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Review our mesothelioma resource featured below, a medical glossary of common terms related to this form of cancer.

adjuvant therapy (AD-joo-vant):

Treatment given after the primary treatment to increase the chances of a cure. Adjuvant therapy may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or biological therapy.

alternative medicine:

Practices used instead of standard treatments which are generally not recognized by the medical community as standard or conventional medical approaches. Alternative medicine includes dietary supplements, megadose vitamins, herbal preparations, special teas, acupuncture, massage therapy, magnet therapy, spiritual healing, and meditation.


hollow grape-like cell clusters in the lungs where air is passed through a cell membrane to the bloodstream re-oxygenating the blood.

anemia (a-NEE-mee-a):

A condition in which the number of red blood cells is below normal.


An abnormal loss of the appetite for food. Anorexia can be caused by cancer, AIDS, a mental disorder (i.e., anorexia nervosa), or other diseases.

Anticipatory nausea and vomiting (ANV):

ANV is nausea and/or vomiting that occur prior to the beginning of a new cycle of chemotherapy, in response to conditioned stimuli such as the smells, sights, and sounds of the treatment room. ANV is a classically conditioned response that typically occurs after 3 or 4 prior chemotherapy treatments, following which the person experienced acute or delayed N&V.


An arrhythmia is any deviation from or disturbance of the normal heart rhythm.

ascites (ah-SYE-teez):

Abnormal build-up of fluid in the abdomen that may cause swelling. In late-stage cancer, tumor cells may be found in the fluid in the abdomen. Ascites is a common manifestation of peritoneal mesothelioma and can occur as a manifestation of recurrent mesothelioma after surgery for the disease in the chest.


A substance sometimes found in the blood, other body fluids, or tissues. A high level of biomarker may mean that a certain type of cancer is in the body. Examples of biomarkers include CA 125 (ovarian cancer), CA 15-3 (breast cancer), CEA (ovarian, lung, breast, pancreas, and gastrointestinal tract cancers), and PSA (prostate cancer). Also called tumor marker.

biopsy (BY-op-see):

The removal of cells or tissues for examination under a microscope. When only a sample of tissue is removed, the procedure is called an incisional biopsy or core biopsy. When an entire lump or suspicious area is removed, the procedure is called an excisional biopsy. When a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle, the procedure is called a needle biopsy or fine-needle aspiration. Pleural biopsies are used to make the diagnosis of mesothelioma.


a mesothelioma which has both epithelial and sarcomatoid elements. Also called a mixed mesothelioma.

Bronchoplenral fistula:

a complication after extrapleural pneumonectomy in which there is a leakage of air from the closed bronchial tube.

cachexia (ka-KEK-see-a):

Loss of body weight and muscle mass, and weakness that may occur in patients with cancer, AIDS, or other chronic diseases. Cachexia is a common manifestation of late stage mesothelioma.

Cancer center:

A hospital that specializes only in the care of patients with cancer. An NO designated cancer center is specifically recognized and partially funded by the National Cancer Institute.


another term describing cancerous growths.

Cardiac Tamponade:

bleeding into the pericardium, or heart sac, which interferes with the functioning of the heart.


a specialist in the treatment of conditions related to the heart who would perform the appropriate tests to see if a patient if functionally able to tolerate surgery for mesothelioma.

CAT 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 computerized axial tomography, computed tomography (CT scan), or computerized tomography.


a tube which could be used to drain urine from the bladder; an intravenous catheter is used to give fluids in the vein.

chemotherapy (kee-mo-THER-apee):

Treatment with anticancer drugs. There are many varieties of these drugs which have different mechanisms for killing cancer cells.

Chest pain:

Discomfort in the chest that can be a feeling of "heaviness" to a constant boring pain requiring narcotics.

clinical trial:

A type of research study that uses volunteers to test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of a disease. The trial may be carried out in a clinic or other medical facility. Also called a clinical study.

cobalt machine:

A radioactive machine using a form of the metal cobalt, which is used as a source of radiation to treat cancer.

complementary and alternative medicine (CAM):

Forms of treatment that are used in addition to (complementary) or instead of (alternative) standard treatments. These practices generally are not considered standard medical approaches. CAM may include dietary supplements, mega dose vitamins, herbal preparations, special teas, acupuncture, massage therapy, magnet therapy, spiritual healing, and meditation.

complete response:

The disappearance of all signs of cancer in response to treatment. This does not always mean the cancer has been cured. Also called a complete remission.


