Terms and Definitions

Glossary of Terms



Abdomen – The cavity of the body containing stomach, liver, intestines, and spleen. The kidneys are located directly behind this.

Active Surveillance – The tumors are watched and monitored to see if it grows and by much.

Adjuvant – Supplement treatment following cancer surgery. This includes drug treatments or radiation therapy.

Adrenalectomy – The surgical removal of one or both adrenal glands.

Adrenal glands – Two small glands located at the upper part of the kidney. Adrenal glands secrete adrenaline and other important hormones.

Adrenaline – A hormone secreted by the adrenal glands the helps the body with physical and emotional stress.

Allele – Any of the possible forms in which a gene for a specific trait can occur.

Analogous – Having a similar function but a different structure and origin.

Anechoic – Not having or producing echoes; absorbs sound.

Anemia – a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells provide oxygen to body tissues.

Angiogenesis – The stimulation of new blood vessels to grow toward a cancer in order to obtain nutrients and oxygen for continued growth.

Angiomyolipoma – A benign (not cancerous) tumor composed of fat tissue, muscle cells, and vascular structures.

Anti-angiogensis treatments – Medicines that prevent cancer growth by limiting the growth of new blood vessels which provide nutrients for cancer cell expansion.

Antibodies – Proteins in the blood that the body produces in response to foreign proteins (like bacteria). Antibodies then trigger the immune system to respond to the foreign proteins.

Apoptosis – The process a cell eliminates itself, known as programmed cell death. The body uses this process to get rid of cells that have mutated and become cancerous.

Arterial embolization – is a procedure that purposely creates a lodging or occlusion of specific blood vessels with thrombo-emboli in order to deprive tumors of their blood supply.

Arteries – Blood vessels that carry blood to the kidney and other organs.

Autosomal dominant – Pattern of inheritance in which half of the offspring will receive the mutated gene and develop the syndrome possessed by the parent.

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Benign – Indicates growth is not cancerous and not likely to spread.

Bowels – refers to the small and large intestines.
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Cancer – An uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells.

Capillaries – These are the smallest of the body’s blood vessels.

Carcinogen – A cancer causing substance.

Carcinoma – Any malignant (cancerous) tumor derived from epithelial tissue. One of the four major types of cancer.

Chemotherapy – The treatment of cancer using specific chemical agents or drugs which are selectively destructive to malignant cells and tissue.

Chromophobe RCC – An uncommon type of kidney cancer. Very rarely do they spread outside of the kidney.

Chromosome – All of a person’s genes are encoded on 23 pairs of chromosomes. Each chromosome consists of two intertwined strands of DNA wrapped around a protein core.

Clear Cell or RCC – Most common type of kidney cancer, generally referred as renal cell carcinoma. It is characterized by cells with clear cytoplasm. Genetic responsible for this subtype is mutation of VHL gene on chromosome 3.

Clinical trials – These are controlled research studies that are done with patients who volunteer. These are promising new treatments or procedures.

Creatine – A compound formed by the metabolism of creatine, found in muscle tissue and blood and normally excreted in the urine as a metabolic waste. Measurement of creatinine levels in the blood is used to evaluate kidney function.

Cryoablation – Refers to destruction of a tumor by super-freezing.

CT (or CAT) Scan – a CT scan is generally the most useful radiographic exam for the evaluation of kidney cancer. X-Rays are passed through a section of the body and collected by the device as the patient moves through the machine.

Cystitis – Inflammation of the urinary bladder.

Cytogenetic – Analysis of the chromosome structure within cancer cells. Chromosomal abnormalities are commonly found in kidney cancer.
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Diabetes – A metabolic disorder, in which excessive amounts of glucose (sugar) is found within the bloodstream.
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Echogenic – The pattern of sound waves detected during an ultrasound examination. Kidney tumors can have increased or decreased echogenicity on ultrasound when compared to normal kidney.

Edema – The abnormal collection of fluid that produces swelling of ankles and legs.

