Secure online access to Cleveland Clinic's specialists for over 1,200 medical diagnoses, nutritional consultation and pre-adoption advice

Cleveland Clinic News  The latest from our experts

Newly Diagnosed With Cancer? 8 Words You Should Know


Cancer DiagnosisReceiving a cancer diagnosis — or waiting to find out if you have cancer — is a scary, often confusing experience. Cancer has a language all its own, and if you’re newly diagnosed, you may encounter many unfamiliar terms. Learning the basics can help you understand what’s happening and regain a sense of control.

Here are eight cancer terms that all patients should know:

1. Oncology – This is the branch of medicine that deals with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Doctors who specialize in treating cancer are oncologists.

2. Tumor – A tumor is an abnormal growth of cells. But not all tumors are cancerous. The term for tumors that are not cancerous is benign. The term for cancerous tumors is malignant. Benign tumors do not invade nearby tissue or other parts of the body the way malignant ones do.

3. Biopsy – Your doctor may remove a sample of suspicious tissue to look at under a microscope. This procedure (biopsy) helps determine whether cancer is present. If you have cancer, the biopsy will help determine what kind it is. This helps doctors decide on the best approach to treatment.

Doctors use needles to withdraw tissue samples for most biopsies. However, they may sometimes remove a tissue sample surgically.

4. Stages – Doctors use a system of stages to describe the size of a cancer and how extensive the disease is in the body. They use different staging systems for different types of cancer.

Staging the cancer helps doctors develop a prognosis and make treatment recommendations for each patient. Staging also provides a common language that helps doctors communicate about a patient’s cancer and collaborate on the best courses of treatment.


Continue on Health Essentials