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Glossary - S


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  • Saliva


    The watery fluid in the mouth made by the salivary glands. Saliva moistens food to help digestion and it helps protect the mouth against infections.

  • Salivary gland

    (SA-lih-VAYR-ee gland)

    A gland in the mouth that produces saliva.

  • Sarcoma


    A type of cancer that begins in bone or in the soft tissues of the body, including cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, fibrous tissue, or other connective or supportive tissue.

  • Scan


    A type of test that makes detailed pictures of areas inside the body. A scan may also refer to the picture that gets made during the test. Scans may be used to help diagnose disease, plan treatment, or find out how well treatment is working. There are many different types of scans, including computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and nuclear medicine scans (such as bone scans and liver scans). CT scans are done with an x-ray machine linked to a computer. MRI scans are done with radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer. Nuclear medicine scans are done with small amounts of radioactive substances that are injected into the body and a special machine that detects the radioactive substance.

  • School Liaison

    (skool lee-AY-zan)

    A person who helps a child return to school after a serious illness, such as cancer, or a long hospital stay. A school liaison may also arrange for education services in the childs home or at the hospital if the child is not able to return to school. School liaisons help parents, teachers, and other students understand special issues that the child may have in returning to the classroom as a result of the illness or its treatment. This may help in planning extra education services and support that the child may need.

  • Schwannoma


    A tumor of the peripheral nervous system that arises in the nerve sheath (protective covering). It is almost always benign, but rare malignant schwannomas have been reported.

  • Second primary cancer

    (SEH-kund PRY-mayr-ee KAN-ser)

    A term used to describe a new primary cancer that occurs in a person who has had cancer in the past. Second primary cancers may occur months or years after the original (primary) cancer was diagnosed and treated. Certain types of cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, may increase the risk of a second primary cancer. Having certain inherited gene mutations (changes) and being exposed to certain cancer-causing substances, such as tobacco smoke, may also increase the risk of a second primary cancer.

  • Sedation


    A state of calmness, relaxation, or sleepiness caused by certain drugs. Sedation may be used to help relieve anxiety during medical or surgical procedures or to help cope with very stressful events. Drugs that relieve pain may be used at the same time.

  • Sedative


    A drug or substance used to calm a person down, relieve anxiety, or help a person sleep.

  • Sedimentation rate

    (SEH-dih-men-TAY-shun rayt)

    The distance red blood cells travel in one hour in a sample of blood as they settle to the bottom of a test tube. The sedimentation rate is increased in inflammation, infection, cancer, rheumatic diseases, and diseases of the blood and bone marrow. Also called erythrocyte sedimentation rate and ESR.

  • SEG

    A type of white blood cell essential to defend your body against infection.

  • Seizure

    An abnormal state in which you become unconscious and your body moves in an uncontrolled and violent way.

  • Seizures

    An abnormal state in which you become unconscious and your body moves in an uncontrolled and violent way.

  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy

    SEN-tih-nul limf node BY-op-see

    Removal and examination of the sentinel node(s) (the first lymph node(s) to which cancer cells are likely to spread from a primary tumor). To identify the sentinel lymph node(s), the surgeon injects a radioactive substance, blue dye, or both near the tumor. The surgeon then uses a probe to find the sentinel lymph node(s) containing the radioactive substance or looks for the lymph node(s) stained with dye. The surgeon then removes the sentinel node(s) to check for the presence of cancer cells.

  • Sepsis


    The presence of bacteria or their toxins in the blood or tissues.

  • Septicemia/sepsis


    A very serious bacterial or fungal blood infection which has usually spread from another site of infection such as skin, bowel, or urinary tract. It is usually associated with high fever, shaking chills, and heavy sweating. It is more likely to occur in patients with very low white blood cells.

  • Shingles

    A common condition that occurs when the virus that causes chickenpox is reactivated in the body. After having chickenpox, the virus stays inactive in the body, usually in the nerves along the spinal cord or at the base of the skull. The virus can become active again many years later and cause shingles. Shingles is marked by a painful rash that usually appears as small clusters of blisters. The blisters often form a band across the skin on one side of the body, especially on the chest, back, waist, or face. The pain in the affected area can last for many weeks or months after the rash disappears.

  • Shock

    A serious condition caused by inadequate amounts of blood circulating in your blood stream. Signs of shock include a drop in blood pressure, rapid weak pulse, pale moist clammy skin, being very thirsty and a state of anxiety.

  • Shot

    An injection of a drug, immunizing substance, nutrient, or medicament.

  • Shunt

    In medicine, a passage that is made to allow blood or other fluid to move from one part of the body to another. For example, a surgeon may implant a tube to drain cerebrospinal fluid from the brain to the abdomen. A surgeon may also change normal blood flow by making a passage that leads from one blood vessel to another.

  • Shunts


    In medicine, passages made to allow blood or other fluid to move from one part of the body to another. For example, a surgeon may implant a tube to drain cerebrospinal fluid from the brain to the abdomen. A surgeon may also change normal blood flow by making a passage that leads from one blood vessel to another.

  • Sibling

    A persons brother or sister who has the same parents.

