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The terms used by doctors to describe a disease, diagnosis, and treatment can sound like a foreign language. The VEINS FOR LIFE* awareness program has compiled a list of terms that you will hear and read frequently throughout your course of chemotherapy treatment. Having a list of questions ready for each visit with your doctor or nurse can help you make the most of your time with your healthcare provider and make sure you get all of your questions answered.

Here are some terms that you may encounter when you talk to your doctor about your chemotherapy treatment or during your search for information.

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Adjuvant Therapy
Treatment used in addition to the main treatment (usually surgery). It usually refers to hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or immunotherapy added after surgery to increase the chances of treatment success.9

Advanced Disease
A general term describing stages of cancer in which the disease has spread from where it started (the primary site) to other parts of the body. When the cancer has spread only to the nearby areas, it is called locally advanced cancer. If it has spread to distant parts of the body, it is called metastatic cancer.9

Air Embolism
Obstruction of the circulation by air that has gained entrance to veins usually through wounds. 10

Angiography
A test in which a contrast dye is injected directly into a blood vessel that goes to the area that is being studied. A series of x-ray images are then taken to show surgeons the location of blood vessels around a tumor.9

Antiemetic
A drug that prevents or relieves nausea and vomiting, common side effects of chemotherapy.9

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Bacteremia
The usually transient presence of bacteria in the blood.10

Blood Clot
Blood that has been converted from a liquid to a solid state.11

Blood Clotting
A natural process in which blood cells and fibrin strands rapidly form a clump to stop bleeding after a blood vessel has been injured. 11

Blood Vessel
Are the part of the circulatory system that transport blood throughout the body. 12

Bloodstream
The flowing of blood through the circulatory system.13

Bolus Injection
The injection of a drug (or drugs) in a high quantity (called a bolus) at once, the opposite of gradual administration (as in intravenous infusion).13

Bone Scan
An imaging method that gives important information about the bones, including the location of cancer that may have spread to the bones. It can be done on an outpatient basis and is painless, except for the needle stick when a low-dose radioactive substance is injected into a vein. Pictures are taken to see where the radioactivity collects, pointing to an abnormality.9

Bracial Plexus Injury
An injury to a complex network of nerves that is formed chiefly by the lower four cervical nerves and the first thoracic nerve, lies partly within the axilla, and supplies nerves to the chest, shoulder, and arm. 10

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Cancer
A group of diseases that cause cells in the body to change and grow out of control. Most types of cancers form a lump or mass called a tumor. The tumor can invade and destroy healthy tissue. Another word for cancerous is malignant.9

Carcinoma
A malignant tumor that begins in the lining layer (epithelial cells) of organs. At least 80% of all cancers are carcinomas.9

Carcinoma in Situ
An early stage of cancer in which the tumor is confined to the organ where it first developed. The disease has not invaded other parts of the organ or spread to distant parts of the body. Most in situ carcinomas are highly curable.9

Cardiac Arrhythmia
An alteration in rhythm of the heartbeat either in time or force.10

Cardiac Tamponade
Mechanical compression of the heart by large amounts of fluid or blood within the pericardial space that limits the normal range of motion and function of the heart.10

Catheter
A flexible tube used to deliver fluids into or withdraw fluids from the body.14

Catheter Embolism
An obstruction or occlusion of a blood vessel by an embolus (i.e., catheter, piece of fragmented catheter, etc). 15

Catheter Occlusion
The act of occluding or the state of being occluded: a shutting off or obstruction of a catheter. In this case, the catheter can longer be used for infusion of fluids or withdrawal of blood.10

Central Venous Catheter
A catheter that is passed through a peripheral vein and ending the thoracic vena cava; it is used to measure venous pressure or to infuse concentrated solutions.16

Centrally-Placed Vascular Access Device
Surgically implanted into a large vein near the heart and can stay in place for weeks, months, and even years. While they are often used to deliver chemotherapy drugs, the device can also be used to draw blood, deliver antibiotics and nutrition, and perform blood transfusions. 24

Chemotherapy
Treatment with drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used, either alone or with surgery or radiation, to treat cancer that has spread or come back (recurred), or when there is a strong chance that it could recur. Often called chemo.9

Concurrent Treatment
Treatment or therapy that is given at the same time as another treatment.9

Continuous Infusion
The administration of a fluid into a blood vessel, usually over a prolonged period of time.14

Contrast Agent
A liquid that is injected into the body to make certain tissues more visible during diagnostic imaging (CT).17

Contrast Enhanced Computer Tomography
A CECT or CT scan is a special, advanced type of X-ray that produces quick, accurate images used to track tumor markers or pulmonary embolisms. The process involves injecting a contrast agent into the bloodstream to reveal details in soft tissue.18

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Endocarditis
Inflammation of the lining of the heart and its valve. 10

Extravasation
The accidental leakage of infused fluids into the surrounding tissue, that is not into the bloodstream as intended. This can occur due to incorrect positioning of a catheter outside the vein or due to breakage or occlusion of an implanted port. 11

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Fibrin Sheaths
A thin blood clot that forms around an intravenous catheter. In some cases, this sheath may cause temporary or permanent blockage (occlusion) of the catheter.

