Abdomen Mid-portion of the human body, often misnamed “stomach.” The abdomen contains the stomach, intestines, liver, and a variety of other organs.

Abdominoperineal resection (APR) Surgery utilizing two incisions (abdomen and perineum) to remove cancer located in the lower part of the rectum.

Adenocarcinoma A cancerous tumor consisting of cells lining the inner surface of the colon or rectum.

Adenomatous polyp A flat or mushroom-shaped growth on the inside lining of the colon or rectum. Adenomatous polyps may develop into cancer.

Adjuvant therapy A treatment that is used in addition (as an adjunct) to the main treatment. For example, chemotherapy after surgery.

Alternative therapy A treatment that is considered unconventional and has no scientifically proven benefit.

Anastomosis The site where two hollow structures are surgically joined. For example, after removal of a part of the colon that is malignant, the ends of the colon are rejoined in an anastomosis.

Antioxidants Compounds found mainly in foods that protect the body against damage by molecules known as free radicals.

Benign Not cancerous.

Biopsy Removal of tissues or cells from the body for microscopic examination.

Carcinoma in situ The earliest stage of cancer in which the tumor is confined to the most superficial site where it started.

Chemotherapy  A cancer treatment that uses cytotoxic drugs, given either intravenously or orally, to destroy cancerous cells.

Clinical trials  Studies that compare a standard procedure or treatment with a newly developed procedure or treatment.

Colectomy  The surgical removal of all or part of the colon.

Colonoscopy  An examination of the colon using a long flexible scope to look for polyps, cancer, or other diseases.

Colostomy  A surgically-created opening (stoma) from the colon onto the skin of the abdomen so that stool can be eliminated, bypassing the rest of the colon and rectum. The opening is covered by a bag to collect the fecal matter.

Combination chemotherapy  The use of two or more drugs to treat cancer.

Complementary therapy  Therapies that are used in addition to standard treatments. The goal of complementary therapies is to relieve side effects of treatment and enhance a patient’s sense of well-being.

Computerized tomography (CT or CAT scan)  An imaging procedure that combines x-rays with a computer to produce detailed pictures of the organs.

Digital rectal examination  An exam in which a doctor inserts a gloved lubricated finger into the rectum and probes for abnormalities.

Dukes-Kirklin  A system used for staging colorectal cancer that describes the extent of the disease in a patient by letter designation (A,B,C or D).

Endocavitary radiation therapy  A form of radiation therapy for treating cancer in which the radiation beam is introduced through the anus into the rectum.

External beam radiation  A procedure in which radiation is focused from a source (linear accelerator) outside the body on the area where the cancer is located.

Familial adenomatous polypsis (FAP)  A heredity condition that will result in colorectal cancer if preventative surgery is not done.

Fecal occult blood test (FOBT)  A screening test for colon or rectal cancer that detects microscopic (occult) blood in feces.

Gastroenterology  A specialty that focuses on treating diseases of the digestive system.

Gene  A segment of DNA that holds information on hereditary traits, as well as susceptibility to certain diseases. Infusion Slow and/or prolonged delivery of a drug or fluids.

Intravenous (IV)  Injected into a vein.

Laparoscopy A less invasive surgical procedure in which the surgeon operates using long slender tubes inserted through very small incisions.

Low anterior resection (LAR)  Surgery through an incision in the lower abdomen. Used to remove cancers near the upper part of the rectum.

Lymph nodes  Small bean-shaped organs that filter out germs and abnormal cells. They are interconnected by lymph ducts.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)  An imaging method that combines magnetic fields, radio waves, and a computer to produce a detailed cross-sectional picture of the inside of the body.

Malignant Cancerous.

Margin  The edge of removed tissue. A negative, or clear, margin means that there were no cancer cells near the area from which the tissue was removed. A positive surgical margin (one that has cancer cells) is a sign that some cancer may have been left in the body.

Metastasis The spread of cancer cells from the primary (original) site to other sites in the body.

Minimally Invasive Surgery  A surgical procedure using only small incisions and special tools to access the surgical site.

Neoadjuvant therapy  Treatment that is administered prior to the primary treatment. E.g. radiation may be a neoadjuvant therapy for rectal cancer.

Oncology A subspecialty of internal medicine that employs chemotherapy, as well as nonradiation and nonsurgical treatments, to treat cancer.

Palliative therapy  Treatment to relieve the symptoms caused by cancer and help people live more comfortably. Palliative therapy is generally not considered to be curative therapy.

Pelvis The lower portion of the torso, below the abdomen, between the pelvic bones. It contains various organs including rectum, bladder, prostate or uterus, urethra, and pelvic nerves.

Perineum The area where the thighs come together, containing the scrotum and anus.

Polyp A flat or mushroom-shaped growth on the lining of the colon.

Polypectomy Removal of a polyp. This is usually performed during a colonoscopy.

Prognosis A prediction of the likely outcome of a disease or chance of survival in a particular patient.

Radiation oncology A specialty that uses various forms of radiation to treat cancer.

Radiation therapy A treatment that uses high doses of radiation to treat or control cancer.

Recurrence Cancer that has returned after treatment. Local recurrence means that it has returned to the original site. Regional recurrence means that it has returned to the lymph nodes or to tissues near the original site. Distant recurrence is the term used to describe cancer that has metastasized, or spread, to other organs or tissues.

Resection Surgery that removes part, or all of an organ or other structure.

Robotic surgery A surgical procedure involving a robotic device and special instruments, controlled by the surgeon from an adjacent console.

Sigmoidoscopy A test utilizing a flexible tube and camera that enables a doctor to view the lower third of the colon and rectum. Stage A classification of the extent of the cancer.

Surgical oncology A surgical subspecialty that focuses on treating cancer surgically.

TNM system A staging system for cancer based on three key pieces of information: T, size of tumor, N, cancer spread to nearby nodes, and M, cancer metastasis to other organs.

Tumor An abnormal growth of cells that can be benign or malignant.

Ultrasound A painless, noninvasive imaging method that uses high-frequency sound waves to locate and measure tumors and other abnormal growths in the body.