Definitions - Glossary U thru Z
This is a central location for the definitions available for many of the technical or medical words found on this site. Please click on the letters below to find definitions for words starting with that letter.
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Special thanks to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Many of the definitions in this glossary were adapted or taken directly from the NCI's Dictionary of Cancer Terms.

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U.S. Food and Drug Administration
FDA. 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.

ubiquinone
A substance found in most tissues in the body, and in many foods. It can also be made in the laboratory. It is used by the body to produce energy for cells, and as an antioxidant. It is being studied in the treatment of cancer and in the relief of side effects caused by some cancer treatments. Also called coenzyme Q10, Q10, CoQ10, and vitamin Q10.

UCN-01
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called staurosporine analogs.

UGT1A1
A substance that is being studied as a treatment for cancer. It is an enzyme produced by the liver and intestine.

ulcer (UHL-ser)
A break on the skin, in the lining of an organ, or on the surface of a tissue. An ulcer forms when the surface cells become inflamed, die, and are shed. Ulcers may be linked to cancer and other diseases.

ulceration
The formation of a break on the skin or on the surface of an organ. An ulcer forms when the surface cells die and are cast off. Ulcers may be associated with cancer and other diseases.

ulcerative colitis
Chronic inflammation of the colon that produces ulcers in its lining. This condition is marked by abdominal pain, cramps, and loose discharges of pus, blood, and mucus from the bowel.

Ulmus fulva
Ulmus rubra. The inner bark of this plant has been used in some cultures to treat certain medical problems. It may have antioxidant effects. Also called slippery elm, gray elm, Indian elm, red elm, and sweet elm.

Ulmus rubra
Ulmus fulva. The inner bark of this plant has been used in some cultures to treat certain medical problems. It may have antioxidant effects. Also called slippery elm, gray elm, Indian elm, red elm, and sweet elm.

ultrasonogram
A computer picture of areas inside the body created by bouncing high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) off internal tissues or organs. Also called a sonogram.

ultrasonography (UL-tra-son-OG-ra-fee)
A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echo patterns are shown on the screen of an ultrasound machine, forming a picture of body tissues called a sonogram. Also called ultrasound.

ultrasound
A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echo patterns are shown on the screen of an ultrasound machine, forming a picture of body tissues called a sonogram. Also called ultrasonography.

ultrasound energy
A form of therapy being studied as an anticancer treatment. Intensified ultrasound energy can be directed at cancer cells to heat them and kill them.

ultrasound transducer
A device that produces sound waves that bounce off body tissues and make echoes. The transducer also receives the echoes and sends them to a computer that uses them to create a picture called a sonogram. Transducers (also called probes) come in different shapes and sizes for use in making pictures of different parts of the body. The transducer may be passed over the surface of the body or inserted into an opening such as the rectum or vagina.

ultrasound-guided biopsy (BY-op-see)
A biopsy procedure that uses an ultrasound imaging device to find an abnormal area of tissue and guide its removal for examination under a microscope.

ultraviolet radiation (ul-tra-VYE-o-let ray-dee-AY-shun)
UV radiation. Invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun. UV radiation also comes from sun lamps and tanning beds. UV radiation can damage the skin and cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. UV radiation that reaches the Earth's surface is made up of two types of rays, called UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are more likely than UVA rays to cause sunburn, but UVA rays pass deeper into the skin. Scientists have long thought that UVB radiation can cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. They now think that UVA radiation also may add to skin damage that can lead to skin cancer and cause premature aging. For this reason, skin specialists recommend that people use sunscreens that reflect, absorb, or scatter both kinds of UV radiation.

ultraviolet radiation therapy
A form of radiation used in the treatment of cancer.

umbilical cord blood
Blood from the umbilical cord of a newborn baby. This blood contains high concentrations of stem cells (cells from which all blood cells develop).

umbilical cord blood transplantation
The injection of umbilical cord blood to restore an individual's own blood production system suppressed by anticancer drugs, radiation therapy, or both. It is being studied in the treatment of cancer and severe blood disorders such as aplastic anemia. Cord blood contains high concentrations of stem cells needed to produce new blood cells.

