Glossary

A

Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in cells that line certain internal organs that have glandular (secreting) properties. Most colon cancers are adenocarcinomas.

Adjuvant Therapy: Treatment performed in addition to surgery.

Anastomosis: Surgically connecting two ends of the colon after colectomy (resection).

Anemia: A condition in which there is not enough hemoglobin or red blood cells in the blood.

Angiogenesis: The growth of new blood vessels, including those that feed a tumor.

Anti-angiogenesis: Blocking the growth of new blood vessels.

Antibody: A protein in the blood produced by immune cells to fight off diseases.

Anti-EGFR (Anti-Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor): : An agent that blocks the activity of EGFR (see EGFR) to prevent cancer growth.

B

Benign Tumor: A tumor that is not cancerous and will not spread to surrounding tissues or to other parts of the body.

Biopsy: A procedure where tumor tissue is removed from the body for laboratory examination to determine whether or not cancer is present. A biopsy can be performed during a colonscopy or as a surgical procedure.

Bowel Obstruction: When a section of the intestine becomes blocked, preventing the contents from flowing normally. Obstruction is the most common acute surgical problem in colon cancer. About one in three left-sided lesions present with an obstruction.

Bowel Perforation: When a hole develops through the entire wall of the intestines.

C

Cancer:

A condition in which abnormal cells divide without control or fail to die as part of a normal cell's lifecycle. Cancer cells can also invade nearby tissues and can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.

Carcinoid Tumors: Tumors that start from hormone-producing cells.

CAT (Computerized Axial Tomography) Scan: A type of X-ray that uses a computer to produce a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. Also called a CT (computerized tomography) scan.

CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen): A protein marker in the blood that may be present with some cancers; may be used to monitor response to treatment or disease recurrence.

Cell: The smallest unit of tissues that make up any living thing. Cells have a very specialized structure and function.

Chemotherapy:

Treatment with cytotoxic drugs that destroy cancer cells (fast-growing cells). Chemotherapy may be used in addition to surgery, and is sometimes used in combination with other therapies such as radiation therapy or hormonal therapy.

Clinical Trial: A research study to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of medication, devices, procedures, and testing technologies.

Colectomy:

Surgical resection of all or part of the colon (also called the large intestine).

Colonoscopy: A test procedure in which a flexible, tubular instrument equipped with a video camera is used by a doctor to visually inspect the inner lining of the colon.

D

Diagnosis:

Identification of a condition, such as breast cancer, by its signs and symptoms and the results of laboratory tests or other examinations.

Distant Recurrence: The spread of cancer to parts of the body other than the place where the cancer first occurred. In breast cancer, the cancer can spread to the lungs, liver, brain or bones.

DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid): A biological compound found in all living organisms that contains genetic instructions used by cells to develop and function.

E

EGFR (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor): A protein on the surface of some tumor cells that may promote their growth and spread of the cancer.

G

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs): Tumors that start from cells in the wall of the gastrointestinal tract that may be benign or malignant; not often found in the colon.

Gene: The functional and physical units of inheritance that are passed from parents to their offspring. The genes found in normal colon tissue can change their “expression".

Gene Expression:

The level of activity of a gene or group of genes.

Genome: The complete genetic material of a living thing.

L

Lymph Nodes: Small, bean-shaped organs; part of the lymphatic system. During surgery, some lymph nodes may be removed to help determine the stage of the cancer.

Lymphatic / Vascular Invasion: Spread of the cancer has extended into the vascular system.

Lymph-node Involvement: The number of lymph nodes analyzed and found to contain cancer. Lymph node involvement is important in determining prognosis. Lymph node involvement differentiates a patient for diagnosis with Stage II defined as without lymph-node involvement and Stage III with spread of the disease through the lymph system.

M

Malignant: Cancerous

Metastasis: The spread of cancer cells from where they started to other parts of the body.

Micro-satellite Instability: Mutational signature found in colon and rectal cancers that evolve as a result of inactivation of the DNA mismatch repair (MMR) system.

MMR (Mis-match Repair): A system within the cell for correcting errors in DNA that works by detecting and replacing bases in the DNA that are wrongly paired (mismatched bases). Defects in the DNA mismatch repair mechanism result in an inability to repair DNA mutations.

Monoclonal Antibody: An antibody produced in the laboratory that can bind to specific cells; can be used for diagnosis or therapy; can also be used with other drugs or to deliver drugs or radioactive material to cells.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): A method of imaging organs of the body using magnetic energy.

Mutation: A change in DNA sequence of a gene.

N

Newly Diagnosed: A term used to describe colon cancer that has recently been identified.

Node-Negative Colon Cancer: Colon cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes.

O

Oncotype DX® Colon Cancer Test: A unique diagnostic test that looks at the genomic profile of a colon tumor to predict the likelihood that early-stage, localized, Stage II colon cancer will recur.

P

PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scan: An imaging method that produces three-dimensional images of processes in the body.

Polyp: A growth from a mucous membrane commonly found in organs such as the colon.

R

Radiation Therapy:

The use of radiation to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used before or after surgery, and is sometimes used in combination with chemotherapy. Radiation is used for local control of the cancer at the site of the tumor.

Recurrence:

The return of cancer after treatment. This can be either local (at the site of the original tumor), or distant (beyond the original site).

Recurrence Free Interval (RFI): Interval between diagnosis and recurrence of disease.

Resection: Surgical procedure to remove primary colon cancer. En bloc resection involves anatomically defined portions of the colon with in-continuity draining nodes to root of mesocolon (Transverse or Sigmoid).

S

Stage II Colon Cancer: Cancer has spread outside the colon to nearby tissue, but it has not gone into the lymph nodes.  Also called Dukes B colon cancer.

T

T-Stage: T-Stage refers to the depth of penetration of the tumor at time of presentation.  In colon cancer, tumor size is not as critical as depth of invasion and nodal status in determining prognosis.

Tumor:

Tissue growth where the cells that make up the tissue have multiplied uncontrollably. A tumor can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Tumor Grade:

The characterization of a tumor based on how similar in appearance the cancer cells are to normal cells, and on how many of those tumor cells are dividing. Tumor grade is one of many factors that, when used in combination, can indicate how aggressive a patient’s cancer is.

X

X-ray: A form of radiation that can be used at low levels to produce images of the body or at high levels to destroy cancer cells.

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