Absolute neutrophil count (ANC): The absolute number of white blood cells that are neutrophils or bands in a sample of blood.
ABVD: A chemotherapy combination commonly used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma. The drugs used are Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine, and Dacarbazine (DTIC).
Acute: Sudden onset of disease or symptoms.
Adjuvant therapy: Anticancer drugs or hormones given after surgery and/or radiation to help prevent the cancer from coming back.
Advanced disease: Disease that has spread from the original site to multiple locations.
Adriamycin: A chemotherapy drug (generic name doxorubicin) commonly used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma and other forms of lymphoma.
Aggressive lymphoma: The National Cancer Institute designation for high-grade and some intermediate-grade lymphomas. Aggressive lymphomas grow quicker than indolent lymphomas but respond well to chemotherapy.
AIDS-related lymphoma: Certain types of lymphoma may develop in persons whose immune system is weakened by acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) by the human immunodeficiency (HIV) virus.
Allogenic transplant: A procedure where a patient receives stem cells from the bone marrow or peripheral blood of a compatible donor.
Alopecia: Loss of hair on the head or all over the body. Alopecia can be caused by certain chemotherapy drugs.
Alprazolam: A medication used to treat anxiety or insomnia. One trade name is Xanax®.
AMGEN: A pharmaceutical company making drugs for the treatment of ailments caused by cancer treatment. Neupogen® (G-CSF), which stimulates the production of white blood cells, is manufactured by AMGEN.
Analgesic: A pain relieving drug. Common types are aspirin, acetaminophen (most common brand is Tylenol®), and ibuprofen (most common brand is Motrin®).
Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL): A fairly new type of large cell NHL. Most cases are T-cell or cell type unknown (null). It can be systemic in children or young adults or cutaneous (in/on the skin). Disease limited to the skin is quite indolent and remains localized to the skin with many examples of spontaneous remission. The systemic form can involve lymph nodes and extranodal sites that act aggressively but respond to chemotherapy used to treat other large cell lymphomas. Previously called Ki-1 lymphoma.
Anaplastic: A term used to describe cells that divide rapidly and no longer resemble their original appearance. Anaplastic cells grow without form or structure and are seen in most (but not all) cancers.
Anemia: A condition caused by a reduction in the amount of red blood cells produced by the bone marrow. It causes weakness and lack of energy, dizziness, shortness of breath, headaches, and irritability.
Antibiotic: A drug that kills or reduces the growth of bacterial infection.
Antibody: A protein (immunoglobulin) formed by the body to fight infections. Antibodies are produced by plasma cells (mature B cells) in response to antigens. Antibodies are released by the plasma cells into the circulatory system as exact mirror images of a specific antigen.
Antiemetic: A drug that reduces or prevents nausea or vomiting. Two relatively new antiemetic drugs for chemotherapy-induced nausea are Zofran® and Kytril®.
Antigen: Substances capable of stimulating an immune response. The response may be to foreign chemical substances or proteins on the surface of infectious agents, tumour cells, or foreign tissue cells.
Antinauseant: A medication that prevents nausea.
Antipyretic: A medication that reduces fever.
Apheresis: Collection of peripheral blood stem cells by a device similar to a dialysis machine. The blood may be taken from a catheter or, if the patient’s veins are good, from the arms. Gathering enough cells for an autologous stem-cell transplant may take from one to five days, depending on the amount of stem cells the patient has in their blood.
Aplastic anemia (AA): A deficiency of certain types of blood cells caused by poor bone marrow function.
Apoptosis: Programmed cell death. If apoptosis is affected, then the cell will not die, causing a malignant/cancerous condition.
Autologous bone marrow transplant (Auto BMT): Bone marrow is taken from the patient’s own body prior to high-dose chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment. After treatment, the marrow, which may or may not have been treated with chemotherapy, is reinfused into the patient to restore the immune system. See also bone marrow transplantation.
Autologous peripheral blood stem-cell transplant (auto PBSCT): Stem cells are taken from the patient’s own body prior to treatment. After treatment, the stem cells are reinfused into the patient to restore the immune system. Also see peripheral blood stem- cell transplant.
Autologous transplant: A type of bone marrow or stem-cell transplant where the patient receives their own cells instead of those from a donor.
Axillary lymph node: Axilla (axillary): Refers to the area under the arm (armpit). A lymph node found in the armpit (axilla).
B-cell: A type of lymphocyte (a specific type of white blood cell). B cells respond to the presence of antigens by dividing and maturing into plasma cells.
B-cell lymphomas: NHLs that arise from cancers in the development of B-cells.
B symptom: Symptoms that some people may experience with lymphoma. B symptoms include fever, night sweats and weight loss. They are often associated with more advanced disease.
Benign tumour: A noncancerous growth that does not spread to other parts of the body.
Beta (2) microglobulin (B2M): A protein found in the bloodstream that, if found in large amounts, could mean a more aggressive form of lymphoma.
Bexxar®: A radiolabelled monoclonal antibody in clinical trials as a treatment for B-cell NHL.
Binet staging: The staging system for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) that is mostly commonly used in Europe. The Binet staging system classifies CLL based on clinical findings that include the number of lymph node sites involved and the degree of involvement of the lymph nodes, liver and spleen.
Biologic therapy: Treatments that stimulate the patient’s immune system to fight infection or disease. Also called biological therapy or immunotherapy.
Biopsy: The removal of a small piece of the tumour for examination under a microscope. A biopsy is an effective method of determining whether a tumour is malignant (cancerous) or benign.
Bleomycin: A chemotherapy drug commonly used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma.