uncontrolled study
A clinical study that lacks a comparison (i.e., a control) group.

unconventional cancer treatments
Approaches that use substances or methods of treating cancer that have not been shown to be effective by accepted scientific methods, such as carefully designed clinical trials.

undescended testicles
A condition in which one or both testicles fail to move from the abdomen, where they develop before birth, into the scrotum. Undescended testicles may increase the risk for development of testicular cancer. Also called cryptorchidism.

undifferentiated
A term used to describe cells or tissues that do not have specialized ("mature") structures or functions. Undifferentiated cancer cells often grow and spread quickly.

unguent (UNG-gwent)
A substance used on the skin to soothe or heal wounds, burns, rashes, scrapes, or other skin problems. Also called ointment.

unilateral
Having to do with one side of the body.

unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
Surgery to remove the ovary and fallopian tube on one side of the body.

unresectable
Unable to be removed with surgery.

unresectable gallbladder cancer
Cancer that has spread to the tissues around the gallbladder (such as the liver, stomach, pancreas, intestine, or lymph nodes in the area) and cannot be surgically removed.

unresected
Describes an organ, tissue, or cancer that has not been either partly or completely removed by surgery.

unsealed internal radiation therapy
Radiation therapy given by injecting a radioactive substance into the bloodstream or a body cavity, or by swallowing it. This substance is not sealed in a container.

upper endoscopy (...en-DOSS-koh-pee)
Examination of the inside of the stomach using an endoscope, passed through the mouth and esophagus. An endoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease. Also called gastroscopy.

upper GI series
A series of x-rays of the esophagus. The x-ray pictures are taken after the person drinks a solution that contains barium. The barium coats and outlines the esophagus on the x-ray. Also called an esophagram and barium swallow.

urachus (YOU-rah-kus)
A fibrous cord that connects the urinary bladder to the umbilicus (navel). The urachus is formed as the allantoic stalk during fetal development and lasts through life. Also called the median umbilical ligament.

uracil
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called alkylating agents.

urea nitrogen
A chemical in the blood produced by the breakdown of protein. Urea nitrogen is removed from the blood by the kidneys. Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) tests are sometimes done to see how well the kidneys are working.

ureter (yoo-REE-ter)
The tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder.

ureteronephrectomy
Surgery to remove a kidney and its ureter. Also called nephroureterectomy.

ureteroscopy (yoo-REE-ter-OS-koh-pee)
Examination of the inside of the kidney and ureter, using a ureteroscope. A ureteroscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease. The ureteroscope is passed through the urethra into the bladder, ureter, and renal pelvis (part of the kidney that collects, holds, and drains urine).

urethra (yoo-REE-thra)
The tube through which urine leaves the body. It empties urine from the bladder.

urethral cancer (yoo-REE-thrul KAN-ser)
A rare cancer that forms in tissues of the urethra (the tube through which urine empties the bladder and leaves the body). Types of urethral cancer include transitional cell carcinoma (cancer that begins in cells that can change shape and stretch without breaking apart), squamous cell carcinoma (cancer that begins in flat cells lining the urethra), and adenocarcinoma (cancer that begins in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids).

uric acid
A waste product left over from normal chemical processes in the body and found in the urine and blood. Abnormal buildup of uric acid in the body may cause a condition called gout. Increased levels of uric acid in the blood and urine can be a side effect of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

urinalysis (YOOR-in-AL-ih-siss)
A test that determines the content of the urine.

urinary (YOOR-in-air-ee)
Having to do with urine or the organs of the body that produce and get rid of urine.

urinary diversion (YUR-ih-NAYR-ee dih-VUR-zhun)
A surgical procedure to make a new way for urine to leave the body. It may involve redirecting urine into the colon, using catheters to drain the bladder, or making an opening in the abdomen and collecting urine in a bag outside the body.

urinary incontinence (YOOR-in-air-ee in-KAHN-tih-nens)
Inability to hold urine in the bladder.

urinary tract (YOOR-in-air-ee)
The organs of the body that produce and discharge urine. These include the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra.

urine (YOOR-in)
Fluid containing water and waste products. Urine is made by the kidneys, stored in the bladder, and leaves the body through the urethra.

