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Home > About mesothelioma > Mesothelioma glossary of terms


Mesothelioma glossary of terms



Actinolite - A basic calcium, magnesium, iron silicate, one of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals forming the group called asbestos. Actinolite was never used in commercial products.

Adjuvant therapy - Treatment used in addition to the main medical treatment. It usually refers to chemotherapy or radiation added after surgery.

Advanced cancer - A general term describing stages of cancer in which the disease has spread from the primary site to other parts of the body.

Affidavit - A written statement whereby the signer swears to its accuracy before a notary/judicial officer. A witness’s affidavit is allowed to be entered as evidence in a court case.

AJCC Staging System - American Joint Committee on Cancer staging system (also called the TNM system), which describes the extent of a cancer’s spread in Roman numerals from 0 through IV.

Amosite - Another one of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals forming the group called asbestos. Amosite was a common form of asbestos used in commercial products and is light gray to pale brown in color.

Amphibole - A subgroup of asbestos characterized by crystals forming in a chain-like structure.

Anaemia - Too few red blood cells in the bloodstream, resulting in insufficient oxygen to tissues and organs

Asbestos - combination of several minerals that separate into long, threadlike fibers. Because they do not bum, do not conduct heat or electricity, and are very resistant to chemicals, these minerals are often used for making fireproof materials, electrical insulation, roofing, filters, etc. benign: doing no harm, good incidence: the frequency with which an event occurs (usually in a group at risk) pericardium: a thin membrane surrounding the heart and the roots of the great blood vessels.

Asbestos Abatement - The removal of asbestos containing materials from structures. Only a licensed, experienced contractor should perform asbestos removal.

Asbestosis - A chronic, progressive condition of scar tissue build-up in the lungs resulting from the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Shortness of breath, increased risk of lung infection and permanent lung damage are common symptoms of asbestosis.

Ascites - Accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity.

Aspiration - Withdrawal of fluid or discharge from a wound or cavity using a needle and syringe or drainage device

Benign – A tumour that is not cancerous and will not spread through the body

Biopsy - The removal of a sample of tissue to see whether cancer cells are present.

Bleb - An elevation of the skin not normally exceeding 1-2 cm., that is filled with fluid. bronchoscopy - a thin, lighted tube (bronchoscope) inserted through the nose or mouth to examine the breathing passages at the entrance to your lungs. butchart staging system – The staging system most often used for mesothelioma. It is divided into Stages I – IV with the levels determined by the tissue involved.

Bronchoscopy – a flexible lighted tube is inserted down the trachea, and into the bronchi to check for masses in the airway. Through this method tissues that are abnormal will be removed for testing.

Carcinogenic - Of that which is known to cause cancer. Asbestos is known an known carcinogen, or cancer-causing substance.

Carcinoma - Malignant tissue, usually in the form of a tumor originating in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs.

Chemotherapy - Treatment with drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used with surgery or radiation to treat cancer when the cancer has spread or when it has recurred.

Chronic bronchitis - A condition characterized with increased mucus secretions and caused by virual infections, manifested with prolonged exposure to bronchial irritants.

Chrysotile - Silicate of magnesium and one of the six fibrous minerals forming the group called asbestos. Chrysotile made up close to all of industrial asbestos and is the only "non-amphibole" asbestos-belonging to the serpentine category.

Class action lawsuit - A lawsuit filed by personal injury victim(s) on their own behalf as well as a larger group “who are similarly situated”. All participants are bounded together by the outcome.

Clubbing - Refers to a condition in which the tips of the fingers and the nails curve inward due to inadequte supply of oxygen rich blood.

Complaint - The first document filed with the court by the plaintiff stating the factual and legal basis for claiming legal rights against the defendant(s).

Complementary therapy - Therapies used in addition to standard therapy. Some complementary therapies may help relieve certain symptoms of cancer, relieve side effects of standard cancer therapy, or improve a patient’s sense of well–being.

Computed tomography (CT scan) - Special radiographic technique that uses a computer to combine multiple x–ray images into a two dimensional cross–sectional image.

COPD - A progressive disease process that most commonly results from smoking. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, wheezing and chronic cough

Cordotomy - Operation on the spinal cord

Crocidolite - A member of the amphibole group of asbestos, this fibrous mineral is referred to as "blue asbestos" as it is often blue in color.

