Palliative Treatment--Therapy that relieves symptoms, such as pain, but does not alter the course of disease. Its primary purpose is to improve the quality of life.
Palpation--A procedure using the hands to examine organs such as the breast or prostate. A palpable mass is one that can be felt.
Pap Test--Developed by the late Dr. George Papanicolaou, it is a simple microscopic examination of cells. This test can detect cancer of the cervix at an early, highly curable stage. (See Cytology)
Pathology--Study of disease through the microscopic examination of body tissues and organs. Any tumor suspected of being cancerous must be diagnosed by pathologic examination.
Pelvic Examination--A manual internal examination of the female reproductive organs, through the vagina and rectum.
Placebo--An inert substance, such as a sugar pill. A placebo may be used in clinical trials to compare the effects of a given treatment against no treatment.
Platelet--A substance found in the blood that is necessary for blood clotting. Platelet transfusions are used in cancer patients to prevent or control bleeding when the number of platelets has decreased.
Polyps--A nodular growth of tissue developing in the lining of a cavity, such as the colon, the nose or the vocal cords. Polyps may be benign or malignant.
Precancerous--Abnormal cellular changes that are potentially capable of becoming cancer. These early lesions are very amenable to treatment and cure. Also called premalignant.
Prevalence--The number of patients with a disease in the population at a specific time. For example, the prevalence of esophageal cancer is higher in blacks than whites.
Prevention--The reduction of cancer by eliminating or reducing contact with carcinogenic agents. A change in life-style such as not smoking, for example, can help prevent lung and many other cancers.
Procto--An abbreviation for sigmoidoscopy. An examination of the rectum and lower colon with a hollow lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope. A procto is used to detect colorectal polyps and cancer.
Prognosis--A prediction of the course of disease; the future prospects for the patient. For example, breast cancer patients who receive treatment early have a good prognosis.
Prostate--A gland located at the base of the bladder in males.
Prosthesis--An artificial replacement for a missing part of the body, such as a breast or limb.