The following are the meaning of health and medical terms.
Abdomen: The belly, that part of the body that contains all of the structures between the chest and the pelvis. The abdomen is separated anatomically from the chest by the diaphragm, the powerful muscle spanning the body cavity below the lungs.
Abnormal: Not normal. Deviating from the usual structure, position, condition, or behavior. In referring to a growth, abnormal may mean that it is cancerous or premalignant (likely to become cancer).
Abstinence: The voluntary self-denial of food, drink, or sex. Today, abstinence most commonly refers to denial of one’s sexual activity.
Anesthesia: Loss of feeling or awareness. A general anesthetic puts the person to sleep. A local anesthetic causes loss of feeling in a part of the body such as a tooth or an area of skin without affecting consciousness. Regional anesthesia numbs a larger part of the body such as a leg or arm, also without affecting consciousness. The term “conduction anesthesia” encompasses both local and regional anesthetic techniques. Many surgical procedures can be done with conduction anesthesia without significant pain. In many situations, such as a C-section, conduction anesthesia is safer and therefore preferable to general anesthesia. However, there are also many types of surgery in which general anesthesia is clearly appropriate.
Biopsy: The removal of a sample of tissue for purposes of diagnosis. (Many definitions of “biopsy” stipulate that the sample of tissue is removed for examination under a microscope. This may or may not be the case. The diagnosis may be achieved by other means such as by analysis of chromosomes or genes.)
Birth control: Birth control is the use of any practices, methods, or devices to prevent pregnancy from occurring in a sexually active woman. Also referred to as family planning, pregnancy prevention, fertility control, or contraception; birth control methods are designed either to prevent fertilization of an egg or implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.
Bladder: Any pouch or other flexible enclosure that can hold liquids or gases but usually refers to the hollow organ in the lower abdomen that stores urine — the urinary bladder. The kidneys filter waste from the blood and produce urine, which enters the bladder through two tubes called ureters. Urine leaves the bladder through another tube, the urethra. In women, the urethra is a short tube that opens just in front of the vagina.
Cancer: An abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and, in some cases, to metastasize (spread).
Cancer causes: In most individual cases of cancer, the exact cause of cancer is unknown. The causes may include increased genetic susceptibility; environmental insults, such as chemical exposure or smoking cigarettes; lifestyle factors, including diet; damage caused by infectious disease.
Cancer symptoms: Abnormal sensations or conditions that persons can notice that are a result of a cancer. It is important to see your doctor for regular checkups and not wait for problems to occur. But you should also know that the following symptoms may be associated with cancer: changes in bowel or bladder habits, a sore that does not heal, unusual bleeding or discharge, thickening or lump in the breast or any other part of the body, indigestion or difficulty swallowing, obvious change in a wart or mole, or nagging cough or hoarseness. These symptoms are not always a sign of cancer. They can also be caused by less serious conditions. Only a doctor can make a diagnosis. It is important to see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Don’t wait to feel pain. Early cancer often does not cause pain.
Carcinoma: Cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover body organs. For example, carcinoma can arise in the breast, colon, liver, lung, prostate, and stomach.
Carcinoma in situ: Cancer that involves only the place in which it began and that has not spread. Carcinoma in situ is an early-stage tumor.
Catheter: A thin, flexible tube. For example, a catheter placed in a vein provides a pathway for giving drugs, nutrients, fluids, or blood products. Samples of blood can also be withdrawn through the catheter.
Cell: The basic structural and functional unit in people and all living things. Each cell is a small container of chemicals and water wrapped in a membrane.
Cervical: Having to do with any kind of neck including the neck on which the head is perched and the neck of the uterus. The word “cervix” in Latin means “neck”. That is why cervical vertebrae and cervical cancer involve quite disparate parts of the anatomy joined only by the meaning of the word “cervix”.
Cervical cancer: Cancer of the entrance to the womb (uterus). The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb). The uterus, a hollow, pear-shaped organ, is located in a woman’s lower abdomen, between the bladder and the rectum. The cervix forms a canal that opens into the vagina, which leads to the outside of the body.
Regular pelvic exams and Pap testing can detect precancerous changes in the cervix. Precancerous changes in the cervix may be treated with cryosurgery, cauterization, or laser surgery. The most common symptom of cancer of the cervix is abnormal bleeding. Cancer of the cervix can be diagnosed using a Pap test or other procedures that sample the cervix tissue. Cancer of the cervix requires different treatment than cancer that begins in other parts of the uterus.
Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia: A general term for the growth of abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix. Numbers from 1 to 3 may be used to describe how much of the cervix contains abnormal cells. Also called CIN.
Cervix: The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb). The uterus, a hollow, pear-shaped organ, is located in a woman’s lower abdomen, between the bladder and the rectum. The cervix forms a canal that opens into the vagina, which leads to the outside of the body.
Chemotherapy: 1. In the original sense, a chemical that binds to and specifically kills microbes or tumor cells. The term chemotherapy was coined in this regard by Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915).
2. In oncology, drug therapy for cancer. Also called “chemo” for short.
Chest: The area of the body located between the neck and the abdomen. The chest contains the lungs, the heart and part of the aorta. The walls of the chest are supported by the dorsal vertebrae, the ribs, and the sternum.
Colposcope: A lighted magnifying instrument used by a gynecologist to examine the tissues of the vagina and the cervix.
Colposcopy: A procedure in which a gynecologist uses a lighted magnifying instrument which is called a colposcope to examine the tissues of the vagina and the cervix.
Conization: Surgery to remove a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix and cervical canal. Conization may be used to diagnose or treat a cervical condition. Also called cone biopsy.
Cryosurgery: Treatment performed with an instrument that freezes and destroys abnormal tissue.
CT scan: Computerized tomography scan. Pictures of structures within the body created by a computer that takes the data from multiple X-ray images and turns them into pictures on a screen. CT stands for computerized tomography.
Cure: 1. To heal, to make well, to restore to good health. Cures are easy to claim and, all too often, difficult to confirm.
2. A time without recurrence of a disease so that the risk of recurrence is small, as in the 5-year cure rate for malignant melanoma.
3. Particularly in the past, a course of treatment.
Diagnosis: 1 The nature of a disease; the identification of an illness. 2 A conclusion or decision reached by diagnosis. The diagnosis is rabies. 3 The identification of any problem.
Discharge: 1.The flow of fluid from part of the body, such as from the nose or vagina.
2. The passing of an action potential, such as through a nerve or muscle fiber.
3. The release of a patient from a course of care. The doctor may then dictate a discharge summary.
Drain: A device for removing fluid from a cavity or wound. A drain is typically a tube or wick. As a verb, to allow fluid to be released from a confined area.
Dysplasia: Abnormal in form. From the Greek dys- (bad, disordered, abnormal) and plassein (to form). For example, retinal dysplasia is abnormal formation of the retina during embryonic development.
Fertility: The ability to conceive and have children, the ability to become pregnant through normal sexual activity. Infertility is defined as the failure to conceive after a year of regular intercourse without contraception.
Genital: Pertaining to the external and internal organs of reproduction. (Not to be confused with genetic.)
Gynecologic oncologist: A physician who specializes in 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 structured training in all effective forms of treatment of gynecologic cancers (surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and experimental treatments) as well as in the biology and pathology of gynecologic cancers.
Gynecologist: A doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the female reproductive organs. The word “gynecologist” comes from the Greek gyno, gynaikos meaning woman + logia meaning study, so a gynecologist is literally women’s doctor. However, these days gynecologists do not address all of women’s medicine but instead focus mainly on disorders of the female reproductive organs.
HIV: Acronym for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the cause of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV has also been called the human lymphotropic virus type III, the lymphadenopathy-associated virus and the lymphadenopathy virus. No matter what name is applied, it is a retrovirus. (A retrovirus has an RNA genome and a reverse transcriptase enzyme. Using the reverse transcriptase, the virus uses its RNA as a template for making complementary DNA which can integrate into the DNA of the host organism).
Human papillomavirus: HPV. A family of over 100 viruses including those which cause warts and are transmitted by contact. Some types of HPV are associated with tumors of the genital tract including, notably, cancer of the cervix.
Hysterectomy: A surgical operation to remove the uterus and, sometimes, the cervix. Removal of the entire uterus (include the parametria and uterosacral ligaments) and the cervix is referred to as radical hysterectomy. Removal of the body of the uterus and the cervix is referred to as simple hysterectomy.
Immune: Protected against infection. The Latin immunis means free, exempt.
Immune system: A complex system that is responsible for distinguishing us from everything foreign to us, and for protecting us against infections and foreign substances. The immune system works to seek and kill invaders.
In situ: In the normal location. An “in situ” tumor is one that is confined to its site of origin and has not invaded neighboring tissue or gone elsewhere in the body.