urine cytology (YOOR-in si-TOL-uh-jee)
Tests performed on cells in urine to detect disease.

urokinase
A drug that dissolves blood clots or prevents them from forming.

urologic oncologist (yoor-uh-LAHJ-ik on-KOL-o-jist)
A doctor who specializes in treating cancers of the urinary system.

urologist (yoo-RAHL-o-jist)
A doctor who specializes in diseases of the urinary organs in females and the urinary and sex organs in males.

urostomy (yoo-RAHS-toe-mee)
An operation to create an opening from inside the body to the outside, making a new way to pass urine.

urothelium (yoo-roh-THEE-lee-um)
The lining of the urinary tract, including the renal pelvis, ureters, bladder, and urethra.

ursodiol (ur-so-DYE-ole)
A drug that is used to dissolve gallstones in people who can't have surgery to remove them. It is also being studied in the prevention of colorectal cancer. Ursodiol belongs to the family of drugs called anticholelithics.

uterine cancer (YOO-teh-rin KAN-ser)
Cancer that forms in tissues of the uterus (small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis in which a baby grows). Two types of uterine cancer are endometrial cancer (cancer that begins in cells lining the uterus), and uterine sarcoma (a rare cancer that begins in muscle or other tissues in the uterus).

uterine sarcoma (YOO-teh-rin sar-KOH-muh)
A rare type of uterine cancer that forms in muscle or other tissues of the uterus (small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis in which a baby grows). It usually occurs after menopause. The two main types are leiomyosarcoma (cancer that begins in smooth muscle cells) and endometrial stromal sarcoma (cancer that begins in connective tissue cells).

uterus (YOO-ter-us)
The small, hollow, pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis. This is the organ in which a baby grows. Also called the womb.

UV radiation
Ultraviolet radiation. Invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun. UV radiation also comes from sun lamps and tanning beds. UV radiation can damage the skin and cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. UV radiation that reaches the Earth's surface is made up of two types of rays, called UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are more likely than UVA rays to cause sunburn, but UVA rays pass deeper into the skin. Scientists have long thought that UVB radiation can cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. They now think that UVA radiation also may add to skin damage that can lead to skin cancer and cause premature aging. For this reason, skin specialists recommend that people use sunscreens that reflect, absorb, or scatter both kinds of UV radiation.

UVA radiation
A type of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV rays are invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun. UVA radiation also comes from sun lamps and tanning beds. Scientists think that UVA radiation may cause skin damage that can lead to skin cancer and premature aging. For this reason, skin specialists recommend that people use sunscreens that reflect, absorb, or scatter ultraviolet radiation.

UVB radiation
A type of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV rays are invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun. UVB radiation causes sunburn, and scientists have long thought that it can cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. Skin specialists recommend that people use sunscreens that reflect, absorb, or scatter ultraviolet radiation.

uvula
The soft flap of tissue that hangs down at the back of the mouth (at the edge of the soft palate). Also called palatine uvula.

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vaccinated
Treated with a vaccine.

vaccination
Treatment with a vaccine.

vaccine
A substance or group of substances meant to cause the immune system to respond to a tumor or to microorganisms, such as bacteria or viruses. A vaccine can help the body recognize and destroy cancer cells or microorganisms.

vaccine adjuvant
A substance added to a vaccine to improve the immune response so that less vaccine is needed.

vaccine therapy
A type of treatment that uses a substance or group of substances to stimulate the immune system to destroy a tumor or infectious microorganisms such as bacteria or viruses.

vaccinia CEA vaccine
A cancer vaccine containing the carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) gene.

vacuum aspiration (VAK-yoom as-per-AY-shun)
A surgical procedure in which the cervix is dilated (opened) and vacuum is used to remove tissue from the uterus. Also called suction aspiration or suction evacuation.

vagina (vuh-JYE-na)
The muscular canal extending from the uterus to the exterior of the body. Also called the birth canal.

vaginal
Having to do with the vagina (the birth canal).

vaginectomy (vaj-ih-NEK-toh-mee)
Surgery to remove part or all of the vagina (the birth canal).