Blood cell: A general term describing the three cellular components of blood (white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets), all which are made in the bone marrow.
Blood count: A routine test to determine the amount of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets in a sample of blood. Often used to determine if the body can withstand another round of chemotherapy. Also called the complete blood count (CBC).
Bone marrow: The material inside the large bones of the body that produces red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, white blood cells make up the immune system, and platelets are important for blood clotting. The bone marrow contains immature forms of these cells, called stem cells, which can be harvested for transplant.
Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy: The removal and analysis of a sample of bone marrow, usually through a needle inserted into the hip bone. A pathologist will examine the sample for normal and possibly abnormal cells.
Bone marrow harvest: The removal and collection of bone marrow, usually done prior to a bone marrow transplant but sometimes done as a preventative measure in case of relapse.
Bone marrow suppression: A decrease in the number of blood cells produced; it may be a result of cancer treatment or tumour invasion of bone marrow.
Bone marrow transplantation (BMT): Treatment in which healthy bone marrow replaces bone marrow that has been affected by a disease or by treatment for a disease. Usually the patient receives high-dose chemotherapy and possibly radiation to kill cancer. In the process the patient’s ability to fight infection is also damaged. The donated bone marrow is infused into the patient to restore the immune system. The marrow may come from the patient prior to the procedure (autologous BMT) or from a suitable donor (allogeneic BMT).
Bone scan: A procedure where an image of the bones is produced by injection of a radioisotope and subsequent scan for the isotope absorbed by the bones. It is usually used to determine if cancer has spread to the bones.
Burkitt’s lymphoma: A type of NHL that most often occurs in young people between the ages of 12 and 30. The disease usually causes a rapidly growing tumour in the abdomen.
Cancer: A general term for more than 100 diseases that are characterized by uncontrolled, abnormal growth of cells. Cancer cells can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body. Lymphoma is a subset of cancers that start in the lymph system. A malignant tumour. Carcinogen: A substance that causes cancer.
CAT scan or CT scan: A series of x-rays that provides detailed, three-dimensional images of the inside of the body.
Catheter (see also venous catheter): A device, usually a flexible tube, that is used to transport medications into the body (through a vein) or take fluids (e.g., urine) out of the body.
CBC: Complete blood count. See also blood count.
CD5 antigen: A protein on the surface of some B-cells. This protein can be found during the biopsy procedure and, if present, is used to confirm the diagnosis of certain types of NHL.
CD20 antigen: A protein found on the surface of B-cells. The CD20 antigen is used as a target for monoclonal antibody therapy in certain types of NHL.
CD30 antigen: A protein found on the surface of some T-cells. This protein can be found during the biopsy procedure and, if present, is used to confirm the diagnosis of a certain type of T-cell NHL: anaplastic large cell lymphoma, primary cutaneous-type.
CD38 antigen: A protein on the surface of some immune cells. The presence of CD38 in CLL can be used to determine prognosis.
Cell: The basic building block of all living tissues.
Central line: An intravenous catheter that is inserted into a large vein, usually in the neck or near the heart. It is used to administer medication or withdraw blood.
Central nervous system (CNS): The control centre for the body, which includes the brain and spinal cord.
Central nervous system lymphoma: A type of NHL that is located primarily in the central nervous system.
Central venous catheter: A special thin flexible tube placed in a large vein. It remains there for as long as it is needed to deliver or withdraw fluids.
Cerebrospinal fluid: Watery fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. In NHL, it may be examined to determine if the cancer has spread to these areas.
Chemoresistant: A term used to describe a tumour that does not respond to chemotherapy.
Chemosensitive: A term used to describe a tumour that responds to chemotherapy
Chemotherapy: Treatment with anticancer drugs. The type of drugs used are determined by the type of cancer and the treatment determined by the doctor.
Chemotherapy cycle: A term used to describe the method of administering chemotherapy. It includes the duration of treatment and the rest period for the patient to recover. Chemotherapy for NHL may require three or more cycles.
CHOP chemotherapy: A combination chemotherapy treatment that consists of three individual chemotherapy drugs (cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin and vincristine) and a steroid medication (prednisone). CHOP is one of the most common chemotherapy regimens used in NHL.
Chromosome: A strand of DNA and related proteins that carries the genes and transmits hereditary information.
Chronic: Lasting for a long period of time or marked by frequent recurrence.
Classification (of NHL): the determination of the exact type of NHL a patient has. There are many different types of NHL (e.g., follicular lymphoma, mantle cell lymphoma, etc.) and it is important to classify the tumour in order to choose the most appropriate treatment.
Clinical trial: Research conducted with volunteer patients, usually to evaluate a new treatment, under strictly controlled conditions. Each trial is designed to answer scientific questions and to find better ways to treat individuals with a specific disease.
CNS lymphoma: See central nervous system lymphoma.
Colony-stimulating factor (CSF): A treatment used to stimulate the production of certain blood cells in the bone marrow. Agents include granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF).
Combination chemotherapy: The use of more than one drug to treat cancer. Some combinations are ABVD (Hodgkin) or CHOP (NHL).
Compazine (prochlorperazine): A medication used to treat nausea and vomiting.
Complementary therapy: Techniques or approaches often used in addition to standard treatment. Examples are diet or meditation.
Complete blood count (CBC): A routine blood test used to determine the number of blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets) in the bloodstream. A CBC is commonly done during a normal check-up with a doctor, and is often done during cancer treatment to determine if the patient can go ahead with their chemotherapy treatment.
