3-Dimensional conformal radiation therapy: Pronounced 3-dih- MEN-shuh-nul kun-FOR-mul RAY-dee-AY-shun THAYR-uh-pee. A procedure that uses a computer to create a 3-dimensional picture of the tumor. This allows doctors to give the highest possible dose of radiation to the tumor, while sparing the normal tissue as much as possible.
Anaplastic: Pronounced an-ah-PLAS-tik. A term used to describe cancer cells that divide rapidly and have little or no resemblance to normal cells.
Angiogram: Pronounced AN-jee-oh-gram. An x-ray of blood vessels. The person receives an injection of dye to outline the vessels on the x-ray.
Antibiotic: Pronounced an-tih-by-AH-tik. A drug used to treat infections caused by bacteria and other microorganisms.
Astrocyte: Pronounced AS-troh-site. A large, star-shaped cell that holds nerve cells in place and helps them work the way they should. It is a type of glial cell.
Astrocytoma: Pronounced AS-troh-sy-TOH-muh. A tumor that begins in the brain or spinal cord in small, star-shaped cells called astrocytes.
Awake Brain Surgery: This procedure is also called intraoperative brain mapping. It enables the neurosurgeons to remove tumors that would otherwise be inoperable because: 1) They are too close to areas of the brain that control vision, language and body movements, or 2) Surgery would result in a significant loss of function.
Benign: Pronounced beh-NINE. Not cancerous. Benign tumors may grow larger but do not spread to other parts of the body.
Biopsy: Pronounced BY-op-see. The removal of cells or tissues for examination by a pathologist. The pathologist may study the tissue under a microscope or perform other tests on the cells or tissue.
Brachytherapy: Pronounced BRAY-kee-THAYR-uh-pee. A type of radiation therapy in which radioactive material sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters is placed directly into or near a tumor. Also called radiation brachytherapy, internal radiation therapy, and implant radiation therapy.
Brain stem: The part of the brain that is connected to the spinal cord.
Brain stem glioma: Pronounced glee-OH-muh. A tumor located in the part of the brain that connects to the spinal cord (the brain stem). It may grow rapidly or slowly, depending on the grade of the tumor.
Burr hole: A small opening in the skull made with a surgical drill.
Cancer: Pronounced KAN-ser. A term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control. Cancer cells can invade nearby tissues and can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.
Cell: The individual unit that makes up the tissues of the body. All living things are made up of one or more cells.
Cerebellum: Pronounced ser-uh-BEL-um. The portion of the brain in the back of the head between the cerebrum and the brain stem. The cerebellum controls balance for walking and standing, and other complex motor functions.
Cerebral hemisphere: Pronounced seh-REE-bral HEM-is-feer. One half of the cerebrum, the part of the brain that controls muscle functions and also controls speech, thought, emotions, reading, writing, and learning. The right hemisphere controls the muscles on the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere controls the muscles on the right side of the body.
Cerebrospinal fluid: Pronounced seh-REE-broh-SPY-nul. CSF. The fluid that flows in and around the hollow spaces of the brain and spinal cord, and between two of the meninges (the thin layers of tissue that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord). Cerebrospinal fluid is made by tissue called the choroid plexus in the ventricles (hollow spaces) in the brain.
Cerebrum: Pronounced seh-REE-brum. The largest part of the brain. It is divided into two hemispheres, or halves, called the cerebral hemispheres. Areas within the cerebrum control muscle functions and also control speech, thought, emotions, reading, writing, and learning.
Chemotherapy: Pronounced KEE-moh-THAYR-uh-pee. Treatment with drugs that kill cancer cells.
Clinical trial: A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of a disease.
Contrast material: A dye or other substance that helps to show abnormal areas inside the body. It is given by injection into a vein, by enema, or by mouth. Contrast material may be used with x-rays, CT scans, MRI, or other imaging tests.
Craniotomy: Pronounced KRAY-nee-AH-toh-mee. An operation in which an opening is made in the skull.
CT scan: A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body taken from different angles. The pictures are created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. Also called CAT scan, computed tomography scan, computerized axial tomography scan, and computerized tomography.
Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma: Pronounced dih-FYOOS in- TRIN-sik PON-teen glee-OH-muh. A type of central nervous system tumor that forms from glial (supportive) tissue of the brain and spinal cord. Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma usually occurs in children. It forms in the brain stem.
Ependymoma: Pronounced eh-PEN-dih-MOH-muh. A type of brain tumor that begins in cells lining the spinal cord central canal (fluid-filled space down the center) or the ventricles (fluid-filled spaces of the brain). Ependymomas may also form in the choroid plexus (tissue in the ventricles that makes cerebrospinal fluid). Also called ependymal tumor.
External radiation therapy: Pronounced RAY-dee-AY-shun THAYR-uh-pee. A type of radiation therapy that uses a machine to aim high-energy rays at the cancer from outside of the body. Also called external beam radiation therapy.
Gamma ray: A type of high-energy radiation that is different from an x-ray.
General anesthesia: Pronounced A-nes-THEE-zhuh. Drugs that cause loss of feeling or awareness and put the person to sleep.
Glial cell: Pronounced GLEE-ul. Any of the cells that hold nerve cells in place and help them work the way they should. The types of glial cells include oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, microglia, and ependymal cells. Also called neuroglia.
Glioblastoma: Pronounced GLEE-oh-blas-TOH-muh. A fast- growing type of central nervous system tumor that forms from glial (supportive) tissue of the brain and spinal cord and has cells that look very different from normal cells. Glioblastoma usually occurs in adults and affects the brain more often than the spinal cord. Also called GBM, glioblastoma multiforme, and grade IV astrocytoma.
Glioma: Pronounced glee-OH-muh. A cancer of the brain that begins in glial cells (cells that surround and support nerve cells).
Grade: The grade of a tumor depends on how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how quickly the tumor is likely to grow and spread. Grading systems are different for each type of cancer.
Implant radiation therapy: Pronounced RAY-dee-AY-shun THAYR-uh-pee. A type of radiation therapy in which radioactive material sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters is placed directly into or near a tumor. Also called brachytherapy, radiation brachytherapy, and internal radiation therapy.
Incision: Pronounced in-SIH-zhun. A cut made in the body to perform surgery.
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy: Pronounced in-TEN-sih- tee-MAH-juh-LAY-tid RAY-dee-AY-shun THAYR-uh- pee. A type of 3-dimensional radiation therapy that uses computer-generated images to show the size and shape of the tumor. Thin beams of radiation of different intensities are aimed at the tumor from many angles. This type of radiation therapy reduces the damage to healthy tissue near the tumor.
Internal radiation therapy: Pronounced in-TER-nul RAY-dee-AY- shun THAYR-uh-pee. A type of radiation therapy in which radioactive material sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters is placed directly into or near a tumor. Also called brachytherapy, radiation brachytherapy, and implant radiation therapy.
Intravenous: Pronounced IN-truh-VEE-nus. IV. Into or within a vein. Intravenous usually refers to a way of giving a drug or other substance through a needle or tube inserted into a vein.
Ionizing radiation: Pronounced I-uh-NYZ-ing RAY-dee-AY-shun. A type of radiation made (or given off ) by x-ray procedures, radioactive substances, rays that enter the Earth’s atmosphere from outer space, and other sources. At high doses, ionizing radiation increases chemical activity inside cells and can lead to health risks, including cancer.
Juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma: Pronounced JOO-veh-NILE PY- loh-SIH-tik AS-troh-sy-TOH-muh. A slow-growing type of central nervous system tumor that forms from glial (supportive) tissue of the brain and spinal cord. Juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma usually occurs in children and young adults. It forms in the brain more often than the spinal cord.
Local anesthesia: Pronounced A-nes-THEE-zhuh. Drugs that cause a temporary loss of feeling in one part of the body. The patient remains awake but cannot feel the part of the body treated with the anesthetic.