The study of cells using a microscope.


The process of identifying a disease by the signs and symptoms.

Due diligence:

The level of judgment, care, prudence, determination, and activity that a person would reasonably be expected to do under particular circumstances. It is a term used to imply in medicine that a patient has investigated the many options available for them after a diagnosis is made either by using second opinions or advice from the literature or other experts in order to make a decision about how and by whom he/she would like to be treated.


Difficult, painful breathing or shortness of breath. One of the early symptoms of mesothelioma in the pleura due to the accumulation of fluid in the chest.


Echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. The picture is much more detailed than X-ray image and involves no radiation exposure


a pathological accumulation of air in the tissues of the lung.


infected fluid (pus) in the chest which can result postoperatively as a complication of surgery for mesothelioma.


The layer of epithelial cells that line the cavities of the heart, of the blood and lymph vessels and of the serous cavities.


The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the environment. It is particularly concerned with the protection of humans against cancer producing fibers like asbestos.

Epidural catheter:

A catheter which allows injection of an anesthetic drug into the space between the wall of the spinal canal and the covering of the spinal cord. This is the most reliable means for short term pain relief after an operation for mesothelioma.

epithelial (ep-ih-THEE-lee-ul):

Refers to the cells that line the internal and external surfaces of the body and the term used to describe the appearance of the cells under the microscope for the most common type of mesothelioma.


Inflammation of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach). This most frequently occurs in the setting of chest radiation after operation for mesothelioma.

external-beam radiation (ray-deeAY-shun):

Radiation therapy that uses a machine to aim high-energy rays at the cancer. Also called external radiation. Most commonly used after removal of an entire lung for mesothelioma.

extrapleural pneumonectomy:

Surgery to remove a diseased lung, part of the pericardium (membrane covering the heart), part of the diaphragm (muscle between the lungs and the abdomen), and part of the parietal pleura (membrane lining the chest). This type of surgery is used most often to treat malignant mesothelioma.


The growth of tissue containing or resembling fibers which can occur after radiation therapy or as scar after any disruption of normal tissue.

gene therapy:

Treatment that alters a gene. In studies of gene therapy for cancer, researchers are trying to improve the body's natural ability to fight the disease or to make the cancer cells more sensitive to other kinds of therapy by either adding a gene which was lost in the cancer or interfering with a gene which contributes to the growth of the cancer.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO):

A form of health insurance combining a range of coverages in a group basis. A group of doctors and other medical professionals offer care through the HMO for a flat monthly rate with no deductibles. However, only visits to professionals within the HMO network are covered by the policy. All visits, prescriptions and other care must be cleared by the HMO in order to be covered. A primary physician within the HMO handles referrals.

heated chemoperfusion:

The delivery of heated chemotherapy chemicals to the chest and/or abdomen in the operating room after the majority of the tumor is removed. A procedure in which a warmed solution containing anticancer drugs is used to bathe, or is passed through the blood vessels of the tissue or organ containing the tumor.


Coughing up blood.


In medicine, loss of blood from damaged blood vessels. A hemorrhage may be internal or external, and usually involves a lot of bleeding in a short time.

hospice (HOS-pis):

A program that provides special care for people who are near the end of life and for their families, either at home, in freestanding facilities, or within hospitals.


the use by pathologists of specific proteins with color producing labels attached to them to stain tissue sections in order to differentiate one tumor from another. Particularly important to use a battery of immunostains in order to tell whether the biopsy is a mesothelioma or a lung cancer.

informed consent:

A process in which a person learns key facts about a clinical trial, including potential risks and benefits, before deciding whether or not to participate in a study. Informed consent continues throughout the trial.

intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT):

A type of 3-dimen¬sional 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 and is being explore in mesothelioma in order to treat only the involved pleural and spare normal tissue.


intra meaning "inside" a cavity or space as opposed to inter meaning "between".

intravenous (in-tra-VEE-nus):

Within a blood vessel.

invasive cancer:

Cancer that has spread beyond the layer of tissue in which it developed and is growing into surrounding, healthy tissues. Also called infiltrating cancer.