Complete remission: Also called complete response, it means that all signs of the cancer have disappeared following treatment. Partial remission/partial response means that the tumour has decreased in size but is still present.
Computed tomography: An x-ray procedure that uses a computer to produce detailed three-dimensional or cross-sectional pictures of the body. Also called CAT or CT scan. Depending on the part of the body scanned, this may involve drinking a substance to outline the digestive system (contrast), having contrast injected into the rectum, and/or an iodine contrast intravenously prior or during the scan.
CT scan or CAT scan: A series of x-rays that provide detailed, three-dimensional images of the inside of the body.
Cure: In the case of lymphoma, the term used when there is no sign of disease present in the body and adequate time has passed so that the chances of recurrence are small.
Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL): A type of NHL that first appears on the skin. Also called mycosis fungoides.
CVP chemotherapy: A combination chemotherapy treatment that consists of two chemotherapy drugs (cyclophosphamide and vincristine) and a steroid medication (prednisone). CVP is a common chemotherapy regimen used in NHL.
Cytogenetics: Identification of abnormal chromosomes in a cellular tissue sample.
Cytology: The study of cells, their origin, structure, function and pathology.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV): A type of virus that can cause infections in healthy individuals but is dangerous to immunosuppressed patients. CMV is a member of the Herpes family of viruses. The virus may manifest itself as pneumonia, colitis or hepatitis.
Cytotoxic: Toxic to cells.
Dacarbazine: A chemotherapy drug commonly used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma. Also called DTIC.
Debulking: Reducing the size of a tumour often through surgery but possibly through radiation therapy.
Denial: A process of automatically blocking awareness of painful realities, thoughts or feelings in order to protect oneself from emotional distress.
Diaphragm: The thin muscle below the lungs and heart that separates the chest from the abdomen. Disease progression: A term used to describe a worsening of the disease despite treatment. The term is often used interchangeably with treatment failure.
Diuretics: Drugs that help the body get rid of excess water and salt.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid): The part of the cell that contains and controls all genetic information.
Dose intensity: The total amount of a chemotherapy drug delivered to a patient in a certain period of time. The ultimate goal is to reach the highest dose possible where the side effects remain at an acceptable level.
Doxorubicin: The generic name for Adriamycin, a chemotherapy drug commonly used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid): The building block for all genetic material. It is a molecule inside cells that carries genetic information and passes it on from one generation to the next.
Drug resistance: The failure of (cancer) cells to respond to drugs (chemotherapy).
DTIC: See Dacarbazine.
Durable power of attorney: The legal designation of a person responsible for managing another person’s affairs if he/she becomes unable to do so. It can be for all decisions or only for healthcare decisions (healthcare proxy).
Durable remission: The term used to describe cancer that has been in remission for many years. The longer the remission, the greater the chance for cure.
Dysgeusia: An altered sense of taste.
Dysphagia: Difficulty in swallowing.
Echocardiogram: An imaging technique where an ultrasound machine is used to visualize the heart. Some chemotherapy medications can affect the heart and as such, cancer patients may require an echocardiogram.
Edema: Swelling caused by excessive amounts of body fluid.
Empathy: Understanding another person’s feelings by remembering or imagining being in a similar situation.
Empowerment: Having the right to make one’s own choices and of having the ability to act on them.
Epidemiology: The study of the causes, distribution, and control of disease in populations.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV): A retrovirus that has been associated with the development of Burkitt’s lymphoma and is present in about 50% of the time in Hodgkin lymphoma patients. The link between the virus and cancer is still unknown.
Erythema: Redness of the skin.
Erythrocyte: The red blood cell that carries oxygen to the cells and carries carbon dioxide away from them.
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR): The distance red blood cells travel in one hour in a sample of blood as they settle to the bottom of a test tube. The sedimentation rate is increased in inflammation, infection, cancer, rheumatic diseases, and diseases of the blood and bone marrow.
Etiology: The cause(s) of disease. The cause of NHL is not known.
Excision: Removal by surgery.
Extranodal disease: A term describing NHL that has spread outside of the lymphatic system.
Fatigue: Excessive tiredness and lack of energy, with a decreased capacity for daily activities.
FC chemotherapy: A combination chemotherapy treatment that consists of two individual chemotherapy drugs (fludarabine and cyclophosphamide). FC is a common chemotherapy treatment used in CLL.
Fertility: The ability to have children. Several treatments for lymphoma affect fertility.
FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization): A blood test can be performed that looks for mutations within the CLL cells. The presence of certain chromosomal changes may mean that your CLL is a more aggressive type. This test is done in specialized labs.
Flow cytometry: A procedure that examines the cancer cells and their DNA. It is helpful in the diagnosis of cancers where a mediastinal mass (a mass/tumour behind the breastbone in the central area of the upper chest) is present.
Follicle: A cluster of cells.
Fraction: A single dose of radiation.
Gallium (radioisotope) scan: An imaging technique to detect cancer. Gallium is a chemical taken up by some cancer cells. In this procedure, a safe amount of radioactive gallium is injected into the patient, after which the patient undergoes an x-ray procedure where the radioactive gallium makes the tumour(s) visible. Gallium scans are performed in the nuclear medicine clinic in the hospital.
Gastrointestinal: Having to do with the digestive tract, which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines.
Generalized disease: Cancer that has spread throughout the body.
Gene: The part of DNA that is responsible for determining a person’s characteristics and that carries information from old cells to new cells.
Gene therapy: The use of genes to treat cancer and other diseases.
Genetic mutation: A permanent change to the normal sequence of a gene, usually caused by external agents such as chemicals or radiation. Genetic mutations may cause certain cancers.
