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Glossary - B


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  • B cell

    (... sel)

    A type of white blood cell that makes antibodies. B cells are part of the immune system and develop from stem cells in the bone marrow. Also called B lymphocyte.

  • B–cell ALL

    (... sel ...)

    B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. An aggressive (fast-growing) type of leukemia (blood cancer) in which too many B-cell lymphoblasts (immature white blood cells) are found in the bone marrow and blood. It is the most common type of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Also called B-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia and precursor B-lymphoblastic leukemia.

  • B lymphocytes

    (... LIM-foh-sites)

    A type of white blood cell that makes antibodies. B lymphocytes are part of the immune system and develop from stem cells in the bone marrow. Also called B cell.

  • Bacteria


    A large group of single-cell microorganisms. Some cause infections and disease in animals and humans. The singular of bacteria is bacterium.

  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome

    (BEK-with-VEE-deh-mahn SIN-drome)

    A rare, overgrowth disorder in which babies are large at birth and may develop low blood sugar. Other common symptoms are a large tongue, large internal organs, and defects of the abdominal wall near the navel. Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome increases the risk of developing certain cancers, especially Wilms tumor.

  • Benign


    Not malignant or cancerous.

  • Benzodiazepine


    A type of drug used to relieve anxiety and insomnia (trouble sleeping). Benzodiazepines are also used to relax muscles and prevent seizures. They increase the effect of a chemical in the brain called GABA, which is a neurotransmitter (a substance that nerves use to send messages to one another). This causes brain activity to slow down. Benzodiazepines are a type of CNS depressant.

  • Bereavement


    A state of sadness, grief, and mourning after the loss of a loved one.

  • Beta-human chorionic gonadotropin

    (BAY-tuh-HYOO-mun KOR-ee-AH-nik goh-NA-doh-TROH-pin)

    A hormone found in the blood and urine during pregnancy. It may also be found in higher than normal amounts in patients with some types of cancer, including testicular, ovarian, liver, stomach, and lung cancers, and in other disorders. Measuring the amount of beta-human chorionic gonadotropin in the blood or urine of cancer patients may help to diagnose cancer and find out how well cancer treatment is working. Beta-human chorionic gonadotropin is a type of tumor marker. Also called beta-hCG.

  • Bilateral


    Affecting both the left and right sides of the body.

  • Bile


    A fluid made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Bile is excreted into the small intestine, where it helps digest fat.

  • Bilirubin


    Substance formed when red blood cells are broken down. Bilirubin is part of the bile, which is made in the liver and is stored in the gallbladder. The abnormal buildup of bilirubin causes jaundice.

  • Biological


    In medicine, refers to a substance made from a living organism or its products.

  • Biological agent

    (BY-oh-LAH-jih-kul AY-jent)

    A substance that is made from a living organism or its products and is used in the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of cancer and other diseases. Biological agents include antibodies, interleukins, and vaccines. Also called biologic agent and biological drug.

  • Biological profile

    (BY-oh-LAH-jih-kul PROH-file)

    A summary of the biological actions of a substance. A biological profile may come from patient data or from tests done in the laboratory or in anima.

  • Biological therapy

    (BY-oh-LAH-jih-kul THAYR-uh-pee)

    A type of treatment that uses substances made from living organisms to treat disease. These substances may occur naturally in the body or may be made in the laboratory. Some biological therapies stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection, and other diseases. Other biological therapies attack specific cancer cells, which may help keep them from growing or kill them. They may also lessen certain side effects caused by some cancer treatments. Types of biological therapy include immunotherapy (such as vaccines, cytokines, and some antibodies), gene therapy, and some targeted therapies. Also called biological response modifier therapy, biotherapy, and BRM therapy.

  • Biomarker


    A biological molecule found in blood, other body fluids, or tissues that is a sign of a normal or abnormal process, or of a condition or disease. A biomarker may be used to see how well the body responds to a treatment for a disease or condition. Also called molecular marker and signature molecule.

  • Biopsy


    The removal of cells or tissues for examination by a pathologist.

  • Bladder


    The organ that stores urine.