  • Sickle cell disease

    An inherited disease in which the red blood cells have an abnormal crescent shape, block small blood vessels, and do not last as long as normal red blood cells. Sickle cell disease is caused by a mutation (change) in one of the genes for hemoglobin (the substance inside red blood cells that binds to oxygen and carries it from the lungs to the tissues). It is most common in people of West and Central African descent. Also called sickle cell anemia.

  • Side effects

    Problems caused by cancer treatments. Two people with the same cancer and even the same treatments may not have the same side effects. Your doctor can tell you what happens to most people but can't say for certain what will happen to you. Not having side effects doesn't mean that the treatment isn't working. Tell your children what the doctor has told you, and promise to tell them if you start to feel the effects of the treatment.

  • Signaling pathway

    (SIG-nuh-ling …)

    Describes a group of molecules in a cell that work together to control one or more cell functions, such as cell division or cell death. After the first molecule in a pathway receives a signal, it activates another molecule. This process is repeated until the last molecule is activated and the cell function is carried out. Abnormal activation of signaling pathways can lead to cancer, and drugs are being developed to block these pathways. These drugs may help block cancer cell growth and kill cancer cells.

  • Simulation


    In cancer treatment, a process used to plan radiation therapy so that the target area is precisely located and marked.

  • Sinuses

    Hollow spaces in the bones of your head.

  • Skin graft

    (skin graft)

    Skin that is moved from one part of the body to another.

  • Sleep Apnea

    (… AP-nee-uh)

    A sleep disorder that is marked by pauses in breathing of 10 seconds or more during sleep, and causes unrestful sleep. Symptoms include loud or abnormal snoring, daytime sleepiness, irritability, and depression.

  • Sodium


    A mineral needed by the body to keep body fluids in balance. Sodium is found in table salt and in many processed foods. Too much sodium can cause the body to retain water.

  • Soft tissue sarcoma

    (...TIH-shoo sar-KOH-muh)

    A cancer that begins in the muscle, fat, fibrous tissue, blood vessels, or other supporting tissue of the body.

  • Solid tumor

    SAH-lid TOO-mer

    An abnormal mass of tissue that usually does not contain cysts or liquid areas. Solid tumors may be benign (not cancer), or malignant (cancer). Different types of solid tumors are named for the type of cells that form them. Examples of solid tumors are sarcomas, carcinomas, and lymphomas. Leukemias (cancers of the blood) generally do not form solid tumors.

  • Somatic


    Having to do with the body.

  • Sperm


    The male reproductive cell, formed in the testicle. A sperm unites with an egg to form an embryo.

  • SPF

    A scale for rating the level of sunburn protection in sunscreen products. The higher the SPF, the more sunburn protection it gives. Sunscreens with a value of 2 through 11 give minimal protection against sunburns. Sunscreens with a value of 12 through 29 give moderate protection. SPFs of 30 or higher give high protection against sunburn. Also called sun protection factor.

  • Spinal cord

    (SPY-nul kord)

    A column of nerve tissue that runs from the base of the skull down the center of the back. It is covered by three thin layers of protective tissue called membranes. The spinal cord and membranes are surrounded by the vertebrae (back bones). The spinal cord and the brain make up the central nervous system (CNS). Spinal cord nerves carry messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

  • Spine


    The bones, muscles, tendons, and other tissues that reach from the base of the skull to the tailbone. The spine encloses the spinal cord and the fluid surrounding the spinal cord. Also called backbone, spinal column, and vertebral column.

  • Spirituality


    Having to do with deep, often religious, feelings and beliefs, including a persons sense of peace, purpose, connection to others, and beliefs about the meaning of life.

  • Spleen


    An organ that is part of the lymphatic system. The spleen makes lymphocytes, filters the blood, stores blood cells, and destroys old blood cells. It is located on the left side of the abdomen near the stomach.

  • Stage


    The extent of a cancer in the body. Staging is usually based on the size of the tumor, whether lymph nodes contain cancer, and whether the cancer has spread from the original site to other parts of the body.

  • Staging


    Performing exams and tests to learn the extent of the cancer within the body, especially whether the disease has spread from where it first formed to other parts of the body. It is important to know the stage of the disease in order to plan the best treatment.

  • Staging system

    (STAY-jing SIS-tem)

    A system that is used to describe the extent of cancer in the body. Staging is usually based on the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread from where it started to nearby areas, lymph nodes, or other parts of the body.

  • Standard medical care

    (STAN-durd MEH-dih-kul kayr)

    Treatment that is accepted by medical experts as a proper treatment for a certain type of disease and that is widely used by healthcare professionals. Also called best practice, standard of care, and standard therapy.

  • Standard therapies

    (STAN-durd THAYR-uh-pees)

    Treatment that is accepted by medical experts as a proper treatment for a certain type of disease and that is widely used by healthcare professionals. Also called best practice, standard medical care, and standard of care.

  • Stem cell

    stem sel

    A cell from which other types of cells develop. For example, blood cells develop from blood-forming stem cells.

