Note: Below are definitions of some lung cancer-related terms used on this Web site. When applicable, a link is provided to the specific term on this page.
abnormality (ab-nohr-MAL-uh-tee): A growth or area of tissue that is not normal. An abnormality may be cancer or likely to become cancer.
adenocarcinoma (ADD-in-oh-kar-sin-OH-muh): A type of non-small cell lung cancer. Types of lung cancer are determined by the type of cells in the cancer.
adjuvant therapy (ADD-joo-vent THAIR-uh-pee): Treatment given after the main treatment to help cure a disease.
alcohol (AL-kuh-hall): Wine, beer, or liquor (such as gin or whiskey).
antiangiogenesis therapy (AN-tee-an-jee-oh-JEN-uh-sis THAIR-uh-pee): Using drugs or other treatments to stop new blood vessels from forming in tumors to try to limit tumor growth.
antibodies (AN-tee-BAH-deez): Proteins in the body made by the immune system that fight infection and disease.
arsenic (AHR-sin-ik): A mineral that can occur naturally in rocks and soil, sometimes used as a poison used to kill weeds and pests. Arsenic is also used in some cancer treatments to kill cancer cells.
asbestos (ess-BEST-iss): A natural material that is made of tiny threads or fibers. The fibers can enter the lungs as a person breathes. Asbestos can cause many diseases, including cancer. Asbestos was used to insulate houses from heat and cold. It has also been used in car brakes, shipyards, and for other purposes. Some old houses still have asbestos in their walls or ceilings.
beta-carotene (BAY-tuh KAYR-uh-teen): A vitamin found in orange, bright yellow, and dark green fruits and vegetables.
biological therapy (bye-uh-LAH-juh-kul THAIR-uh-pee): Treatment to boost the immune system's power to fight infections and other diseases. It can also be used to lessen side effects of some treatments. Also called immunotherapy, biotherapy, or biological response modifier (BRM) therapy.
biopsy (BY-ah-psee): To remove cells or tissues from the body for testing and examination under a microscope.
bladder (BLAD-ur): A small sac that holds urine before it passes from the body. The bladder is in the lower part of the belly.
breast cancer (BREST KAN-sur): Cancer that begins in the breast.
bronchi (BRAHNK-eye): The large airways connecting the windpipe to the lungs. The single form is bronchus. See also bronchial carcinoma.
bronchial carcinoma (BRAHN-kee-yul kar-sin-OH-muh): Cancer that grows in the bronchi, which are the large airways connecting the windpipe to the lungs.
bronchoalveolar carcinoma (BRAHN-koh-al-vee-OH-lur kar-sin-OH-muh): Bronchoalveolar carcinoma (BAC) is a subtype of lung cancer. BAC tumors can be more diffuse (spread out) than other lung cancers.
bronchoscopy (brahn-KAH-skuh-pee): A way to look at the inside of the windpipe, the bronchi, and/or the lungs using a lighted tube. The tube is inserted through the patient's nose or mouth. Bronchoscopy may be used to find cancer or as part of some treatments.
cancer registry: A database of cancer cases including information about when they occurred, the type of cancer, and other information.
carcinogen (kar-SIN-uh-jin): Something that causes cancer.
carotenoids (kuh-RAH-tuh-noydz): Pigments made by plants that are commonly found in orange fruits and vegetables and some dark green vegetables. Some carotenoids are used to make vitamin A.
CAT scan: A set of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an X-ray machine. Other names for a CAT scan are computerized axial tomography, computed tomography (CT scan), and computerized spiral (helical) CT scan.
cervical mediastinoscopy (SUR-vuh-kul MEE-dee-eh-stye-NAH-skuh-pee): A surgical procedure to examine the central area of the chest, called the mediastinum. (The heart, windpipe, bronchi, blood vessels, lymph nodes, and esophagus are found here.) The doctor makes a small incision (cut) in the neck to get to the mediastinum. Cervical mediastinoscopy can be used to help learn the stage of disease. It also helps doctors see if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
chemoprevention (KEE-moh-preh-VEN-shin): Using things such as drugs or vitamins to try to prevent or slow down cancer. Chemoprevention may be used to help keep someone from ever getting cancer. It is also used to help keep some cancers from coming back.
chemotherapy (KEE-moh-THAIR-up-ee): Using drugs to treat cancer.
chest X-ray: An X-ray of the inside of the chest. X-rays are high-energy radiation used to take pictures of the inside of the body. These pictures can be used to find cancer and other diseases.