CT scan - See computed tomography.

Curative treatment - Treatment aimed at producing a cure. Compare with palliative treatment.

Cytokines - Proteins which occur naturally in the human body, and which are similar to hormones. They act as intercellular mediators and differ from classical hormones in that they are produced by a number of tissue or cell types rather than by specialized glands. They may stimulate immunity and inhibit some cancers.

Cytology - The study of cells

Cytoreductive - Therapy with the intention of reducing the number of cells in a malignancy

Diaphragm - The thin muscle below the lungs and heart that separates the chest from the abdomen

Dyspnea - or shortness of breath (SOB) is perceived difficulty breathing or pain on breathing.

Edema - Swelling caused by an excess accumulation of fluid in the internal organs and body tissue, assocaited with injury or inflammation as related to heart or kidney failure.

Emphysema, pulmonary - A chronic disease of the lungs in which enough functional units (alveoli) have been destroyed by disease to prevent proper exchange of gases within the units. As a result, new air in the lung spaces cannot be efficiently utilized for oxygenation purposes.

Epidemiology - The statistical study of the distribution and determinants of disease in populations.

Epidural - Situation within the spinal canal, on or outside the tough membrane surrounding the spinal cord

Fibrosis - Formation of fibrous, scar-like tissue.

Friable - Of a material which when dry, may be crumbled, crushed, pulverized, or reduced to powder by normal hand pressure.

Gene - A segment of DNA that contains information on hereditary characteristics such as hair color, eye color, and height, as well as susceptibility to certain diseases.

Gene therapy - A new type of treatment in which defective genes are replaced with normal ones. The new genes are delivered into the cells by viruses or proteins.

Hemoptysis - Literally coughing up blood that has been secreted into the respiratory tract due to bleeding. A warning sign of a more serious disease.

Hypertension - Condition more commonly known as high blood pressure, sufferers of hypertension are at a higher risk of heart disease and kidney disease.

Imaging - Method used to produce a picture of internal body structures. Some imaging methods used to detect cancer are x–rays, CT scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Immunotherapy - Treatment of diseases such as cancer by stimulating the body’s own immune system.

Infusion - The introduction of a fluid into a vein

Ingestion – taking something into the body through the mouth

Interferon - A type of cytokine protein produced by cells. Interferon helps regulate the body’s immune system

Interleukin - A group of polypeptides that are members of the family of cytokines which affect functions of specific cell types and are found in small quantities. They are secreted regulatory proteins produced by lymphocytes and other cell types.

Intrapleurally - Administering directly into the chest cavity, sometimes medicine or chemotherapy treatments.

Intraperitoneally - Administering directly into the abdominal cavity, sometimes medicine or chemotherapy treatments.

Invasive cancer - Cancer characterized by spreading from its point of origination into other tissues and organs.

Latency period - Time from exposure to a substance to the onset of a disease. Example: time from asbestos exposure to development of mesothelioma.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - A scan that uses magnetic fields, radio waves, and a computer to create images of selected areas of the body.

Malignant mesothelioma - A fatal cancerous tumor that grows uncontrollably over the surface of the lung, heart and abdominal cavity.

Median - middle number in a series of numbers (for example: median survival of 10 months means that for that specific group of patients the survival varied from probably 2 months to 30 months).

Mediastinum - The space in the thoracic cavity behind the sternum and in between the two pleural sacs (containing the lungs)

Membrane - A thin layer of tissue which covers a surface, lines a cavity or divides a space or organ

Mesoderm - the middle layer of cells in an embryo, from which the muscular, skeletal, vascular, connective etc. tissues develop.

Mesothelioma - a tumor of the mesothelium, that can be benign (localized) or malignant (diffusely spread), and that is most commonly caused by the ingestion of asbestos particles.

Mesothelium - the thin layer of mesodermal epithelial cells that forms the pleura, peritoneum, pericardium.

Metastases - the spread of tumor cells from one part of the body to another unrelated part of the body by the way of the bloodstream or lymphatics.

MRI - See magnetic resonance imaging

Negligence - Failure of reasonably expected precautions and safety.

Nerve Block - Interruption of the conduction of impulses in nerves on the surface of the body or nerve trunks by the injection of a local anaesthetic solution

Oncologist - A doctor with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Oncology - The branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Oral - By mouth

Palliative treatment - Therapy that relieves symptoms, such as pain or blockage, but is not expected to cure the cancer. Its main purpose is to improve the patient’s quality of life.

