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African-American Patient Guide
Educational Module

Glossary of Terms

5-FU also called fluorouracil is a common chemotherapy in use since the 1950s.  It was one of the early treatments for pancreatic cancer, but is now typically used in combination therapies such as the four-drug FOLFIRINOX regimen for the treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer.

Abdominal ultrasound
An abdominal ultrasound is a noninvasive procedure that uses sound waves to assess the organs assess the organs and structures within the abdomen. This includes, for example, the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, bile ducts, spleen, and abdominal aorta.

Abraxane is a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body. It is normally used in combination with gemcitabine in the treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer.

Advanced (stage of cancer)
Doctors usually use this term when cancer has spread widely and is unlikely to be treated with surgery, or at least surgery alone.

Benign Tumor
A benign tumor is an abnormal but non-cancerous collection of cells. It can form anywhere in your body when cells multiply more than they should.

The removal and examination (typically under a microscope) of a sample of tissue from a living body often for diagnosis purposes.

Cancer is a condition in which some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably, often creating problems like forming a tumor or spreading to other parts of the body.

Cells are the basic building blocks of all living things. The human body is composed of trillions of cells. They provide structure for the body, take in nutrients from food, convert those nutrients into energy, and carry out special functions. Cells also contain the body’s hereditary material (see DNA) that can make copies of themselves.

Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses powerful drug-agents alone or in combination to treat cancer.

Chronic pancreatitis
Chronic pancreatitis is a long-term inflammation of the pancreas that alters the organ’s normal structure and functions.

CT scan
A computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan allows doctors to see inside your body using x-rays in a 3-D kind of way.

Digestive System
The digestive tract and digestive glands that work together to carry out ingestion, digestion, and the  absorption of food and nutrients.

The building block of life located in human cells that allows for growth – when a cell splits into two cells, each contains copies of these elaborate structures that tells the tissues in our body what to do. The term is short for its technical name: deoxyribonucleic acid.

Ductal Adenocarcinoma
A malignant tumor arising from the duct cells within a gland.

Five-year survival rate
The five-year survival rate is typically expressed as the percentage of persons in a studied group who are alive at the end of five years from diagnosis of a particular disease.

This is the name of a combination chemotherapy made up of four drugs, which is commonly used for advanced pancreatic cancer that includes the drug agent 5-FU.

Gemcitabine, with brand names including Gemzar, is a commonly used chemotherapy medication for pancreatic cancer. Sometimes it is used alone, but it is now more commonly used in combination with other chemotherapy agents.

Genetic testing
Genetic testing, also known as DNA testing, is used to identify changes or mutation patterns in the DNA sequence.

Hereditary means genetically transmitted or transmittable from parent to offspring.

A substance, usually a peptide or steroid, produced by a tissue and taken by the bloodstream to other body tissues to effect physiological activity, such as growth or metabolism. An example is insulin.

Locally advanced
This means that the cancer has not spread far beyond your pancreas but has advanced to the point where it may not be able to be surgically removed.

Malignant Tumor
A malignant tumor is a cancerous tumor capable of metastasis – the ability to move or spread to healthy tissues in other parts of the body.

Median, in statistics, is the very middle value (number) of a given list of data, when it’s arranged in order.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive imaging technology that produces 3D detailed anatomical images using magnets in a different manner than CT scans.

A mutation is a change in a pre-established DNA sequence. For example, mutations can result from DNA copying mistakes made during cell division, exposure to ionizing radiation like the sun, exposure to chemicals called mutagens, or infection by viruses.

Neuroendocrine Tumors
Neuroendocrine tumor refers to the type of cell that a tumor grows from rather than where that tumor is physically located in the body.  Neuroendocrine tumors can arise from many tissues in the body and often over-produce one or or more hormones. For example, if too much insulin is made, this form of neuroendocrine tumor is called an insulinoma.

Olaparib, sold under the brand name Lynparza, is a more targeted drug that may be used, for example, in those patients with genetic mutations (about 15%) who show a BRCA-mutation or similar genetic DNA pattern in advanced pancreatic cancer.

Palliative Care
Medical and other care aimed to manage symptoms, relieve pain, improve the quality of life, and meet emotional, spiritual and social needs of a patient

The pancreas is a gland about six inches long that is located in the upper left part of the abdomen. It is shaped like a flat pear and is surrounded by the stomach, small intestine, liver, spleen and gallbladder. It produces enzymes that help with the digestion of food and produces such hormones such as insulin that help in the body’s regulation of glucose. 

Potentially resectable
Resectable cancer: A tumor that can be surgically removed.  So, potentially resectable means that the tumor might be a candidate for surgery.

A group of complex large molecules that contain carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and usually sulfur that are composed of one or more chains of amino acids. Proteins are important building blocks for cells and other substances in your body.

Radiation therapy uses x-rays or similar type radiation to treat cancer or to slow tumor growth. Usually, this treatment for pancreatic cancer is reserved for when the cancer has not spread to widely.

Stage refers to the extent of your cancer, such as how large the tumor is, if it has spread, and where it has spread.Statistics
Statistics is the discipline that concerns the collection, analysis, and presentation of data.

An abnormal growth of tissue resulting from uncontrolled, progressive multiplication of cells typically creating a mass and serving no healthy physiological function.

Whipple procedure
A major, complicated surgical operation most often performed to remove pancreatic cancer and areas of tissue around the pancreas.

Written by: Jasmine Mitchell, University of California Santa Barbara

Edited by: Dale O’Brien, MD, Cancer Patients Alliance

Formatting and content by: Raewyn O’Haire, AB, Cancer Patients Alliance

Consultant: Neil Atam, University of California Santa Barbara

Top Reference

Pancreatic resection: a key component to reducing racial disparities in pancreatic adenocarcinoma
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Click Here for the ACS Journal article