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Cancer Glossary - M

M proteins  
Antibodies or parts of antibodies found in unusually large amounts in the blood or urine of people with multiple myeloma.
macroglobulinemia  (MAK-ro-GLOB-u-li-NE-me-uh)
A condition in which the blood contains high levels of large proteins and is too thick to flow through small blood vessels. One type is Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia, which is a type of cancer.
macrophage  
A type of white blood cell that surrounds and kills microorganisms, removes dead cells, and stimulates the action of other immune system cells.
mafosfamide  
A form of cyclophosphamide that can be administered as an intrathecal infusion. Mafosfamide is being studied as an anticancer drug. It belongs to the family of drugs called alkylating agents.
MAGE-3  
A gene found in some types of tumors.
magnetic resonance imaging  (mag-NET-ik REZ-o-nans IM-a-jing)
MRI. A procedure in which a magnet linked to a computer is used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. Also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.
maintenance therapy  
Treatment that is given to help a primary (original) treatment keep working. Maintenance therapy is often given to help keep cancer in remission.
malabsorption syndrome  
A group of symptoms such as gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea resulting from the body's inability to properly absorb nutrients.
malignancy  
A cancerous tumor that can invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
malignant  (ma-LIG-nant)
Cancerous; a growth with a tendency to invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.
malignant ascites  
A condition in which fluid containing cancer cells collects in the abdomen.
malignant fibrous histiocytoma  
A sarcoma that usually begins in soft tissue. It usually appears as an enlarging, painful mass that can cause fracture due to destruction of the bone by a spreading tumor.
malignant meningioma  
A rare, quickly growing tumor that occurs in the membranes that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord (meninges).
malignant mesothelioma  
A rare type of cancer in which malignant cells are found in the sac lining the chest or abdomen. Exposure to airborne asbestos particles increases one's risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.
malnutrition  
A disorder caused by a lack of proper nutrition or an inability to absorb nutrients from food.
MALT lymphoma  
Mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma. A type of cancer that arises in cells in mucosal tissue that are involved in antibody production.
mammary  
Having to do with the breast.
mammogram  (MAM-o-gram)
An x-ray of the breast.
mammography  (mam-OG-ra-fee)
The use of x-rays to create a picture of the breast.
mantle field  (MAN-tul)
The area of the neck, chest, and lymph nodes in the armpit that are exposed to radiation.
margin  
The edge or border of the tissue removed in cancer surgery. The margin is described as negative or clean when the pathologist finds no cancer cells at the edge of the tissue, suggesting that all of the cancer has been removed. The margin is described as positive or involved when the pathologist finds cancer cells at the edge of the tissue, suggesting that all of the cancer has not been removed.
marimastat  
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called angiogenesis inhibitors. Marimastat is a matrix metalloproteinase inhibitor.
marker  
A diagnostic indication that disease may develop.
mastectomy  (mas-TEK-toe-mee)
Surgery to remove the breast (or as much of the breast tissue as possible).
mastocytoma  
A nodule of mast cells. Mastocytomas can involve the skin, subcutaneous tissue, and sometimes muscle. Also called a mast cell tumor.
matrix metalloproteinase  
A member of a group of enzymes that can break down proteins, such as collagen, that are normally found in the spaces between cells in tissues (i.e., extracellular matrix proteins). Because these enzymes need zinc or calcium atoms to work properly, they are called metalloproteinases. Matrix metalloproteinases are involved in wound healing, angiogenesis, and tumor cell metastasis.