Malignant: Pronounced muh-LIG-nunt. Cancerous. Malignant tumors can invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
Medical oncologist: Pronounced MEH-dih-kul on-KAH-loh-jist. A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and biological therapy. A medical oncologist often is the main health care provider for someone who has cancer. A medical oncologist also gives supportive care and may coordinate treatment given by other specialists.
Medulloblastoma: Pronounced MED-yoo-loh-blas-TOH-muh. A malignant brain tumor that begins in the lower part of the brain and that can spread to the spine or to other parts of the body. Medulloblastomas are a type of primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET).
Meninges: Pronounced meh-NIN-jees. The three thin layers of tissues that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord.
Meningioma: Pronounced meh-NIN-jee-OH-muh. A type of slow- growing tumor that forms in the meninges (thin layers of tissue that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord). Meningiomas usually occur in adults.
Mental health counselor: A specialist who can talk with patients and their families about emotional and personal matters, and can help them make decisions.
Metastatic: Pronounced meh-tuh-STA-tik. Having to do with metastasis, which is the spread of cancer from one part of the body to another.
MRI: Stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (mag-NEH-tik REH-zuh-nunts IH-muh-jing). A procedure in which radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer are used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures can show the difference between normal and diseased tissue. MRI makes better images of organs and soft tissue than other scanning techniques, such as computed tomography (CT) or x-ray. MRI is especially useful for imaging the brain, the spine, the soft tissue of joints, and the inside of bones. Also called NMRI and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.
Nerve cell: A type of cell that receives and sends messages from the body to the brain and back to the body. The messages are sent by a weak electrical current. Also called neuron.
Neuro-oncologist: Pronounced NOOR-oh-on-KAH-loh-jist. A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating brain tumors and other tumors of the nervous system.
Neurologic: Pronounced NOOR-oh-LAH-jik. Having to do with nerves or the nervous system.
Neurologist: Pronounced noo-RAH-loh-jist. A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the nervous system.
Neuroradiologist: Pronounced NOOR-oh-RAY-dee-AH-loh-jist. A doctor trained in radiology who specializes in creating and interpreting pictures of the nervous system. The pictures are produced using forms of radiation, such as x-rays, sound waves, or other types of energy.
Neurosurgeon: Pronounced NOOR-oh-SER-jun. A doctor who specializes in surgery on the brain, spine, and other parts of the nervous system.
Occupational therapist: A health professional trained to help people who are ill or disabled learn to manage their daily activities.
Oligodendroglioma: Pronounced AH-lih-goh-DEN-droh-glee- OH-muh. A rare, slow-growing tumor that begins in oligodendrocytes (cells that cover and protect nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord). Also called oligodendroglial tumor.
Oncology nurse: Pronounced on-KAH-loh-jee. A nurse who specializes in treating and caring for people who have cancer.
Paralysis: Pronounced puh-RAL-ih-siss. Loss of ability to move all or part of the body.
Pathologist: Pronounced puh-THAH-loh-jist. A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.
Physical medicine specialist: Pronounced FIH-zih-kul MEH-dih- sin SPEH-shuh-list. A doctor who specializes in physical medicine (the prevention and treatment of disease or injury with physical methods, such as exercise and machines). Also called physiatrist.
Physical therapist: A health professional who teaches exercises and physical activities that help condition muscles and restore strength and movement.
Pituitary gland: Pronounced pih-TOO-ih-TAYR-ee. The main endocrine gland. It produces hormones that control other glands and many body functions, especially growth.
Primitive neuroectodermal tumor: Pronounced PRI-muh-tiv NOOR-oh-EK-toh-DER-mul TOO-mer. PNET. One of a group of cancers that develop from the same type of early cells, and share certain biochemical and genetic features. Some primitive neuroectodermal tumors develop in the brain and central nervous system (CNS-PNET), and others develop in sites outside of the brain such as the limbs, pelvis, and chest wall (peripheral PNET).
Proton: Pronounced PROH-ton. A small, positively charged particle of matter found in the atoms of all elements. Streams of protons generated by special equipment can be used for radiation treatment.