The use of a thin, lighted tube (called an endoscope) to examine the inside of the abdomen

latency period:

The time between the actual exposure to a carcinogen like asbestos and the development of cancer, i.e. mesothelioma.

linear accelerator:

A machine that creates high-energy radiation to treat cancer, using electricity to form a stream of fast-moving subatomic particles. Also called mega-voltage (MeV) linear accelerator or a linac.

local anesthetic:

the use of an injectable drug in the area of a biopsy to deaden the area.

Local recurrence:

reappearance of the previously treated cancer at its original site; with mesothelioma, a local recurrence occurs in the pleura most frequently after surgery for the tumor.


Fluid composed of lymphocytes.

lymphatic vessels:

Interconnecting tubes that link lymph nodes and allow flow of lymph.

lymph node (limf node):

A rounded mass of lymphatic tissue that is surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue. Lymph nodes filter lymph (lymphatic fluid), and they store lymphocytes (white blood cells). They are located along lymphatic vessels. Also called a lymph gland. The involvement of lymph glands by mesothelioma changes the stage to a higher one and is an indication of a more advanced tumor.

lymphocyte (LIM-fo-sire):

A type of white blood cell. Lymphocytes have a number of roles in the immune system, including the production of antibodies and other substances that fight infection and diseases.

Magnetic resonance imaging (magNET-ik REZ-o-nans IM-a-jing) (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 CT or x-ray. MRI is especially useful for imaging the brain, spine, the soft tissue of joints, and the inside of bones. Also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.

Malignant seeding:

growth of a tumor at a site which may outside its original domain because of contamination of a new site with malignant cells after a biopsy or from cells in a malignant effusion.

mediastinoscopy (MEE-dee-a-stinAHS-ko-pee):

A procedure in which a tube is inserted into the chest to view the organs in the area between the lungs and nearby lymph nodes. The tube is inserted through an incision above the breastbone. This procedure is usually performed to get a tissue sample from the lymph nodes on the right side of the chest.


The middle of the three germ layers in the embryo, giving rise to the musculoskeletal, blood, vascular and urinogenital systems. Also creates connective tissue (including that of dermis) and contributes to some glands.

mesothelial cells:

flat cell's that originated with the mesodermal or middle layer of embryonic tissues and which form the superficial layer of the serosal membranes. These membranes line the body cavities of the abdomen and thorax


The addition of methyl groups to receptors which control the expression or suppression of genes located on all  chromosomes. The process of methylation is used to determine how tightly or loosely wrapped DNA material is on the chromosome, thereby controlling whether a gene can express its messages or not.

metastasis (meh-TAS-ta-sis):

The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. A tumor formed by cells that have spread is called a "metastatic tumor" or a "metastasis." The metastatic tumor contains cells that are like those in the original (primary) tumor. The plural form of metastasis is metastases (meh-TAS-ta-seez). metastatic recurrence: Return of the cancer at a site away from the original site.

molecularly targeted therapy:

In cancer treatment, substances that kill cancer cells by targeting key molecules involved in cancer cell growth.


a state of disease or illness related or caused by treatment for another problem. Medically significant side-effects of treatment.

multimodality treatment:

Therapy that combines more than one method of treatment.


An agent that causes insensibility or stupor; usually refers to opioids given to relieve pain.


A problem in peripheral nerve function (any part of the nervous system except the brain and spinal cord) that causes pain, numbness, tingling, swelling, and muscle weakness in various parts of the body. Neuropathies may be caused by physical injury, infection, toxic substances, disease (e.g., cancer, diabetes, kidney failure, or malnutrition), or drugs such as anticancer drugs. Also called peripheral neuropathy.

Needle Biopsy:

the extraction of tissue samples from inside the body by the insertion of a hollow needle into the chest or abdomen.


