Cancer: What You Need to Know

Cancer Terminology

Have you ever wondered what in the world your doctor is talking about when he starts using big words to describe an illness or disease? Most of these words have Greek or Latin roots. Once you know the roots, you can more easily understand the words. I am going to give you a list of prefixes, suffixes and endings to help you understand what the doctor is saying when talking about different tumors.

Here is a list of common prefixes and their meanings:

  • arthro- (joint)
  • brachi- (arm)
  • broncho- (windpipe)
  • cardio- (heart)
  • cephalo- (head)
  • chole- (gall bladder)
  • chondro- (cartilage)
  • cranio- (skull)
  • derm- or dermato- (skin)
  • entero- (intestine)
  • gastro- (stomach)
  • gyno- (women)
  • hemo-, hemato-, hemia- (blood)
  • hepato- (liver)
  • leuko- (white)
  • myo- (muscle)
  • neuro- (nerve)
  • osteo (bone)
  • stoma- (mouth)

The suffix -oma in terms such as fibroma or lipoma usually indicate a benign tumor.

The ending -carcinoma (as used in "squamous cell carcinoma") and the suffix -sarcoma (as used in "rhabdomyosarcoma") usually indicate a malignant tumor. The endings -lymphoma found in terms such as Burkitt's lymphoma and -leukemia found in chronic myelocytic leukemia also generally indicate a malignant process. So now when you hear a word like osteosarcoma, a malignant cancer of the bone, it is a bit easier to understand.

We'll find out how cancer is detected next.