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Glossary - P


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  • Packed cell transfusion

    A transfusion of red blood cells without the serum.

  • Packed marrow

    Bone marrow filled with tumor cells or blasts.

  • Palate


    The roof of the mouth. The front portion is bony (hard palate), and the back portion is muscular (soft palate).

  • Palliative treatment

    Treatment that relieves symptoms, such as pain, but is not expected to cure the disease. The main purpose is to improve your quality of life.

  • Palpable

    Able to be touched or felt, such as a palpable tumor.

  • Pancreas


    A glandular organ located in the abdomen. It makes pancreatic juices, which contain enzymes that aid in digestion, and it produces several hormones, including insulin. The pancreas is surrounded by the stomach, intestines, and other organs.

  • Pancreatitis


    Inflammation of the pancreas. Chronic pancreatitis may cause diabetes and problems with digestion. Pain is the primary symptom.

  • Pancytopenia

    A condition in which there is a lower-than-normal number of red and white blood cells and platelets in the blood. Pancytopenia occurs when there is a problem with the blood-forming stem cells in the bone marrow. Signs and symptoms include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, trouble breathing, fast heartbeat, fever, pale skin, purple or red spots on the skin, rash, easy bruising, and abnormal bleeding. Pancytopenia may be caused by certain autoimmune, bone marrow, or genetic disorders. It may also be caused by infection, poor nutrition, pregnancy, cancer treatment (such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy), or exposure to certain toxins, chemicals, or medicines.

  • Pap test

    A procedure in which a small brush or spatula is used to gently remove cells from the cervix so they can be checked under a microscope for cervical cancer or cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer. A Pap test may also help find other conditions, such as infections or inflammation. It is sometimes done at the same time as a pelvic exam and may also be done at the same time as a test for certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Also called Pap smear and Papanicolaou test.

  • Paraganglia


    A collection of cells that came from embryonic nervous tissue, and are found near the adrenal glands and some blood vessels and nerves. Most paraganglia secrete epinephrine and norepinephrine.

  • Parasites


    An animal or plant that gets nutrients by living on or in an organism of another species. A complete parasite gets all of its nutrients from the host organism, but a semi-parasite gets only some of its nutrients from the host.

  • Parathyroid glands


    Four pea-sized glands found on the surface of the thyroid. The parathyroid hormone made by these glands increases the calcium level in the blood.

  • Parotids

    Salivary glands located at the side of your face in front of each ear.

  • Pastoral counselors

    (PAS-tuh-rul KOWN-seh-lers)

    A person who is trained to give spiritual and mental health advice.

  • Pathologist


    A doctor who has special training in identifying diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

  • Pathologists


    Doctors who have special training in identifying diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

  • Pathology

    (puh-THAH-loh-jee ...)

    The branch of medicine involved in making diagnoses from the examination of tissues.

  • Patient advocate

    (PAY-shunt AD-vuh-kut)

    A person who helps guide a patient through the healthcare system. This includes help going through the screening, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of a medical condition, such as cancer. A patient advocate helps patients communicate with their healthcare providers so they get the information they need to make decisions about their health care. Patient advocates may also help patients set up appointments for doctor visits and medical tests and get financial, legal, and social support. They may also work with insurance companies, employers, case managers, lawyers, and others who may have an effect on a patients healthcare needs. Also called patient navigator.

  • Pediatric


    Having to do with children.

  • Pediatric polymeric enteral nutrition formula

    (pee-dee-A-trik PAH-lih-MAYR-ik EN-teh-rul noo-TRIH-shun FOR-myoo-luh)

    A nutritional drink that helps children who cannot get everything they need in their diet from foods and other drinks. It may be given through a small tube that is inserted through the nose into the stomach or the small intestine. It may also be given through a tube that is put into the stomach or the intestinal tract through an opening made on the outside of the abdomen. Also called PediaSure.

  • Pediatrician


    A doctor who has special training in preventing, diagnosing, and treating diseases and injuries in children. Pediatricians also help manage other problems that affect children, such as developmental disorders and behavioral, emotional, and social problems.