Proton beam radiation therapy: Pronounced PROH-ton beem RAY-dee-AY-shun THAYR-uh-pee. A type of high- energy, external radiation therapy that uses streams of protons (small, positively charged particles) that come from a special machine. Proton beam radiation is different from x-ray radiation.
Radiation oncologist: Pronounced RAY-dee-AY-shun on-KAH- loh-jist. A doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.
Radiation therapy: Pronounced RAY-dee-AY-shun THAYR-uh- pee. The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons, and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy). Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that travels in the blood to tissues throughout the body. Also called irradiation and radiotherapy.
Radioactive: Pronounced RAY-dee-oh-AK-tiv. Giving off radiation.
Registered dietitian: Pronounced dy-eh-TIH-shun. A health professional with special training in the use of diet and nutrition to keep the body healthy. A registered dietitian may help the medical team improve the nutritional health of a patient.
Risk factor: Something that may increase the chance of developing a disease. Some examples of risk factors for cancer include age, a family history of certain cancers, use of tobacco products, certain eating habits, obesity, lack of exercise, exposure to radiation or other cancer-causing agents, and certain genetic changes.
Seizure: Pronounced SEE-zhur. Convulsion; a sudden, involuntary movement of the muscles.
Shunt: In medicine, a passage that is made to allow blood or other fluid to move from one part of the body to another. For example, a surgeon may implant a tube to drain cerebrospinal fluid from the brain to the abdomen. A surgeon may also change normal blood flow by making a passage that leads from one blood vessel to another.
Side effect: A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some common side effects of cancer treatment are fatigue, pain, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss, and mouth sores.
Speech therapist: A specialist who evaluates and treats people with communication and swallowing problems. Also called a speech pathologist.
Spinal tap: Pronounced SPY-nul. A procedure in which a thin needle called a spinal needle is put into the lower part of the spinal column to collect cerebrospinal fluid or to give drugs. Also called lumbar puncture.
Stereotactic biopsy: Pronounced STAYR-ee-oh-TAK-tik BY-op- see. A biopsy procedure that uses a computer and a 3-dimensional scanning device to find a tumor site and guide the removal of tissue for examination under a microscope.
Stereotactic radiation therapy: Pronounced STAYR-ee-oh-TAK- tik RAY-dee-AY-shun THAYR-uh-pee. A type of external radiation therapy that uses special equipment to position the patient and precisely deliver radiation to a tumor. The total dose of radiation is divided into several smaller doses given over several days. Stereotactic radiation therapy is used to treat brain tumors and other brain disorders. It is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer, such as lung cancer. Also called stereotactic external-beam radiation therapy and stereotaxic radiation therapy.
Stereotactic radiosurgery: Pronounced STAYR-ee-oh-TAK-tik RAY-dee-oh-SER-juh-ree. A type of external radiation therapy that uses special equipment to position the patient and precisely give a single large dose of radiation to a tumor. It is used to treat brain tumors and other brain disorders that cannot be treated by regular surgery. It is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. Also called radiation surgery, radiosurgery, and stereotaxic radiosurgery.
Steroid drug: Pronounced STAYR-oyd. A type of drug used to relieve swelling and inflammation. Some steroid drugs may also have antitumor effects.
Supportive care: Care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease. The goal of supportive care is to prevent or treat as early as possible the symptoms of a disease, side effects caused by treatment of a disease, and psychological, social, and spiritual problems related to a disease or its treatment. Also called comfort care, palliative care, and symptom management.
Surgeon: A doctor who removes or repairs a part of the body by operating on the patient.
Surgery: Pronounced SER-juh-ree. A procedure to remove or repair a part of the body or to find out whether disease is present. An operation.
Tissue: Pronounced TISH-oo. A group or layer of cells that work together to perform a specific function.
Tumor: Pronounced TOO-mer. An abnormal mass of tissue that results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Tumors may be benign (not cancerous), or malignant (cancerous). Also called neoplasm.
Ventricle: Pronounced VEN-trih-kul. A fluid-filled cavity in the heart or brain.
X-ray: A type of high-energy radiation. In low doses, x-rays are used to diagnose diseases by making pictures of the inside of the body. In high doses, x-rays are used to treat cancer.