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Glossary of Cancer Terms

F

fallopian tube A slender tube through which eggs pass from an ovary to the uterus. In the female reproductive tract, there is one ovary and one fallopian tube on each side of the uterus.

false-negative test result A test result that indicates that a person does not have a specific disease or condition when the person actually does have the disease or condition.

false-positive test result A test result that indicates that a person has a specific disease or condition when the person actually does not have the disease or condition.

familial adenomatous polyposis FAP. An inherited condition in which numerous polyps (growths that protrude from mucous membranes) form on the inside walls of the colon and rectum. It increases the risk for colorectal cancer. Also called familial polyposis.

familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome FAMMM syndrome. An inherited condition marked by the following: (1) one or more first- or second-degree relatives (parent, sibling, child, grandparent, grandchild, aunt or uncle) with malignant melanoma; (2) many moles, some of which are atypical (asymmetrical, raised, and/or different shades of tan, brown, black or red) and often of different sizes; and (3) moles that have specific features when examined under a microscope. FAMMM syndrome increases the risk of melanoma and may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

familial cancer Cancer that occurs in families more often than would be expected by chance. These cancers often occur at an early age, and may indicate the presence of a gene mutation that increases the risk of cancer. They may also be a sign of shared environmental or lifestyle factors.

familial dysplastic nevi A condition that runs in certain families in which at least two members have dysplastic nevi (atypical moles) and have a tendency to develop melanoma.

familial isolated hyperparathyroidism FIHP. A rare inherited condition in which one or more tumors form in the parathyroid glands (four pea-sized organs found on the thyroid) and cause them to make too much parathyroid hormone. The increased parathyroid hormone causes a loss of calcium from the bones and too much calcium in the blood.

familial polyposis An inherited condition in which numerous polyps (growths that protrude from mucous membranes) form on the inside walls of the colon and rectum. It increases the risk of colorectal cancer. Also called familial adenomatous polyposis and FAP.

family history A record of a person's current and past illnesses, and those of his or her parents, brothers, sisters, children and other family members. A family history shows the pattern of certain diseases in a family, and helps to determine risk factors for those and other diseases.

family therapy A type of therapy in which the whole family talks with a professional counselor to solve family problems.

FAMMM syndrome Familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome. An inherited condition marked by the following: (1) one or more first- or second-degree relatives (parent, sibling, child, grandparent, grandchild, aunt or uncle) with malignant melanoma; (2) many moles, some of which are atypical (asymmetrical, raised, and/or different shades of tan, brown, black or red) and often of different sizes; and (3) moles that have specific features when examined under a microscope. FAMMM syndrome increases the risk of melanoma and may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Fanconi's anemia A rare inherited disorder in which the bone marrow does not make blood cells. It is usually diagnosed in children between 2 and 15 years old. Symptoms include frequent infections, easy bleeding and extreme tiredness. People with Fanconi's anemia may have a small skeleton and brown spots on the skin. They also have an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer.

Fanconi's syndrome A group of kidney disorders that cause protein, sugar, minerals and other nutrients to be lost in the urine. Symptoms include weakness, bone pain and passing a greater than normal amount of urine. One form of Fanconi’s syndrome is inherited and is usually found in infants. Fanconi’s syndrome may also be caused by other diseases, a lack of vitamin D or exposure to heavy metals or chemicals, including certain anticancer drugs.

FAP Familial adenomatous polyposis. An inherited condition in which numerous polyps (growths that protrude from mucous membranes) form on the inside walls of the colon and rectum. It increases the risk of colorectal cancer. Also called familial polyposis.

Faslodex A drug used to treat certain types of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. It is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. Faslodex blocks estrogen activity in the body and belongs to the family of drugs called antiestrogens. Also called fulvestrant and ICI 182780.

fast-neutron beam radiation A type of radiation therapy that uses tiny particles called neutrons made by a machine called a cyclotron.

fatigue A condition marked by extreme tiredness and inability to function due lack of energy. Fatigue may be acute or chronic.

fatty acid A major component of fats that is used by the body for energy and tissue development.

fatty-replaced breast tissue A term used in mammography that refers to the replacement of breast tissue with fatty tissue. This commonly occurs as a woman ages.

fazarabine An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called antimetabolites.

FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration. An agency in the U.S. federal government whose mission is to protect public health by making sure that food, cosmetics, and nutritional supplements are safe to use and truthfully labeled. The FDA also makes sure that drugs, medical devices and equipment are safe and effective, and that blood for transfusions and transplant tissue are safe.

febrile neutropenia A condition marked by fever and decrease in the number of neutrophils in the blood. A neutrophil is a type of white blood cell that helps fight infection. Having too few neutrophils increases the risk of infection.

fecal incontinence Inability to hold stool in the rectum.

fecal occult blood test FOBT. A test to check for blood in the stool. Small samples of stool are placed on special cards and sent to a doctor or laboratory for testing. Blood in the stool may be a sign of colorectal cancer.

