Medical Oncology Glossary

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed:

This glossary contains commonly used terminology that you may hear while receiving chemotherapy. 

Acute Side Effects – Effects that you may experience while taking the medication or shortly after receiving it.

Adjuvant Therapy – Cancer treatment that is given after the initial treatment. This most often refers to chemotherapy given after surgery.  

Bone Marrow – Spongey area inside the bone that makes blood cells. 

Chemotherapy – Medication used to treat cancer. 

Cycle – Chemotherapy is often given in cycles. For example, you get a dose of the medicine on day 1 and then have 21 days until the next dose. That 3-week period is called a cycle.

Imaging Test – Tests that are done to look at the inside of your body. They can be used to stage your cancer, monitor how well treatment is working, or to work-up a new health issue. 

Laboratory Test (labs) – Laboratory tests use bodily fluid, such as blood and urine, to monitor how your body is working. These can include a complete blood count, chemistry panel, or a urinalysis, among others. 

Late Effects – Effects caused by a cancer treatment that you experience months to years after receiving the treatment.

Long-Term Effects – Effects that happen during cancer treatment but last after treatment has ended.

Nadir – When your blood cell counts are at their lowest after treatment, usually 7-12 days after treatment. 

Neo-adjuvant Therapy – Cancer treatment that is given before the main treatment (surgery) to shrink the tumor before surgery.

Neutropenic – A low white blood cell count. White blood cells fight infection. If you are neutropenic, you have a higher risk of infection.

Regimen – A chemotherapy regimen is the group of medications being used, the dose, and how often you will receive them. This may change as you continue through treatment. 

Secondary Cancer – Secondary cancer is a cancer that is caused by the treatment for another cancer. 

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