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© Copyright 2013
Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

Anticonvulsants
Drugs used to control certain convulsions or seizures. Certain types of anticonvulsants may be used for other conditions as determined by a doctor.

Antioxidant
A special group of vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that counteract the damage done to cells by oxidation. Oxidation is thought to be partially responsible for the effects on aging and for certain diseases. Examples of antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids.

Aromatic amines
A group of chemical compounds linked to bladder cancer.  Aromatic amines are used in the rubber, aluminum, and textile industries.

Ashkenazi
A Jewish person of Eastern European descent.

Atrial fibrillation
One type of fast and irregular heartbeat.

Atypical hyperplasia
See Benign breast disease.

B

Benign breast disease
A large group of non-cancerous conditions of the breast that includes cysts, fibroadenomas, and hyperplasia. Of all the types of benign breast disease, hyperplasia is most strongly related to breast cancer.

Bronchitis
A type of lung disease in which airways in the lungs become inflamed and filled with mucus, making breathing difficult.

C

Calcium
A very important mineral with many functions, including the building and maintaining of bone.  Good sources include: dairy products, like milk and yogurt; calcium-fortified foods like fortified orange juice; and calcium supplements.

Cancer
General name for a large group of diseases. Cancer occurs when cells in the body grow and divide out of control.

Carotenoids
A yellow to deep-red pigment found in many vegetables and some animal products. Many carotenoids are potent antioxidants.

Chronic disease
A disease that develops and lasts over a long period of time.  Examples include: cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Chronic inflammatory bowel disease
A disorder in which parts of the intestine become irritated and inflamed causing symptoms like pain, diarrhea and bleeding. The two main types are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Chronic pancreatitis
A disorder in which the pancreas becomes irritated and inflamed. This can lead to scarring and destruction o f the cells in the pancreas that make digestive enzymes and insulin.

Colon
The longest part of the large intestine.

Colonoscopy
An examination in which the doctor looks at the internal walls of the entire colon through a flexible, lighted instrument called a colonoscope. The doctor may collect samples of tissue or cells for closer examination. The doctor may also remove polyps during colonoscopy.

Coronary heart disease
A condition that occurs when the buildup of cholesterol and fat in the arteries cause them to become too narrow and blocks the flow of blood.

Cysts
See Benign breast disease.

D

Diabetes
A condition in which the body is not able to make or use the hormone insulin properly, causing high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can lead to many complications, like nerve and blood vessel damage, coronary heart disease, amputations, blindness and kidney damage.

E

Emphysema
A type of lung disease in which the air sacks (alveoli) in the lungs become permanently damaged, making breathing difficult.

Environmental tobacco smoke
Smoke from other people's cigarettes, cigars and pipes—also known as second-hand or passive smoke.

Estrogen
A female hormone that is produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands. Estrogen is important to reproduction and may stimulate some cancers to grow.

F

Fallopian tubes
Tubes that connect a woman's ovaries and womb. Getting them "tied" or cut is a common way to prevent pregnancy.

Fibroadenomas
See Benign breast disease.

Folate
One of the B vitamins that is found in green plants, fresh fruit, liver and yeast. Also known as folic acid.

Fortified breakfast cereal
Cereal that has had nutrients added to it.  Iron, folate, and selected vitamins are commonly added during fortification.

H

High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
A lipoprotein that helps remove cholesterol from the blood, decreases fat build up in the arteries, and actually reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Often referred to as "good" cholesterol.

High blood sugar
A condition in which the glucose (sugar) level in the blood reaches levels higher than normal.  Often a sign of diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Human papillomavirus (HPV)
A type of virus that causes warts. Some types of HPV are sexually transmitted and can cause warts to grow on the genitals. Regular Pap smears can be used to check if the virus has caused changes in the cells of the cervix.

Hyperplasia
See Benign breast disease.

Hypertension
High blood pressure.

Hysterectomy
A surgical removal of the uterus, resulting in the inability to become pregnant (sterility). It may be done through the abdomen or the vagina.

I

Immunoglobulins
Antibodies that are part of the body’s natural defense against infection. Antibodies found in breast milk can help babies fight infections.

Immunosuppressive drugs
Drugs that hinder the body’s natural immune response, generally given after an organ transplant to prevent rejection.  They can raise the risk of skin cancer by suppressing the body’s natural control of cell growth. 