Femara A drug that is used to treat advanced breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Femara causes a decrease in the amount of estrogen made by the body. It belongs to the family of drugs called aromatase inhibitors. Also called letrozole.

fenofibrate A drug used to treat high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Fenofibrate is being studied in the treatment of advanced cancers in young patients and in the treatment of other conditions. It is a type of antilipidemic agent. Also called TriCor and Lofibra.

fenretinide A substance being studied in the treatment and prevention of some types of cancer. Fenretinide may cause ceramide (a wax-like substance) to build up in tumor cells and kill them. It is a type of retinoid, which are substances related to vitamin A.

fenretinide LXS Fenretinide Lym-X-Sorb. A powdered form of fenretinide that is being studied in the treatment of neuroblastoma. It may be used by the body more easily than the pill form. Fenretinide may cause ceramide (a wax-like substance) to build up in tumor cells and kill them. It is a type of retinoid, which are substances related to vitamin A.

fenretinide Lym-X-Sorb Fenretinide LXS. A powdered form of fenretinide that is being studied in the treatment of neuroblastoma. It may be used by the body more easily than the pill form. Fenretinide may cause ceramide (a wax-like substance) to build up in tumor cells and kill them. It is a type of retinoid, which are substances related to vitamin A.

fentanyl A narcotic opioid drug that is used in the treatment of pain.

fertile Able to produce children.

fertility The ability to produce children.

ferumoxtran-10 A substance that is being studied as a way of improving magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in diagnosing cancer and finding lymph nodes to which cancer has spread. Ferumoxtran-10 is made of nanoparticles (ultrasmall pieces) of iron oxide coated with dextran (a type of sugar). It is injected into the blood of the patient and the particles collect in lymph nodes, liver, spleen or brain tissue where they can be seen using MRI. Ferumoxtran-10 later breaks down and passes from the body in urine.

ferumoxytol A nanoparticle form of iron made in the laboratory that is being studied for use in iron replacement therapy, and as a contrast agent for magnetic resonance imaging. Contrast agents are substances that are injected into the body and taken up by certain tissues, making the tissues easier to see in imaging scans.

fetus The developing offspring from 7 to 8 weeks after conception until birth.

fever An increase in body temperature above normal (98.6 degrees F), usually caused by disease.

fiber In food, fiber is the part of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains that cannot be digested. The fiber in food may help prevent cancer. In the body, fiber refers to tissue made of long threadlike cells, such as muscle fiber or nerve fiber.

fibrin sealant A type of surgical glue that is made from human blood-clotting proteins, and that is used during surgery to control bleeding.

fibroadenoma A benign (noncancerous) tumor that usually forms in the breast from both fibrous and glandular tissue. Fibroadenomas are the most common benign breast tumors.

fibroblast A connective tissue cell that makes and secretes collagen proteins.

fibrocystic breast changes A common condition marked by benign (noncancerous) changes in breast tissue. These changes may include irregular lumps or cysts, breast discomfort, sensitive nipples and itching. These symptoms may change throughout the menstrual cycle and usually stop after menopause. Also called benign breast disease, fibrocystic breast disease and mammary dysplasia.

fibrocystic breast disease A common condition marked by benign (noncancerous) changes in breast tissue. These changes may include irregular lumps or cysts, breast discomfort, sensitive nipples, and itching. These symptoms may change throughout the menstrual cycle and usually stop after menopause. Also called benign breast disease, fibrocystic breast changes and mammary dysplasia.

fibroid A benign smooth-muscle tumor, usually in the uterus or gastrointestinal tract. Also called leiomyoma.

fibromatosis A condition in which multiple fibromas develop. Fibromas are tumors (usually benign) that affect connective tissue.

fibrosarcoma A type of soft tissue sarcoma that begins in fibrous tissue, which holds bones, muscles, and other organs in place.

fibrosis The growth of fibrous tissue.

fibrous Containing or resembling fibers.

fifth cranial nerve The main sensory nerve of the head and face, and the motor nerve of the muscles used in chewing. Also called the trigeminal nerve.