cholesterol (kuh-LES-tur-all): Cholesterol comes from many foods. It is used to make hormones and for several other purposes. You get cholesterol from many foods, especially animal products like meat, milk, and cheese.
chromium (KROH-mee-yum): A kind of metal that comes in different forms and is found in rocks and soil. Some forms are also produced during industrial processes. Chromium is also one of the chemicals found in cigarette smoke.
clinical trial: A kind of research study where patients volunteer to test new ways of screening for, preventing, finding, or treating a disease. Also called a clinical study.
colon cancer (KOH-lin KAN-sur): Cancer that begins in the colon, or large intestine.
dysphagia (dis-FAY-jee-yuh): Trouble swallowing.
dyspnea (DISP-nee-yuh): Shortness of breath.
EGFR inhibitors: Stands for epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors. Epidermal growth factor is a protein in the body that stimulates some cells, including some cancer cells, to grow and multiply. EGFR inhibitors are a class of anti-cancer drugs. They work by blocking epidermal growth factor from stimulating cells to grow.
emphysema (em-fuh-ZEE-muh): A disease that affects the tiny air sacs in the lungs. Emphysema makes it harder to breathe. People who smoke have a greater chance of getting emphysema.
esophagus (eh-SAH-fuh-gus): The tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach.
evidence (EV-uh-dins): Information that is collected in an orderly way about a disease or its treatment. This information often comes from research. Evidence helps doctors and scientists understand what treatments work best on different diseases.
extensive stage SCLC: SCLC stands for small cell lung cancer. SCLC is usually staged as either "limited" or "extensive." Extensive SCLC is cancer that has spread beyond the lung to other parts of the body. See also oat cell and small cell lung cancer.
first line therapy: The first course of treatment used against a disease.
gene (jeen): The basic unit of heredity. Genes decide eye color and other traits. Genes also play a role in how high a person's risk is for certain diseases. See also inherited.
gene therapy: Treatment that changes a gene. Gene therapy is used to help the body fight cancer. It also can be used to make cancer cells more sensitive to treatment.
hilar (HIGH-lar): Referring to the central portion of each lung where the bronchi, arteries, veins, and nerves enter and exit the lungs.
immune system (ih-MYOON SIS-tim): The complex group of organs and cells that defends the body against infections and other diseases.
inherited (in-HAIR-uh-tid): Something that is passed on from parents to their children. When traits are passed on from one generation to the next, it is called heredity.
kidney (KID-nee): A bean-shaped organ that filters waste products from the body and forms urine that is passed into the bladder. Human beings are born with two kidneys, one on each side of the lower back.
large cell cancer: A type of non-small cell lung cancer where the cancer cells are large and abnormal.
larynx (LAIR-inks): Voice box. The larynx is part of the breathing system and is found in the throat.
limited stage small cell lung cancer (SCLC): SCLC stands for small cell lung cancer. SCLC is usually staged as either "limited" or "extensive." Limited stage generally means the cancer is found only in one lung and its nearby tissue. See also oat cell and small cell lung cancer.
lobe: A part of an organ, such as the lung.
lobectomy (loh-BEK-tuh-mee): Surgery to remove a lobe of an organ.
low-dose CAT scan: A CAT scan that uses smaller amounts of X-rays than a regular CAT scan.
lymph nodes (LIMF nohdz): Small glands that help the body fight infection and disease. They filter a fluid called lymph and contain white blood cells.
mesothelioma (mez-uh-thee-lee-YOH-muh): A tumor in the lining of the chest or abdomen (stomach area).
metastasis (muh-TASS-tuh-sis): When cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
MRI: Stands for magnetic resonance imaging. A type of body scan that uses a magnet linked to a computer to make detailed pictures of areas inside the body. An MRI can be used to find cancer.
neoadjuvant therapy (NEE-oh-ADD-joo-vent THAIR-uh-pee): Treatment given before the main treatment to help cure a disease.
neutropenia (noo-truh-PEE-nee-yuh): An abnormal decrease in a type of white blood cells. The body needs white blood cells to fight disease and infection.
nickel (NIK-ul): A kind of metal found in soil and often used in alloys and in industry.
oncologist (ahn-KAH-luh-jist): A doctor who specializes in studying and treating cancer.
pancreas (PAN-kree-yus): A large gland that helps digest food and also makes some important hormones.
peripheral neuropathy (puh-RIF-uh-rul noo-RAH-puh-thee): Numbness, tingling, burning, or weakness that usually begins in the hands or feet. Some anticancer drugs can cause this problem.