  • Blasts

    Immature blood cells.

  • Blood


    A tissue with red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and other substances suspended in fluid called plasma. Blood takes oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, and carries away wastes.

  • Blood-brain barrier

    (blud-brayn BAYR-ee-er)

    A network of blood vessels and tissue that is made up of closely spaced cells and helps keep harmful substances from reaching the brain. The blood-brain barrier lets some substances, such as water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and general anesthetics, pass into the brain. It also keeps out bacteria and other substances, such as many anticancer drugs.

  • Blood chemistries

    Multiple chemical determinations of the blood content. These tests are helpful in assessing your kidney and liver function.

  • Blood chemistry study

    blud KEH-mih-stree STUH-dee

    A test done on a sample of blood to measure the amount of certain substances in the body. These substances include electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium, and chloride), fats, proteins, glucose (sugar), and enzymes. Blood chemistry studies give important information about how well a person's kidneys, liver, and other organs are working. An abnormal amount of a substance in the blood can be a sign of disease or side effect of treatment. Blood chemistry studies are used to help diagnose and monitor many conditions before, during, and after treatment. Also called blood chemistry test.

  • Blood clots

    (blud klots)

    Masses of blood that forms when blood platelets, proteins, and cells stick together. When a blood clot is attached to the wall of a blood vessel, it is called a thrombus. When it moves through the bloodstream and blocks the flow of blood in another part of the body, it is called an embolus.

  • Blood count

    A lab study to evaluate the amount of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

  • Blood culture

    (blud KUL-cher)

    A laboratory test to check for bacteria, yeast, fungi, or other microorganisms in the blood. Blood cultures can help identify the type of microorganism that is causing an infection. This helps determine the best treatment. They may be used to help diagnose septicemia (a serious blood infection) and other conditions.

  • Blood draw

    (blud ...)

    A procedure in which a needle is used to take blood from a vein, usually for laboratory testing. A blood draw may also be done to remove extra red blood cells from the blood, to treat certain blood disorders. Also called phlebotomy and venipuncture.

  • Blood pressure

    (blud PREH-sher)

    The force of circulating blood on the walls of the arteries. Blood pressure is taken using two measurements: systolic (measured when the heart beats, when blood pressure is at its highest) and diastolic (measured between heart beats, when blood pressure is at its lowest). Blood pressure is written with the systolic blood pressure first, followed by the diastolic blood pressure (for example 120/80).

  • Blood stem cell

    (blud stem sel)

    An immature cell that can develop into all types of blood cells, including white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Blood stem cells are found in the peripheral blood and the bone marrow. Also called hematopoietic stem cell.

  • Blood sugar

    (blud SHUH-ger)

    Glucose (a type of sugar) found in the blood. Also called glycemia.

  • Blood test

    (blud test)

    A test done on a sample of blood to measure the amount of certain substances in the blood or to count different types of blood cells. Blood tests may be done to look for signs of disease or agents that cause disease, to check for antibodies or tumor markers, or to see how well treatments are working.

  • Blood thinner

    (blud THIH-ner)

    A substance that is used to prevent and treat blood clots in blood vessels and the heart. Also called anticoagulant.

  • Blood transfusion

    (blud tranz-FYOO-zhun)

    The infusion of red blood cells or platelets into your blood stream to replace blood loss or to correct anemia.

  • Blood typing and cross matching

    Making sure that the blood from a donor is compatible with yours before a blood transfusion. Blood cells contain factors that are not the same in all people. Before a transfusion can be given, blood samples from the donor and you are typed, or classified according to which of these factors are present. The four principal red blood cell types or groups are A, B, AB or O. Other factors such as Rh factor must also be checked.

  • Blood urea nitrogen

    (blud yoo-REE-uh NY-troh-jen)

    Nitrogen in the blood that comes from urea (a substance formed by the breakdown of protein in the liver). The kidneys filter urea out of the blood and into the urine. A high level of urea nitrogen in the blood may be a sign of a kidney problem. Also called BUN and urea nitrogen.

