Glossary of Cancer Terms
Waldenström's macroglobulinemia An indolent (slow-growing) type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma marked by abnormal levels of IgM antibodies in the blood and an enlarged liver, spleen or lymph nodes. Also called lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma.
warfarin A drug that prevents blood from clotting. It belongs to the family of drugs called anticoagulants (blood thinners).
wart A raised growth on the surface of the skin or other organ.
watchful waiting Closely monitoring a patient's condition but withholding treatment until symptoms appear or change. Also called observation.
watercress (Nasturtium officinale) Parts of the flowering plant have been used in some cultures to treat certain medical problems. It may have anticancer effects. Also called Indian cress.
WBC White blood cell Refers to a blood cell that does not contain hemoglobin. White blood cells include lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, macrophages and mast cells. These cells are made by bone marrow and help the body fight infection and other diseases. Also called white blood cell.
wedge resection A surgical procedure to remove a triangle-shaped slice of tissue. It may be used to remove a tumor and a small amount of normal tissue around it.
well-differentiated lymphocytic lymphoma An indolent (slow-growing) type of B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma marked by swollen lymph nodes that usually occurs in people older than 50 years. It is very similar to a form of leukemia called chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Also called small lymphocytic lymphoma.
Wermer's syndrome A rare, inherited disorder that affects the endocrine glands and can cause tumors in the parathyroid and pituitary glands and the pancreas. These tumors (usually benign) cause the glands to secrete high levels of hormones, which can lead to other medical problems, such as kidney stones, fertility problems and severe ulcers. In some cases, tumors inside the pancreas can become cancerous. Also called multiple endocrine adenomatosis, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 syndrome and MEN1 syndrome.
Western medicine A system in which medical doctors and other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists and therapists) treat symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation, or surgery. Also called conventional medicine, mainstream medicine, orthodox medicine, biomedicine and allopathic medicine.
Whipple procedure A type of surgery used to treat pancreatic cancer. The head of the pancreas, the duodenum, a portion of the stomach and other nearby tissues are removed.
white blood cell (WBC) Refers to a blood cell that does not contain hemoglobin. White blood cells include lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, macrophages and mast cells. These cells are made by bone marrow and help the body fight infection and other diseases. Also called WBC.
Whitmore-Jewett staging system A staging system for prostate cancer that uses ABCD. “A” and “B” refer to cancer that is confined to the prostate. “C” refers to cancer that has grown out of the prostate but has not spread to lymph nodes or other places in the body. “D” refers to cancer that has spread to lymph nodes or to other places in the body. Also called the ABCD rating or the Jewett staging system.
whole cell vaccine Vaccine made from whole tumor cells that have been changed in the laboratory.
whooping cough A serious bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes that spreads easily. Whooping cough begins like a cold, but develops into severe coughing and gasping for air. Long spells of coughing may cause vomiting, and broken blood vessels in the eyes and on the skin. Also called pertussis.
wide local excision Surgery to cut out the cancer and some healthy tissue around it.
wild clover (Trifolium pratense) A plant with flowers that has been used in some cultures to treat certain medical problems. It is being studied in the relief of menopausal symptoms and may have anticancer effects. Also called red clover, purple clover and Trifolium pratense.
will A legal document in which a person states what is to be done with his or her property after death, who is to carry out the terms of the will, and who is to care for any minor children.
Wilms' tumor A disease in which malignant (cancer) cells are found in the kidney, and may spread to the lungs, liver or nearby lymph nodes. Wilms' tumor usually occurs in children younger than 5 years old.
windpipe The airway that leads from the larynx (voice box) to the bronchi (large airways that lead to the lungs). Also called trachea.
wisdom tooth The last tooth to come in at the back of each side of the upper and lower jaws. Wisdom teeth usually come in between 17 and 23 years of age, but not everyone has them. Also called third molar.
Wobe-Mugos E A mixture made from an extract of the calf thymus gland and enzymes (proteins that speed up chemical reactions in the body) from the papaya plant, the pancreas of cows, and the pancreas of pigs. It has been used in Europe as a treatment for a variety of cancers and for herpes virus infections.
womb The small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis. This is the organ in which a baby grows. Also called the uterus.
wound A break in the skin or other body tissues caused by injury or surgical incision (cut).