Medical Glossary
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p.c. A Latin abbreviation used on prescriptions to indicate that the medication should be taken after meal time.
Palliative Treatment Treatment that is given to make someone feel more comfortable and is not expected to cure the tumor. The main purpose is to improve quality of life. For example, radiation treatment to a specific bone spot may be used to relieve pain from that area.
Pancytopenia All of the three major blood cell types; red cells, white cells and platelets are below the normal values.
Pap Smear (Papanicolaou smear) A test to detect cancer of the cervix.
Paracentesis A procedure to remove fluid that has abnormally accumulated in the abdomen from cancer. It can be done to help diagnose a cancer or it can be done to provide comfort for the patient.
Partial Remission/Partial Response A partial remission/partial response is when the tumor has significantly decreased but is not completely gone.
Pathologic Refers to a malignant or cancerous process.
Pathologic Fracture A broken bone caused specifically from cancer or other disease process.
Pathologist The doctor who is specifically trained to identify cells under the microscope. The pathologist is trained to identify and classify cells and make a diagnosis based on certain criteria. The pathologist determines the cancer cell type and grade.
Pathology Report A report written by the pathologist to communicate the diagnosis and/or characteristics of the biopsy sample.
PCA (Patient Controlled Analgesia) A delivery system of pain medicine through an IV and a pump where the patient controls the amount of pain medication. The doctor will program the PCA pump to deliver an amount of pain medicine that is safe. When pain medicine is needed, instead of calling the nurse, the patient can push the PCA button and the pump will deliver the pain medicine through the IV.
Peripheral blood stem cells A transplant term to describe stem cells that circulate in the blood.
Peripheral Neuropathy Is a numbness, tingling, burning, or weakness that usually begins in the hands or feet. Some cancer drugs can cause this problem. Other diseases such as diabetes can also cause this problem.
PET Scan (Positron Emission Tomography) Is a test to identify areas of cancer in the body. A radioactive glucose (sugar) solution is injected into a vein through an IV and the solution is taken up by cells that require lots of energy to grow such as cancer cells. The scanner detects those areas and provides an image to the doctor. CT scans show areas that look abnormal whereas PET scans show areas of abnormal activity. Many centers are doing these studies together to get the best results.
Petechiae Bleeding in the skin, which look like small dots and result from a low platelet count. Petechiae is generally seen on the legs, feet, trunk and arms. They disappear gradually when the platelet count increases.
Phlebitis A painful swelling of a vein.
Photosensitivity An increased sensitivity of the skin to the sun light causing redness and discomfort. This can be caused by certain chemotherapy drugs or radiation treatments.
Physical Therapist (PT) The health care team member that prescribes and helps a patient implement an exercise plan to optimize their health.
Physical Therapy A treatment that specializes in muscle development and motor coordination. The physical therapist may use ultrasound, water therapy, massage, or other methods to improve joints and muscles.
Placebo A substance which is usually a sugar pill and is given within the context of a clinical trial. One group of patients receives the study drug and the other group of patients can receive a placebo or sugar pill for comparison.
Platelets The blood cell which helps to form clots to stop bleeding. Normal platelet counts range from 150,000 to 450,000.
Pleura The thin lining that covers the lungs and the inside of the chest wall that cushions the lungs. The pleura normally release a small amount of fluid. The fluid helps the lungs move freely during breathing.
Pleural Effusion When too much fluid collects between the lining of the lung and the lining of the inside wall of the chest. A thoracentesis may need to be done to help with this problem if it causes severe shortness of breath.
Pneumonectomy Surgical removal of the lung.
PO To be taken by mouth.
Polyp A growth of tissue which can be cancerous or non-cancerous. An example is a colon or nasal polyp.
Port A type of central line catheter that lies completely under the skin. This device is for both the administration of chemotherapy and blood products as well as blood draws. There are many brands of ports and the oncologist and the surgeon will help choose the one that best fits the patient’s needs.
Power of Attorney Is the name of a person to make medical care decisions for the patient if there comes a time when the patient is unable to make the decisions themselves. In this legal document, the patient names a person to be their “health care agent”. The patient can state what treatments they would want and not want to have. This form must be witnessed by two people and signed by the patient.
PR (Progesterone Receptor) A test performed on breast cancer tissue to determine the level of progesterone present to see if it was a factor in the development of the breast cancer and also to see if the breast cancer would be responsive to hormone therapy.
Precancerous Abnormal changes in a cell that tend to become malignant.
Primary Site The place where the cancer started from.
Primary Tumor The site of original cancer.
PRN To be done when necessary.
Prognosis The course that the disease is likely to take. The doctor makes this determination based on statistics knowledge and experience.
Progressive Disease Cancer that is spreading or increasing.
Prophylactic A treatment which is used to prevent an undesired side effect.
Prostate A gland found in males which sits just below the bladder and is the about the size of a walnut. It produces the fluid that forms the semen.
Prostate Cancer A cancer of the prostate gland.
Prosthesis An artificial body part.
Protocol The outline or plan of a course of treatment.
Protocol A treatment plan which includes the drugs, dosages and schedule.
Protocol Nurse A registered nurse that specializes in the administration of protocols. The protocol nurse reviews the patient’s medical information to determine their eligibility for a clinical trial and manages the collection of data for the clinical trial.
PSA (Prostatic Specific Antigen) A protein specifically made by the prostate gland. Elevated levels can be indicative of prostate disease or a marker for cancer.
Pulmonary Function Tests (PFT’s) PFT’s measure how well your lungs work. The patient is asked to breathe into a tube. The patient will then have blood drawn to see you well oxygen is getting into their blood.
Pulmonologist A doctor who specialized in the treatment of lung problems.
Pulse Oximetry a measure of the amount of oxygen in the blood. This is a simple, painless procedure where a clip is placed on the finger which displays the amount of oxygen in the blood as a percentage. A reading of greater than 94% is excellent.
Purging Removal of tumor cells from harvested marrow or blood before transplantation.