FIHP Familial isolated hyperparathyroidism. A rare inherited condition in which one or more tumors form in the parathyroid glands (four pea-sized organs found on the thyroid) and cause them to make too much parathyroid hormone. The increased parathyroid hormone causes a loss of calcium from the bones and too much calcium in the blood.

filgrastim A colony-stimulating factor that stimulates the production of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell). It is a cytokine that is a type of hematopoietic (blood-forming) agent. Also called granulocyte colony-stimulating factor and G-CSF.

filgrastim-SD/01 A drug used to increase numbers of white blood cells in patients who are receiving chemotherapy. It belongs to the family of drugs called colony-stimulating factors. Also called pegfilgrastim and Neulasta.

filler An inactive substance used to make a product bigger or easier to handle. For example, fillers are often used to make pills or capsules because the amount of active drug is too small to be handled conveniently.

finasteride A drug used to reduce the amount of male hormone (testosterone) produced by the body.

fine-needle aspiration The removal of tissue or fluid with a needle for examination under a microscope. Also called needle biopsy.

first-line therapy The first type of therapy given for a condition or disease.

fistula An abnormal opening or passage between two organs or between an organ and the surface of the body. Fistulas may be caused by injury, infection or inflammation, or may be created during surgery.

five element acupuncture An ancient form of acupuncture based on the principle that there are five universal elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) that affect a person's emotions, personality, health and response to treatment. Each person is affected by one element more than the others. Also called traditional acupuncture.

FK463 An antibiotic/antifungal drug used to treat infection.

Flagyl A drug that is used to treat infection and is being studied in the treatment of cancer. It belongs to the families of drugs called antibacterials, antiprotozoals and anthelmintics. Also called metronidazole.

flavonoid A member of a group of substances found in many plants and plant-based foods. Flavonoids have shown antioxidant effects.

flavopiridol A substance that is being studied as an anticancer drug. It belongs to the family of drugs called flavanoids.

flaxseed The seed of the flax plant. It is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acid, fiber and a compound called lignin. It is being studied in the prevention of prostate cancer. Also called linseed.

flecainide A drug that is used to treat abnormal heart rhythms. It may also relieve neuropathic pain, the burning, stabbing or stinging pain that may arise from damage to nerves caused by some types of cancer or cancer treatment.

flow cytometry A method of measuring the number of cells in a sample, the percentage of live cells in a sample, and certain characteristics of cells, such as size, shape and the presence of tumor markers on the cell surface. The cells are stained with a light-sensitive dye, placed in a fluid and passed in a stream before a laser or other type of light. The measurements are based on how the light-sensitive dye reacts to the light.

floxuridine A drug that is used in the treatment of cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called antimetabolites.

flt3L A drug that increases the number of immune cells and may stimulate the immune system to kill cancer cells.

fluconazole A drug that treats infections caused by fungi.

flucytosine A drug that treats infections caused by fungi.

fludarabine An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called antimetabolites.

fludeoxyglucose F 18 The radioactive form of glucose used in positron emission tomography (PET), a diagnostic imaging procedure.

fludrocortisone A synthetic corticosteroid. It is used to replace steroid hormones normally produced by the adrenal gland.

fluid Liquid.

fluoride A substance that helps prevent tooth decay. Fluoride may be naturally present in or may be added to drinking water. It may also be applied to the teeth in a gel, toothpaste or a rinse.

fluorine F 18 EF5 A substance that is being studied in positron emission tomography (PET) imaging to detect tumor hypoxia (a low level of oxygen in the tumor).This may help predict how the tumor will respond to treatment. It belongs to the family of drugs called radiopharmaceuticals. Also called 18F-EF5.

fluoropyrimidine One of a group of substances used to treat cancer. Fluoropyrimidines belong to the family of drugs called antimetabolites. Examples are capecitabine, floxuridine and fluorouracil (5-FU).

fluoroscope An X-ray machine that makes it possible to see internal organs in motion.

fluoroscopy An X-ray procedure that makes it possible to see internal organs in motion.

fluorothymidine F 18 A radioactive substance that is being studied in the diagnosis of cancer. Fluorothymidine F 18 is injected into the patient's blood and gives off radiation as it breaks down. It helps make clear pictures of tumors during positron emission tomography (PET) scans. It belongs to the family of drugs called radiopharmaceuticals.

fluorouracil A drug that is used as a treatment for cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called antimetabolites. Also called 5-FU.

fluoxetine A drug used to treat depression. It belongs to the family of drugs called antidepressants.

fluphenazine A drug that is used to treat mental and emotional disorders and is being studied in the treatment of multiple myeloma. Fluphenazine may stop tumor growth by keeping myeloma cells from dividing and causing them to die. It is a type of antipsychotic. Also called fluphenazine hydrochloride.

fluphenazine hydrochloride A drug that is used to treat mental and emotional disorders and is being studied in the treatment of multiple myeloma. Fluphenazine hydrochloride may stop tumor growth by keeping myeloma cells from dividing and causing them to die. It is a type of antipsychotic. Also called fluphenazine.

flutamide An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called antiandrogens.

fluvoxamine A drug used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. It belongs to the families of drugs called antidepressant agents and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Also called Luvox.