  • Pelvic


    Having to do with the pelvis. The pelvis is the area of the body below the abdomen that is located between the hip bones and contains the bladder and rectum. In females, it also contains the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. In males, it also contains the prostate and seminal vesicles.

  • Pelvis


    The area of the body below the abdomen that contains the hip bones, bladder, and rectum. In females, it also contains the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. In males, it also contains the prostate and seminal vesicles.

  • Penicillin


    A drug that is used to treat infection. It belongs to the family of drugs called antibiotics.

  • Penis


    An external male reproductive organ. It contains a tube called the urethra, which carries semen and urine to the outside of the body.

  • Peripheral

    Near the surface; distant. Peripheral nerves are those in your arms and legs; peripheral veins are those generally used for IV's.

  • Peritoneal Cavity

    (PAYR-ih-toh-NEE-ul KA-vuh-tee)

    The space within the abdomen that contains the intestines, the stomach, and the liver. It is bound by thin membranes.

  • Pertussis


    A serious bacterial infection of the lungs and breathing tubes that spreads easily. Pertussis begins like a cold, but develops into severe coughing and gasping for air. Long spells of coughing may cause vomiting, and broken blood vessels in the eyes and on the skin. Also called whooping cough.

  • PET Scan

    A procedure in which a small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein, and a scanner is used to make detailed, computerized pictures of areas inside the body where the glucose is taken up. Because cancer cells often take up more glucose than normal cells, the pictures can be used to find cancer cells in the body. Also called positron emission tomography scan.

  • Petechiae


    Pinpoint, unraised, round red spots under the skin caused by bleeding.

  • Ph

    A measure of how acidic or basic a substance or solution is. pH is measured on a scale of 0 to 14. On this scale, a pH value of 7 is neutral, which means it is neither acidic nor basic. A pH value of less than 7 means it is more acidic, and a pH value of more than 7 means it is more basic. In medicine, having the right pH in the blood and other body fluids is important for the body to work the way it should.

  • Phantom limb pain

    (FAN-tum lim payn)

    The sensation of pain or other unpleasant feelings in the place of a missing (phantom) limb.

  • Pharmacogenetics


    The study of how a persons genes affect the way he or she responds to drugs. Pharmacogenetics is being used to learn ahead of time what the best drug or the best dose of a drug will be for a person. Also called pharmacogenomics.

  • Pharmacokinetics


    The activity of drugs in the body over a period of time, including the processes by which drugs are absorbed, distributed in the body, localized in the tissues, and excreted.

  • Pharmacology


    The study of the origin, chemistry, and uses of drugs and their effects on the body.

  • Pharyngitis

    Inflammation of the throat; sore throat.

  • Pharynx


    The hollow tube inside the neck that starts behind the nose and ends at the top of the trachea (windpipe) and esophagus (the tube that goes to the stomach). The pharynx is about 5 inches long, depending on body size. Also called throat.

  • Phenylketonuria


    An inherited disorder that causes a build-up of phenylalanine (an amino acid) in the blood. This can cause mental retardation, behavioral and movement problems, seizures, and delayed development. Using a blood test, PKU can easily be found in newborns, and treatment is a diet low in phenylalanine. Also called PKU.

  • Pheochromocytoma


    Tumor that forms in the center of the adrenal gland (gland located above the kidney) that causes it to make too much adrenaline. Pheochromocytomas are usually benign (not cancer) but can cause high blood pressure, pounding headaches, heart palpitations, flushing of the face, nausea, and vomiting.

  • Philadelphia chromosome

    FIH-luh-DEL-fee-uh KROH-muh-some

    An abnormality of chromosome 22 in which part of chromosome 9 is transferred to it. Bone marrow cells that contain the Philadelphia chromosome are often found in chronic myelogenous leukemia and sometimes found in acute lymphocytic leukemia.

  • Phlebitis


    Inflammation (redness, swelling, pain, and heat) of a vein, usually in the legs. Phlebitis may be caused by infection, injury, or irritation.

