You will hear various technical terms used during your diagnosis and treatment for cancer. Some of the more common terms are listed here:


The term benign means that a tumor does not have the capacity to spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body. Benign tumors are far more common than malignant ones. The need and type of treatment required for a benign tumor is determined by the diagnosis, the tumor’s location, and whether the tumor is causing symptoms. Some benign tumors need treatment, and others do not.


A test that obtains a sample of tissue in order to determine if the tissue contains cancer cells.


Cancer is the general term used to describe a malignant tumor.


Treatment using anti-cancer drugs. The anti-cancer drugs 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.


Chemotherapy which is 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.


A long, flexible tube with a light which is placed into the nose or mouth and guided down the throat in order to see different parts of the respiratory or upper digestive tract.


The delivery of medication to the body through the veins.


Lesion is a term used by physicians to describe virtually any physical abnormality. It may refer to a tumor, a tumor-like condition, or a finding that is not yet diagnosed.


A malignant tumor is one that can spread (metastasize) to other areas in the body. A malignant tumor is commonly known as cancer.


A metastasis occurs when a part of a tumor that has left the original, or primary, tumor and traveled to another part of the body. Sarcomas generally metastasize to the lungs. However, they may also travel to other locations.

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

A test that uses magnetic technology to produce high-quality images of the organs inside the body.


Chemotherapy or radiation is given before surgery to shrink a tumor so there is a greater chance of it being completely removed.


A neoplasm is a tumor that originates from a single cell and undergoes many duplications. The rate of duplication determines the rate of growth of the tumor. Another term commonly used to describe a neoplasm is monoclonal tumor, meaning that the tumor arose from one (mono) cell (clone).

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.

Primary tumor

When metastasis has occurred, the term primary tumor is used to describe the original tumor that led to the metastasis.


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.


A sarcoma is a malignant tumor that arises from one or more connective tissues. These tissues include the bones, muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments and adipose tissue (fat). Sarcomas are named by the tissue from which they arose. For example, sarcomas from the bone are generally osteosarcomas.


A tumor is a term describing abnormal growth of a specific tissue or group of tissues. A tumor may be benign or malignant. The presence of a tumor does not mean you have 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. Your treatment may require some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Following the presentation of your case at a Tumor Board, your doctor will meet with you and your family to discuss the various options for treatment and arrange the necessary appointments.

Tumor-like condition

Tumor-like conditions are normal findings that appear unusual on X-rays, MRI, or in a physical examination. These are among the most common lesions we see and generally need no treatment or just short-term observation. Tumor-like lesions may be the result of a previous trauma.