valacyclovir
A substance that is being studied in the prevention of fungal, bacterial, and viral infections in patients undergoing donor stem cell transplantation with cells that are infected with cytomegalovirus. It belongs to the family of drugs called antivirals.

valdecoxib
A substance that is being studied as a treatment for pain and other side effects of cancer therapy. It belongs to the family of drugs called COX-2 inhibitors.

valerian
Valeriana officinalis. A plant whose roots are used as a sedative and to treat certain medical conditions. It is being studied as a way to improve sleep in cancer patients undergoing treatment. Also called garden valerian, Indian valerian, Pacific valerian, Mexican valerian, garden heliotrope, and Valerianae radix.

Valeriana officinalis
Valerian. A plant whose roots are used as a sedative and to treat certain medical conditions. It is being studied as a way to improve sleep in cancer patients undergoing treatment. Also called garden valerian, Indian valerian, Pacific valerian, Mexican valerian, garden heliotrope, and Valerianae radix.

Valerianae radix
Valeriana officinalis. A plant whose roots are used as a sedative and to treat certain medical conditions. It is being studied as a way to improve sleep in cancer patients undergoing treatment. Also called valerian, garden valerian, Indian valerian, Pacific valerian, Mexican valerian, and garden heliotrope.

valganciclovir
An antiviral agent that is being studied as a treatment for AIDS-related cytomegalovirus. It is changed in the body to ganciclovir.

valproic acid (val-PRO-ik acid)
A drug used to treat epileptic seizures and bipolar disorder and to prevent migraine headaches. It is also being studied in the treatment of Kaposi's sarcoma. It belongs to the families of drugs called anticonvulsants, antimanics, and migraine headache prophylactics.

valrubicin
A drug that is used to treat bladder cancer that does not respond to BCG (Bacillus Calmette Guerin). It is an anthracycline and belongs to the family of drugs called antitumor antibiotics. Also called AD 32.

vancomycin
An antibiotic drug used to fight resistant bacterial infections.

vapreotide
A substance that is being studied in the treatment of cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called somatostatin analogs.

varicose vein
A condition in which a vein, most often in the legs, becomes permanently enlarged, twisted, and painful. This may be caused by valves in the vein that don't work properly or by weakness in the vein walls.

vas deferens
A coiled tube that carries the sperm out of the testes.

vascular endothelial growth factor (VAS-kyoo-ler EN-doh-THEE-lee-ul grohth FAK-ter)
VEGF. A substance made by cells that stimulates new blood vessel formation.

vascular endothelial growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor (VAS-kyoo-ler EN-doh-THEE-lee-ul grohth FAK-ter rih-SEP-ter TY-ruh-seen KY-nayz in-HIH-bih-ter)
VEGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor. A substance that blocks an enzyme needed to form blood vessels.

vasectomy (vas-EK-toe-mee)
An operation to cut or tie off the two tubes that carry sperm out of the testicles.

vasomotor
Affecting the narrowing and widening of the blood vessels.

vatalanib
A substance that is being studied in the treatment of cancer. It belongs to the families of drugs called protein tyrosine kinase inhibitors and VEGF receptor kinase inhibitors. Also called PTK787/ZK 222584.

VEGF
Vascular endothelial growth factor. A substance made by cells that stimulates new blood vessel formation.

VEGF Trap
A substance that blocks the action of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and prevents the growth of new blood vessels into a tumor. It belongs to the family of drugs called angiogenesis inhibitors.

VEGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor (VEGFR TY-ruh-seen KY-nayz in-HIH-bih-ter)
Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor. A substance that blocks an enzyme needed to form blood vessels.

velafermin (vel-uh-FER-min)
A substance that is being studied in the prevention and treatment of oral mucositis (sores in the mouth) in patients receiving high-dose chemotherapy. Velafermin belongs to the family of drugs called recombinant human fibroblast growth factors (rhFGF).