  • Photosensitivity


    A condition in which the skin becomes very sensitive to sunlight or other forms of ultraviolet light and may burn easily. Photosensitivity usually causes a rash or sunburn, especially on areas of the skin that are exposed to ultraviolet light. The affected areas may be painful and may itch, blister, or peel. Photosensitivity may be caused by certain medicines, such as antibiotics and anticancer drugs, radiation therapy, exposure to certain chemicals, and some medical conditions, such as lupus and xeroderma pigmentosum.

  • Physical exam

    (FIH-zih-kul eg-ZAM)

    An exam of the body to check for general signs of disease.

  • Physical Therapist

    (FIH-zih-kul THAYR-uh-pist)

    A health professional trained to evaluate and treat people who have conditions or injuries that limit their ability to move and do physical activities. Physical therapists use methods such as exercise, massage, hot packs, ice, and electrical stimulation to help strengthen muscles, relieve pain, and improve movement. They also teach exercises to help prevent injury and loss of motion.

  • Physical therapy

    FIH-zih-kul THAYR-uh-pee

    The use of exercises and physical activities to help condition muscles and restore strength and movement. For example, physical therapy can be used to restore arm and shoulder movement and build back strength after breast cancer surgery.

  • Phytochemicals

    (fai · tuh · keh · muh · kl)

    Organic components of plants, and these components are thought to promote human health.

  • PICC line

    A device used to draw blood and give treatments, including intravenous fluids, drugs, or blood transfusions. A thin, flexible tube is inserted into a vein in the upper arm and guided (threaded) into a large vein above the right side of the heart called the superior vena cava. A needle is inserted into a port outside the body to draw blood or give fluids. A PICC may stay in place for weeks or months and helps avoid the need for repeated needle sticks. Also called peripherally inserted central catheter.

  • Pineal gland

    (PIH-nee-ul ...)

    A tiny organ in the cerebrum that produces melatonin. Also called pineal body and pineal organ.

  • Pituitary


    A pea-sized organ attached to the part of the brain called the hypothalamus. It lies at the base of the brain above the back of the nose. The hypothalamus sends signals to the pituitary gland, which then makes hormones that control other glands and many of the bodys functions, including growth and fertility.

  • Pituitary gland


    A pea-sized organ attached to the part of the brain called the hypothalamus. It lies at the base of the brain above the back of the nose. The hypothalamus sends signals to the pituitary gland, which then makes hormones that control other glands and many of the bodys functions, including growth and fertility.

  • Plasma


    The clear, yellowish, fluid part of the blood that carries the blood cells. The proteins that form blood clots are in plasma.

  • Platelets


    A tiny, disc-shaped piece of cell that is found in the blood and spleen. Platelets are pieces of very large cells in the bone marrow called megakaryocytes. They help form blood clots to slow or stop bleeding and to help wounds heal. Having too many or too few platelets or having platelets that dont work as they should can cause problems. Checking the number of platelets in the blood may help diagnose certain diseases or conditions. Also called thrombocyte.

  • Pleural effusion

    (PLOOR-ul eh-FYOO-zhun)

    An abnormal collection of fluid between the thin layers of tissue (pleura) lining the lung and the wall of the chest cavity.

  • Pneumonia


    A severe inflammation of the lungs in which the alveoli (tiny air sacs) are filled with fluid. This may cause a decrease in the amount of oxygen that blood can absorb from air breathed into the lung. Pneumonia is usually caused by infection but may also be caused by radiation therapy, allergy, or irritation of lung tissue by inhaled substances. It may involve part or all of the lungs.

  • Pneumothorax


    An abnormal collection of air in the space between the thin layer of tissue that covers the lungs and the chest cavity. This can cause all or part of the lung to collapse. A pneumothorax may be caused by a chest injury, certain medical procedures, lung disease, or other damage to lung tissue. Sometimes the cause of a pneumothorax is not known. The most common symptoms are sudden chest pain and trouble breathing. Some types of pneumothorax may go away on their own, but others may be life threatening.

  • Polyp


    A growth that protrudes from a mucous membrane.

  • Pons


    Part of the central nervous system, located at the base of the brain, between the medulla oblongata and the midbrain. It is part of the brainstem.