Genome: The complete genetic information of a species.
Gleevec®: The new drug Gleevec® was approved by the FDA May 10, 2001. It has been shown to be effective in creating lasting remissions for numerous cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma.
Grade (clinical grade): NHL can be classified as low, intermediate or high grade depending on how fast the cancer is growing. The term indolent is often used to describe low-grade NHL, whereas aggressive denotes a higher grade NHL.
Graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD): A complication that can occur after a patient has received a bone marrow or stem-cell transplant from a donor (an allogeneic transplant). The immune cells from the donor (the graft) react to the patient’s body cells (the host) and mount an immune response against them.
Granulocyte: A type of white blood cell that fights bacterial infection or foreign substances. They congregate around, engulf, and destroy the offending object in a process called phagocytosis. Granulocytes then die and are ingested by monocytes. (A granulocyte is also called a neutrophil).
Granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF): A treatment agent used to stimulate the production of granulocytes in the bone marrow. Manufactured by AMGEN under the name Neupogen®, it is often given during or after chemotherapy to boost the immune system.
Granulocyte/macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF): A treatment agent used to stimulate the production of macrophages, granulocytes, and eosinophils in the bone marrow. It is sometimes given to boost the immune system.
Groin: the area where the thigh meets the hip.
Harvesting: A procedure where stem cells are removed from the bone marrow or peripheral blood of a patient or donor. The harvested stem cells are transplanted to the patient following high-dose chemotherapy.
Hemophagocytic syndrome: A serious condition in which there is uncontrolled activation of certain parts of the immune system. It can occur in certain types of NHL: subcutaneous panniculitis-like T-cell lymphoma and extranodal T-cell lymphoma of nasal type.
Hematocrit: The number of red blood cells within a sample of blood.
Hematologist: Doctors specializing in diseases of the blood. As NHL affects lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell), hematologists are often involved in the care of NHL patients.
Hematology: The study of blood, blood-producing organs, and blood disorders.
Hepatosplenomegaly: Abnormal enlargement of both the liver and spleen.
High grade: An aggressive grade of NHL denoting fast growth. NHL types that are high grade are Burkitt’s lymphoma, non-Burkitt’s, diffuse, leukemia/lymphoma, lymphoblastic and T-cell
Histiocytic lymphoma: The old Rappaport classification for the form of NHL now known as large cell lymphoma.
Hodgkin Lymphoma: One of the two main types of lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma is distinguished from NHL by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells. It commonly affects individuals between 15 and 35 years of age and, if caught early, has a high rate of remission.
Hospice: A program designed for caring for terminally ill patients and their families.
HLA: See human leukocyte antigen
HTLV-1 infection: HTLV stands for human T-lymphotropic virus. It is a family of viruses that infects T-cells and can make people more likely to develop a certain type of NHL: adult T-cell lymphoma. This virus is rare in North America and is more common in countries such as Japan and China.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): The virus that causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).
Human leukocyte antigens (HLA): A set of six antigens used to match a blood or bone marrow donor to a recipient. These antigens appear on white blood cells as well as cells of almost all other tissues and are analogous to red blood cell antigens (type A, B, O, etc.). By typing for HLA antigens, donors and recipients of white blood cells, platelets and organs can be matched to ensure good performance and survival of transfused and transplanted cells.
Hyperalimentation: Nutritional support given through a vein.
Hyperviscosity: Abnormal thickening of the blood.
Hypogeusia: A diminished sense of taste.
IgVH mutation: A marker that can be used to determine the prognosis of patients with CLL.
Immune system: The system within the body that recognizes and fights foreign cells and disease.
Immunophenotyping: Determining what kind of surface molecules are present on cells. Used by pathologists to determine the exact type of lymphoma from a tissue sample.
Immunosuppressant: A drug (such as chemotherapy) or other factor that prevents the immune system from reacting to foreign substances and fighting disease.
Immunosuppression: Suppression of the immune response as a result of drugs (chemotherapy) or radiation.
Immunotherapy: Treatments that stimulate the patient’s immune system to fight infection or disease. Also called biologic therapy.
Improvement: The term used when the tumour size has decreased but is still larger than half of its original size.
Indolent lymphoma: A slow-growing form of NHL. Indolent NHL and low-grade NHL are term often used interchangeably.
Induction therapy: Cancer treatment used as the first step towards shrinking the tumour(s). If necessary, induction therapy is followed by additional therapy to treat the remaining cancer cells/tumours.
Informed consent: Legally required procedure to ensure that a patient knows about the potential risks and benefits of a treatment before it is started.
Infusion: Administration of fluids or medications into the blood through the veins.
Inguinal: The pubic/groin region.
Injection: Use of a syringe and needle to deliver medications to the body (also called a “shot”).
Interferon: A natural substance produced by the body in response to a virus. Interferons can stimulate the immune system to fight the growth of cancer.
Interleukin: A natural hormone-like substance produced by the body that activates the growth of certain types of lymphocytes.
Intermediate-grade: A grade of NHL denoting usually moderate growth. NHL types that are intermediate grade are large cell follicular, mixed cell diffuse, large cell diffuse and immunoblastic diffuse. NCI is now classifying lymphomas as indolent or aggressive. Often considered an aggressive form of NHL that usually requires prompt treatment.
Intra-arterial (IA): Into an artery.
Intralesional (IL): Into the cancerous area in the skin.
Intramuscular (IM): Into the muscle.
Intrathecal (IT): Into the spinal fluid.
Intravenous (IV): Within, or administered into, a vein.
