may include information about illnesses, surgeries, allergies, immunizations, medicines taken, results of physical exams and tests. A family medical history includes information about a person’s close family members (parents, brothers and sisters, children, grandparents).

Menopause: The time of life when a woman’s ovaries stop producing hormones and menstrual periods stop. A woman is in menopause when she hasn’t had a period for 12 months in a row.

Metastasis: The spread of cancer cells from one part of the body to another, often by way of the lymph system or bloodstream. A tumor formed by cells that have spread is called a secondary tumor and contain cells that are like those in the original tumor. It is also called a “metastatic tumor” or a “metastasis.”

Metastasize: To spread from one part of the body to another. When cancer cells metastasize and form secondary tumors, the cells in the metastatic tumor are like those in the original (primary) tumor.

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. Also called magnetic resonance imaging.

Mutation: Any change in the DNA of a cell.

National Cancer Institute (NCI): The National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, is the Federal Government’s principal agency for cancer research.

National Institutes of Health (NIH): The NIH is an important U.S. health agency. It is devoted to medical research. It conducts research in its own laboratories, supports the research of non-Federal scientists in universities, medical schools, hospitals, and research institutions across the country and overseas. The NIH consists of more than 20 separate Institutes and Centers.

Neoadjuvant therapy: Therapy, usually chemotherapy, given to a patient prior to surgery.

Neulasta: Trade name for the drug pegfilgrastim.

Neutropenia: An abnormally low number of a particular type of white blood cell, called a neutrophil. This may result in an increased risk of infection.

Omentum: A fold of the peritoneum (the thin tissue that lines the abdomen) that surrounds the stomach and other organs in the abdomen.

Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in treating and caring for people who have cancer.

Oopherectomy: Surgery to remove one or both ovaries.

Ovarian borderline malignant tumor: A condition in which cells that may become cancer form in the thin layer of tissue that covers an ovary. In this condition, tumor cells rarely spread outside of the ovary. Also called ovarian low malignant potential tumor.

Ovarian cancer: Cancer that forms in the tissues of the ovary (one of a pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs, are formed). There are three types of ovarian cancer–epithelial, germ cell, and stromal cell. Epithelial ovarian is the most common. It accounts for more than 85 percent of ovarian cancers. It begins in the cells on the surface of the ovary. Germ cell cancers start in cells that form eggs in the ovary. Stromal cell tumors start in the supporting connective tissue that holds the ovary together. Ovarian germ cell tumor: Ovarian germ cell tumors start in the cells that produce individual eggs in the ovary. This type of tumor is rare, usually occurring in teenage girls or women younger than age 20. Many germ cell tumors are noncancerous.

Ovary: One of a pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs, are formed. The ovaries are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. Each ovary is about the size of an almond. The ovaries make female hormones and also store eggs. During a woman’s reproductive years, an ovary releases an egg every month.

Paclitaxel: Generic name for the drug Taxol. A drug used to treat ovarian and breast cancer. It blocks cell growth by stopping cell division and may kill cancer cells.

Palliative treatment or care: Treatment that relieves symptoms, such as pain, and reduces the suffering caused by cancer. Its main purpose is to keep the best quality of life for as long as possible without seeking to cure the disease.

Pap test: A procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix for examination under a microscope to detect cervical cancer and changes that may lead to the disease. A Pap test, also called a Pap smear and Papanicolaou test, can also show noncancerous conditions such as infection or inflammation. A pap test does not detect ovarian cancer.

Partial response: A decrease in the size of a tumor, or in the extent of cancer in the body, in response to treatment. Also called partial remission.

Paraplatin: Trade name for the drug carboplatin.

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

Pegfilgrastim: Generic name for the drug Neulasta. A drug used to increase numbers of white blood cells in patients who are receiving chemotherapy.

Pelvis: The lower part of the abdomen located between the hip bones.

Peripheral neuropathy: A nerve problem that causes pain, numbness, tingling, swelling or muscle weakness in different parts of the body. It usually begins in the hands or feet. Peripheral neuropathy can be a side effect of chemotherapy.

Peritoneal cavity: The space within the abdomen that contains the stomach, the intestines, and the liver. It is bound by thin membranes.