  • Blood vessels

    (blud VEH-sels)

    A tube through which the blood circulates in the body. Blood vessels include a network of arteries, arterioles, capillaries, venules, and veins.

  • Bloodstream


    The flow or movement of blood throughout the body.

  • Bloom syndrome

    (… SIN-drome)

    A rare, inherited disorder marked by shorter than average height, a narrow face, a red skin rash that occurs on sun-exposed areas of the body, and an increased risk of cancer. The rash usually occurs on the face, arms, and back of the hands. Small clusters of enlarged blood vessels may appear in the rash and in the eyes. Other signs and symptoms include patches of skin that may be lighter or darker than the skin around them, a small jaw and large ears, a high-pitched voice, fertility problems, learning problems, and other growth and developmental problems.

  • Bone density

    (bone DEN-sih-tee)

    A measure of the amount of minerals (mostly calcium and phosphorous) contained in a certain volume of bone. Bone density measurements are used to diagnose osteoporosis (a condition marked by decreased bone mass), to see how well osteoporosis treatments are working, and to predict how likely the bones are to break. Low bone density can occur in patients treated for cancer. Also called BMD, bone mass, and bone mineral density.

  • Bone marrow

    (bone MAYR-oh)

    The soft, sponge-like tissue in the center of most bones. It produces white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

  • Bone marrow aspiration

    (bone MAYR-oh AS-pih-RAY-shun)

    A procedure in which a small sample of bone marrow is removed, usually from the hip bone, breastbone, or thigh bone. A small area of skin and the surface of the bone underneath are numbed with an anesthetic. Then, a special wide needle is pushed into the bone. A sample of liquid bone marrow is removed with a syringe attached to the needle. The bone marrow is sent to a laboratory to be looked at under a microscope. This procedure may be done at the same time as a bone marrow biopsy.

  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy

    (bone MAYR-oh AS-pih-RAY-shun)

    A procedure in which a small sample of bone marrow (soft, sponge-like tissue in the center of most bones) and bone is removed. A small area of skin and the surface of the bone underneath are numbed with an anesthetic. Then a special wide needle is pushed into the bone. A sample of liquid bone marrow is removed with a syringe attached to the needle. The syringe is then removed and the needle is rotated to remove a sample of the bone and the bone marrow. Both the bone marrow and bone samples are sent to a laboratory to be looked at under a microscope.

  • Bone marrow transplant

    bone MAYR-oh tranz-plan-TAY-shun

    A very rigorous treatment for cancer which severely injures or destroys the patient's bone marrow. You are given high doses of chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells. The drugs also destroy the remaining bone marrow, thus robbing your body of its natural ability to fight infection. Total Body Radiation (TBI) is sometimes administered. In allogeneic transplantation, bone marrow from another individual, usually a brother or sister with the same tissue type is given to the patient. This bone marrow develops in the patient and eventually begins producing blood cells. In autologous bone marrow transplantation, some of your own bone marrow is removed and set aside before treatment and then re-infused. It starts producing blood cells a few weeks later. In umbilical cord blood transplantation, the use of stem cells in blood removed from the umbilical cords of newborns (a very rich source) is used for transplantation.

  • Bone metastasis


    Cancer that has spread from the original (primary) tumor to the bone.

  • Bone scan

    (bone skan)

    A procedure to check for abnormal areas or damage in the bones. A very small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein and travels through the blood. The radioactive material collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner (a special camera that takes pictures of the inside of the body). A bone scan may be used to diagnose bone tumors or cancer that has spread to the bone. It may also be used to help diagnose fractures, bone infections, or other bone problems. Also called bone scintigraphy.

  • Bowel


    The long, tube-shaped organ in the abdomen that completes the process of digestion. The bowel has two parts, the small bowel and the large bowel. Also called intestine.

  • Bowel Movement

    (BOW-ul MOOV-ment)

    Movement of feces (undigested food, bacteria, mucus, and cells from the lining of the intestines) through the bowel and out the anus. Also called defecation.

