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Cancer Terminology

 **Accuracy checked 23 March 2015, 

 Dr Ken Wyatt BSc BVMS FANZCVS, Registered  

 Specialist in Veterinary Oncology, Perth Veterinary Oncology  

Antigen- Anything that the immune system can target.  Almost always a protein.

Atrial- To do with the top 2 (left and right) chambers of the heart

Biological behaviour – The term used which describes the way the tumour is actually seen to behave. This may differ from the behaviour that is expected, based on the pathology result.

Benign-  Not cancerous.  Benign tumours can grow but do not spread to other parts of the body.

Carcinoma-  A malignant tumour made up of epithelial cells which tend to invade the surrounding tissues and spread to other organs.

Needle Core Biopsy- Using a needle-shaped device to remove core samples of tissue from the tumour

Cytology-The study of cells spread out in a single layer using a microscope

Dermal- The skin

Diffuse- Spread out through an organ

Disseminated -Spread throughout the body

Excisional biopsy – Removal of the entire visible portion of the tumour

Fine Needle Aspirate- Otherwise called FNA is the use of a hypodermic needle to remove cells from the tumour

Grading – estimating how aggressive the tumour is

Histiocytes- Cells within the tissues created in the bone marrow and part of the immune system.

Histopathology -  The study of diseased  tissues using a microscope

Holistic - treatment that focusses on the "whole" patient

Hypodermal - Tissue under the skin

Immunology - The study of the immune system


Incisional biopsy – Removal of a small area of the tumour, usually to get a diagnosis

Integrative - The combination of various methods of treatment to get the best outcome for the patient.  Used properly, the approach should still rely on evidence-based medicine.

Leukocytes – White blood cells that form in the bone marrow  as part of the immune system

Margins - measurement between the edge of the tumour and the surrounding tissue. Gross margins are those visible to the surgeon. Microscopic margins are the ‘true’ margins measured by the pathologist when the tumour is submitted to the lab.

Mitotic index - the rate at which cells divide, usually measured as the number that the pathologist can see actually caught dividing under the microscope, as cells dividing PER HIGH POWER FIELD (meaning a single visible portion of the slide under the microscope or as PER 10 HIGH POWER FIELDS or /10hpf)

Macrophages- White blood cells within the tissues created in the bone marrow.  

Malignant- Malignant tumours are capable of killing the patient, usually by spreading through the body

Metastasize - Spread from one part of the body to another

Neoplasm - An abnormal mass otherwise known as a tumour

Neutrophils - A type of white blood cell made by the bone marrow that is most important in fighting bacteria

Oncologist – A cancer specialist. There are medical oncologists, surgical oncologists and radiation oncologists.

Primary Site - The site where the original tumour started

Sarcoma- A  malignant tumour originating from connective tissue

Staging - Determines where in the body the cancer can be found

Systemic – Affecting the whole body or multiple organs

Tumour- An abnormal mass of tissue which occurs when cells divide more than they should or they don't die when they should.  They can be either benign or malignant and are often referred to as a neoplasm.

Vaccine -Treats a cancer with the hope of an immune response

Visceral – Internal organs of the body

Wide local excision - Surgical procedure to remove tumour and surrounding tissue. Because the full extent of a cancer is not visible to the surgeon, normal appearing tissue is also removed to increase the chance of getting all the tumour.