MDL 101,731  
A drug that belongs to a family of drugs called ribonucleotide reductase inhibitors.
measurable disease  
A tumor that can be accurately measured in size. This information can be used to judge response to treatment.
mechlorethamine  
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called alkylating agents.
medial supraclavicular lymph nodes  
Lymph nodes located above the collar bone and between the center of the body and a line drawn through the nipple to the shoulder.
median  
A statistics term. The middle value in a set of measurements.
median survival time  
The time from either diagnosis or treatment at which half of the patients with a given disease are found to be, or expected to be, still alive. In a clinical trial, median survival time is one way to measure how effective a treatment is.
mediastinoscopy  (MEE-dee-a-stin-AHS-ko-pee)
A procedure in which a tube is inserted into the chest to view the organs in the area between the lungs and nearby lymph nodes. The tube is inserted through an incision above the breastbone. This procedure is usually performed to get a tissue sample from the lymph nodes on the right side of the chest.
mediastinum  (mee-dee-a-STYE-num)
The area between the lungs. The organs in this area include the heart and its large blood vessels, the trachea, the esophagus, the bronchi, and lymph nodes.
medical castration  
Refers to the use of drugs to suppress the function of the ovaries or testicles.
medical oncologist  (on-KOL-o-jist)
A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and biological therapy. A medical oncologist often serves as the main caretaker of someone who has cancer and coordinates treatment provided by other specialists.
medroxyprogesterone  
A hormonal anticancer drug that is also used in cancer prevention. It belongs to the family of drugs called progestins.
medullary breast carcinoma  (MED-yoo-LAIR-ee)
A rare type of breast cancer that often can be treated successfully. It is marked by lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) in and around the tumor that can be seen when viewed under a microscope.
medullary thyroid cancer  (MED-yoo-LAIR-ee)
Cancer that develops in C cells of the thyroid. The C cells make a hormone (calcitonin) that helps maintain a healthy level of calcium in the blood.
medulloblastoma  (MED-yoo-lo-blas-TOE-ma)
A malignant brain tumor that begins in the lower part of the brain and can spread to the spine or to other parts of the body. Medulloblastomas are a type of primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET).
mega-voltage linear accelerator  
MeV linear accelerator. A machine that creates high-energy radiation to treat cancer, using electricity to form a stream of fast-moving subatomic particles. Also called linear accelerator or a linac.
megestrol  
A drug that belongs to the group of hormones called progestins, used as hormone therapy to block estrogen and to suppress the effects of estrogen and androgens. It is also used to stimulate the appetite in people with cancer.
meiosis  
A special form of cell division in which each daughter cell receives half the amount of DNA as the parent cell. Meiosis occurs during formation of egg and sperm cells in mammals.
melanin  (MEL-a-nin)
The substance that gives the skin its color.
melanocytes  (mel-AN-o-sites)
Cells in the skin that produce and contain the pigment called melanin.
melanoma  
A form of skin cancer that arises in melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment. Melanoma usually begins in a mole.
melanoma vaccine  
A cancer vaccine prepared from human melanoma cancer cells. It can be used alone or with other therapy in treating melanoma.
melphalan  
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called alkylating agents.
membrane  
A very thin layer of tissue that covers a surface.
MEN-10755  
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called antitumor antibiotics.
meningeal  
Refers to the meninges, the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord.
meningeal metastases  
Cancer that has spread from the original (primary) tumor to the tissue covering the brain, spinal cord, or both.
meninges  (meh-NIN-jeez)
The three membranes that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord.
meningioma  (meh-nin-jee-O-ma)
A type of tumor that occurs in the meninges, the membranes that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord. Meningiomas usually grow slowly.
menopause  (MEN-o-pawz)
The time of life when a woman's menstrual periods stop permanently. Also called "change of life."
menstrual cycle  (MEN-stroo-al)
The monthly cycle of hormonal changes from the beginning of one menstrual period to the beginning of the next.
menstruation  
Periodic discharge of blood and tissue from the uterus. Until menopause, menstruation occurs approximately every 28 days when a woman is not pregnant.
mercaptopurine  
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called antimetabolites.