  • Bowel Obstruction

    (BOW-ul ub-STRUK-shun)

    A partial or complete block of the small or large intestine that keeps food, liquid, gas, and stool from moving through the intestines in a normal way. Bowel obstructions may be caused by a twist in the intestines, hernias, inflammation, scar tissue from surgery, and certain types of cancer, such as cancers of the stomach, colon, and ovary. They may also be caused by conditions that affect the muscles of the intestine, such as paralysis. Signs and symptoms may include pain and swelling in the abdomen, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and problems passing gas. Most bowel obstructions occur in the small intestine. Also called intestinal obstruction.

  • BRAF gene

    (… jeen)

    A gene that makes a protein that is involved in sending signals in cells and in cell growth. Mutated (changed) forms of the BRAF gene and protein have been found in many types of cancer. These changes can increase the growth and spread of cancer cells.

  • Braf Kinase Inhibitor

    (… KY-nays in-HIH-bih-ter)

    A substance that blocks a protein called BRAF. BRAF is a kinase enzyme that helps control cell growth and signaling. It may be found in a mutated (changed) form in some types of cancer, including melanoma and colorectal cancer. Blocking mutated BRAF kinase proteins may help keep cancer cells from growing. Some BRAF kinase inhibitors are used to treat cancer.

  • Brain


    The organ inside the head that controls all body functions of a human being. Made up of billions of nerve cells, the brain is protected by the cranium (the bones that form the head). It is made up of three major parts: the cerebrum, the cerebellum, and the brain stem. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain and controls thinking, learning, problem solving, emotions, memory, speech, reading, writing, and voluntary movement. The cerebellum controls fine motor movement, balance, and posture. The brain stem controls breathing, heart rate, and the nerves and muscles used to see, hear, walk, talk, and eat. The brain stem connects the brain to the spinal cord. The brain and the spinal cord make up the central nervous system.

  • Brain metastasis

    (brayn meh-TAS-tuh-sis)

    Cancer that has spread from the original (primary) tumor to the brain.

  • Brain scan

    An imaging method used to find anything not normal in the brain, including brain cancer and cancer that has spread to the brain from other places in the body. A radioactive substance is injected into a vein and pictures are taken to show where the radioactivity collects, indicating an abnormality.

  • Brain stem

    (brayn stem)

    The part of the brain that is connected to the spinal cord.

  • Brainstem

    (brayn stem)

    The part of the brain that is connected to the spinal cord.

  • Breast


    Glandular organ located on the chest. The breast is made up of connective tissue, fat, and breast tissue that contains the glands that can make milk. Also called mammary gland.

  • Brentuximab Vedotin

    (bren-TUK-sih-mab veh-DOH-tin)

    A drug used with other anticancer drugs to treat systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma or other peripheral T-cell lymphomas, including angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma, that are CD30 positive and have not been treated with other therapy. It is also used with other anticancer drugs to treat stage III or stage IV classical Hodgkin lymphoma that has not been treated with other therapy. Brentuximab vedotin is also used to treat certain types of Hodgkin lymphoma, anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and mycosis fungoides that were treated with other therapy. It is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer. Brentuximab vedotin contains a monoclonal antibody that binds to a protein called CD30, which is found on some lymphoma cells. It also contains an anticancer drug, which may help kill cancer cells. Brentuximab vedotin is a type of antibody-drug conjugate. Also called Adcetris and SGN-35.

  • Bronchitis


    Inflammation (swelling and reddening) of the bronchi.

  • Bronchoscopy


    A procedure that uses a bronchoscope to examine the inside of the trachea, bronchi (air passages that lead to the lungs), and lungs. A bronchoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease. The bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth. Bronchoscopy may be used to detect cancer or to perform some treatment procedures.

  • BROVIAC® catheter

    Soft plastic catheters that are surgically placed in one of the neck veins and advanced to the opening of the heart in order to easily administer intravenous solutions and to obtain blood for testing.

  • Bulimia

    Bulimia is an eating disorder in which a person has regular episodes of eating a very large amount of food (bingeing) during which the person feels a loss of control over eating. The person then uses different ways, such as vomiting or laxatives (purging), to prevent weight gain.