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Glossary - N

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  • Narcotic


    A drug that relieves pain and makes you sleepy.

  • Nasogastric tube

    (NAY-zoh-GAS-trik toob)

    A tube that is inserted through the nose, down the throat and esophagus, and into the stomach. It can be used to give drugs, liquids, and liquid food, or used to remove substances from the stomach. Giving food through a nasogastric tube is a type of enteral nutrition. Also called gastric feeding tube and NG tube.

  • Nasopharynx


    The upper part of the throat behind the nose. An opening on each side of the nasopharynx leads into the ear.

  • National Cancer Institute

    (NA-shuh-nul KAN-ser IN-stih-TOOT)

    The National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, is the Federal Government's principal agency for cancer research. The National Cancer Institute conducts, coordinates, and funds cancer research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to the cause, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer.

  • Natural killer cell

    (NA-chuh-rul KIH-ler sel)

    A type of immune cell that has granules (small particles) with enzymes that can kill tumor cells or cells infected with a virus. A natural killer cell is a type of white blood cell. Also called NK cell and NK-LGL.

  • Nausea


    A feeling of sickness or discomfort in the stomach that may come with an urge to vomit. Nausea is a side effect of some types of cancer therapy.

  • Nebulizer


    A device used to turn liquid into a fine spray.

  • Necrosis


    Refers to the death of living tissues.

  • Needle biopsy

    (NEE-dul BY-op-see)

    The removal of tissue or fluid with a needle for examination under a microscope. When a wide needle is used, the procedure is called a core biopsy. When a thin needle is used, the procedure is called a fine-needle aspiration biopsy.

  • Needle localization

    (NEE-dul LOH-kuh-lih-ZAY-shun)

    A procedure used to mark a small area of abnormal tissue so it can be removed by surgery. An imaging device is used to guide a thin wire with a hook at the end through a hollow needle to place the wire in or around the abnormal area. Once the wire is in the right place, the needle is removed and the wire is left in place so the doctor will know where the abnormal tissue is. The wire is removed when a biopsy is done. Also called needle/wire localization and wire localization.

  • Needle-localized biopsy

    (NEE-dul-LOH-kuh-lized BY-op-see)

    A procedure to mark and remove abnormal tissue when the doctor cannot feel a lump. An imaging device is used to guide a thin wire with a hook on the end through a hollow needle to place the wire in or around the abnormal area. Once the wire is in the right place, the needle is removed and the wire is left in so the doctor will know where the abnormal tissue is. The wire is removed at the time the biopsy is done.

  • Negative test result

    (NEH-guh-tiv ... reh-ZULT)

    A test result that shows the substance or condition the test is supposed to find is not present at all or is present, but in normal amounts. In genetics, a negative test result usually means that a person does not have a mutation (change) in the gene, chromosome, or protein that is being tested. More testing may be needed to make sure a negative test result is correct.

  • Neoplasm


    An abnormal growth (tumor) that starts from a single altered cell; a neoplasm may be benign or malignant. Cancer is a malignant neoplasm.

  • Nephrologist


    A doctor who specializes in diseases of the kidneys.

  • Nerve


    A bundle of fibers that receives and sends messages between the body and the brain. The messages are sent by chemical and electrical changes in the cells that make up the nerves.

  • Nervous system

    (NER-vus SIS-tem)

    The organized network of nerve tissue in the body. It includes the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), the peripheral nervous system (nerves that extend from the spinal cord to the rest of the body), and other nerve tissue.

  • Neuroblastoma


    A type of cancer that forms from immature nerve cells. It usually begins in the adrenal glands but may also begin in the abdomen, chest, or in nerve tissue near the spine. Neuroblastoma most often occurs in children younger than 5 years of age. It is thought to begin before birth. It is usually found when the tumor begins to grow and cause signs or symptoms.

  • Neurofibroma


    A benign tumor that develops from the cells and tissues that cover nerves.

  • Neurofibromatosis type 1

    NOOR-oh-FY-broh-muh-TOH-sis ...

    A rare genetic condition that causes brown spots and tumors on the skin, freckling in skin areas not exposed to the sun, tumors on the nerves, and developmental changes in the nervous system, muscles, bone, and skin. Also called NF1.

  • Neurologist


    A doctor who has special training in diagnosing and treating disorders of the nervous system.

  • Neurology

    The branch of medical science which deals with the nervous system.

  • Neurosurgeon


    A doctor specializing in operations to treat nervous system disorders.

  • Neutropenia


    Less than the normal number of neutrophils (leukocytes) or "polys" in the circulating blood.

  • Neutrophils


    White blood cells that fight bacterial infection.

  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

    Any of a large group of cancers of lymphocytes (white blood cells). Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can occur at any age and are often marked by lymph nodes that are larger than normal, fever, and weight loss. There are many different types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These types can be divided into aggressive (fast-growing) and indolent (slow-growing) types, and they can be formed from either B-cells or T-cells. B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas include Burkitt lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL), diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, immunoblastic large cell lymphoma, precursor B-lymphoblastic lymphoma, and mantle cell lymphoma. T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas include mycosis fungoides, anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and precursor T-lymphoblastic lymphoma. Lymphomas that occur after bone marrow or stem cell transplantation are usually B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and type of disease. Also called NHL.

  • NPO

    Nothing by mouth.


    A drug that decreases fever, swelling, pain, and redness. Also called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

  • Nuclear medicine

    NOO-klee-er MEH-dih-sin

    A branch of medicine that uses small amounts of radioactive substances to make pictures of areas inside the body and to treat disease. In cancer, the radioactive substance may be used with a special machine (such as a PET scanner) to find the cancer, to see how far it has spread, or to see how well a treatment is working. Radioactive substances may also be used to treat certain types of cancer, such as thyroid cancer and lymphoma.

  • Nuclear medicine scan

    (NOO-klee-er MEH-dih-sin skan)

    A method for localizing diseases of internal organs such as the brain, liver, or bone by injecting small amounts of a radioactive substance (isotope) into the bloodstream. The isotope collects in certain organs and a special camera is used to produce an image of the organ and detect areas of disease.

  • Numb

    Devoid of sensation.

  • Nurse practitioner

    (... prak-TIH-shuh-ner)

    A registered nurse with a master's or doctoral degree. Licensed nurse practitioners diagnose and manage illness and disease, usually working closely with your doctor. In many states, they may prescribe medications.

  • Nutrients


    A chemical compound (such as protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamin, or mineral) contained in foods. These compounds are used by the body to function and grow.