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Medical Term Dictionary - P
medical terms

Palliation - The process of relieving without curing; alleviating discomfort and symptoms.

Palliative - Affording relief of symptoms such as pain but not a cure.

Palliative Treatment - Therapy that relieves symptoms, such as pain or pressure, but does not alter the development of the disease. Its primary purpose is to improve the quality of life.

Palpable - Distinguishable by touch.

Palpate - To feel.

Palpation - A procedure using the hands to examine organs such as the breast. A palpable mass is one you can feel with your hands.

Papillary cancer - A type of ductal cancer in the breast.

Paraphimosis - Constriction of the penis because of retraction of an abnormally tight foreskin, which contracts on the penis behind the glands and cannot be easily moved. Swelling and pain may be caused and usually circumcision is necessary to prevent a recurrence.

Partial or segmental mastectomy - Breast surgery that removes only a portion of the breast, including the cancer and a surrounding margin of breast tissue.

Pathologist - A physician who specializes in the diagnosis of disease via the study of cells and tissue.

Pathology - The study of disease through the microscopic examination of body cells and tissues. Any tumour suspected of being malignant must be diagnosed by pathologic examination.

Pathology report - An evaluation performed by a physician who specializes in the diagnosis of structural and functional changes in tissue that result from disease processes.

Patient-controlled anesthesia (PCA) - Advance in pain control that allows the patient to be in charge of her own pain relief. When pain relief is needed, the patient pushes a button on the PCA machine that delivers a predetermined dose of pain medication.

Pectoralis Muscles - Muscular tissues attached to the front of the chest wall and extending to the upper arms. These are under the breast. They are divided into the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor muscles.

Pedicle - A stem of tissue containing blood vessels allowing for the movement of that tissue to another area of the body.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PIO) - An acute or chronic infection of the uterus, ovaries or Fallopian tubes. It is the result of infection elsewhere, e.g. in the appendix, which spreads, or one that is carried by the blood. It produces severe abdominal pain, which usually responds to antibiotics but surgery may sometimes be necessary to remove diseased tissue.

Penis - The male organ through which the urethra passes, carrying urine or semen. It is made up of tissue that is filled with blood during sexual arousal, producing an erection that enables penetration of the vagina and ejaculation of semen. The glands is the end part, normally covered by the foreskin (prepuce).

Perimenopausal - Before menopause.

Permanent section - A tissue sample removed in a biopsy and embedded in wax or Paraffin prior to thin-slicing and staining for microscopic examination.

Pessary - 1. An instrument that fits into the vagina to treat a prolapse. 2. a soft solid substance that is shaped for insertion into the vagina and contains drugs for some gynaecological disorder (also used for inducing labour).

Phallus - 1. The penis or a penis-like object. 2. the term used for the embryonic penis before the final development of the urethra.

Pharmacological Discharge - Breast discharge caused by medications. Usually a milky, bilateral discharge that does not vary in amount with the menstrual cycle.

Phimosis - A condition in which the edge of the foreskin is narrowed and cannot be drawn back over the glans of the penis. To avoid inflammation and an exacerbation of the problem, circumcision may be necessary.

Physiological Discharge - Breast discharge caused by physical changes in the body. Usually a milky, bilateral discharge that does not vary in amount with the menstrual cycle.

Phytoalexins - Substances produced by plants. These counteract plant infections.

Phytochemicals - Chemicals found in plants.

Phytoestrogens - An estrogenlike substance produced by plants.

Pilot studies - Research investigations that explore a particular drug, technique, or idea.

Placebo - Inactive substance given to patients as medicine; also used in control studies of drugs.

Placenta - The organ attaching the embryo to the uterus. It is a temporary feature, comprising maternal and embryonic tissues, and it allows oxygen and nutrients to pass from the mother's blood to that of the embryo. There is, however, no direct contact of blood supplies. The embryo also receives salt, glucose, amino acids, some peptides and antibodies, fats and vitamins. Waste molecules from the embryo are removed by diffusion into the maternal circulation. It also stores glycogen for conversion to glucose, if required, and secretes hormones to regulate the pregnancy. It is expelled after birth.

Plagenta praevia - The condition when the placenta is situated in the bottom part of the uterus next to or over the cervix. In the later stages of pregnancy there may be placental separation, causing bleeding that will require attention. In the more extreme cases, a Caesarean section is necessary for delivery.

Ploidy - Measurement of the amount of DNA in a tumour cell that helps to predict tumour behaviour.

Polyunsaturated fats - Fats made up of long-chain carbon compounds with many carbon atoms joined by double or triple bonds.

Positive nodes - Lymph nodes that have been invaded by cancer cells.

Postmenopausal - After menopause.