Velcade
A drug that is used to treat multiple myeloma and is being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. It belongs to the families of drugs called proteosome inhibitors and dipeptidyl boronic acids. Also called bortezomib and PS-341.

venipuncture
The puncture of a vein with a needle for the purpose of drawing blood. Also called phlebotomy.

venlafaxine
An antidepressant drug that is being evaluated for the treatment of hot flashes in women who have breast cancer.

ventilator
In medicine, a machine used to help a patient breathe. Also called respirator.

ventricle (VEN-trih-kul)
A fluid-filled cavity in the heart or brain.

vertebral column
The bones, muscles, tendons, and other tissues that reach from the base of the skull to the tailbone. The vertebral column encloses the spinal cord and the fluid surrounding the spinal cord. Also called spine, backbone, and spinal column.

Vesanoid
An oral preparation of tretinoin that is used to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia, usually together with other drugs. It is being studied in the treatment and prevention of other types of cancer. Tretinoin is a form of vitamin A that is also called all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA).

Viagra
A substance that is used to treat erectile dysfunction. Viagra relaxes the smooth muscle of the penis to allow increased blood flow and erection. It belongs to the family of drugs called phosphodiesterase inhibitors. Also called sildenafil.

video-assisted resection
Surgery that is aided by the use of a video camera that projects and enlarges the image on a television screen. Also called video-assisted surgery.

video-assisted surgery
Surgery that is aided by the use of a video camera that projects and enlarges the image on a television screen. Also called video-assisted resection.

villous adenoma
A type of polyp that grows in the colon and other places in the gastrointestinal tract and sometimes in other parts of the body. These adenomas may become malignant (cancerous).

villus
A tiny hair-like projection, often on the surface of mucous membranes. The plural is villi.

vinblastine
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of plant drugs called vinca alkaloids. It is a mitotic inhibitor.

vinca alkaloid
An anticancer drug that inhibits cancer cell growth by stopping cell division. It is also called an antimitotic or antimicrotubule agent, or a mitotic inhibitor.

vincristine
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of plant drugs called vinca alkaloids.

vindesine
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of plant drugs called vinca alkaloids.

vinorelbine
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of plant drugs called vinca alkaloids.

vinyl chloride (VINE-uhl KLOR-ide)
A substance used to make plastics. Exposure to vinyl chloride may increase the risk of developing liver, brain, and lung cancers; lymphoma; and leukemia.

Vioxx (VY-ox)
A drug that was being used for pain relief and was being studied for its ability to prevent cancer and to block the growth of new blood vessels to solid tumors. It belongs to the family of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Vioxx was taken off the market in the U.S. because of safety concerns. Also called rofecoxib.

viral
Having to do with a virus.

viral vector
A type of virus used in cancer therapy. The virus is changed in the laboratory and cannot cause disease. Viral vectors produce tumor antigens (proteins found on a tumor cell) and can stimulate an antitumor immune response in the body. Viral vectors may also be used to carry genes that can change cancer cells back to normal cells.

virotherapy (VY-roh-THAYR-uh-pee)
Treatment using a virus which has been changed in the laboratory to find and destroy cancer cells without harming healthy cells. It is a type of targeted therapy. Also called oncolytic virotherapy.

virtual colonoscopy (ko-lun-AHS-ko-pee)
A method under study to examine the colon by taking a series of x-rays (called a CT scan) and using a high-powered computer to reconstruct 2-D and 3-D pictures of the interior surfaces of the colon from these x-rays. The pictures can be saved, manipulated to better viewing angles, and reviewed after the procedure, even years later. Also called computed tomography colography.

virulence
The ability of a microorganism to cause damage to its host.

virulent
Refers to the ability of a virus or a bacterium to cause damage to its host.

Virulizin
A substance that activates some types of immune system cells, and is being studied as a treatment for cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called biological therapy agents.

virus (VYE-rus)
A microorganism that can infect cells and cause disease.

virus replication cycle
The reproduction cycle of viruses. A replication cycle begins with the infection of a host cell and ends with the release of mature progeny virus particles.

virus-neutralizing antibody
An antibody that binds to a virus and interferes with its ability to infect a cell.

viscera
The soft internal organs of the body, including the lungs, the heart, and the organs of the digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems.

visceral
Having to do with the viscera, which are the soft internal organs of the body, including the lungs, the heart, and the organs of the digestive, excretory, reproductive, and circulatory systems.

