Cancer Terms and FactsJump to first letter of the term in this glossary:
CA-125 blood test
CA-125 is a small protein molecule that is found on surfaces of many organs and body cavities such as that of the ovary, fallopian tube, and peritoneum. This molecule is elevated in the blood of women with cancers of the ovary, fallopian tube, or peritoneum. However, it may also be elevated in many other benign inflammatory conditions. This is why the CA-125 cannot be used reliably to screen women for ovarian cancer. The CA-125 is valuable in following patients known to have ovarian cancer. For example, if a woman has ovarian cancer and an elevated CA-125 then we know that if while on treatment her CA-125 level decreases, then the treatment is working. If a women was treated for ovarian cancer and goes into remission and then develops an increase in her CA-125 then it is concerning for recurrence of the disease.
The opening of the uterus. It is the part of the uterus that can be seen when a gynecologic exam is performed. A PAP smear scrapes cells from the surface of the cervix.
A test used to confirm that a woman with suspicious findings has cancer. This usually requires a biopsy (or a piece of the tumor) to be evaluated by a pathologist under the microscope. In some rare cases a blood test may be used to diagnose particular cancers.
The lining of the uterus.
These extend from the top of the uterus toward the ovaries. The tubes serve as a passageway for eggs leaving the ovaries to meet the sperm. When they meet, the fertilization process of a pregnancy begins.
Grade of gynecologic cancers
A designation given to a cancer based on the cell structure that the Pathologist sees under the microscope. Knowing the grade of the cancer can be helpful in predicting things, such as its ability to spread (metastasize) to other sites and its likelihood of responding to or resisting certain treatments.
Glands found throughout the body that filter bodily fluids and play an important role in the body's immune defense. The lymph nodes most frequently involved in gynecologic cancers include the lymph nodes deep in the pelvis, called pelvic lymph nodes, those surrounding the aorta and vena cava, called periaortic lymph nodes, and those in the groin, called inguinal lymph nodes.
A very general term for a tumor.
A fatty apron of tissue that hangs off of the stomach and colon within the peritoneal cavity.
These are the organs that make eggs for a potential pregnancy, and make hormones including estrogen, progesterone, and androgens. When the hormonal function of the ovaries declines, a woman goes through menopause.
A scraping of the top layer of cells from the surface of the cervix that are then evaluated under the microscope.
The cavity of the abdomen and pelvis that holds all of the pelvic and abdominal organs.
The thin, smooth lining that coats the inside surfaces of the abdominal and pelvic cavities. It is similar to the surface of the ovaries.
Removal of the uterus, cervix, a portion of the upper vagina, and the parametrial tissues.
The removal of a portion of the upper vagina, cervix, and parametria but preserves the uterine body for future possibilities of carrying a pregnancy (instead of a Radical hysterectomy, see above).
A test used on women without any signs or symptoms of cancer. It is used to detect cancers in their earliest stages, either when they are called pre-cancers or in the earliest stages of invasive cancer. Screening tests are valuable because early detection leads to effective treatment and can make what could have been a deadly disease a highly curable condition.
Example: Cervical cancer was once the leading female cancer killer in the world until the PAP smear screening resulted in early detection and high rates of cure in developed countries. Circumstances prevent the effective use of PAP smear screening for cervical cancer in many underdeveloped countries where cervical cancer remains a deadly disease.
Unfortunately, there are no reliable screening tests for other gynecologic cancers to date.
Stage of gynecological cancers
A description of the degree the cancer has spread from its site of origin. The stage of a gynecologic cancer is often the most important indicator of long-term survival. It is also helpful in predicting the cancer's likelihood of responding to treatments, the need for further therapy, and its ability to recur.
Cancers can spread, or metastasize, by:
- Extending into neighboring tissues and organs
- Through channels that connect to lymph nodes in the region of the cancer
- Through the blood, by way of veins and arteries, to distant sites throughout the body
Most gynecologic cancers require a surgical procedure to determine the stage of the disease. Other tools that may help determine the stage of the disease include blood tests, and radiological tests, such as CT scans, an MRI, x-rays, and PET scans.
Evaluations that are performed to determine the extent of spread of cancer (or lack of spread).
Removal of the uterus and cervix.
Cancers that arise from placental tissue within the uterus.
A tumor can be a number of things such as, a cyst (fluid-filled), it could be solid, it could be benign, or it could be malignant.
Also called the womb, as it is the organ that holds a growing pregnancy. The lining of the uterus is the endometrium. A menstrual period occurs when the endometrium sheds and drains through the cervix and vagina.
The canal extending inward from the vulva to the cervix. It allows for menstrual flow to exit from the uterus and for the delivery of a baby. It also allows for insertion of the penis during sexual intercourse.
The folds of skin outside of and surrounding the vagina.