  • Stem cell rescue

    (stem sel REH-skyoo)

    A method of replacing blood-forming stem cells that were destroyed by treatment with high doses of anticancer drugs or radiation therapy.

  • Stem cell transplant

    (stem sel TRANZ-plant)

    A procedure in which a patient receives healthy blood-forming cells (stem cells) to replace their own that have been destroyed by disease or by the radiation or high doses of anticancer drugs that are given as part of the procedure. The healthy stem cells may come from the blood or bone marrow of the patient, from a donor, or from the umbilical cord blood of a newborn baby. A stem cell transplant may be autologous (using a patients own stem cells that were collected and saved before treatment), allogeneic (using stem cells donated by someone who is not an identical twin), or syngeneic (using stem cells donated by an identical twin).

  • Stem cells

    stem sels

    Cells from which other types of cells develop. For example, blood cells develop from blood-forming stem cells.

  • Steroids

    Any of various compounds containing a 17-carbon 4-ring system and including the sterols and numerous hormones and glycosides.

  • Stomach


    An organ that is part of the digestive system. The stomach helps digest food by mixing it with digestive juices and churning it into a thin liquid.

  • Stomatitis


    Inflammation or irritation of the mucous membranes in the mouth.

  • Stool


    The material in a bowel movement. Stool is made up of undigested food, bacteria, mucus, and cells from the lining of the intestines. Also called feces.

  • Stool Test

    (stool test)

    A test to check for hidden blood in the bowel movement.

  • Strabismus

    Strabismus is a disorder in which both eyes do not line up in the same direction. Therefore, they do not look at the same object at the same time. The most common form of strabismus is known as "crossed eyes."

  • Stroke


    In medicine, a loss of blood flow to part of the brain, which damages brain tissue. Strokes are caused by blood clots and broken blood vessels in the brain. Symptoms include dizziness, numbness, weakness on one side of the body, and problems with talking, writing, or understanding language. The risk of stroke is increased by high blood pressure, older age, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, atherosclerosis (a buildup of fatty material and plaque inside the coronary arteries), and a family history of stroke. Also called cerebrovascular accident and CVA.

  • Superior vena cava

    (soo-PEER-ee-er VEE-nuh KAY-vuh)

    The large vein that carries blood from the head, neck, arms, and chest to the heart.

  • Superior vena cava syndrome

    (soo-PEER-ee-er VEE-nuh KAY-vuh SIN-drome)

    A condition in which a tumor presses against the superior vena cava (the large vein that carries blood from the head, neck, arms, and chest to the heart). This pressure blocks blood flow to the heart and may cause coughing, difficulty in breathing, and swelling of the face, neck, and upper arms.

  • Supplemental nutrition

    (SUH-pleh-MEN-tul noo-TRIH-shun)

    A substance or product that is added to a persons diet to make sure they get all the nutrients they need. It may include vitamins, minerals, protein, or fat, and may be given by mouth, by tube feeding, or into a vein.

  • Suppository


    A form of medicine contained in a small piece of solid material, such as cocoa butter or glycerin, that melts at body temperature. A suppository is inserted into the rectum, vagina, or urethra and the medicine is absorbed into the bloodstream.

  • Surgery

    A procedure to remove or repair a part of the body or to find out whether disease is present. Also called operation.

  • Survival rate

    (ser-VY-vul ...)

    The percentage of people in a study or treatment group who are still alive for a certain period of time after they were diagnosed with or started treatment for a disease, such as cancer. The survival rate is often stated as a five-year survival rate, which is the percentage of people in a study or treatment group who are alive five years after their diagnosis or the start of treatment. Also called overall survival rate.

  • Survivorship


    In cancer, survivorship focuses on the health and life of a person with cancer post treatment until the end of life. It covers the physical, psychosocial, and economic issues of cancer, beyond the diagnosis and treatment phases. Survivorship includes issues related to the ability to get health care and follow-up treatment, late effects of treatment, second cancers, and quality of life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also considered part of the survivorship experience.

  • Susceptible

    Tendency to develop a disease if exposed to it; not having immunity.

  • Swyer syndrome

    (SWY-er SIN-drome)

    A rare genetic condition in which people who have an X chromosome and a Y chromosome (the usual pattern for males) look female. They have normal female reproductive organs, including a uterus, fallopian tubes, and vagina. However, the ovaries do not develop and are replaced by clumps of tissue where they would normally form. Swyer syndrome is usually not diagnosed until puberty, when menstrual periods do not begin as they should. Having Swyer syndrome increases the risk of certain types of germ cell tumors.

  • Sympathetic nervous system

    SIM-puh-THEH-tik NER-vus SIS-tem

    The part of the nervous system that increases heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and pupil size. It also causes blood vessels to narrow and decreases digestive juices.

  • Symptom


    A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. Some examples of symptoms are headache, fatigue, nausea, and pain.

  • Syringe


    A small hollow tube used for injecting or withdrawing liquids. It may be attached to a needle in order to withdraw fluid from the body or inject drugs into the body.

  • Systemic


    Systemic chemotherapy treatment with anticancer drugs that travel through the blood to cells all over the body.