Postpartum - The term meaning 'relating to the first few days after birth'.

Precancerous - Abnormal cellular changes that are potentially capable of becoming cancer. These early lesions are very amenable to treatment and cure. Also called Pre-malignant.

Predisposition - A latent susceptibility to disease that may be activated under certain conditions.

Pre-eclampsia - The development of high blood pressure in pregnancy, sometimes with oedema, which, unless treated, may result in eclampsia.

Pregnancy - The period of time, lasting approximately 280 days from the first day of the last menstrual period, during which a woman carries a developing foetus. Signs of a pregnancy include cessation of menstruation, increase in size of the breasts, morning sickness and, later, the obvious sign of enlargement of the abdomen. A foetal heartbeat and movements can also be detected. Many of these changes are hormone-controlled, by progesterone (from the ovary and placenta).

Pregnancy test - Any of various tests used to check for pregnancy, most of which are based on the presence of chorionic gonadotrophic hormone in the urine.

Premalignant - Before metastasis; cancerous growth (as in LCIS).

Premarin - A form of estrogen sometimes given to women after menopause.

Premature birth - A birth occurring before the end of the normal full term of pregnancy. The definition refers to babies weighing less than 2.5 kg. In many cases the cause is unknown, but in some it may be because of pre-eclampsia, kidney or heart disease or multiple pregnancies. Premature babies often require incubator care.

Premenstrual tension (PMT) or premenstrual syndrome (PMS) - The occurrence for up to ten days before menstruation of such symptoms as headache, nervousness and irritability, emotional disturbance, depression, fatigue with other physical manifestations such as swelling of legs and breasts, and constipation. The condition usually disappears soon after menstruation begins. The cause is not known, although the hormone progesterone is probably involved in some way.

Presentation - The point, during labour, at which some part of the foetus lies at the mouth of the uterus.

Progesterone - Female hormone produced by the ovaries during a specific time in the menstrual cycle. Causes the uterus to prepare for pregnancy and the breasts to get ready to produce milk. It is responsible for changes in the endometrium in the second half of the menstrual cycle, development of the maternal placenta, and development of the mammary glands.

Prognosis - Forecast of the course of the disease--the future prospect for the patient. For example, most breast cancer patients who receive treatment early have a good prognosis.

Prognostic factors - Factors influencing the prediction of the outcome of a disease.

Prolactin - Female hormone which stimulates the development of the breast and later is essential for starting and continuing milk production.

Prophylactic - Contributing to the prevention of infection or disease.

Prophylactic mastectomy - Removal of high-risk breast tissue to prevent the development of a cancer. This procedure usually is combined with breast reconstruction. Also called preventive mastectomy and risk-reducing mastectomy.

Prostaglanflin (PG) - Any of a group of compounds, derived from essential fatty acids, that act in a way that is similar to hormones. They are found in most body tissues (but especially semen), where they are released as local regulators (in the uterus, brain, lungs, etc). A number have been identified, two of which act antagonistically on blood vessels, PGE causing dilation, PGF constriction. Certain prostaglandins cause contraction of the uterus in labour, and others are involved in the body's defence mechanisms.

Prostate gland - A gland in the male reproductive system that is located below the bladder, opening into the urethra. Upon ejaculation, it secretes an alkaline fluid into the semen, which aids sperm motility. In older men, the gland may become enlarged, causing problems with urination.

Prostatectomy - Surgical excision of the prostate gland, performed to relieve urine retention caused by enlargement of the prostate. It is also done to counter poor flow of urine or frequent urination. The operation can be undertaken from several approaches: via the urethra, from the bladder, or from the perineum (for a biopsy).

Prostatitis - Inflammation of the prostate gland as a result of bacterial infection. The symptoms tend to be similar to a urinary infection although in the chronic form obstructions may form, necessitating prostatectomy.

Prosthesis - Any artificial substitute for a missing part of the body. A breast-shaped form may be worn outside the body after a breast has been removed because of cancer. It fits into the woman's brassiere in a specially designed pocket. Prostheses are made of different materials.

Protein - A substance found in all cells. Different proteins are used to drive different types of events in cells. The manufacture of each protein is specified by a different gene.

Provera - A form of progesterone that is sometimes given to women in combination with Premarin after menopause.

Ptosis - Sagging. Breast ptosis is usually the result of normal aging and the pull of gravity or changes caused by pregnancy or weight loss.

Pubic - Pertaining to the pubes e.g. pubic hair.

Pubis (pl pubes) - One of the three bones, and the most anterior, that make up each half of the pelvic girdle.

Puerperal - Fever an infection, now rare in developed countries, that occurs within two or three days of childbirth when a mother is susceptible to disease. Preventive measures are vital, but infections respond to antibiotic treatment.