Jaundice: A yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. Most likely cause is something wrong with the liver or gall bladder.
Kiel Classification: A classification system introduced in 1974 for differentiating types of NHL. Popular in Europe. Newer classifications such as the Revised European American Lymphoma Classification (REAL) system are more commonly used today.
Ki-1 lymphoma: See anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).
Kytril: (generic drug name Granisetron): An antiemetic (nausea suppression) drug commonly prescribed for chemotherapy induced nausea.
Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH): An enzyme found in the blood that indicates damage to cells. If elevated, it may indicate a more aggressive form of NHL.
Lacteals: Small lymphatic vessels found in the digestive tract. They collect digested fat from the intestines and transport it to the circulatory system.
Lethal midline granuloma: See nasal T-cell lymphoma.
Leukemia: A cancer of white blood cells. In leukemia, the cancerous cells are in the blood, whereas in lymphoma the cancerous cells (lymphocytes) are primarily found outside the bloodstream (in lymph nodes).
Leukocyte: A white blood cell (WBC). There are three main types of leukocytes: monocytes, granulocytes and lymphocytes.
Leukopenia: A low level of white blood cells. Since white blood cells are the main cells of the immune system, low levels leave a person at increase risk of infection.
Localized disease: A cancer that is contained in a certain area of the body and has not spread throughout the body.
Local therapy: Treatment that only affects a small area of the body.
Low-grade: A slow-growing grade of NHL denoting usually low growth. NHL types that are low grade (indolent) are small lymphocytic, small cleaved cell follicular, mixed follicular, small cleaved cell diffuse, intermediately differentiated diffuse and cutaneous T-cell (mycosis fungoides).
Lumbar puncture: Also called a spinal tap. Involves the removal of the fluid in the spine for examination.
Lymphadenopathy: Swelling or enlargement of the lymph nodes due to infection or cancer.
Lymphatics: Lymphatic vessels and channels that carry lymphatic fluid and lymphocytes throughout the body.
Lymph (lymphatic fluid): The watery fluid contained in lymphatic vessels. Lymph circulates lymphocytes throughout the lymphatic system.
Lymph node biopsy: Usually the first step in the diagnosis of NHL. Either a section or the entire lymph node is removed (by a surgeon) for examination under a microscope. A lymph node biopsy is an effective method of determining whether a lymph node is malignant (cancerous) or benign.
Lymph nodes: Small, bean-shaped organs that contain lymphocytes. Lymph nodes filter the lymphatic fluid and remove any foreign invaders. There are over 100 lymph nodes throughout the body located in clusters in the lymphatic system. The major lymph node clusters are found in the neck, under the arms, and in the chest, abdomen and groin.
Lymphangiogram: An x-ray of the lymphatic system. A contrast agent (dye) is injected (usually between the toes) to outline the lymphatic vessels and organs. Often not performed in favour of a CT scan.
Lymphatic system: The network of lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes and other organs that transport lymphocytes throughout the body to fight infection and disease.
Lymphedema: The swelling of the arms and or legs that may result from the blockage or removal of lymph nodes. Not indicative of lymphoma.
Lymphoblast: An immature lymphocyte (B-cell or T-cell).
Lymphoblastic lymphoma: A very aggressive NHL often occurring in younger patients. Intensive combination chemotherapy is standard treatment.
Lymphocytes: A type of white blood cell that fights infection and disease and is found in the bloodstream, the lymphatic system, and lymphoid organs. The two main types of lymphocytes are B-cells (bone marrow derived lymphocytes) and T-cells (thymus derived lymphocytes or thymocytes). The two cell types combine forces to regulate the immune response.
Lymphoid: Pertaining to lymphocytes or the lymphatic system.
Lymphoma: A subset of cancers that begin in the lymph system. Lymphomas are broken down into two categories-Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas. The word for lymphoma is in different languages: Lymphom (German), lymphom (Danish), linfoma (Spanish, Portuguese and Italian), lymphome (French), lymfoom (Dutch).
Lymphomatoid granulomatosis: A B-cell lymphoma that is now called pulmonary angiocentric B-cell lymphoma.
Lymphomatoid papulosis (LyP): A non-cancerous skin disorder that can progress to Hodgkin lymphoma or forms of NHL. Skin lesions come and go. The drug methotrexate is sometimes prescribed to speed the healing process and prevent new lesions. The prevalence rate is estimated at 1.2 to 1.9 cases per million population. It does not appear to be familial.
Lymphoplasmacytoid lymphoma: An indolent NHL.
MabThera: UK trade name for rituximab (Rituxan®).
Macrophage: A type of white blood cell that fights inflammation.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A test that uses a magnetic field sensor and computers to create three-dimensional images of the body. It is similar to computerized tomography (CT scan) but uses magnets instead of x-rays.
Maintenance therapy: Extended treatment, usually given after the original treatment has brought the cancer under control. It is done to prevent the disease from relapsing or to keep the cancer in remission.
Malignant: A malignant tumour is a cancerous tumour. Malignant tumours are characterized by progressive and uncontrolled growth and they can invade local tissue and spread to distant areas of the body. Benign tumours are not invasive and do not spread.
Marginal zone lymphoma (MALT): Mucosa-associated lymphatic tissue. Extranodal marginal zone B-cell lymphoma of MALT-type is a certain type of NHL that can affect the lymphatic tissues of the gastrointestinal tract, eye, thyroid, salivary glands, bladder, kidney, lungs, neurological system or skin. Mucosa-associated tissue means tissue that is lined with a moist, mucous-producing layer of cells.
Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL): An aggressive form of NHL.