Merkel cell cancer  
A rare type of cancer that develops on or just beneath the skin.
mesenchymal  
Refers to cells that develop into connective tissue, blood vessels, and lymphatic tissue.
mesenteric membrane  
The peritoneal membrane that attaches the intestines to the abdominal wall near the back.
mesna  
A drug that helps protect the kidneys and bladder from the toxic effects of anticancer drugs such as ifosfamide and cyclophosphamide.
mesothelioma  
A benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) tumor affecting the lining of the chest or abdomen. Exposure to asbestos particles in the air increases the risk of developing malignant mesothelioma.
metabolic  
Having to do with metabolism.
metabolic acidosis  (met-ah-BOL-ik as-id-O-sis)
A condition in which the blood is too acidic. It may be caused by severe illness or sepsis (bacteria in the bloodstream).
metabolic disorder  
A condition in which normal metabolic processes are disrupted, usually because of a missing enzyme.
metabolic therapy  
Treatment to correct changes in metabolism that can be caused by disease.
metabolism  
The total of all chemical changes that take place in a cell or an organism. These changes produce energy and basic materials needed for important life processes.
metaplasia  
A change of cells to a form that does not normally occur in the tissue in which it is found.
metaplastic carcinoma  
A general term used to describe cancer that begins in cells that have changed into another cell type (for example, a squamous cell of the esophagus changing to resemble a cell of the stomach). In some cases, metaplastic changes alone may mean there is an increased chance of cancer developing at the site.
metastasis  (meh-TAS-ta-sis)
The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. Tumors formed from cells that have spread are called "secondary tumors" and contain cells that are like those in the original (primary) tumor. The plural is metastases (meh-TAS-ta-seez).
metastasize  (meh-TAS-ta-size)
To spread from one part of the body to another. When cancer cells metastasize and form secondary tumors, the cells in the metastatic tumor are like those in the original (primary) tumor.
metastatic  
Having to do with metastasis, which is the spread of cancer from one part of the body to another.
metastatic cancer  
Cancer that has spread from the place in which it started to other parts of the body.
metasynchronous  
Occurring at nearly the same time.
methotrexate  
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called antimetabolites.
methoxsalen  
A drug used in ultraviolet light therapy.
methyl-5-aminolevulinate  
A drug used in photodynamic therapy; it is absorbed by tumor cells and, when exposed to light, becomes active and kills the cancer cells.
methylphenidate  
A drug that is a central nervous system stimulant.
methylprednisolone  
A corticosteroid hormone replacement.
metoclopramide  
A drug that prevents or reduces nausea and vomiting.
metronidazole  
A drug used to treat bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections. It is also being studied in the treatment of some cancers.
MG98  
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called antisense compounds. These drugs interfere with production of certain proteins in the cell.
microcalcifications  (MY-krow-kal-si-fi-KAY-shunz)
Tiny deposits of calcium in the breast that cannot be felt but can be detected on a mammogram. A cluster of these very small specks of calcium may indicate that cancer is present.
micrometastases  
Small numbers of cancer cells that have spread from the primary tumor to other parts of the body and are too few to be picked up in a screening or diagnostic test.
microorganism  
An organism that can be seen only through a microscope. Microorganisms include bacteria, protozoa, algae, and fungi. Although viruses are not considered living organisms, they are sometimes classified as microorganisms.
microscopic  
Too small to be seen without a microscope.
microwave therapy  
Treatment that destroys tissue with heat created by electrodes.
mifepristone  
An anticancer drug that blocks the action of progesterone, a hormone that affects the growth of some cancers.
milligram  
A measure of weight. A milligram is approximately 450,000 times smaller than a pound and 28,000 times smaller than an ounce.
milliliter  
A measure of volume for a liquid. A milliliter is approximately 950 times smaller than a quart and 30 times smaller than a fluid ounce. A milliliter of liquid and a cubic centimeter (cc) of liquid are the same.
millimeter  
A measure of length. A millimeter is approximately 26 times smaller than an inch.
mineral  
A nutrient required to maintain health.
misoprostol  
A radioprotective agent that belongs to the family of drugs called prostaglandins.
mistletoe lectin  
A substance that comes from the mistletoe plant and that is being studied as a treatment for cancer. A lectin is a complex molecule that has both protein and sugars. Lectins are able to bind to the outside of a cell and cause biochemical changes in it. Lectins are made by both animals and plants.
mitochondria  
Parts of a cell where aerobic production (also called cell respiration) takes place.
mitolactol  
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called alkylating agents.