Infection: The growth of a parasitic organism within the body. (A parasitic organism is one that lives on or in another organism and draws its nourishment there from.) A person with an infection has another organism (a “germ”) growing within him, drawing its nourishment from the person.
Intraepithelial: Within the layer of cells that forms the surface or lining of an organ.
Invasive cervical cancer: Cancer that has spread from the surface of the cervix to tissue deeper in the cervix or to other parts of the body.
Laser: A powerful beam of light that can produce intense heat when focused at close range. Lasers are used in medicine in microsurgery, cauterization, for diagnostic purposes, etc. For example, lasers are employed in microsurgery to cut tissue and remove tissue.
Laser surgery: A type of surgery that uses the cutting power of a laser beam to make bloodless cuts in tissue or remove a surface lesion such as a skin tumor. There are a number of different types of lasers that differ in emitted light wavelengths and power ranges and in their ability to clot, cut, or vaporize tissue. Among the commonly used lasers are the pulsed-dye laser, the YAG laser, the CO2 (carbon dioxide) laser, the argon laser, the excimer laser, the KTP laser, and the diode laser.
Lesion: Pronounced “lee-sion” with the emphasis on the “lee,” a lesion can be almost any abnormality involving any tissue or organ due to any disease or any injury.
Liquid nitrogen: Nitrogen in a liquid state. Liquid nitrogen is supercool — about 200 degrees Celsius (320 degrees Fahrenheit) below zero — and is used for cryopreservation, cryosurgery, and cryomedicine.
Lungs: The lungs are a pair of breathing organs located with the chest which remove carbon dioxide from and bring oxygen to the blood. There is a right and left lung.
Lymph: An almost colorless fluid that travels through vessels called lymphatics in the lymphatic system and carries cells that help fight infection and disease.
Medical history: 1. In clinical medicine, the patient’s past and present which may contain clues bearing on their health past, present, and future. The medical history, being an account of all medical events and problems a person has experienced, including psychiatric illness, is especially helpful when a differential diagnosis is needed.
2. The history of medicine.
Menopause: The time in a woman’s life when menstrual periods permanently stop; it is also called the “change of life.” Menopause is the opposite of the menarche.
Menstrual: Pertaining to menstruation (the menses), as in last menstrual period, menstrual cramps, menstrual cycle, and premenstrual syndrome. From the Latin menstrualis, from mensis meaning month.
Menstruation: The periodic blood that flows as a discharge from the uterus. Also called menorrhea, the time during which menstruation occurs is referred to as menses. The menses occurs at approximately 4 week intervals to compose the menstrual cycle.
Metastasis: 1. The process by which cancer spreads from the place at which it first arose as a primary tumor to distant locations in the body.
2. The cancer resulting from the spread of the primary tumor. For example, someone with melanoma may have a metastasis in their brain. And a person with colon cancer may, fortunately, show no metastases.
Microscope: An optical instrument that augments the power of the eye to see small objects. The name microscope was coined by Johannes Faber (1574-1629) who in 1628 borrowed from the Greek to combined micro-, “small” with skopein, to “view”. Although the first microscopes were simple microscopes, most (if not all) optical microscopes today are compound microscopes.
Mouth: 1. The upper opening of the digestive tract, beginning with the lips and containing the teeth, gums, and tongue. Food is broken down mechanically in the mouth by chewing and saliva is added as a lubricant. Saliva contains amylase, an enzyme that digests starch. 2. Any opening or aperture in the body. The mouth in both senses of the word is also called the “os”, the Latin word for an opening, or mouth. The o in “os” is pronounced as in hope. The genitive form of “os” is “oris” from which comes the word “oral”.
Nausea: Nausea, is the urge to vomit. It can be brought by many causes including, systemic illnesses, such as influenza, medications, pain, and inner ear disease. When nausea and/or vomiting are persistent, or when they are accompanied by other severe symptoms such as abdominal pain, jaundice, fever, or bleeding, a physician should be consulted.
Neoplasia: The process of abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells. The product of neoplasia is a neoplasm (a tumor).
Nutrition: 1) The science or practice of taking in and utilizing foods. 2) A nourishing substance, such as nutritional solutions delivered to hospitalized patients via an IV or IG tube.
