Skin Cancer Glossary of Terms, I–P
Posted By: SERO Board-Certified Physicians
including information furnished by the National Cancer Institute.
Skin Cancer Glossary
Imiquimod (ih-MIH-kwee-mod): A drug used to treat early basal cell skin cancer and certain other skin conditions. It is being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. Also called Aldara.
Immune system (ih-MYOON SIS-tem): The complex group of organs and cells that defends the body against infections and other diseases.
Incisional biopsy (in-SIH-zhun-al BY-op-see): A surgical procedure in which a portion of a lump or suspicious area is removed for diagnosis. The tissue is then examined under a microscope to check for signs of disease.
Infection: Invasion and multiplication of germs in the body. Infections can occur in any part of the body and can spread throughout the body. The germs may be bacteria, viruses, yeast, or fungi. They can cause a fever and other problems, depending on where the infection occurs. When the body’s natural defense system is strong, it can often fight the germs and prevent infection. Some cancer treatments can weaken the natural defense system.
Inflammation (IN-fluh-MAY-shun): Redness, swelling, pain, and/or a feeling of heat in an area of the body. This is a protective reaction to injury, disease, or irritation of the tissues.
Interferon (in-ter-FEER-on): A biological response modifier (a substance that can improve the body’s natural response to infections and other diseases). Interferons interfere with the division of cancer cells and can slow tumor growth. There are several types of interferons, including interferon-alpha, -beta, and -gamma. The body normally produces these substances. They are also made in the laboratory to treat cancer and other diseases.
Interleukin-2 (in-ter-LOO-kin): One of a group of related proteins made by leukocytes (white blood cells) and other cells in the body. Aldesleukin (interleukin-2 made in the laboratory) is being used as a biological response modifier to boost the immune system in cancer therapy. Also called IL-2. 45
Intravenous (IN-truh-VEE-nus): Into or within a vein. Intravenous usually refers to a way of giving a drug or other substance through a needle or tube inserted into a vein. Also called IV.
Local anesthesia (LOH-kul A-nes-THEE-zhuh): A temporary loss of feeling in one small area of the body caused by special drugs or other substances called anesthetics. The patient stays awake but has no feeling in the area of the body treated with the anesthetic.
Lymph node (limf node): A rounded mass of lymphatic tissue that is surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue. Lymph nodes filter lymph (lymphatic fluid), and they store lymphocytes (white blood cells). They are located along lymphatic vessels. Also called lymph gland.
Lymph vessel (limf): A thin tube that carries lymph (lymphatic fluid) and white blood cells through the lymphatic system. Also called lymphatic vessel.
Malignant (muh-LIG-nunt): Cancerous. Malignant tumors can invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
Margin: The edge or border of the tissue removed in cancer surgery. The margin is described as negative or clean when the pathologist finds no cancer cells at the edge of the tissue, suggesting that all of the cancer has been removed. The margin is described as positive or involved when the pathologist finds cancer cells at the edge of the tissue, suggesting that all of the cancer has not been removed.
Medical oncologist (MEH-dih-kul on-KAH-loh-jist): A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy, and targeted therapy. A medical oncologist often is the main health care provider for someone who has cancer. A medical oncologist also 46 gives supportive care and may coordinate treatment given by other specialists.
Melanocyte (mel-AN-o-site): A cell in the skin and eyes that produces and contains the pigment called melanin.
Melanoma (MEH-luh-NOH-muh): A form of cancer that begins in melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin). It may begin in a mole (skin melanoma), but can also begin in other pigmented tissues, such as in the eye or in the intestines.
Melanoma in situ (MEH-luh-NOH-muh in SY-too): Abnormal melanocytes (cells that make melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color) are found in the epidermis (outer layer of the skin). These abnormal melanocytes may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Also called stage 0 melanoma.
Merkel cell carcinoma (MER-kel sel KAR-sih-NOHmuh): A rare type of cancer that forms on or just beneath the skin, usually in parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun. It is most common in older people and in people with weakened immune systems. Also called Merkel cell cancer, neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin, and trabecular cancer.
Metastasis (meh-TAS-tuh-sis): The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. A tumor formed by cells that have spread is called a “metastatic tumor” or a “metastasis.” The metastatic tumor contains cells that are like those in the original (primary) tumor. The plural form of metastasis is metastases (meh-TAS-tuhSEEZ).
Metastatic (meh-tuh-STA-tik): Having to do with metastasis, which is the spread of cancer from the primary site (place where it started) to other places in the body.
Mohs surgery (MOZE SER-juh-ree): A surgical procedure used to treat skin cancer. Individual layers of cancer tissue are removed and examined under a microscope one at a time until all cancer tissue has been removed. Also called Mohs micrographic surgery.
Mole: A benign (not cancer) growth on the skin that is formed by a cluster of melanocytes (cells that make a substance called melanin, which gives color to skin and eyes). A mole is usually dark and may be raised from the skin. Also called nevus.
MRI: A procedure in which radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer are used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures can show the difference between normal and diseased tissue. MRI makes better images of organs and soft tissue than other scanning techniques, such as computed tomography (CT) or x-ray. MRI is especially useful for imaging the brain, the spine, the soft tissue of joints, and the inside of bones. Also called magnetic resonance imaging.
Nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (NEE-voyd BAY-sul SEL KAR-sih-NOH-muh SIN-drome): A genetic condition that causes unusual facial features and disorders of the skin, bones, nervous system, eyes, and endocrine glands. People with this syndrome have a higher risk of basal cell carcinoma. Also called basal cell nevus syndrome and Gorlin syndrome.
Oncology nurse (on-KAH-loh-jee): A nurse who specializes in treating and caring for people who have cancer.
Organ: A part of the body that performs a specific function. For example, the heart is an organ.
Pathologist (puh-THAH-loh-jist): A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.
PET scan: A procedure in which a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein, and a scanner is used to make detailed, computerized pictures of areas inside the body where the glucose is used. Because cancer cells often use more glucose than normal cells, the pictures can be used to find cancer cells in the body. Also called positron emission tomography scan.
Photodynamic therapy (FOH-toh-dy-NA-mik THAYR-uh-pee): Treatment with drugs that become active when exposed to light. These activated drugs may kill cancer cells.
Plastic surgeon (PLAS-tik SER-jun): A surgeon who specializes in reducing scarring or disfigurement that may occur as a result of accidents, birth defects, or treatment for diseases.
Punch biopsy (BY-op-see): Removal of a small diskshaped sample of tissue using a sharp, hollow device. The tissue is then examined under a microscope.