visceral peritoneum (VIH-suh-rul PAYR-ih-toh-NEE-um)
The layers of tissue that cover the outer surface of most organs in the abdomen, including the intestines.

viscotoxin
A member of a group of small proteins produced by mistletoe plants that are able to kill cells and may stimulate the immune system.

visilizumab
A monoclonal antibody that binds to CD3 (a substance found on T-cells) and that is being studied as a treatment for graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). It belongs to the family of drugs called monoclonal antibodies.

visual analog scale (VIH-zhoo-ul A-nuh-log skayl)
VAS. A tool used to help a person rate the intensity of certain sensations and feelings, such as pain. The visual analog scale for pain is a straight line with one end meaning no pain and the other end meaning the worst pain imaginable. A patient marks a point on the line that matches the amount of pain he or she feels. It may be used to help choose the right dose of pain medicine.

visual pathway glioma
A rare, slow-growing tumor of the eye.

vital
Necessary to maintain life. Breathing is a vital function.

vitamin
A key nutrient that the body needs in small amounts to grow and stay strong. Examples are vitamins A, C, and E.

vitamin A (VY-tuh-min...)
A family of nutrients needed by the body for vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation. Vitamin A also helps the immune system protect the body against many types of infections. Foods with vitamin A include animal foods, such as liver, whole eggs and milk, and plant foods such as carrots, cantaloupes, sweet potatoes, and spinach. Vitamin A is being studied in the prevention and treatment of some types of cancer.

vitamin A acid
A form of vitamin A that is made by the body, and can also be made in the laboratory. It is used to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia, usually together with other drugs, and to treat acne. It is being studied in the treatment and prevention of other types of cancer. Also called all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), retinoic acid, and tretinoin.

vitamin B12
A vitamin that is needed to make red blood cells and DNA (the genetic material in cells) and to keep nerve cells healthy. It is found in eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, milk, and milk products. Vitamin B12, along with folate, may be given to help reduce side effects in cancer patients being treated with drugs called antimetabolites. Also called cobalamin.

vitamin C (VY-tuh-min...)
A key nutrient that the body needs to fight infection, heal wounds, and keep tissues healthy, including the blood vessels, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bones, muscle, skin, teeth, and gums. It is an antioxidant that helps prevent tissue damage caused by free radicals. The body does not make or store vitamin C, so it must be taken in every day. It is found in many fruits and vegetables, especially green peppers, citrus, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, leafy greens, potatoes, and cantaloupe. Also called ascorbic acid.

vitamin D
A nutrient that helps the body use calcium and phosphorus and make strong bones and teeth. It is found in fatty fish, eggs, and dairy products. The skin can also make vitamin D when exposed to sunshine. Not getting enough vitamin D can cause a bone disease called rickets. Vitamin D is being studied in the prevention and treatment of some types of cancer. Also called cholecalciferol.

vitamin E
A substance used in cancer prevention. It belongs to the family of drugs called tocopherols.

vitamin K
A substance that promotes the clotting of blood.

vitamin Q10
A substance found in most tissues in the body, and in many foods. It can also be made in the laboratory. It is used by the body to produce energy for cells, and as an antioxidant. It is being studied in the treatment of cancer and in the relief of side effects caused by some cancer treatments. Also called coenzyme Q10, Q10, CoQ10, and ubiquinone.

VNP20009
A genetically modified Salmonella bacterium that is injected into the tumor. It is being studied for its ability to shrink solid tumors.

VNP40101M
A substance that is being studied as a treatment for cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called alkylating agents.

vocal cord (VOH-kul kord)
One of two small bands of muscle within the larynx that vibrates to produce the voice.

volociximab (voh-loh-SIK-sih-mab)
A monoclonal antibody that is being studied in the treatment of some types of cancer. Monoclonal antibodies are made in the laboratory and can locate and bind to cancer cells. Volociximab binds to a protein that is found on cells that line some tumor blood vessels. It belongs to the family of drugs called angiogenesis inhibitors. Also called M200.

vomit
To eject some or all of the contents of the stomach through the mouth.

