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Glossary - S

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  • Salivary gland

    (SA-lih-VAYR-ee gland)

    A gland in the mouth that produces saliva.

  • Sarcoma

    sar-KOH-muh

    A cancer of connective tissues: bone cartilage, fat, muscle, nerve sheath, blood vessels, or lymphoid system.

  • Scan

    (skan)

    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.

  • Schwannoma

    (shwah-NOH-muh)

    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.

  • Sedation

    A relaxed, calm, or sleepy condition that results from taking a drug.

  • Sedative

    (SEH-duh-tiv)

    A drug given to make you drowsy or sleepy.

  • Sedimentation rate

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

    Sinking velocity of the red blood cells expressed in millimeters per hour. A SED rate that is over 25 or increasing may indicate infection.

  • 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.

  • 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

    (SEP-sis)

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

  • Septicemia/sepsis

    (SEP-tih-SEE-mee-uh)/(SEP-sis)

    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 viral infection of the nerve endings in the skin with blisters, crusts and severe pain along the course of the involved nerve. It is the same virus that causes chicken pox. Children who have not had chicken pox may get it from contact with someone with shingles.

  • 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

    A passage by which a bodily fluid is diverted from one channel, circulatory path, or part to another.

  • Sibling

    A brother or sister.

  • Sickle cell disease

    A disease of abnormal red blood cells of crescent shape.

  • 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

    (SIM-yoo-LAY-shun)

    When measurements and x-rays are taken and actual radiation treatment fields are determined.

  • 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.

  • Sodium

    (SOH-dee-um)

    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

    (soh-MA-tik)

    Having to do with the body.

  • 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)

    The cord or nerve tissue that runs through the center of your spinal column connecting your brain to other parts of your body.

  • Spine

    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

    (SPEER-ih-choo-A-lih-tee)

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

  • Spleen

    (spleen)

    An organ that filters the blood, removing debris, and old or dying cells from the circulation. It also removes bacteria from the blood during the early stages of severe infections. It frequently becomes enlarged in leukemia and certain other diseases.

  • Stage

    stayj

    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

    STAY-jing

    The process of finding out whether your cancer has spread and if so, how far. There is more than one system for staging. The TNM system, described below, is one used often. The TNM system for staging gives three key pieces of information: T refers to the size of the Tumor, N describes how far the cancer has spread to nearby Nodes, M shows whether the cancer has spread or Metastasized to other organs of the body. Letters or numbers after the T, N, and M give more details about each of these factors. To make this information clearer, the TNM descriptions can be grouped together into Stages, labeled with Roman numerals. In general, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number means a more serious cancer.

  • 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 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 patient’s 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).

  • Steroids

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

  • Stomatitis

    (STOH-muh-TY-tis)

    Mouth sores; can be a side effect of some kinds of chemotherapy.

  • Stool

    (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.

  • Stroke

    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.

  • Supplemental nutrition

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

    A substance or product that is added to a person’s 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

    (suh-PAH-zih-TOR-ee)

    A medicine prepared for insertion into the anus (rectal) or vagina (vaginal), where it is generally absorbed into the bloodstream.

  • Surgery

    Medical treatment in which a doctor cuts into someone's body in order to repair or remove damaged or diseased parts.

  • Survivorship

    (ser-VY-ver-ship)

    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.

  • 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

    (SIMP-tum)

    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.

  • Systemic

    (sis-TEH-mik)

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