Mediastinum: The central area of the upper chest, located behind the breastbone.
Medical oncologist: A doctor who is specially trained to diagnose and treat cancer and who specializes in the use of chemotherapy, biologic therapy and hormone therapy.
Medicare: A US federal medical insurance program for senior citizens and the disabled.
Metastasis: The spread of cancer within the body from the original tumour site to other sites or organs.
Monoclonal antibody therapy: A type of biologic therapy (or immunotherapy) used for cancer treatment. A synthetic antibody is created to target a specific antigen (a protein on the surface of cells). For the treatment of some forms of NHL, monoclonal antibodies target B-cells (the cancerous cell in many NHLs) and facilitate their removal from the body.
Monocytes: A type of leukocyte (white blood cell) that defends the body against bacterial infections. They also ingest aging and degenerating blood cells.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A technique used to obtain three-dimensional images of the body. While similar to a CT scan, an MRI uses magnets instead of x-rays.
Mucositis: Inflammation of the mucous membranes (like the mouth) that causes pain, soreness and/or excessive mucous production.
Mutation (genetic mutation): A permanent change to the normal sequence of a gene, usually caused by external agents such as chemicals or radiation. Genetic mutations may cause certain cancers.
Mycosis fungoides: A type of NHL that first appears on the skin. Also called cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.
Myeloablative chemotherapy: High-dose chemotherapy that destroys the bone marrow. This is performed prior to a bone marrow or stem-cell transplant.
Myelosuppression: A reduction in bone marrow activity resulting in decreased red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
Nasal T-cell lymphoma: A subset of angiocentric lymphomas, it is treated with doxorubicin (Adriamycin)-based combination chemotherapy and is managed like diffuse large cell lymphoma.
Nausea: Feeling sick or wanting to vomit, possibly with dizziness or symptoms. Some chemotherapy combinations can cause nausea for up to several days; this can be lessened by taking antiemetic drugs.
Needle biopsy: A sample of tissue is taken with a needle and looked at under a microscope.
Neoplasm: Malignant (cancerous) growth.
Neupogen: See granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF).
Neurologic(al): Involving the nerves or nervous system.
Neutropenia: A reduction in the number of neutrophils, the white blood cells that fight bacterial infection. This may put a patient at a higher risk of infection.
Neutrophil: A type of white blood cell that fights bacterial infection (also called a granulocyte).
Night sweats: Extreme sweating during sleep at night. Night sweats are considered a B symptom in lymphoma, which may be associated with more aggressive disease.
Non-bulky tumour: A tumour that is small in size.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL): A group of lymphomas characterized by cancerous growth of different types of lymphatic cells, excluding those characterized by Hodgkin lymphoma. The lymphomas are broken down into three grades depending on how fast the particular lymphoma develops: low grade, intermediate grade and high grade.
Nuclear medicine physician: A doctor trained in radiation therapy who will decide the individual dose of the radioactive part of treatment for radioimmunoconjugates. The nuclear medicine physician may also serve as the radiation safety officer for the treatment centre.
Nuclear medicine technologist: A specialist who assists the nuclear medicine physician. This person may administer the radioactive part of therapy and perform the imaging procedures.
Null: In a certain type of NHL called anaplastic large cell lymphoma, the cancerous cell can be either a T-cell or a null cell.
Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer. There are different types of oncologists who specialize in certain treatments including medical oncologists (specializing in chemotherapy), radiation oncologists (specializing in radiation therapy) and surgical oncologists (specializing in cancer surgery).
Oncology: The branch of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Oncology nurse: A specialist who will teach about treatment and assist with care.
Palliative: Treatment that is designed to relieve symptoms rather than cure disease.
Partial remission: also called partial response. The term used when a tumour has decreased in size by half or more, but has not been completely eliminated. The cancer is still detectable and more treatment may be necessary.
Pathologist: A doctor who specializes in identifying diseases by examining and studying cells under a microscope.
Pediatric: Relating to children, childhood.
Peer support: Structured relationship in which people meet in order to provide or exchange emotional support with others facing similar challenges.
Performance status: A term describing how well a patient is able to perform daily tasks and activities.
Peripheral blood: Blood circulating in the blood vessels and heart as opposed to the bone marrow.
Peripheral blood stem-cell transplant (PBSCT): A procedure similar to a bone marrow transplant. Healthy stem cells are harvested from the bloodstream of a donor (allogeneic transplant) or from the patient themselves (autologous transplant). The patient then receives high-dose chemotherapy and/or radiation to obliterate the cancerous cells, after which time the harvested stem cells are re-infused into the patient’s body to repopulate the immune system.
Peripheral neuropathy: Altered nerve sensations in the hands and feet, including numbness, tingling and weakness as a result of nerve damage. Some medications can cause nerve damage leading to peripheral neuropathy.
PET scan (positron emission tomography): A way to visualize cancer in the body. Radioactive glucose (a sugar molecule used as the energy source for cells) is injected into the patient and is taken up preferentially by cells with a high metabolic activity, such as cancer cells. A scanner is then used to visualize the areas of the body where the radioactive glucose is concentrated.
Planning: A session with technicians, nurses and oncologists to simulate radiation treatment.
Plasma: The liquid part of the blood, lymph, and intracellular fluid in which cells are suspended.
Plasma cell: A mature B-cell. The main function of plasma cells is antibody production. Thus, they play an important role in the defence against infection and disease.
Platelet: A blood cell that helps to control bleeding by inducing clotting. Also called a thrombocyte.
Pleural effusion: A collection of fluid inside the chest cavity around the lungs.