Epithelial cells – epithelium is a tissue composed of layers of cells that line the cavities and surfaces of structures throughout the body. In the adult kidney epithelial cells from the cortical collecting duct are differentiated in two ways: principal cells are involved in water, sodium, and potassium transport and intercalated cells mediate acid base transport. The principal characteristic associated with epithelial cells are to defend the underlying cellular elements from harmful x-rays, different toxic compounds or potential physical injury. Other important functions include intracellular transport, secretion of certain enzymes, and hormone release into vascular system. This is where Renal Cell Carcinoma starts.

Erythropoietin – A hormone that stimulates production of red blood cells and hemoglobin in the bone marrow. This hormone is overproduced by some kidney tumors leading to high red blood cell counts, the opposite of anemia.
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Flank – The side of a person between the ribs and hip.
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Gene – A gene is a segment of DNA that typically encodes a specific protein. Each gene contains an ordered sequence of the four nucleotides (A, C, G, and T)

Genetic Mutation – Change in the individual nucleotides of a gene that can result in the function or amount of that gene’s protein product.

Genome – The entire collection of genes inside each of a person’s cells.
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Hematocrit – Blood test that measures the thickness of the blood, which is a reflection of its oxygen-carrying capability. The hematocrit value is a ration of the volume occupied by packed red blood cells to the volume of the whole blood.

Hematuria – Blood in the urine, whether it is visible to the eye or only when viewed under a microscope.

Hemoglobin – The oxygen-carrying component in red blood cells that gives them their red color and serves to bring oxygen to the tissues.

High Blood Pressure – The elevation of the arterial blood pressure or a condition resulting from it; also known as hypertension.

Hospice Care – A type of care, and philosophy of care, that focuses on the palliation of a terminally ill patient or seriously ill patient’s symptoms. Hospice care focuses on bringing comfort, self-respect, and tranquility to people in the final year of life.

Hypervascular – Increased number of blood vessels supplying a tumor. Kidney cancer is typically hypervascular due to the high expression of the growth factor VEGF.
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Immune System – It is an integrated system of organs, tissues, cells, and cell products that differentiates self from non-self and neutralizes potentially harmful organisms or substances.

Immunogenicity – The property of eliciting an immune response.

Immunohistochemistry – Microscopic localization of specific antigens in tissues by staining with antibodies labeled with fluorescent or pigmented material.

Immunosuppressive Medications – Suppression of the immune response, as by drugs or radiation, in order to prevent rejection of grafts or transplants or to control autoimmune diseases.

Inherited – To receive (a characteristic) from one’s parents by genetic transmission.

Intravenous (IV) – Within or through the blood; usually refers to medications or fluids given through IV line.
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Kinase – A type of enzyme that causes other molecules in the cell to become active. Some kinases work by adding chemicals called phosphates to other molecules, such as sugars or proteins. Kinases are a part of many cell processes. Some cancer treatments target certain kinases that are linked to cancer.
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Laparoscopic – Pertaining to laparoscopy, such as laparoscopic surgery. A flexible fiber optic instrument, passed through a small incision in the abdominal wall and equipped with instruments with which to examine the abdominal cavity or perform minor surgery.

Laparoscopy – Use of small instrument and telescopes (camera that look inside the body) to access various compartments of the body. Carbon dioxide gas is pumped into the body through small channels in order to create space between abdominal wall and the intra-abdominal organs facilitating the operation.

Leukemia – Known as blood cancer, is a cancer of the bone marrow that keeps the narrow from producing normal red and white blood cells and platelets. White blood cells are needed to resist infection. Red blood cells are needed to prevent anemia. Platelets keep the body from easily bruising and bleeding.

Lesion – Radiographic finding that is suspicious for the presence of a tumor, which may be benign or malignant.

Lethal – Capable of causing death.

Lymphoma – Refers to a cancer that originates in the nodes or glands of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system produces white blood cells and clean body fluids, or in organs such as the brain or breast. Lymphomas are classified into two categories: Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – A noninvasive diagnostic procedure employing an MRI scanner to obtain detailed cross-sectional images of the body’s internal structure. This test is often performed to examine the kidneys in patients with relatively poor kidney function and patients with locally – advanced kidney cancer.