Flushing
The infusion of fluids, usually saline, to clear out or wash out a catheter prior to or after use.

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General Anesthesia
The induction of a state of unconsciousness with the absence of pain sensation over the entire body, through the administration of anesthetic drugs. It is used during certain medical and surgical procedures.16

Grade
The grade of a cancer reflects how abnormal it looks under the microscope. It divides cancer into those with the greatest abnormality, the least abnormality, and those in between. It is important because cancers with more abnormal-appearing cells tend to grow and spread more quickly and have a worse prognosis (outlook).9

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Hematoma
A collection of blood outside a blood vessel caused by a leak or an injury. A bruise is a hematoma in the soft tissues of the skin.9

Hemothroax
Blood in the pleural cavity, which is the space between the lung and the chest wall.10

Hickman® Catheter
A catheter that is placed in the subclavian vein and then tunneled under the subcutaneous tissue to exit on the chest wall.19

Huber Needle
A special needle used to push through the skin and into the port. Huber needles are used to access ports implanted under the skin of chronically ill patients for repeated access to veins for the withdrawal of blood and infusion of medication, nutritional solutions, blood products, and imaging solutions. The Huber needle connects with the catheter, or extension tube. These needles are designed to be non-corning. Non-corning needles penetrate the port without cutting and dislodging any silicone cores (or silvers) from the ports into which they are inserted.42 43

Hydrothorax
Serous fluid (that is not blood) in the pleural cavity; it usually forms due to blockage of or high pressure in blood vessels caused by cancer or heart failure.

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Immunosuppression
A state in which the ability of the body's immune system to respond is decreased. This condition may be caused by hereditary conditions or to changes caused by infections such as HIV, or medications or radiation used to treat cancer or some autoimmune diseases.9

Implanted Port
A small medical device that is installed beneath the skin. A catheter connects the port to a vein. Under the skin, the port has a septum through which drugs can be injected and blood samples can be drawn many times.

Incision
A cut made in the body.14

Infection
Invasion and multiplication of germs in the body. Infections can occur in any part of the body and can spread throughout the body. The germs may be bacteria, viruses, yeast, or fungi. They can cause a fever and other problems, depending on where the infection occurs. When the body's natural defense system is strong, it can often fight the germs and prevent infection. Some cancer treatments can weaken the natural defense system.14

Infiltration
Inadvertent administration of a an irritating fluid into the surrounding tissue.19

Infusion
Also called intravenous infusion, it is a method of giving fluids and medicines using a needle or a thin tube that is put into a vein.23

Intolerance Reaction
Refers to multiple reaction patterns, including toxic, allergic, pseudo-allergic and even psychiatric mechanisms.21

Intravenous (I.V.) Chemotherapy
Giving of liquid substances directly into a vein. It can be intermittent or continuous. 11

Irritant
Any agent that causes a local inflammatory reaction but does not cause tissue necrosis.22

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Laceration of Vessels
A torn and ragged wound.10

Lymph Node Dissection
The surgical removal of one or more lymph nodes. After removal, the lymph nodes are looked at under a microscope to see if cancer has spread.9

Lymphedema
A condition in which excess lymphatic fluid collects in tissues, causing swelling, numbing, pain, or a limited range of motion in extremities. This often occurs when many lymph nodes are removed for the treatment or staging of cancer, or lymph nodes are treated with radiation therapy. Lymphedema most often occurs in the arms if lymph nodes under the arm are removed or radiated, or in the legs if lymph nodes in the groin are removed or radiated.23

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Medicaid
A type of government health insurance for people with low incomes who meet certain conditions.24

Medicare
A type of health insurance provided by the federal government for people aged 65 or older, as well as for some people who are disabled.24

Metastatic
A way to describe cancer that has spread from the primary site (where it started) to other structures or organs, nearby or far away (distant). See also primary site and metastasis.9

MRI
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 magnetic resonance imaging, NMRI, and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.14

Multidrug Resistance (MDR)
Resistance of tumor cells to several unrelated drugs after being exposed to a single chemotherapy drug.9

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Necrosis
Death of living tissue; specifically: death of a portion of tissue differentially affected by local injury, such as loss of blood supply.19

Non-ferromagnetic
Type of material that does not interact with magnets, such as those in MRI scanners.20

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Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist
A Registered Nurse (RN) with a master's degree in oncology nursing who specializes in the care of cancer patients. Oncology nurse specialists may prepare and give treatments, monitor patients, prescribe and provide supportive care, and teach and counsel patients and their families.9

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Palliative Treatment
Treatment that relieves symptoms, such as pain, but is not expected to cure the disease. Its main purpose is to improve the patient's quality of life. Sometimes chemotherapy and radiation are used in this way.9

Palpation
Examination by pressing on the surface of the body to feel the organs or tissues underneath.14

Perforation of Vessels
The penetration or rupture of a blood vessel through accident or disease.10