mitomycin  
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called antitumor antibiotics.
mitosis  
The process of division of somatic cells in which each daughter cell receives the same amount of DNA as the parent cell.
mitotane  
An anticancer drug used in treating adrenocortical cancer and ACTH-producing pituitary tumors (Cushing's disease).
mitotic activity  
Having to do with the presence of dividing (proliferating) cells. Cancerous tissue generally has more mitotic activity than normal tissues.
mitotic inhibitors  
Drugs that kill cancer cells by interfering with cell division (mitosis).
mitoxantrone  
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called antitumor antibiotics.
mivobulin isethionate  
An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called mitotic inhibitors. Also called CI-980.
mixed gliomas  
Brain tumors that occur in more than one type of brain cell, including astrocytes, ependymal cells, and oligodendrocytes.
modified radical mastectomy  (mas-TEK-toe-mee)
Surgery for breast cancer in which the breast, some of the lymph nodes under the arm, the lining over the chest muscles, and sometimes part of the chest wall muscles are removed.
molar pregnancy  
A rare cancer in women of childbearing age in which cancer cells grow in the tissues that are formed in the uterus after conception. Also called gestational trophoblastic disease, gestational trophoblastic neoplasia, gestational trophoblastic tumor, or choriocarcinoma.
mold  
A form of fungus. Some molds can cause disease in humans.
mole  
A benign growth on the skin (usually tan, brown, or flesh-colored) that contains a cluster of melanocytes and surrounding supportive tissue.
molecular mass  
The sum of the atomic masses of all atoms in a molecule, based on a scale in which the atomic masses of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen are 1, 12, 14, and 16, respectively. For example, the molecular mass of water, which has two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen, is 18 (i.e., 2 + 16).
molecule  
A chemical made up of two or more atoms. The atoms in a molecule can be the same (an oxygen molecule has two oxygen atoms) or different (a water molecule has two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom). Biological molecules such as proteins and DNA can be made up of many thousands of atoms.
monoclonal antibodies  (MAH-no-KLO-nul AN-tih-BAH-deez)
Laboratory-produced substances that can locate and bind to cancer cells wherever they are in the body. Many monoclonal antibodies are used in cancer detection or therapy; each one recognizes a different protein on certain cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies can be used alone, or they can be used to deliver drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to a tumor.
monoclonal antibody 3F8  
A type of monoclonal antibody used in cancer detection or therapy. Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced substances that can locate and bind to cancer cells.
monocyte  
A type of white blood cell.
Montanide ISA-51  
A drug used in vaccine therapy to stimulate the immune system.
morbidity  
A disease or the incidence of disease within a population. Morbidity also refers to adverse effects caused by a treatment.
morphine  
A narcotic drug used in the treatment of pain.
morphology  
The science of the form and structure of organisms (plants, animals, and other forms of life).
motexafin gadolinium  
A substance that makes tumor cells more sensitive to radiation; it can also enhance tumor images using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Motexafin gadolinium belongs to the family of drugs called metalloporphyrin complexes. Also called gadolinium texaphyrin.
motor  
In medicine, having to do with the movement of body parts.
MRI  
Magnetic resonance imaging (mag-NET-ik REZ-o-nans IM-a-jing). A procedure in which a magnet linked to a computer is used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. Also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
MS 209  
A substance that is being studied for its ability to make cancer cells respond better to chemotherapy drugs to which they have become resistant. It belongs to the family of drugs called quinolone antibiotics.
