Common Medical Terms

There are many new cancer medical terms you hear when you are diagnosed with cancer. The following phrases are often used to describe the success or failure rates of various treatments, and how your cancer is responding to therapy.

Complete Response - This means that on an x-ray or other imaging scan, the tumor appears to be completely gone as a result of treatment. (This is not the same as "cure".)

Partial Response - This usually means that the tumor has shrunk in size by at least 30%.

Stable Disease - This means the tumor did not grow or shrink much.

Progressive Disease - This means the tumor is growing in spite of the treatment you received. When this happens, that specific therapy is usually stopped or modified in some way.

Apparently Cancer-Free - This means the tumor has disappeared after treatment.

First-Line Therapy - This means a treatment (e.g., a particular type of chemotherapy) is the first therapy received, before any other treatments are used. Second line therapy may follow and so on.

Multimodality or Combined Modality Therapy - This means the use of a chemotherapy regimen along with surgery, radiation therapy, targeted therapy or a combination. 

Palliative Therapy - This means the treatment that is given to relieve symptoms, provide better quality of life, and perhaps extend life when cure is not probable.

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