Peripheral I.V. or Peripheral Intravenous Devices
Also called intravenous infusion, it is a method of giving fluids and medicines using a needle or a thin tube that is put into a vein.23

Peripheral Vein
The veins not in the chest or abdomen (i.e in the arms, hands, legs, and feet). These veins lead deoxygenated blood from the capillaries in the extremities back to the heart. These veins are the most common intravenous access method in both hospitals and paramedic services for a peripheral intravenous (IV) line for intravenous therapy.26

Peripherally Inserted Central Catheters (PICCs)
A long, thin flexible tube inserted into one of the large veins of the upper arm until it sits in a large vein just above the heart.25

Pneumothorax
A condition in which air or other gas is present in the pleural cavity and which occurs spontaneously as a result of disease or injury of lunch tissue, rupture of air- filled pulmonary cysts, or puncture of the chest wall or is induced as a therapeutic measure to collapse the lung.10

Port
An implanted device through which blood may be withdrawn and drugs may be infused without repeated needle sticks in the arms or hands.14

Port Erosion
The erosion of skin with extrusion of the portal body.28

Power Injection
See CT scan - A CECT or CT scan produces quick, accurate images used to track tumor markers or pulmonary embolisms. The process involves injecting a contrast agent into the bloodstream to reveal details in soft tissue. 4

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Quality of Life
Overall enjoyment of life, which includes a person's sense of well-being and ability to do the things that are important to him or her.9

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Regimen
A plan of treatment, including doses, scheduling, and duration of treatment.23

Reimbursement
A method of payment, usually by a third-party payer, for medical or hospital costs(see Medicare/Medicaid).27

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Sepsis
A systemic (total body) response to a serious usually localized infection (as of the abdomen or lungs) especially of bacterial origin that is usually marked by low or high body temperature and abnormalities of blood flow to all organs in the body.10

Septicemia
Invasion of the bloodstream by virulent microorganisms (as bacteria, viruses, or fungi) from a focus of infection that is accompanied by acute systemic illness. 10

Septum
The raised center of a port where the needle is inserted for delivery of medication.

Side Effects
Unwanted effects of treatment such as hair loss caused by chemotherapy, and fatigue caused by radiation therapy.23

Skin Erosion
Loss of some or all of the epidermis (the outer layer) leaving a denuded surface. 11

Spontaneous Migrating Catheter Tip
Movement of the catheter in the bloodstream due to breakage. See also embolism. This occurs about port placement infrequently, and is associated with a number of complications, including neck or shoulder pain, cardiac arrthymia, infection, venous thrombosis, and neurological complications; depending on the location of the detached catheter. Management of migration of the catheter in the heart requires chest x-ray and removal of the catheter. A percutaneous retrieval technique is preferred because it is simple, inexpensive and relatively low-risk. 29

Subcutaneous port
An implanted device through which blood may be withdrawn and infusions given without repeated needle sticks. A subcutaneous port is one surgically placed under the skin. It consists of an artificial septum, a self- sealing rubber material, which the needle can pierce, and a catheter, that is placed in a blood vessel, usually a vein, frequently in the upper chest, just below the collarbone. 30

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Thoracic Duct injury
An injury to the main trunk of the system of lymphatic vessels that lies along the front of the spinal column, extends from a dilations behind the aorta and opposite the second lumbar vertebra up through the thorax where it turns to the left and opens into the left subclavian vein, and receives chyle from the intestine and lymph from the abdomen, the lower limbs, and the entire left side of the body.10

Thromboembolism
The formation of blood clots in circulation (thrombus) which sometimes leads to breakage of a piece of clot and it travels to another location (embolus). An embolus may block off blood flow, leading to complications.10

Toxicity
In medical treatment, the harmful effects of a medicine or treatment, especially at higher doses.23

Tumor Markers
Substances produced by cancer cells and sometimes normal cells that can be detected in laboratory tests. Tumor markers may be very useful in monitoring for response to treatment when a cancer is diagnosed or for a recurrence.23

Tunneled Central Venous Catheters (Chronic CVCs)
A long, hollow tube called a central line is inserted (tunneled) under the skin of your chest into a vein. The tip of the tube sits in a large vein just above the heart.25

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Vascular Access Device (VAD)
A vascular access device (VAD) gives access to your veins for your chemotherapy.

Vascular Surgery
The treatment of surgery on diagnosed patients with diseases of the arterial, venous, and lymphatic systems.31

Vascular Systems
The vessels and tissue that carry or circulate fluids such as blood or lymph or sap through the body of an animal or plant.27

Vascular Thrombosis
The formation or presence of a blood clot within a vessel10

Venous Thrombosis
The formation of presence of a blood clot within a vein.10

Vesicant
Any agent that has the potential to cause blistering or tissue necrosis.22

Vessel Erosion
The superficial destruction of a surface area of a vessel by inflammation, ulceration, or trauma.10

Viscus
An internal organ of the body, especially one such as the heart, liver, or intestine, located in the large cavity of the trunk.10

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