Malignant – In reference to a tumor or cancer, indicates the potential to grow and divide, resulting in spreading locally or to other organs.

Malnutrition – Lack of proper nutrition; inadequate or unbalanced nutrition.

Medullary Cell – Is an aggressive kidney cancer that occurs almost exclusively in patients with sickle cell trait or disease.

Metastasis – The spread of cancer from its original site to other locations.

Mitosis – the process by which a eukaryotic cell separates the chromosomes in its cell nucleus into two identical sets, in two separate nuclei.

Morcellate – is to divide into small portions prior to surgical removal.

Mutifocal – refers to having more than one tumor. Multifocal kidney cancer does not appear to be associated with worse prognosis, but can be a sign of an inherited kidney cancer.

Mutations – Changes in chromosomes or genes that cause offspring to have characteristics different from those of their parents. Mutations can be caused by the effects of chemicals, radiation, or even ordinary heat on DNA.
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Neoplasia – The abnormal proliferation of cells.

Neoplasm – is an abnormal mass of tissue as a result of neoplasia. Neoplasms may be benign, pre-malignant or malignant (cancer).

Nephrectomy – Surgical removal of a kidney.

Nephrologist – A physician who specializes in the branch of medical science that deals with the medical aspects of kidney disease.

Nomogram – A predictive model that projects the likelihood of a given outcome (such as death due to cancer) based on specific characteristics of an individual patient and cancer. Nomograms are intended to be user-friendly versions of complicated predictive models, and they are often available for doctors and patients in paper based or PDA based formats.
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Oncogene – Any gene that is a causative factor in the initiation of cancerous growth. An oncogene becomes active by mutation of the normal DNA sequence.

Oncologist – A specialist in oncology dealing with the diagnosis and medical treatment of cancer.

Ophthalmologist – A medical doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the eye.
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Palpate – To examine or explore by touching (an organ or area of the body, usually as a diagnostic aid.

Papillary RCC – is the second most common subtype of kidney cancer. It is often multi-focal with multiple lesions within one kidney. It tends to display less aggressive clinical behavior.

Paraneoplastic – Effect of a primary tumor or its metastasis on the rest of the body.

Paraneoplastic syndrome – A clinical finding that is found in association with the presence of a neoplasm (like kidney cancer) such as an increase in the amount of red blood cells or calcium in the blood.

Partial nephrectomy – The removal of the portion of the kidney which contains the tumor along with just enough healthy kidney to provide a safe margin.

Percutaneous –  Administered, removed, or absorbed by way of the skin, as an injection, needle biopsy, or transdermal drug. With regards to kidney cancer, refers to treatments performed by inserting a needle through the skin.

Peritoneum – The serous membrane that forms the lining of the abdomen – it covers most of the intra-abdominal organs.

PIC Line – is a form of intravenous access that can be used for a prolonged period of time for chemotherapy, pulling blood for tests, providing IV fluids.

Placebo – A sugar pill that is given in clinical trials in order to help determine whether the effect seen with the real medication is due to the treatment itself or due to other reasons.

Power Port – is a small medical appliance that is installed under the skin and the catheter connects the port to a vein. Commonly used for chemotherapy drugs, contrast agents, fluids, pulling blood for tests.

Proliferation – occurs when a cell divides to make more cells. These cells are the same size and shape in most organs of the body. Cancer cells proliferate but at a much higher rate than normal cells. Cancer cells grow in abnormal shapes.

Proteases – Enzymes that degrade protein molecules.

Protein – Proteins are fundamental components of all living cells and include many substances, such as enzymes, hormones, and antibodies that are necessary for the proper functioning of an organism. They are essential in the diet of animals for growth and repair of tissue and can be obtained from foods such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, and legumes.

Protocol – The plan for a course of medical treatment or clinical trial.
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Radiation Therapy – Treatment of disease by means of X-rays or of radioactive substances.