von Hippel-Lindau syndrome
A rare inherited disorder in which blood vessels grow abnormally in the eyes, brain, spinal cord, adrenal glands, or other parts of the body. People with von Hippel-Lindau syndrome have a higher risk of developing some types of cancer.

voriconazole
A drug that treats infections caused by fungi.

vorinostat (vor-IN-oh-stat)
A substance that is being studied in the treatment of cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called histone deacetylase inhibitors. Also called suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA).

vorozole
A hormone therapy drug used to decrease the production of estrogen.

vulva
The external female genital organs, including the clitoris, vaginal lips, and the opening to the vagina.

vulvar cancer
Cancer of the vulva (the external female genital organs, including the clitoris, vaginal lips, and the opening to the vagina).

VX 853
A drug being studied to make cancer cells less resistant to the effects of chemotherapy.

VX-710
A drug being studied to make cancer cells less resistant to the effects of chemotherapy.

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Waldenstrom'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.

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 (LIM-foh-SI-tik lim-FOH-muh)
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 and multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 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.

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 (WOOP-ing kof)
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 (...ek-SIH-zhun)
Surgery to cut out the cancer and some healthy tissue around it.

wild clover
Trifolium pratense. A plant whose flowers have 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 and purple clover.

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 kidney cancer that usually occurs in children younger than 5 years old.

windpipe
The airway that leads from the larynx to the lungs. Also called the trachea.

wisdom tooth (WIZ-dum 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 (woond)
A break in the skin or other body tissues caused by injury or surgical incision (cut).

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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.

x-ray therapy
The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy) or from materials called radioisotopes. Radioisotopes produce radiation and can be placed in or near the tumor or in the area near cancer cells. This type of radiation treatment is called internal radiation therapy, implant radiation, interstitial radiation, or brachytherapy. Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that circulates throughout the body. X-ray therapy is also called radiation therapy, radiotherapy, and irradiation.

xenograft
The cells of one species transplanted to another species.

xeroderma pigmentosum (ZEER-oh-DER-ma pig-men-TOH-sum)
A genetic condition marked by an extreme sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation, including sunlight. People with xeroderma pigmentosum are not able to repair skin damage from the sun and other sources of ultraviolet radiation, and have a very high risk of skin cancer.

xerogram
A picture of the body recorded on paper rather than on film. Also called a xeroradiograph.

xeroradiograph
A picture of the body recorded on paper rather than on film. Also called a xerogram.

xeroradiography (ZEE-ro-ray-dee-AH-gra-fee)
A type of x-ray in which a picture of the body is recorded on paper rather than on film.

xerostomia
Dry mouth. It occurs when the body is not able to make enough saliva.

XK469
A substance that is being studied as a treatment for cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called topoisomerase II beta inhibitors.

XR9576
A substance that is being studied for its ability to overcome tumor-cell resistance to anticancer drugs. It belongs to the family of drugs called anthranilic acid derivatives. Also called tariquidar.

XRP9881
A substance that is being studied in the treatment of breast cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called taxane derivatives.

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yangona (yan-GOH-nuh)
An herb native to islands in the South Pacific. Substances taken from the root have been used in some cultures to relieve stress, anxiety, tension, sleeplessness, and problems of menopause. Yangona may increase the effect of alcohol and of certain drugs used to treat anxiety and depression. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises users that yangona may cause severe liver damage. Also called kava kava, intoxicating pepper, rauschpfeffer, and tonga. The scientific name is Piper methysticum.

yin and yang
In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang are opposite forces that form a whole. Everything contains both yin and yang in a balance that is always changing, such as hot and cold, day and night, and health and disease. In traditional Chinese medicine, disease is diagnosed and treated based on the balance of yin and yang.