PET scan: Stands for positron emission tomography scan. A PET scan is a way to find cancer in the body. In a PET scan, the patient is given radioactive glucose (sugar) through a vein. A scanner then tracks the glucose in the body. The scanner's pictures can be used to find cancer, since cancer cells tend to use more sugar than other cells.
phlegm (flem): Thick mucus from the airways of the body.
pleura (PLOO-ruh): The thin lining that covers the lungs and the inside of the chest wall that cushions the lungs. The pleura normally releases a small amount of fluid. The fluid helps the lungs move freely during breathing.
pleural effusion (PLOO-rul eh-FYOO-zhin): When too much fluid collects between the lining of the lung and the lining of the inside wall of the chest.
pneumonectomy (noo-muh-NEK-tuh-mee): Surgery to remove a lung.
primary cancer: The first or original cancer.
prognosis (prahg-NOH-sis): The course a disease is likely to follow, including how long it will last, what the result will be, and the chances for recovery.
prostate cancer (PRAH-stayt KAN-sur): Cancer that begins in the prostate, which is a gland in men. The prostate is about the size of a walnut and sits just below the bladder.
pulmonologist (pull-min-AH-luh-jist): A doctor who specializes in studying and treating diseases of the lungs.
quartile (KWOR-tyl): A term used in medical statistics to mean a group containing one-quarter or 25 percent of the total.
radiation (ray-dee-AY-shin): The emission of energy in waves or particles. Often used to treat cancer cells.
radiation oncologist (RAY-dee-YAY-shun ahn-KAH-luh-jist): A doctor who has special training to treat cancer patients with radiation.
radon (RAY-dahn): An odorless, colorless gas known to increase risk of cancer. Radon comes from rocks and dirt and can get trapped in houses and buildings.
recurrence: When cancer comes back after a period when no cancer could be found.
resection: Surgery to remove tissue, an organ, or part of an organ.
selenium (seh-LEE-nee-um): A mineral found in rocks and soil, often used in electronics and other industries. It is also a mineral the body needs in small amounts.
silica (SILL-uh-kuh): A substance found in rocks, sand, and quartz as well as some workplaces.
small cell lung cancer: A type of lung cancer made up of small, round cells. Small cell lung cancer is less common than non-small cell lung cancer and often grows more quickly. The name is often shortened to SCLC. Another name for SCLC is oat cell cancer. See also extensive SCLC and limited SCLC.
spiral (helical) CT scan: Pictures created by a computer linked to an X-ray machine that scans the body in a spiral path. Also called helical computed tomography.
sputum (SPYOO-tim): Mucus and other things brought up from the lungs in coughing.
sputum cytology (SPEW-tim sie-TAH-luh-jee): A screening test for lung cancer. In this test, doctors look at phlegm under the microscope to check for cancer cells.
squamous cell carcinoma (SQUAY-mus SEL kar-sin-OH-muh): A type of non-small cell lung cancer that begins in the squamous cells of the lungs. Squamous cells are found in the skin, the lining of the hollow organs (such as the stomach), and in the breathing and digestive tracts.
stage: How much cancer is in the body and how far it has spread.
thoracic surgeon (thuh-RASS-ik SIR-jun): A doctor who specializes in chest, heart, and lung surgery.
toxicity (tahx-SIS-uh-tee): How toxic or poisonous something is.
trachea (TRAY-kee-yuh): The airway connecting the larynx to the lungs; windpipe.
vaccine (vax-EEN): A substance meant to help the immune system respond to and resist disease.
VATS: Stands for video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery. A surgical procedure performed inside the chest with the help of a camera on a tube. In VATS, several small incisions (cuts) are made in the chest. Doctors insert the tube with the camera through one incision, and tools to work with through the others. The camera helps the doctors see inside the chest to operate.
vitamin C (VIE-tuh-min SEE): A vitamin that is important to the immune system and many other body functions. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits such as oranges, limes, and grapefruit. It is also found in vegetables such as tomatoes, green pepper, and potatoes.
vitamin E (VIE-tuh-min EE): A vitamin that helps protect cells in the body against damage.
wedge resection: Surgery to remove a wedge-shaped piece of tissue.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
4770 Buford Hwy NE
Atlanta, GA 30341
TTY: (888) 232-6348
- Contact CDC-INFO