Cancer Services Program

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For more information contact:

1-866-442-CANCER (2262)

Cancer Services Program
Bureau of Chronic Disease Control
New York State Department of Health
Riverview Center, Suite 350
Albany, NY 12204-0678
canserv@health.ny.gov

Glossary

Aflatoxins
A group of chemicals that are produced by a mold. Aflatoxins sometimes contaminate certain foods.
Anabolic Steroids
Drugs that increase muscle mass, sometimes used illegally by athletes to improve performance.
Asbestos
Naturally occurring minerals used for insulation and flame retardation.
Autoimmune Disease
A disorder in which the body's immune system wrongly identifies healthy tissues as foreign and tries to destroy them. Some more commonly recognized autoimmune diseases are multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Benign Tumor
An unusual growth of cells that is not cancer. It cannot spread to other parts of the body.
Bone Marrow
The soft and spongy center of the bones where blood cells are made.
Carcinogen
Something that causes cancer, also known as a cancer-causing agent.
Celiac Disease
A condition in which the lining of the small intestine is unable to absorb all the nutrients needed to stay healthy. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.
Central Nervous System
The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord. It controls and coordinates what the body does.
Chlorinated Solvents
A group of chemical compounds containing chlorine that are used to dissolve other substances. They have a wide variety of commercial and industrial uses, including as degreasers, cleaning solutions, paint thinners and more.
Cirrhosis
A progressive disease that causes the liver to scar and stop functioning correctly. It is often caused by long-term alcoholic beverage use and/or long-term damage to the liver due to infections such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Cranial Nerves
Twelve pairs of nerves that begin in the brain. Among the functions they control are hearing, smell, vision, taste and eye movement.
Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan)
Also called a Computerized Tomography scan and previously referred to as a Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) scan. A CT scan is a medical procedure that uses X-rays to make detailed pictures of structures inside the body. Because X-rays are taken from many different angles, radiation exposures from CT scans are much greater than those from conventional X-rays.
Dense Breasts
Breasts are considered dense when there is less fatty tissue and more gland tissue. Dense breasts may make it harder to identify problems on mammograms.
Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
DES is a man-made form of the hormone estrogen. From the late 1940s to around 1970 DES was given to some pregnant women to prevent miscarriages. In 1971 the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised doctors to stop prescribing DES for pregnant women because it could potentially cause problems with the reproductive organs of their children.
Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)
Electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) are areas of energy that surround electrical devices. Appliances, electrical wiring and power lines are examples of things that produce electromagnetic fields. Cell phones give off radio-frequency (RF) energy, a type of electromagnetic radiation.
Endocrine Disrupters
Chemicals that affect the balance of hormones in the body or interfere with normal functions controlled by hormones.
Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a female health disorder that occurs when cells from the lining of the uterus (womb) grow in other areas of the body.
Goiter
An abnormally large thyroid gland that appears as a large swelling in the front of the neck. Goiters are usually caused by a hormone imbalance. Not getting enough iodine in the diet can cause changes in hormone levels and lead to a goiter.
Helicobacter pylori
Also called H. Pylori.A bacteria that infects the stomach and small intestine. It can cause stomach ulcers.
Hepatitis
Swelling and inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis can be caused by viruses (such as hepatitis A, B or C), liver damage from alcohol use, and certain medications.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
The use of hormone pills to replace estrogen and other hormones during and after menopause. These hormones may reduce menopausal symptoms and decrease the risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones).
Hyperplasia
Unusual or excessive growth of cells in a normal tissue or organ. It may be the sign of abnormal or precancerous changes.
Incidence
The number of newly diagnosed cases of a disease.
Incidence Rate
The number of new cases divided by the divided by the number of people who are at risk for developing the disease (the population).
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
A condition in which the large or small intestine becomes irritated and/or infected.
Intestinal Polyp
A growth in the large or small intestine.
Intrahepatic bile duct
A system of tube-like structures that collects bile from the liver.
Latency
The time between exposure to a cancer-causing agent and when a person develops cancer.
Lower pharynx
The part of the throat just above the larynx (voice box) and the esophagus.
Lymph Nodes
Small, round organs found throughout the lymph system. They contain special cells to attack infections and other things, including cancer cells. Lymph nodes are commonly called lymph glands. When an ill person has "swollen glands", these are swollen lymph nodes.
Lymphatic System
Part of the body's defense system. It is made up of the organs and tissues that make and store cells that fight infection.
Malignant Tumor
A cancerous tumor. It has the ability to spread to other parts of the body.
Mammogram
A special low-dose X-ray of the breast. It allows a doctor to see very small tumors that may not be able to be seen on a regular X-ray or felt by hand.
Meninges
Thin layers of tissue that surround and cover the brain.
Metastasis
When a cancer spreads to other parts of the body forming other tumors it is called metastasis.
Mortality
Death, or death from a particular cause.
Mortality rate
Also called a death rate, this is the number of people who die from a disease divided by the number of people who are at risk for developing the disease (the population). Mortality is classified by the underlying cause of death.
Nitrosamines
A type of nitrogen-containing organic compound, present in some foods and other products. Certain types of nitrosamines can cause cancer.
Parotid gland
The largest of the three main salivary glands; it is located below and in front of the ear.
Pharynx
Also called the throat, it is the area from the back of the nasal cavity to the esophagus.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
A group of chlorine-containing organic compounds formerly used as electrical insulators and for other purposes.
Prevalence
The total number of cases of a disease existing in a population.
Radiation
Radiation is energy that moves through space or matter at a very high speed. Ionizing radiation is radiation that removes electrons from the atoms it meets, causing them to become electrically charged. X-rays are an example of ionizing radiation.
Radioactive
A substance that gives off radiation.
Radon
A radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment (soil or water).
Rate
The number of people with or developing a condition in a specified period of time divided by the number of people at risk for the condition during that period.
Reoccurrence
Reoccurrence is when cancer returns after a patient is apparently cancer free (after remission). This can happen if some cancer cells remained in the body after treatment was complete.
Risk Factor
A risk factor is something that has been associated with an increased chance of getting a disease. It is not necessarily a direct cause of the disease. For cancer, risk factors include personal risks (family history of cancer, diet, and many others) as well as exposure to cancer causing agents (cigarette smoke, sunlight, X-rays, certain chemicals, etc.).
Salivary Glands
The parts of the mouth that produce saliva.
Screening
A medical procedure or test for people who do not have symptoms of a disease. The procedure or test does not tell you if you have the disease, but will tell you if you need more tests or procedures to determine if you do.
Socioeconomic Status
Broad-based classification of a person or family's social and economic position based on income, occupation, wealth and education.
Second-hand Smoke
Smoke from other people's cigarettes or cigars. Second-hand smoke is also called environmental tobacco smoke.
Stage
How widespread a cancer is when diagnosed.
Ultraviolet radiation
A form of energy that is invisible to the human eye. The most common source of UV radiation is sunlight.
Urinary System
The organs that produce urine and remove it from the body. The urinary system includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.