MS-275  
A substance that is being studied in the treatment of cancers of the blood . It belongs to the family of drugs called histone deacetylase inhibitors.
mucin/peptide  
A protein/sugar compound made by some cancer cells.
mucinous  (MYOO-sin-us)
Containing or resembling mucin, the main compound in mucus.
mucinous carcinoma  (MYOO-sin-us kar-sin-O-ma)
A type of cancer that begins in cells that line certain internal organs and produce mucin (the main component of mucus).
mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma  
MALT lymphoma. A type of cancer that arises in cells in mucosal tissue that are involved in antibody production.
mucositis  
A complication of some cancer therapies in which the lining of the digestive system becomes inflamed. Often seen as sores in the mouth.
mucus  
A thick, slippery fluid produced by the membranes that line certain organs of the body, including the nose, mouth, throat, and vagina.
muJ591 monoclonal antibody  
A type of monoclonal antibody used in cancer detection or therapy. Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced substances that can locate and bind to cancer cells.
multicenter study  
A clinical trial that is carried out at more than one medical institution.
multidrug resistance  
Adaptation of tumor cells to anticancer drugs in ways that make the drugs less effective.
multidrug resistance inhibition  
Treatment used to make cancer cells less resistant to anticancer drugs.
multimodality treatment  
Therapy that combines more than one method of treatment.
multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome  
An inherited tendency to develop thyroid cancer and other cancers of the endocrine system. The altered gene can be detected with a blood test.
multiple myeloma  (mye-eh-LO-ma)
Cancer that arises in plasma cells (white blood cells that produce antibodies).
multiple sclerosis  
A disorder of the central nervous system marked by weakness, numbness, a loss of muscle coordination, and problems with vision, speech, and bladder control. Multiple sclerosis is thought to be an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system destroys myelin. Myelin is a substance that contains both protein and fat (lipid), serving as a nerve insulator and helping in the transmission of nerve signals.
mung bean  
A type of bean grown in warm climates, usually for its seed and for bean sprouts. Mung bean may have anticancer effects.
muromonab-CD3 monoclonal antibody  
A type of monoclonal antibody used in cancer detection or therapy. Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced substances that can locate and bind to cancer cells.
musculoskeletal  
Having to do with muscles, bones, and cartilage.
mutate  
To change the genetic material of a cell. The changes (mutations) can be harmful, beneficial, or have no effect.
mutation  
Any change in the DNA of a cell. Mutations may be caused by mistakes during cell division, or they may be caused by exposure to DNA-damaging agents in the environment. Mutations can be harmful, beneficial, or have no effect. If they occur in cells that make eggs or sperm, they can be inherited; if mutations occur in other types of cells, they are not inherited. Certain mutations may lead to cancer or other diseases.
myalgia  (my-AL-juh)
Pain in a muscle or group of muscles.
mycophenolate mofetil  
A drug that is being studied for its effectiveness in preventing graft-versus-host disease and autoimmune disorders.
mycosis fungoides  (mye-KO-sis fun-GOY-deez)
A type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that first appears on the skin and can spread to the lymph nodes or other organs such as the spleen, liver, or lungs.
mycostatin  
A drug that treats infections caused by fungi.
myelin  (MYE-eh-lin)
The fatty substance that covers and protects nerves.
myelodysplasia  
Abnormal bone marrow cells that may lead to myelogenous leukemia.
myelodysplastic syndrome  (MYE-eh-lo-dis-PLAS-tik SIN-drome)
Disease in which the bone marrow does not function normally. Also called preleukemia or smoldering leukemia.
myelofibrosis  
A disorder in which the bone marrow is replaced by fibrous tissue.
myelogenous  (mye-eh-LAH-jen-us)
Produced by, or originating in, the bone marrow.
myelogram  (MYE-eh-lo-gram)
An x-ray of the spinal cord after an injection of dye into the space between the lining of the spinal cord and brain.
myeloid  (MYE-eh-loyd)
Pertaining to, derived from, or manifesting certain features of the bone marrow. In some cases also pertains to certain types of non-lymphocyte white blood cells found in the bone marrow, including granulocyte, monocyte, and platelet lineages. Also called myelogenous.
myeloma  
Cancer that arises in plasma cells, a type of white blood cell.
myeloproliferative disorders  
Diseases in which too many blood cells are made in the bone marrow.
myelosuppression  
A condition in which bone marrow activity is decreased, resulting in fewer red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Myelosuppression is a side effect of some cancer treatments.
myelosuppressive therapy  
Treatment that inhibits blood cell production.
myometrium  (mye-o-MEE-tree-um)
The muscular outer layer of the uterus.

 

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