Nutritionist: 1) In a hospital or nursing home, a person who plans and/or formulates special meals for patients. It can also simply be a euphemism for a cook who works in a medical facility but who does not have extensive training in special nutritional needs. 2) In clinical practice, a specialist in nutrition. Nutritionists can help patients with special needs, allergies, health problems, or a desire for increased energy or weight change devise healthy diets. Some nutritionists in private practice are well- trained, hold a degree and are licensed.
Oncologist: A physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Operating room: A facility equipped for performing surgery. Abbreviated OR.
Operation: Although there are many meanings to the word “operation”, in medicine it refers to a surgical procedure.
Outpatient: A patient who is not an inpatient (not hospitalized) but instead is cared for elsewhere — as in a doctor’s office, clinic, or day surgery center. The term outpatient dates back at least to 1715. Outpatient care today is also called ambulatory care.
Pain: An unpleasant sensation that can range from mild, localized discomfort to agony. Pain has both physical and emotional components. The physical part of pain results from nerve stimulation. Pain may be contained to a discrete area, as in an injury, or it can be more diffuse, as in disorders like fibromyalgia. Pain is mediated by specific nerve fibers that carry the pain impulses to the brain where their conscious appreciation may be modified by many factors.
Pap Smear: A screening test for cervical cancer based on the examination under the microscope of cells collected from the cervix, smeared on a slide and specially stained to reveal premalignant (before cancer) and malignant (cancer) changes as well as changes due to noncancerous conditions such as inflammation from infections.
Pap test: A screening test for cervical cancer based on the examination under the microscope of cells collected from the cervix, smeared on a slide and specially stained to reveal premalignant (before cancer) and malignant (cancer) changes as well as changes due to noncancerous conditions such as inflammation from infections. Also called a Pap smear.
Pathologist: A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.
Pelvic: Having to do with the pelvis, the lower part of the abdomen, located between the hip bones.
Pelvic exam: An examination of the organs of the female reproductive system.
Pelvis: The lower part of the abdomen located between the hip bones.
Precancerous: Pertaining to something that is not yet overtly cancerous, but appears to be on its way to becoming a cancer. Synonymous with premalignant.
Prognosis: 1. The expected course of a disease.
2. The patient’s chance of recovery.
The prognosis predicts the outcome of a disease and therefore the future for the patient.
Radiation: 1. Rays of energy. Gamma rays and X-rays are two of the types of energy waves often used in medicine. 2. The use of energy waves to diagnose or treat disease.
Radiation oncologist: A specialist in the use of radiation therapy as a treatment for cancer.
Radiation therapy: The use of high-energy rays to damage cancer cells, stopping them from growing and dividing. Like surgery, radiation therapy is a local treatment that affects cancer cells only in the treated area.
Radioactive: Emitting energy waves due to decaying atomic nuclei. Radioactive substances are used in medicine as tracers for diagnosis, and in treatment to kill cancerous cells.
Radiotherapy: The treatment of disease with ionizing radiation. Also called radiation therapy.
Rectum: The last 6 to 8 inches of the large intestine. The rectum stores solid waste until it leaves the body through the anus. The word rectum comes from the Latin rectus meaning straight.
Recur: To occur again. To return. Any symptom (such as fatigue), or any disease can recur.
Recurrence: The return of a sign, symptom or disease after a remission. The reappearance of cancer cells at the same site or in another location is, unfortunately, a familiar form of recurrence.
Risk factor: Something that increases a person’s chances of developing a disease.
Scan: As a noun, the data or image obtained from the examination of organs or regions of the body by gathering information with a sensing device.
Sexually transmitted disease: Any disease transmitted by sexual contact; caused by microorganisms that survive on the skin or mucus membranes of the genital area; or transmitted via semen, vaginal secretions, or blood during intercourse. Because the genital areas provide a moist, warm environment that is especially conducive to the proliferation of bacteria, viruses, and yeasts, a great many diseases can be transmitted this way. They include AIDS, chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea, syphilis, yeast infections, and some forms of hepatitis. Also known as a “mobus venereus” or veneral disease
Squamous intraepithelial lesion: A general term for the abnormal growth of squamous cells on the surface of the cervix. The changes in the cells are described as low grade or high grade, depending on how much of the cervix is affected and how abnormal the cells are. Also called SIL.
Stage: As regards cancer, the extent of a cancer, especially whether the disease has spread from the original site to other parts of the body.
Staging: In regard to cancer, the process of doing examinations and tests to learn the extent of the cancer, especially whether it has metastasized (spread) from its original site to other parts of the body.
