Glossary of Terms

You will hear various technical terms during your diagnosis and treatment for a head and neck cancer. Some of these are listed here:

Biopsy: A biopsy is a test that involves taking a sample of tissue to see if it contains cancer cells.

Chemotherapy: Treatment using anti-cancer drugs. These may be used alone or in combination to destroy cancer cells or prevent the growth of cancer.

Chest X-ray: An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. 

Concurrent: Chemotherapy given in combination with radiation therapy.

CT scan (computed tomography scan): A series of x-ray pictures of a part of the body put together by a computer to give doctors a detailed picture.

Endoscope: A long, flexible, lighted tube placed into the nose or mouth and down the throat in order to see different parts of the aero-digestive tract.

Head and neck cancers: Malignant growths of cells affecting the ears, lips, tongue, mouth, palate, jawbone, sinuses, pharynx, larynx, upper trachea, and upper esophagus, as well as the skin of the head and neck region.

Infusion: The delivery of a medication to the body through the veins.

Interdisciplinary (also multidisciplinary): Involving many specialists—each with his or her own area of expertise—working together to determine and deliver the best individualized treatment for a patient.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A test that uses magnetic technology to produce high-quality images of the organs inside of the body.

Neoadjuvant: Chemotherapy or radiation given before surgery, to shrink the tumor so there is a greater chance of its being completely removed.

Panorex: A specialized x-ray used to evaluate the teeth and jaws.

PET scan (positron emission tomography scan): An image that shows cell activity in the body. Cancer cells appear brighter in the scan so doctors can see exactly where the cancer is located.

Protocol: A cancer treatment that is tested through a clinical trial. Clinical trials are carefully controlled and monitored in order to improve the ways we diagnose and treat cancer.

Tumor Board: The results of your tests are presented at a Tumor Board meeting, which includes many types of cancer specialists. The doctors make recommendations based on their knowledge and experience as well as the latest research