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Medical Term Dictionary - C
medical terms

Caesarean section - A surgical operation to deliver a baby by means of an incision through the abdomen and uterus. It is performed when there is a risk to the health of the baby or mother in normal delivery, both as a planned and as an emergency procedure.

Calcifications - Small calcium deposits in the breast tissue that can be seen by mammography.

Cancer - A general term used to describe more than 100 different uncontrolled growths of abnormal cells in the body. Cancer cells have the ability to continue to grow, invade and destroy surrounding tissue, leave the original site and travel via lymph or blood systems to other parts of the body where they can set up new cancerous tumors.

Cancer Cell - A cell that divides and reproduces abnormally with uncontrolled growth. This cell can break away and travel to other parts of the body and set up another site, referred to as metastasis.

Cancerophobia - An exaggerated fear of cancer.

Capsular contracture - A capsule or shell of scar tissue that may form around a woman's breast implant, giving it a feeling of firmness, as her body reacts to the implant.

Carcinoembryonic antigens - A class of antigens normally present in the fetus; originally isolated from colon tumors. If the previously elevated CEA levels return to normal after surgery, it is thought to indicate complete tumor removal.

Carcinogen - Any substance that initiates or promotes the development of cancer. For example, asbestos is a proven carcinogen.

Carcinoma - Most cancers are carcinomas. These are cancers arising in the epithelial tissue, including the skin, glands, and lining of the internal organs.

Catechol estrogen - A form of estrogen that is biologically unavailable.

Cathepsin-D - An enzyme present in breast tissue and in other cells that helps break down tissue. Large quantities of this enzyme in breast tissue may indicate a high degree of invasion into surrounding healthy tissue.

Catheter - A tube implanted Or inserted into the body to inject or withdraw fluid.

Cells - Individual living units of which all organisms are composed. Cells are organized into tissues and organs.

Cellulitis - Infection occurring in soft tissues. The surgical arm has an increased risk for cellulitis because of the removal of lymph nodes during breast cancer surgery. Pain, swelling and warmth occur in the area.

Centigray - Measurement of radiation dose.

Cervical - A term meaning relating to the neck and often used in connection with the cervix, the neck of the womb (uterus).

Cervical cancer - Cancer of the neck or cervix of the womb. In the precancerous stage, readily detectable changes occur in the cells lining the surface of the cervix.

Cervical smear - A simple test, involving scraping off some cells from the cervix and examining them microscopically. The test is carried out every three years to detect early indications of cancer and is a form of preventive medicine.

Chemotherapy - Treatment of cancer with powerful anticancer drugs capable of destroying cancer cells.

Chorionic gonadotrophic hormone or human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) - A hormone produced during pregnancy by the placenta, large amounts of which are present in the urine of a pregnant woman. The presence of this hormone is the basis of most pregnancy tests. It is given by injection to treat cases of delayed puberty and, with another hormone, called follicle-stimulating hormone, to women who are sterile because of a failure in ovulation. It may also be used to treat premenstrual tension.

Chromosomes - The rod-like structures, present in the nucleus of everybody cell, that carry the genetic information or genes. Each human body cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, apart from the sperm and ova, half derived from the mother and half from the father. Each chromosome consists of a coiled double filament (double helix) of DS^, with genes carrying the genetic information arranged linearly along its length. The genes determine all the characteristics of each individual. Of the pairs of chromosomes, 22 are the same in males and females. The 23rd pair are the sex chromosomes, and males have one X-chromsome and one Y-chromsome, whereas females have two X- chromosomes.

Chronic - Of long duration.

Circumcision - A surgical removal of the foreskin (or prepuce) of the penis in males and part or all of the external genitalia (clitoris, labia minora, labia majora) in females. Female circumcision is damaging and not beneficial to a woman's health.

Clavicle - Collarbone.

Clear margin - Surrounding area of tissue that is clear of cancer cells after surgery.

Clinical stage - Denoting diagnosis and treatment on the basis of observation, pathology, and symptoms of patients.

Clinical trials - Studies designed to evaluate new cancer treatments.

Clitoris - A small organ present in females, situated where the labial folds meet below the pubic bone. It contains erectile tissue that enlarges and hardens with sexual stimulation.

Colloid cancer - A rare ductal cancer also known as mucinous cancer.

Colostrum - The first fluid produced by the mammary glands. It is a fairly clear fluid containing antibodies, serum and white blood cells and is produced during the first two or three days prior to the production of milk.

Contraception - Prevention of conception.

Cooper's Ligaments - Flexible bands of tissue that pass from the chest muscle between the lobes of the breasts which provide shape and support the breasts.

Core biopsy - Type of needle biopsy in which a small core of tissue is removed from a lump without surgery.

Costochondritis - Inflammation of the cartilage between the ribs that causes pain and tenderness which may radiate to the breast.

Cribiform - A pattern of cancer cell growth inside the breast duct that resembles mesh.

Cyclic Pain - Pain that changes in degree of intensity during a monthly hormonal cycle.

Cyst - An abnormal sac-like structure that contains liquid or semi-solid material; is usually benign. Lumps in the breast are often found to be harmless cysts.

Cytology - Study of cells under a microscope that have been sloughed off, cut out or scraped off organs to examine for signs of cancer.

Cytotoxic - Drugs that can cause the death of cancer cells. Usually refers to drags used in chemotherapy treatments.

Cytotoxic agents - Chemicals that destroy cells or prevent their multiplication.