PO (per os): By mouth, orally.
Poorly-differentiated lymphocytic lymphoma: The old Rappaport classification for the form of NHL now known as follicular centre cell lymphoma with a large component of small-cleaved cells.
Port: Asmall plastic or metal container surgically placed under the skin and attached to a central venous catheter inside the body. Blood and fluids can enter or leave the body through the port using a special needle.
Primary therapy: The first treatment given after a patient is diagnosed with cancer.
Primary tumour: Tumour at the original cancer site.
Prognosis: The prediction of how a patient/cancer will progress after diagnosis. Prognosis refers to the outcome of the cancer and the likelihood of recovery.
Protocol: Medical treatment plan.
Pruritus: Itching (sometimes an unofficial B symptom of Hodgkin lymphoma).
Psoralen: A drug that is part of a therapy called PUVA, used for a type of NHL called cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Also called photochemotherapy, PUVA consists of psoralen plus ultraviolet A (UVA) light. Psoralen makes the skin more sensitive to the healing effects of the UVA light.
Pulminary angiocentric B-cell lymphoma: Formerly called lymphomatoid granulomatosis, it is a condition that when malignant is treated with doxorubicin (Adriamycin)-based combination chemotherapy and is treated like DLBCL.
Purging: In cancer treatment purging refers to the removal of cancer or T-cells in bone marrow or stem cells prior to bone marrow transplant or peripheral blood stem-cell transplant.
Radiation field: The part of the body that receives radiation therapy.
Radiation oncologist: A type of oncologist (cancer specialist) specializing in treating cancer with radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy: A type of therapy where high-dose radiation beams (x-rays) are carefully focused on a tumour site. Exposure to the x-ray beams kills the cancer cell.
Radioimmunotherapy: A cancer therapy involving the combination of a monoclonal antibody with a radionuclide, as a source of radiation. When a monoclonal antibody is combined with a radionuclide, it is said to be radiolabelled. The radiolabelled antibody targets and binds to a specific antigen present on cancer cells, delivering a lethal dose of radiation directly to targeted cells.
Radionuclide: An atom that gives off or emits energy in the form of radiation.
Rai staging: The staging system for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) that is mostly commonly used in North America. The Rai staging system classifies CLL and assigns risk categories based on the number of lymphocytes found in the blood; the enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver and spleen; the number of platelets found in the blood and the presence of anemia (low number of red blood cells in the blood).
Randomized controlled trial: A clinical trial that involves the testing of an experimental drug treatment in comparison with a control treatment.
Recurrence: The return of cancer after a period of being diagnosed cancer-free (in remission).
Red blood cell (RBC): Blood cell that carries oxygen to the cells of the body and removes carbon dioxide.
Red blood cell count: Measurement of the number of red blood cells in a sample of blood.
Reed-Sternberg cell: A type of cell found in Hodgkin lymphoma but not in NHL.
Refractory: Not yielding (at least not yielding readily) to treatment.
Refractory disease: A cancer that does not respond to treatment.
Regimen: The administration of a specific combination and dose of cancer medications following an arranged schedule.
Regression: Reduction in symptoms or disease process.
Relapse: The return of cancer after a period of improvement. NHL may recur in the same area as the original tumour or it may relapse in another body area.
Remission: A patient is said to be in remission if the tumour has diminished by half or more (partial remission) or is undetectable (complete remission). Remission does not necessarily imply that the cancer has been cured. If a certain cancer, for example an aggressive lymphoma, remains in remission for a certain period of time, usually five or more years, it may be considered cured. However, indolent lymphomas are not commonly considered cured because the cancer can relapse even after a long period of remission.
Rituxan® (generic name rituximab, UK trade name MabThera): The monoclonal antibody drug that received Health Canada’s approval for low-grade NHL.
Salvage therapy: Treatment that is used when the cancer has not responded to standard treatments or after the cancer has relapsed.
Secondary malignancy: Cancer that develops after treatment for a first cancer but is not related to the first cancer. Some lymphoma treatments have been linked to a small likelihood of secondary malignancies including solid tumours and leukemia.
Side effect: Secondary effect caused by cancer treatment.
Single-agent chemotherapy: Chemotherapy treatment that utilizes only one chemotherapy drug.
Sperm banking: Freezing sperm for future use. This procedure can allow men to father children after loss of fertility.
Spleen: An organ that is an important part of the lymphatic system. The spleen is located in the top left-hand corner of the abdomen, below the ribcage. The spleen is involved in lymphocyte production and storage, and also works to store and filter the blood and remove aging blood cells from the circulation.
Splenectomy: Surgical removal of the spleen. This is sometimes done during staging of lymphoma.
Splenomegaly: Abnormal enlargement of the spleen.
Stable disease: A term used when the cancer does not get better or worse following treatment.
Stage: Describes the extent to which a cancer has spread within the body. There are four stages of NHL: stages I and II are limited (involving a limited area) and stages III and IV are advanced (more widespread).
Staging: Determining the stage of the lymphoma. Staging may be done by physical examination, medical testing, or surgery.
Standard therapy: Treatment that has been proven effective and is widely used as primary therapy for cancer.
Standard treatment: Treatment that has been proven effective and is commonly used.
Stem-cell collection: See apheresis.
Stem cells: Primitive cells found mostly in the bone marrow but also in the bloodstream. Stem cells are capable of becoming several types of mature blood cells making them effective at rejuvenating the circulatory and immune systems in case of damage.