Paracentesis - Surgical puncture of the abdominal cavity to release peritoneal fluid (more than one is paracenteses)

PDT - See photodynamic therapy.

Pericardium - A double membranous sac which envelops and protects the heart

Pericardial Effusion - A collection of fluid or blood in the pericardial space (inside the pericardial sac) around the heart

Peritoneal mesothelioma - Cancer of the lining of the abdomen.

Peritoneum - a thin membrane that covers the abdominal cavity and partially covers some of the abdominal organs.

Percutaneous - Performed through the skin

PET scan - See positron emission tomography.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) - Cancer treatment that uses the interaction between laser light and a substance that makes cells more sensitive to light. When light is applied to cells that have been treated with this substance, a chemical reaction occurs and destroys cancer cells.

Pleura - a thin membrane that covers the lungs (visceral pleura) and lines the chest cavity (parietal pleura) malignant: harmful, dangerous (a malignant tumor is a cancer).

Pleura effusion - Accumulation of fluid in the lungs.

Pleural - of the pleura

Pleural Tap - Removal of small amount of fluid for examination purposes from the pleural space

Pleural mesothelioma - Cancer of the pleura, or the membrane that lines the lungs and chest cavity.

Pleurectomy - Surgical procedure to remove part of the chest or abdomen lining.

Pleurodesis - This procedure is used in the treatment of malignant pleural effusions and often involves instillation of chemicals or other agents (such as talc in the case of talc pleurodesis) into the pleural space

Pneumoconiosis - Fibrosis and scarring of the lungs as a result of repeated inhalation of respiratory irritants, such as asbestos.

Pneumonectomy - Surgical procedure to remove the entire lung.

Positron emission tomography (PET) - A PET scan creates an image of the body (or of biochemical events) after the injection of a very low dose of a radioactive form of a substance such as glucose (sugar). The scan computes the rate at which the tumor is using the sugar. In general, high–grade tumors use more sugar than normal and low–grade tumors use less.

Prognosis - prediction of the probable course of the disease in an individual. Prognostic factors are factors associated with prognosis.

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) - Treatment with high–energy rays such as x–rays to kill or shrink cancer cells.

Radiotherapy - See radiation therapy.

Resection - To remove part or all of an organ or tissue

Risk factor - Anything that increases a person’s chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors

Serpentine Asbestos - Asbestos characterized by curly fibers with a layered or tiered structure. Chrysotile, or white asbestos, is a member of the serpentine group and is also the most common form of asbestos used in industrial applications in the U.S.

Staging - the process of finding out whether cancer has spread and if so, how far.

Statute of limitations - A law limiting the length of time a potential plaintiff has to file a lawsuit. These statutes vary depending on circumstances.

Sternum - The breastbone

SV40 - A virus found in monkeys that may be linked to human mesothelioma and other cancers. The virus was found as a contaminate of polio vaccines in the United States in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.

T–cells - White blood cells made in the thymus gland. They play a large role in the immune response against transplanted organs and tissues, and cancer cells.

Thoracocentesis - A medical procedure that involves the removal of fluid from the chest cavity using a hollow bore needle. Thoracentesis is performed for therapeutic reasons when drawing off large volumes of fluid and for diagnostic reasons (to analyse the fluid)

Thoracoscopy - A surgical technique for tissue sampling in which a telescopic instrument (thoracoscope) fitted with a lighting system is inserted through a puncture in the chest wall. The physician can see the tumor and sample it using a forceps–like tool.

Thoracotomy - A surgical procedure where an incision is made opening the chest cavity

TNM staging - assigning a stage to the tumor based on size, local versus disseminated growth, lymph node involvement and presence or absence of distant metastases.

Tremolite - Once of the six varying forms of asbestos. Characterized by a translucent bright- to gray-green tough interlocking fibers which are flexible and elastic.

Tumor - a mass of tissue, a growth independent of its surrounding structures and having no physiological function/ a neoplasm. A tumor can be benign or malignant.

Wrongful death - This is the claim that someone else was responsbile for the death of another through negligence or other liability and that survivors and/or the estate of the deceased are entitled to damages.

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