FOBT Fecal occult blood test. A test to check for blood in the stool. Small samples of stool are placed on special cards and sent to a doctor or laboratory for testing. Blood in the stool may be a sign of colorectal cancer.

focal In terms of cancer, limited to a specific area.

folate A B-complex vitamin that is being studied as a cancer prevention agent. Also called folic acid.

folate antagonist A substance that blocks the activity of folic acid. Folate antagonists are used to treat cancer. Also called antifolate.

FOLFOX An abbreviation for a type of combination chemotherapy that is used to treat colorectal cancer. It includes fluorouracil, leucovorin and oxaliplatin.

folic acid A B-complex vitamin being studied as a cancer prevention agent. Also called folate.

follicle A sac or pouch-like cavity.

follicular large cell lymphoma A rare type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) with large cells that look cleaved (split) or non-cleaved under the microscope. It is an indolent (slow-growing) type of lymphoma.

follicular lymphoma A type of B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cancer of the immune system) that is usually indolent (slow-growing). The tumor cells grow as groups to form nodules. There are several subtypes of follicular lymphoma.

follicular mixed cell lymphoma An indolent (slow-growing) type of B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) in which there are both small and large cancer cells.

follicular thyroid cancer Cancer that develops from cells in the follicular areas of the thyroid. One of the slow-growing, highly treatable types of thyroid cancer.

follow-up Monitoring a person's health over time after treatment. This includes keeping track of the health of people who participate in a clinical study or clinical trial for a period of time, both during the study and after the study ends.

foreskin The loose skin that covers the head of the penis.

formaldehyde A chemical used in manufacturing and chemical industries, and as a preservative by anatomists, embalmers and pathologists. Being exposed to formaldehyde may increase the risk of developing leukemia and brain cancer.

forodesine A substance that is being studied in the treatment of some types of leukemia and lymphoma. It belongs to the family of drugs called purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP) inhibitors. Also called BCX-1777 and forodesine hydrochloride.

forodesine hydrochloride A substance that is being studied in the treatment of some types of leukemia and lymphoma. It belongs to the family of drugs called purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP) inhibitors. Also called forodesine and BCX-1777.

fotemustine A substance that is being studied in the treatment of brain tumors and metastatic melanoma of the eye. It belongs to the family of drugs called nitrosoureas.

FR901228 A substance being studied in the treatment of cancer. FR901228 is a type of depsipeptide and belongs to the family of drugs called histone deacetylase inhibitors. Also called romidepsin.

fractionation Dividing the total dose of radiation therapy into several smaller, equal doses delivered over a period of several days.

fragrance A pleasant, sweet odor.

frankincense tree A tree that belongs to the incense tree family. The tree’s amber-colored resin is used in incense. The resin has anti-inflammatory effects and has been used to treat arthritis, asthma and ulcerative colitis. It is also being studied in the treatment of brain tumors. Also called Boswellia serrata.

free radical A highly reactive chemical that often contains oxygen and is produced when molecules are split to give products that have unpaired electrons (a process called oxidation). Free radicals can damage important cellular molecules such as DNA or lipids or other parts of the cell.

freeze-dried A method used to dry substances, such as food, to make them last longer. The substance is frozen and then dried in a vacuum.

fulguration A procedure to destroy tissue (such as a tumor) using an electric current. Also called electrofulguration.

fulvestrant A drug used to treat certain types of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. It is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. Fulvestrant blocks estrogen activity in the body and belongs to the family of drugs called antiestrogens. Also called Faslodex and ICI 182780.

functional magnetic resonance imaging A noninvasive tool used to observe functioning in the brain or other organs by detecting changes in chemical composition, blood flow or both.

functioning tumor A tumor that is found in endocrine tissue and makes hormones (chemicals that travel in the bloodstream and control the actions of other cells or organs).

fundus The larger part of a hollow organ that is farthest away from the organ's opening. The bladder, gallbladder, stomach, uterus, eye and cavity of the middle ear all have a fundus.

fungating lesion A type of skin lesion that is marked by ulcerations (breaks on the skin or surface of an organ) and necrosis (death of living tissue) and that usually has a bad smell. This kind of lesion may occur in many types of cancer, including breast cancer, melanoma, and squamous cell carcinoma and especially in advanced disease.

fungus A plant-like organism that does not make chlorophyll. Mushrooms, yeasts and molds are examples. The plural is fungi.

fusion protein A protein created by joining two genes together. Fusion proteins may occur naturally or can be created in the laboratory for research.

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