YM598
A substance that is being studied as a treatment for advanced prostate cancer and for pain caused by prostate cancer that has spread to the bone. It belongs to the family of drugs called endothelin ETA receptor antagonists.

yohimbe (yo-HIM-bay)
Pausinystalia yohimbe. A tree native to West Africa. The bark is used as a supplement for bodybuilding and to enhance male sexual performance. It contains the chemical yohimbine, which is being studied in the treatment of sexual dysfunction. Yohimbe may interact with certain drugs used to treat depression, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Also called johimbe.

yttrium (IH-tree-um)
A rare elemental metal. A radioactive form of yttrium is used in radiation therapy and some types of immunotherapy.

yttrium Y 90 DOTA-biotin
A compound that contains the radioisotope yttrium Y 90 linked to the chemical biotin. Biotin is a molecule that binds strongly to the chemical streptavidin. Yttrium Y 90 DOTA-biotin will find tumor cells in the body that have been targeted by an antibody linked to streptavidin and kill them. It is being studied together with CC49-streptavidin in the treatment of cancer.

yttrium Y 90 ibritumomab tiuxetan
An anticancer drug that is a combination of a monoclonal antibody and a radioisotope (yttrium-90). Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced substances that can locate and bind to cancer cells. Also called IDEC-Y2B8 monoclonal antibody.

yttrium Y 90 SMT 487
A substance that is being studied as a treatment for cancer. Also called yttrium Y 90-DOTA-tyr3-octreotide.

yttrium Y 90-DOTA-tyr3-octreotide
A substance that is being studied in the treatment of cancer. Also called yttrium Y 90 SMT

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Zarnestra (zar-NESS-truh)
A substance that is being studied in the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and other types of cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called farnesyltransferase inhibitors. Also called tipifarnib and R115777.

ZD0473
A substance that is being studied in the treatment of cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called platinum analogs.

ZD1839
A drug that is used to treat non-small cell lung cancer and is being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Also called gefitinib.

ZD4054
A substance that is being studied in the treatment of prostate cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called endothelin-receptor antagonists.

ZD6474
A substance that is being studied as a treatment for cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called vascular endothelial growth factor-2 (VEGF-2) receptor antagonists.

Zheng (jung)
In traditional Chinese medicine, a way of diagnosing disease based on observing a set of signs and symptoms. A practitioner checks Zheng by looking at the patient; asking questions; feeling the pulse, organs, and tissues; listening to body sounds; and smelling the body.

ziconotide
A drug used in the treatment of chronic pain. Also called SNX 111.

zidovudine
A drug that inhibits the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. Also called AZT. It belongs to the family of drugs called systemic antivirals.

zileuton
A substance that is used to prevent asthma symptoms and that is being studied in the prevention of lung cancer. It belongs to the family of drugs called leukotriene blockers.

zinc oxide
A compound that may enhance immune function, especially when administered by inhalation.

zinc sulfate
A substance required for cell growth and tissue repair. It is being studied as a way to prevent or decrease mucositis caused by radiation therapy.

zoledronate (zoh-LEH-droh-nayt)
A drug that is used to treat multiple myeloma and to lower calcium levels in the blood of some cancer patients. It is also used to prevent bone fractures and reduce bone pain in people who have cancer that has spread to the bone. It belongs to the family of drugs called bisphosphonates. Also called zoledronic acid and Zometa.

zoledronic acid (ZOH-leh-DRON-ik...)
A drug that is used to treat multiple myeloma and to lower calcium levels in the blood of some cancer patients. It is also used to prevent bone fractures and reduce bone pain in people who have cancer that has spread to the bone. It belongs to the family of drugs called bisphosphonates. Also called zoledronate and Zometa.

Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
A disorder in which tumors of the pancreatic islet cells produce large amounts of gastrin (a hormone), leading to excess acid in the stomach and, possibly, a peptic ulcer (ulcer of the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine).

Zoloft
A drug that is used to treat depression. It belongs to the family of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Also called sertraline.

zolpidem (zole-PIH-dem)
A drug used to treat insomnia (inability to sleep), and anxiety. It belongs to a family of drugs known as imidazopyridines (sedative hypnotics). Also called Ambien.

Zometa (ZOH-met-uh)
A drug that is used to treat multiple myeloma and to lower calcium levels in the blood of some cancer patients. It is also used to prevent bone fractures and reduce bone pain in people who have cancer that has spread to the bone. It belongs to the family of drugs called bisphosphonates. Also called zoledronate and zoledronic acid.

zosuquidar trihydrochloride
A substance that is being studied for its ability to reverse resistance to chemotherapy. Also called LY335979.




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