Intraductal hyperplasia
See Benign breast disease.

L

Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
A lipoprotein that increases the build up of fat and cholesterol on artery walls, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Often called "bad" cholesterol.

Lycopene
An antioxidant found in tomatoes. Antioxidants are powerful substances that can help protect cells from becoming cancerous.

M

Mammogram
An X-ray of the breast that is designed to detect abnormal densities or masses that may require further investigation. Used most often as a screening tool for breast cancer.

Menopause
A gradual process in which menstrual periods become irregular and eventually stop altogether.

Monounsaturated fats
Fats that help to lower blood cholesterol if used in place of saturated fats. Healthy sources include avocados as well as olive, peanut, sesame, and canola oils. Like all fats, monosaturated fats are high in calories. If you increase the amount of monosaturated fats you eat, be mindful of how much food you eat overall, so you don't gain weight.

Myocardial infarction
A blockage of a blood vessel in the heart that leads to the death of some of the heart tissue. Also called a heart attack.

N

Non-melanoma skin cancer
A category of skin cancer that include basal cell and squamous cell cancers (but not malignant melanoma).  Less serious and much more curable than malignant melanoma, the non-melanoma skin cancer are also by far the most common types of skin cancer.

O

Omega-3 fatty acids
A type of fat that is found in soybean, grapeseed and fish oils. May protect the blood vessels of the heart and the rest of the body from injury.

Osteoporosis
A condition characterized by the loss of bone mass. Occurs when new bone is not created as quickly as old bone is broken down. Leads to a loss of bone tissue, brittleness, and a higher risk of fracture.

P

Pap smear (Pap test)
A test to check for pre-cancerous cells that may develop into cervical cancer.

Polyunsaturated fats
Fats that can improve blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease. Major sources include: oil-based salad dressing, fatty fish, as well as safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils. Like all fats, polyunsaturated fats are high in calories. If you increase the amount of polyunsaturated fats you eat, be mindful of how much food you eat overall, so you don’t gain weight.

Post-menopausal hormones
Hormones intended to relieve the symptoms of menopause as well as protect aging women against heart disease and osteoporosis.  Also called hormone replacement therapy, formulations contain estrogen and sometimes progestin. 

Prevention
The elimination of causes of disease from the population, so that the risk of disease is either reduced (as in the case of many infectious disease today) or postponed until later in life (as in heart disease and various cancers).

Progestin
A synthetic version for the natural hormone progesterone.

R

Risk (of disease)
The probability that a disease will develop in an individual during a specified time period.

S

Saturated fat
Fats that can raise blood cholesterol levels and have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Found primarily in animal foods (such as red meat, poultry, butter, cheese, ice cream, and whole milk), they are also present in tropical vegetable oils (such as coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils), which are solid at room temperature.

Screening test
A test or procedure used to detect disease in a person who does not have any symptoms of that disease.

Stroke
An interruption of the blood supply to any part of the brain, resulting in damaged brain tissue. A stroke can cause physical problems such as paralysis, problems with thinking or speaking, and emotional problems. 

T

Thiazide diuretics
A group of prescription drugs commonly used to control blood pressure.  Because they can also decrease calcium loss, they may lower the risk of osteoporosis in some individuals.

Total cholesterol
Usually refers to the combined level of HDL and LDL cholesterol in the blood.

Trans unsaturated fats
Fats that increase the risk of heart disease by both raising LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lowering HDL (“good”) cholesterol.  A main component of shortening and hydrogenated oils, transunsaturated fats are common in French fries, potato chips, pies, cookies, crackers, and many other commercially made snack foods.

Tubal ligation
A surgical procedure that permanently sterilizes a woman by preventing transport of the egg (ovum) to the uterus, and by blocking the passage of sperm up the tube to the ovulating ovary where fertilization normally occurs.

U

Unsaturated fats
Fats that can improve blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease. Healthy sources include: oil-based salad dressing, fatty fish, and avocados, as well as olive, canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils Like all fats, unsaturated fats are high in calories.  If you increase the amount of unsaturated fats you eat, be mindful of how much food you eat overall, so you don’t gain weight.

V

Vasectomy
A surgical procedure that cuts the duct that carries sperm from the testicles to the penis.  It is one of the most popular forms of birth control in the United States.