Welcome to CRC 101!
The Basics
Biomarker Testing And Me
All About Scans And Imaging
Chemotherapy And Targeted Therapies
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Academic Cancer Institution — A cancer research center that receives support from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to do cancer research and provide services directly to cancer patients.

ADA — Americans with Disabilities Act. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the workplace, transportation and public accommodations.

Alkaline phosphatase — A protein found in all body tissues.

ALT — Alanine transaminase. An enzyme found in the liver that helps convert proteins into energy for liver cells.

Anus — The opening at the end of your intestines through which poop leaves the body.

APR — Abdominalperineal resection. In this operation, the colon, rectum, and anal sphincter are removed, resulting in a permanent colostomy.

Ascending colon — The first part of the large intestine, which passes upward from the cecum on the right side of the abdomen.

AST — Aspartate transaminase. An enzyme that helps metabolize amino acids.

Biomarkers — Proteins present in or released by the tumor or metastases that can be detected in blood, other bodily fluids, or tissues.

Biopsy — An examination of tissue removed from your body to discover the presence, cause, or extent of your cancer.

BRAF — A gene that codes for an enzyme that plays an essential role in a signaling pathway in your cells.

CA 19-9 — A protein found in your blood that can be a useful tumor marker for some patients.

CBC — Complete blood count. A blood test measuring the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in the body.

CEA — Carcinembryonic antigen. A common tumor marker found in the blood.

Cecum — A pouch that forms the first part of the large intestine.

Chemotherapy — Set of drug treatments that use powerful drugs to kill cancer within the body. These drugs affect all rapidly dividing cells in the body including cancer cells, common side effects are seen when chemotherapy drugs affect normal cells.

Clinical trial — Research studies performed in people that are aimed at evaluating medical, surgical, or behavioral intervention.

CMP — Complete metabolic panel. A blood test measuring 14 different substances in the blood.

Coccygectomy — Surgery that removes the tailbone.

Colonoscopy — A procedure in which a flexible fiber-optic instrument is inserted through the anus in order to examine the colon.

Colorectal cancer — When a malignant tumor develops in the colon or rectum.

Community clinic — Community-driven, non-profit clinics located in medically underserved areas or serving populations that are medically underserved.

ctDNA — Circulating tumor DNA. Genetic material from cancerous cells found in the bloodstream.

CT scan — Computed tomography scan. A procedure that uses a computer linked to an x-ray machine to make a series of detailed pictures of the inside of the body.

Descending colon — The part of the large intestine that pases downward on the left side of the abdomen toward the rectum.

Diagnosis — Determining what kind of disease you have. Cancer diagnoses can come along with a whole bunch of information, from stage to cancer type.

Dietician — An expert on diet and nutrition.

Differentiation — The term used to describe how much or how little tumor tissue looks like the normal tissue it came from.

Digestive system — Includes the mouth, pharynx (throat), esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. The main job is to absorb nutrients from food.

DNA — Deoxyribonucleic acid. A molecule found in every cell in the body, containing instructions for everything your cells need to do.

DPYD/DPD — Genes that code for enzymes that are important in the breakdown of the chemotherapy drug 5FU.

EBRT — External beam radiation therapy. Refers to the delivery of tightly targeted radiation beams from outside the body.

EEOC — Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. A federal agency that enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination.

EGFR inhibitor — Epigenetic growth factor receptor inhibitor. A class of drugs that blocks the activity of specific proteins called epidermal growth factor receptors. They are often found at high levels on some types of cancer cells.

Endoscopy — A procedure in which an instrument is introduced into the body to give view of its internal parts.

Epithelium — The thin tissue forming the outer layer of a body’s surface and lining the intestines and other hollow structures.

First-line treatment — The first type of medication given aimed at shrinking or curing cancer.

Gene — The basic unit of inheritance. Together, many many genes make up your DNA.

Genetic counselor — An expert who provides information on how genetics may affect you or your family.

Genomic testing — The process of observing genes that make up an organism.

Germline testing — A blood test that checks for heritable gene mutations present in all cells of your body — including the tumor.

GI — Gastrointestinal. Relating to the stomach or intestines.

HAI pump — Hepatic artery infusion pump. A method of delivering chemotherapy medicine directly to the liver.

HCT — Hematocrit. The ratio of the volume of red blood cells to the total volume or blood.

HER2/ERBB2 — A protein involved in normal cell growth.

HGB— Hemoglobin. A red protein responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood.

Hospice care — A special kind of care that focuses on quality of life for people and their caregivers who are experiencing an advanced, life-limiting illness.

IHC test — Immunohistochemistry test. A test performed on cancer tissue removed during a biopsy. The test is used to show whether or not cancer cells have specific proteins expressed.

Immunotherapy — The prevention or treatment of disease with substances that stimulate an immune response.

Integrative doctor — A holistic-oriented medical professional who takes account of the whole person, including all aspects of their lifestyle, when treating patients.

LAR — Lower anterior resection. In this surgery, the tumor and part of the rectum is removed. Then, the lower part of the colon is reattached to the rectum.

LARS — Lower anterior resection syndrome. This describes a series of bowel-related symptoms that people who have undergone a LAR operation may experience, such as loose stools, urge to go to the bathroom, and incomplete stools.

Liquid biopsy — A test done on a blood sample to look for cancer cells or pieces of tumor cell DNA circulating in the blood.

Lymph — A colorless fluid containing white blood cells, which surrounds tissues and drains through the lymphatic system into the bloodstream.

Lymphatic system — A network of tissues, vessels and organs that work together to move lymph back into your bloodstream.