STD: Sexually transmitted disease.
Surgery: The word “surgery” has multiple meanings. It is the branch of medicine concerned with diseases and conditions which require or are amenable to operative procedures. Surgery is the work done by a surgeon.
Symptom: Any subjective evidence of disease. Anxiety, lower back pain, and fatigue are all symptoms. They are sensations only the patient can perceive. In contrast, a sign is objective evidence of disease. A bloody nose is a sign. It is evident to the patient, doctor, nurse and other observers.
Systemic: Affecting the entire body. Systemic chemotherapy employs drugs that travel through the bloodstream and reach and affect cells all over the body.
Therapy: The treatment of disease.
Tubes: The “tubes” are medically known as the Fallopian tubes. There are two Fallopian tubes, one on each side, which transport the egg from the ovary to the uterus (the womb). The Fallopian tubes have small hair-like projections called cilia on the cells of the lining.
Tumor: An abnormal mass of tissue. Tumors are a classic sign of inflammation, and can be benign or malignant (cancerous). There are dozens of different types of tumors. Their names usually reflect the kind of tissue they arise in, and may also tell you something about their shape or how they grow. For example, a medulloblastoma is a tumor that arises from embryonic cells (a blastoma) in the inner part of the brain (the medulla). Diagnosis depends on the type and location of the tumor. Tumor marker tests and imaging may be used; some tumors can be seen (for example, tumors on the exterior of the skin) or felt (palpated with the hands).
Urine: Liquid waste. The urine is a clear, transparent fluid. It normally has an amber color. The average amount of urine excreted in 24 hours is from 40 to 60 ounces (about 1,200 cubic centimeters). Chemically, the urine is mainly an aqueous (watery) solution of salt (sodium chloride) and substances called urea and uric acid. Normally, it contains about 960 parts of water to 40 parts of solid matter. Abnormally, it may contain sugar (in diabetes), albumen (a protein) (as in some forms of kidney disease), bile pigments (as in jaundice), or abnormal quantities of one or another of its normal components.
Uterus: The uterus (womb) is a hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman’s lower abdomen between the bladder and the rectum. The narrow, lower portion of the uterus is the cervix; the broader, upper part is the corpus. The corpus is made up of two layers of tissue.
Vaccines: Microbial preparations of killed or modified microorganisms that can stimulate an immune response in the body to prevent future infection with similar microorganisms.
Vagina: The muscular canal extending from the cervix to the outside of the body. It is usually six to seven inches in length, and its walls are lined with mucus membrane. It includes two vaultlike structures, the anterior (front) vaginal fornix and the posterior (rear) vaginal fornix. The cervix protrudes slightly into the vagina, and it is through a tiny hole in the cervix (the os) that sperm make their way toward the internal reproductive organs. The vagina also includes numerous tiny glands that make vaginal secretions.
Vaginal discharge: Vaginal discharge is a fluid produced by glands in the vaginal wall and cervix that drains from the opening of the vagina. The amount and appearance of normal vaginal discharge varies throughout the menstrual cycle. An increase in the amount of vaginal discharge, an abnormal odor or consistency of the fluid, or pain that accompanies vaginal discharge can all be signs of infection or other disorders. Such disorders include (this is not an all inclusive list) bacterial vaginosis, yeast vaginitis, and vaginitis.
Virus: A microorganism smaller than bacteria, which cannot grow or reproduce outside a living cell. A virus invades living cells and uses their chemical machinery to keep itself alive and to replicate itself. It may reproduce with fidelity or with errors (mutations)-this ability to mutate is responsible for the ability of some viruses to change slightly in each infected person, making treatment more difficult.
Vulvar: Pertaining to the vulva, the female external genitalia including the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, the tiny glands called Bartolin’s glands, and the entrance to the vagina (the vestibule of the vagina).
Womb: The womb (uterus) is a hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman’s lower abdomen between the bladder and the rectum. The narrow, lower portion of the uterus is the cervix; the broader, upper part is the corpus.
X-ray: 1. High-energy radiation with waves shorter than those of visible light. X-rays possess the properties of penetrating most substances (to varying extents), of acting on a photographic film or plate (permitting radiography), and of causing a fluorescent screen to give off light (permitting fluoroscopy). In low doses X-rays are used for making images that help to diagnose disease, and in high doses to treat cancer. Formerly called a Roentgen ray. 2. An image obtained by means of X-rays.