Peritoneal washing: A procedure in which a salt-water solution is used to wash the peritoneal cavity and then is removed to check for cancer cells. Peritoneal washings are commonly done during surgery for cancer of the ovary and the uterus, to see if the cancer has spread to the peritoneal cavity. Peritoneum: The tissue that lines the abdominal wall and covers most of the organs in the abdomen.

Placebo: Sometimes called a “sugar pill,” a placebo is an inactive substance that looks the same as, and is administered the same way as, a drug being tested in a clinical trial. The effects of the active drug or treatment are compared to the effects of the placebo.

Platinol: Trade name for the drug cisplatin.

Platinum-resistant ovarian cancer: Ovarian cancer that does not respond to platinum-based chemotherapies.

Pre-clinical trial: Research using animals to find out if a new drug, procedure or treatment is likely to be useful. Preclinical studies take place before any testing in humans is done.

Primary therapy: Initial treatment used to reduce ovarian cancer. Primary treatment is followed by other treatments, such as chemotherapy, to get rid of cancer that remains.

Prognosis: The likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery or recurrence.

Progression-free survival: The length of time during and after the treatment of cancer that a patient lives with the disease but it does not get worse.

Protocol: A detailed plan of a scientific experiment, treatment, or procedure. In clinical trials, it says what the study will do, how it will be done, and why it is being done. It also details how many people will be in the study, who is eligible to take part in it, what tests will be done and how often, and what information will be collected.

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 an individual’s sense of well-being and ability to carry out normal life activities.

Radiation therapy: Treatment with high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons, and other sources, to kill cancer cells or shrink a tumor.

Randomized trial: A study in which the participants in a clinical trial are assigned by chance to separate groups that compare different treatments. Neither the researchers nor the participants can choose which group.

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

Refractory cancer: This describes a disease or condition that does not respond to treatment.

Regional cancer: Refers to cancer that has grown beyond the original tumor to nearby lymph nodes or organs and tissues.

Remission: Complete or partial disappearance of the signs and symptoms of cancer in response to treatment. A remission may not be a cure. In complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared, although cancer still may be in the body.

Salpingo-oophorectomy: Removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries.

Scan: A look at structures within the body. Scans often used in diagnosing, staging, and monitoring disease include CAT scans and MRI scans.

Second-look surgery: Surgery performed after primary treatment to determine whether tumor cells remain.

Side effects: Unwanted effects of treatment that can include hair loss, fatigue, nausea, mouth sores, and neuropathy (nerve damage).

Stable disease: Cancer that is neither growing nor shrinking.

Stage: The extent of a cancer in the body. Staging is usually based on the size of the tumor, whether the cancer has spread from the other site to other parts of the body, and whether lymph nodes contain cancer. Ovarian cancer is divided into four stages by the location of the tumor cells at the time of the initial diagnosis.

Stromal cell tumors: These tumors start in the supporting connective tissue that holds the ovary together. The female hormones estrogen and progesterone are made in the stromal cells. The tumors can occur in women of any age, but they are uncommon.

Systemic: Affecting the entire body. Systemic chemotherapy employs drugs that travel through the bloodstream to cells all over the body.

Targeted therapy: A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances, such as monoclonal antibodies, to attack specific cancer cells. Targeted agents tend to have fewer side effects than conventional chemotherapy drugs. Taxol: Trade name for the drug paclitaxel.

Thrombocytopenia: An abnormally low numbers of platelets in the blood due to cancer or its treatment that can cause easy bruising and excessive bleeding.

Topotecan: Generic name for the drug Hycamtin. Used to treat recurrent ovarian cancer.

Transfusion: A procedure in which a person is given an infusion of donated blood.

Transvaginal ultrasound: A procedure used to examine the vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and bladder. An instrument is inserted into the vagina that causes sound waves to bounce off organs inside the pelvis. These sound waves create ultrasound echoes that are sent to a computer, which creates a picture (a sonogram). Transvaginal ultrasound is also referred to as transvaginal sonography and TVS.

Tumor: A lump or mass of cancerous or noncancerous cells.

Unresectable: Unable to be removed with surgery.

Uterus: The small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman’s pelvis. It is the organ in which a fetus develops. Also called the womb.

Vagina: The muscular canal that goes from the uterus to the outside of the body. During birth, the baby passes through the vagina.

Vulva: The external female genital organs, including the clitoris, vaginal lips, and the opening to the vagina.