Stem-cell transplant: A procedure that replaces diseased stem cells with health stem cells. The patient receives high-dose chemotherapy and/or radiation to kill off all the cancer cells, and then receives healthy stem cells that can come from the patient themselves (autologous transplant) or from a compatible donor (allogeneic transplant). Stem cells can be harvested from either the peripheral (circulating) blood, called a peripheral blood stem-cell transplant (PBSCT), or from the bone marrow, called a bone marrow transplant.
Sterility: Inability to conceive or produce a child.
Stomatitis: Inflammation of the mouth.
Subcutaneous (SQ or SC): Under the skin.
Support group: A group of individuals who meet on a regular basis to exchange mutual support, often focusing on a shared area of difficulty. Many groups are organized at hospitals or treatment centres and people meet others live with a trained leader. Recently support groups can also meet on the Internet and chats are sometimes hosted by survivors.
Survivorship: Living with a history of cancer, from the time of diagnosis on, regardless of the treatment outcome.
Symptoms: Physical signs of a disease.
Synergism: A term used in cancer treatment when two or more drugs given in combination provide a more beneficial effect than either drug alone.
Syngeneic bone marrow transplant: A bone marrow transplant where the donor is an identical twin to the patient.
Systemic: Affecting the entire body.
Systemic symptoms: Symptoms that affect the whole body rather than just one area or organ. Examples of systemic symptoms include fever, night sweats and weight loss.
T-cell (T-lymphocyte): A subset of lymphocytes that recognize and destroy abnormal body cells (e.g., virus-infected cells and cancer cells) and play an important role in fighting infection. The “T” stands for thymus, the gland where T-cells mature.
T-cell lymphoma/leukemia: A condition caused by infection with the retro-virus human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I. Classified as an aggressive NHL.
Taste alteration: Temporary change in taste that may be a side effect of chemotherapy, cancer or radiation.
Tattoo: In radiation therapy, the term used for the ink marking made on the body to clearly outline the radiation field. This ensures that the appropriate area is targeted for radiation and that the same area is treated each time.
Terminal: Describes an advanced disease with limited life expectancy.
Thrombocyte: A blood cell that helps to control bleeding by inducing clotting. Also called a platelet.
Thrombocytopenia: A lower than normal level of platelets in the blood. Platelets are important in blood clotting, such that a shortage may result in increased bleeding or bruising.
Thymus gland: A gland that is part of the lymphatic system there T-cells complete their development. The thymus is located behind the sternum (breastbone) in the chest.
Tissue: A group of cells that work together to perform a specific function in the body.
Topical: Applied directly to the skin.
Toxicities: The unwanted side effects of medications. Common toxicities of cancer treatments include hair loss, nausea and vomiting.
Transformed NHL: The term used when an indolent NHL changes or transforms into a more aggressive form of NHL.
Transplant: The transfer of healthy tissue to replace damaged tissue. The healthy tissue can come from the patient themselves (autologous transplant) or from a matched donor (allogeneic transplant).
Treatment failure: A worsening of the cancer despite treatment. The term is often used interchangeably with the term disease progression.
Total body irradiation (TBI): Radiation aimed at the entire body to destroy cancer cells. Often used in bone marrow transplants possibly with chemotherapy to destroy cancer (which also destroys the immune system’s ability to make blood cells hence the transplant of cells back into the patient).
Tumour: An abnormal mass of dividing cells that serves no useful bodily function. Tumours can be either be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Tumour board: A group of specialists who meet regularly to discuss management of individuals who have cancer.
Tumour burden: The amount of cancer cells present in the body.
Tumour marker: Proteins and other substances found in the blood that signify the presence of cancer somewhere in the body.
Ultrasound/ultrasonography: A technique in which high-frequency sound waves bounce off internal organs and their echoes are changed into pictures of organs inside the body.
Undifferentiated: Cells that lack a specialized structure and function.
Vaccine: A substance used to stimulate the body’s immune system to respond to a specific invader. Vaccines can be used in cancer to stimulate an immune response against cancer cells. Lymphoma vaccines are made using a sample of the tumour obtained from the patient’s lymph nodes.
Vein: A blood vessel that carries blood to the heart.
Venipuncture: The process in which the vein is punctured to draw a blood sample, to give medication or to start an intravenous drip.
Venous catheter: A device, usually a flexible tube, that is use to transport medications into the body (through a vein) or take fluids (e.g., urine) out of the body.
Vinblastine: A chemotherapy drug commonly used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma. Common brand names are Velban, Velsar, Velbe. Originally derived from the common periwinkle catharantus roseus. Can cause peripheral neuropathy in some patients.
Vincristine: A chemotherapy drug sometimes used to treat NHL. Originally derived from the common periwinkle catharantus roseus. Can cause peripheral neuropathy in some patients.
Watch and wait (watchful waiting): A period of using no treatment or little treatment and seeing how the lymphoma progresses. Typically a strategy used for low-grade (indolent) NHL.
Well-differentiated lymphocytic lymphoma: The old Rappaport classification for the form of NHL now known as small lymphocytic lymphoma.
White blood cell (WBC): A variety of cells that fight infection in the body and are part of the immune system.
White blood cell count: Measurement of the total number of white blood cells in a sample of blood.
Xerostomia: A reduction in the production of saliva resulting in a dry mouth. It can be a side effect of cancer treatment.
X-ray: Radiation beams that are used in two ways: in low doses to provide images of the inside of the body for diagnostic purposes and in high doses to treat cancer (radiation therapy).
ZAP-70: A marker that can be used to determine the prognosis of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Zofran® (generic drug name ondansetron hydrochloride): An antiemetic (nausea suppression) drug commonly prescribed for chemotherapy-induced nausea.