A free fold of the peritoneum, or one serving to connect viscera, support blood vessels, etc. The great, or gastrocolic, omentum forms, in most mammals, a great sac, which is attached to the stomach and transverse colon, is loaded with fat, and covers more or less of the intestines. The lesser, or gastrohepatic, omentum connects the stomach and liver and contains the hepatic vessels. The gastrosplenic omentum, or ligament, connects the stomach and spleen.


The study of cancer.


the Occupational and Safety Health Administration is a government agency which regulates the use of asbestos and sets the standards for its distribution.


affording relief but not a cure; an alleviating medicine.


Insertion of a thin needle or tube into the abdomen to remove fluid from the peritoneal cavity. Commonly used to make the diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma in patients with ascites or to diagnose recurrence of the disease in the belly.

Parietal pleura:

the lining on the inside of the chest wall which is composed of mesothelial cells and is the target organ for asbestos induced mesothelioma.

partial response:

A decrease in the size of a tumor, or in the extent of cancer in the body, in response to treatment.

pathologist (pa-THOL-o jist):

A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.


Any compound consisting of two or more amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

performance status:

A measure of how well a patient is able to perform ordinary tasks and carry out daily activities.


the heart sac that covers the heart.


The use of a think lighted tube (called a laparoscope to examine the abdomen).

peritoneum (PAIR-ih-toe-NEEum):

The tissue that lines the abdominal wall and covers most of the organs in the abdomen which is composed of mesothelial cells and is the target organ for abdominal mesothelioma.

PET scan:

Positron emission tomography scan. A procedure in which a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein, and a scanner is used to make detailed, computerized pictures of areas inside the body where the glucose is used. Because cancer cells often use more glucose than normal cells, the pictures can be used to find cancer cells in the body.

photodynamic therapy (foe-toe-dyeNAM-ik):

Treatment with drugs that become active when exposed to light. These drugs kill cancer cells.

platelet (PLAY'T-let):

A type of blood cell that helps prevent bleeding by causing blood clots to form. Also called a thrombocyte.

pleura (PLOOR-a):

A thin layer of tissue covering the lungs and lining the interior wall of the chest cavity. It protects and cushions the lungs. This tissue secretes a small amount of fluid that acts as a lubricant, allowing the lungs to move smoothly in the chest cavity while breathing.

pleural cavity:

The space enclosed by the pleura, which is a thin layer of tissue that covers the lungs and lines the interior wall of the chest cavity.

pleural effusion:

An abnormal collection of fluid between the thin layers of tissue (pleura) lining the lung and the wall of the chest cavity.

Pleural plaque:

a fibrous thickening of the parietal pleura caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers.


an operation for mesothelioma that removes the involved pleura and frees the underlying lung so that it can expand and fill the pleural cavity.

pleurodesis (PLOO-ro-DEE-sis):

A medical procedure that uses chemicals or drugs to cause inflammation and adhesion between the layers of the pleura (the tissue that covers the lungs and lines the interior wall of the chest cavity). This prevents the buildup of fluid in the pleural cavity. It is used as a treatment for severe pleural effusion. Can be performed with a variety of agents.

pneumonectomy (noo-mo-NEKtoe-mee):

An operation to remove an entire lung.

pneumonitis (noo-mon-EYE-tis):

An inflammatory infection that occurs in the lung.


air within the chest cavity.

Post Mortem:

meaning after death. A post mortem examination would be of a cadaver. An autopsy would be a type of post-mortem examination. 

prognosis (prog-NO-sis):

The likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery or recurrence. progressive disease: Cancer that is increasing in scope or severity.

protein (PRO-teen):

A molecule made up of amino acids that are needed for the body to function properly. Proteins are the basis of body structures such as skin and hair and of substances such as enzymes, cytokines, and antibodies.


An action plan for a clinical trial. The plan states what the study will do, how, and why. It explains how many people will be in it, who is eligible to participate, what study agents or other interventions they will be given, what tests they will receive and how often, and what information will be gathered.

Pulmonary embolism:

migration of a clot, usually from the legs, to the heart resulting in the blockage of arteries to the lung and resulting in acute shortness of breath. A possible cause of morbidity and morality from operations for mesothelioma.

Pulmonary function test:

a series of breathing maneuvers performed in a certified laboratory which measures the capacity of the lungs and the force with which an individual can inhale and exhale.