  • Port


    A device used to draw blood and give treatments, including intravenous fluids, drugs, or blood transfusions. The port is placed under the skin, usually in the chest. It is attached to a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) that is guided (threaded) into a large vein above the right side of the heart called the superior vena cava. A port may stay in place for many weeks or months. A needle is inserted through the skin into the port to draw blood or give fluids. Also called port-a-cath.

  • Post-op

    After surgery.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

    (post-traw-MA-tik stres dis-OR-der)

    An anxiety disorder that develops in reaction to physical injury or severe mental or emotional distress, such as military combat, violent assault, natural disaster, or other life-threatening events.

  • Potassium


    A metallic element that is important in body functions such as regulation of blood pressure and of water content in cells, transmission of nerve impulses, digestion, muscle contraction, and heartbeat.

  • Pre-op

    Before surgery.

  • Prednisone


    A drug used to lessen inflammation and lower the bodys immune response. It is used with other drugs to treat leukemia and lymphoma and other types of cancer. It is also used alone or with other drugs to prevent or treat many other conditions. These include conditions related to cancer, such as anemia (a low level of red blood cells), allergic reactions, and loss of appetite. Prednisone is a type of therapeutic glucocorticoid.

  • Primary tumor

    (PRY-mayr-ee TOO-mer)

    A term used to describe the original, or first, tumor in the body. Cancer cells from a primary tumor may spread to other parts of the body and form new, or secondary, tumors.

  • Progesterone


    A type of hormone made by the body that plays a role in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Progesterone can also be made in the laboratory. It may be used as a type of birth control and to treat menstrual disorders, infertility, symptoms of menopause, and other conditions.

  • Prognosis


    The likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery or recurrence.

  • Prolactin


    A hormone that is made by the pituitary gland (a pea-sized organ in the center of the brain). Prolactin causes a womans breasts to make milk during and after pregnancy, and has many other effects in the body.

  • Prophylactic


    In medicine, something that prevents or protects.

  • Prosthesis


    An artificial form to replace a part of your body.

  • Proteasome inhibitor

    (PROH-tee-uh-some in-HIH-bih-ter)

    A drug that blocks the action of proteasomes. A proteasome is a large protein complex that helps destroy other cellular proteins when they are no longer needed. Proteasome inhibitors are being studied in the treatment of cancer.

  • Proteins


    A molecule made up of amino acids. Proteins are needed for the body to function properly. They are the basis of body structures, such as skin and hair, and of other substances such as enzymes, cytokines, and antibodies.

  • Protocol


    A detailed plan of a scientific or medical experiment, treatment, or procedure.

  • Proton Pump Inhibitors

    (PROH-ton … in-HIH-bih-ter)

    A substance used to treat certain disorders of the stomach and intestines, such as heartburn and ulcers. Proton pump inhibitors block the actions of an enzyme in the stomach and reduce the amount of acid made in the stomach. Also called PPI.

  • Psychiatrists


    A medical doctor who has special training in preventing, diagnosing, and treating mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders.

  • Psychologist


    A specialist who can talk with patients and their families about emotional and personal matters, and can help them make decisions.

  • Puberty


    The time of life when a child experiences physical and hormonal changes that mark a transition into adulthood. The child develops secondary sexual characteristics and becomes able to have children. Secondary sexual characteristics include growth of pubic, armpit, and leg hair; breast enlargement; and increased hip width in girls. In boys, they include growth of pubic, face, chest and armpit hair; voice changes; penis and testicle growth, and increased shoulder width.

  • Pulmonary


    Having to do with the lungs.

  • Pulmonary fibrosis

    Thickened tissue in your lungs causing cough, difficulty breathing, and X-ray changes.

  • Pulmonary function test

    (PUL-muh-NAYR-ee FUNK-shun ...)

    A test used to measure how well the lungs work. It measures how much air the lungs can hold and how quickly air is moved into and out of the lungs. It also measures how much oxygen is used and how much carbon dioxide is given off during breathing. A pulmonary function test can be used to diagnose a lung disease and to see how well treatment for the disease is working. Also called lung function test and PFT.

  • Pulse oximeter

    A device that measures the oxygen saturation of arterial blood in a subject by utilizing a sensor attached typically to a finger, toe, or ear to determine the percentage of oxyhemoglobin in blood pulsating through a network of capillaries.