Lynch syndrome — Inherited mutations in genes that affect DNA mismatch repair, a process that fixes mistakes made in DNA replication. Lynch syndrome is the most common cause of hereditary colorectal cancer.

Malignant — A term for disease in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and invade nearby tissues.

Mental health professional — A medical professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues.

Metastasis — Often referred to as ‘mets’. The development of a secondary cancer growth in a different organ than the primary tumor site.

Microsatellites — Short repeated sequences in DNA.

MRD — Minimal residual disease. Refers to a small number of cancer cells left in the body after treatment.

MMR — Mismatch repair. Your cells’ way of proofreading DNA.

MRI — Magnetic resonance imaging. A procedure that uses radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer to create detailed pictures of inside the body.

MSI — Microsatellite instability. Changes found in microsatellite length.

MSS — Microsatellite stable. No changes are found in microsatellite length.

Mucosa — The inner lining of some organs and body cavities.

Multi-disciplinary team — A treatment planning approach in which a number of doctors who are experts in different specialties review and discuss a patient’s medical condition and treatment options.

Mutation — Any change in a gene, resulting in a variant form. This can be caused by changes in single base units in DNA, or the deletion, insertion, or rearrangement of larger sections of genes or chromosomes.

NCCN — National Comprehensive Cancer Network. A not-for-profit alliance of 31 leading cancer centers devoted to patient care, research, and education.

NCCN guidelines — National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines. A comprehensive set of standard guidelines oncologists follow to determine treatment options. There are separate guidelines for providers and patients.

NCI-designated cancer center — National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. The NCI is the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training. An NCI cancer center can offer cutting-edge treatments.

NED — No evidence of disease.

Neutrophil — A type of white blood cell that helps heal damaged tissues and resolve infections.

NGS panel — Next-generation sequencing panel. Test used to analyze multiple genes associated with cancer by sequencing.

NTRK fusion — A mutation that occurs when a piece of the chromosome containing a gene called NTRK breaks off and joins with a gene or another chromosome.

Oncologist — A doctor who specializes in treating and managing cancer.

Pathology — The science of the cause and effects of diseases. Refers to examining and diagnosing tissue samples.

Palliative care specialist— A medical professional who focuses on providing patients relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness.

PCR test — Polymerase chain reaction test.

PET scan — Positron emission tomography. An imaging test that can help reveal the metabolic or biochemical function of the tissues and organs.

Pharmacogenetic testing — Testing how genes affect a patient’s response to certain medications.

PICC line — Peripherally inserted catheter. A long tube inserted through the peripheral vein, often in the arm, into a larger vein in the body, used when intravenous treatment is required over a long period.

Port-A-Cath — A device used to draw blood and give treatments, including intravenous fluids, blood transfusions, or drugs such as chemotherapy and antibiotics.

Predictive markers — Biomarkers that provide information on the effects of a potential intervention or treatment.

Primary cancer — A term used to describe the original, or first, tumor in the body.

PCP — Primary care physician. A healthcare professional who practices general medicine.

Prognosis — How likely it is for a patient to survive cancer. Doctors often use 5-year survival rates to discuss prognosis, meaning the percentage of patients who are still alive 5 years after diagnosis.

Prognostic markers — Biomarkers that provide information on the overall cancer outcome regardless of specific therapy.

Radiation — A treatment that uses intense beams of energy to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.

Radiation oncologist — A doctor who has special training in using radiation to treat cancer.

Radiologist — A medical doctor that specializes in diagnosing and treating injuries and diseases using medical imaging such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography (PET) and ultrasound.

RAS — A family of genes that code for proteins involved in cell signaling pathways controlling cell growth and cell death.

RBC — Red blood cell count.

Rectum — The final section of the large intestine, terminating at the anus.

Resection — Surgery to remove tissue or part of an organ.

SBRT — Stereotactic body radiation therapy. Delivers extremely precise doses of radiation to cancer cells.

Scanxiety — Anxiety and worry that accompanies the period of time before undergoing or receiving the results of a medical examination such as an MRI, CT Scan or PET scan.

Sigmoid colon — The S-shaped last part of the intestine, leading into the rectum.

Social worker — A professional devoted to helping people function the best they can in their environment.

Subserosa — The layer of tissue under the outer lining of some organs and body cavities.

Surgery — An operation or procedure to take out a tumor, and possibly some nearby tissue. The cancer is physically removed from the body.

Surgical oncologist — A medical doctor who uses surgery to treat cancer.

Surveillance — Closely watching a patient’s condition but not treating it unless there are changes in test results, also known as “watch and wait.”

Side effects — A secondary, often undesirable effect of a drug or medical treatment.

Submucosa — The layer of areolar connective tissue lying beneath a mucous membrane.

Targeted therapies — A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells with less harm to normal cells.

TMB — Tumor mutational burden. A measure of gene mutations found in tumor DNA.

TNM system — A system that describes the amount of spread of cancer in a patient’s body. T – tumor N- nodes M – metastases.

Transverse colon — The middle part of the large intestine, passing across the abdomen from right to left below the stomach.

Tumor boards — A treatment planning approach in which a number of doctors who are experts in different specialties review and discuss a patient’s medical condition and treatment options.

UGT1A1 — Gene that codes for enzymes that are important in the breakdown of the chemotherapy drug irinotecan.

WBC — White blood cell count.

Y-90 — Yttruim. A radioactive form of a rare metal used in radiation therapy to treat some types of tumors.

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Last updated: September 5, 2022