Quantitative lung perfusion scan:

a radioactive nuclear scan which allows the measurement of the function individual lung segments which can be used to determine how an individual will tolerate loss of lung function for an operation for mesothelioma.

radiation (ray-dee-AY-shun):

Energy released in the form of particles or electromagnetic waves. Common sources of radiation include radon gas, cosmic rays from outer space, and medical x-rays.


The use of radiation (such as x-rays) or other imaging technologies (such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging) to diagnose or treat disease.


The return of cancer, at the same site as the original (primary) tumor or in another location, after the tumor had disappeared.

recurrent cancer:

Cancer that has returned after a period of time during which the cancer could not be detected. The cancer may come back to the same site as the original (primary) tumor or to another place in the body.

red blood cell:

A cell that carries oxygen to all parts of the body. Also called an erythrocyte.


A primary physician seek expert consultation in cases by referring the patient to a specialist who may or may not be associated with a cancer center.

regional recurrence:

Return of the cancer in a location close to the original cancer.


A decrease in or disappearance of signs and symptoms of cancer. In partial remission, some, but not all, signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. In complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared, although cancer still may be in the body. response: The results measured either by x-ray or physical exam of treatment that compares the status (usually the size) of the tumor before treatment to its status after treatment.


excision (cutting out) of a portion or all of an organ or structure.

Saline Solution:

water with dissolved salt comparable to the fluids contained in the body. 


a form of cancer that arises in the supportive tissues such as bone, cartilage, fat or muscle


the least common variant of mesothelioma which has the appearance under the microscope of spindly cells which look like supportive or connective tissue.

stable disease:

Cancer that is neither decreasing nor increasing in extent or severity.

staging (STAY jing):

Performing exams and tests to learn the extent of the cancer within the body, especially whether the disease has spread from the original site to other parts of the body. It is important to know the stage of the disease in order to plan the best treatment.

standard of care:

In medicine, treatment that experts agree is appropriate, accepted, and widely used. Health care providers are obligated to provide patients with the standard of care. Also called standard therapy or best practice.

standard therapy:

In medicine, treatment that experts agree is appropriate, accepted, and widely used. Health care providers are obligated to provide patients with standard therapy. Also called standard of care or best practice.

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 the disease, side effects caused by treatment of the disease, and psychological, social, and spiritual problems related to the disease or its treatment. Also called palliative care, comfort care, and symptom management.


repeated DNA sequences that form the ends of each chromosome. During cell division, when the chromosomes are duplicated, some of these segments of repeated code break off. Once the telomeres are gone and only active genetic material forms the ends of the cell, the cell can no longer divide without destroying itself. The length of the telomeres therefore determines the lifespan of a cell. Human cells can divide approximately 60 times before exhausting their telomeres. See also Telomerase


an enzyme that replaces DNA segments that would otherwise be truncated from chromosomes during cell division. Telomerase is found to be connected with sperm and blood cell production, whose mother cells consequently have no limited life span.

thoracentesis (thor-a-sen-TEE-sis):

Removal of fluid from the pleural cavity through a needle inserted between the ribs.

thoracic (thor-ASS-ik):

Having to do with the chest.


The use of a thin, lighted tube (called an endoscope) to examine the inside of the chest.

thoracotomy (thor-a-{KAH-toe-mee):

An operation to open the chest.


a ringing or rushing sound in the ears caused by physical or nerve damage to the hearing hair cells in the ear. The brain fills in the missing frequencies with white noise that can be very aggravating and distracting.


Having to do with poison or something harmful to the body. Toxic substances usually cause unwanted side effects.

Video Assisted Surgery:

examination of the chest or abdomen via the insertion of an endoscope through a small incision in the chest wall or belly. Also called VAT or Video Assisted Thoracoscopy or VAP Video Assisted Peritoneoscopy.


a term describing any of the large internal organs of the body found in any of the three great cavities of the body but especially those of the abdomen,

Visceral pleura:

the mesothelial lining on the surface of the lung. This lining is the targeted tissue for mesothelioma.

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.


A series of tests to discover information about the patient, most commonly to define extent of disease or suitability for a given treatment.