Radical Nephrectomy – Removal of the entire kidney and the fat surrounding it.

Radiofrequency Ablation – energy based technology that uses alternating current to heat tissue, thereby causing direct cell death and injury and destruction of the tumor’s blood supply.

Radiographic Tests – An examination performed to visualize [arts of the body that are not visible with the naked eye.  Common types include X-Ray, CT Scans, MRI and ultrasound.

Renal – Relating to or involving the kidneys.

Renal Cell Carcinoma – is the most common type of kidney cancer. This cancer derives from the cells that make up the kidney rather than the cells that line the urine collection system.

Renin – A hormone of high specificity that is released by the kidney and acts to raise blood pressure by activating angiotensin.

Resected – The cutting away or removal of part of an organ bone, etc.

Retroperitoneal –  The space between the peritoneum and the posterior abdominal wall that contains the kidneys, adrenal glands, pancreas, and part of the aorta and inferior vena cava.
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Sarcoma – A sarcoma is a malignant tumor growing from connective tissues, such as fat, cartilage, muscle, tendons, and bones.

Satellite lesions – Smaller collection of cancer cells that surround a larger kidney cancer; often seen with papillary RCC.

Secrete –  to release a substance produced within cells out into the blood, urine, or other body fluid.

Serum Creatinine – creatinine is a breakdown product of creatine, which is an important part of muscle. Creatinine in the blood passes into the urine, where it is excreted from the body. A serum creatinine test measures the amount of creatinine in the blood, which is a reflection of the ability of the kidneys to eliminate this substance.

Sporadic – Occurring upon occasion or in a scattered, isolated, or seemingly random way.
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Thermal Ablation – is the destruction of a tumor using heat or cold to disrupt the cancer cells and blood vessels.

Transabdominal – performed by passing through the abdomen or the abdominal wall.

Transesopageal Echocardiogram – alternative way to perform an echocardiogram.

Transperitoneal – through the peritoneum, it is the smooth membrane that lines the abdominal cavity.

Tumor – an abnormal growth of tissue, which can be benign or malignant (cancer).

Tumor grade – the degree of abnormality of cancer cells, a measure of differentiation. Grade refers to the extent to which cancer cells are similar in appearance and function to healthy cells of the same tissue type.

Tumor Suppressor Gene – a gene that codes for a protein that serves to regulate cell division and prevent cancer. When the gene is mutated so that the protein is either not made or cannot function, cell growth is not controlled and cancer can develop.
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Ultrasound – an imaging method that relies on sound waves that are transmitted through the skin, into the body, and detected by the transducer.

Ureters – the paired structures that carry urine from each kidney to the bladder.

Urethra – the canal through which urine is discharged from the bladder.

Urine – waste product filtered from the body by the kidneys.

Urologist – a physician who specializes in clinical, surgical, and scientific aspects of the genitourinary tract.

Urology – a branch of medicine that deals with disorders of the genitourinary system in men and urinary system in women. This includes the kidneys, ureters, urethra, bladder, and adrenal glands in both and the prostate, testis, penis and remainder of reproductive organs in men.
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Vascular – relating to the blood containing vessels of the body that includes veins and arteries.

Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor – also known as VEGF. VEGF is a protein that is made within cells and released into the bloodstream. When cancer cells release VEGF it stimulates the growth of new blood vessels. VEGF plays a major role in kidney cancer.

Vein – blood vessel that carries blood away from an organ.

Venogram – is an X-Ray of a vein injected with a radiopaque contrast.

VHL – the gene on chromosome 3p that is responsible for von Hippel Lindau disease.

Von Hippel Lindau Syndrome – a genetic disease caused by mutation of a tumor suppressor gene which has been called the VHL gene. Mutation of this gene is the most common cause of familial kidney cancer and also occurs in the majority of non-inherited convention RCC.
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Wilm’s Tumor – is a malignant kidney tumor occurring in young children composed of small spindle cells and other tissue.
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