Patient Education: Common Cancer Terms and What They Mean

Patients coping with a cancer diagnosis may hear unfamiliar medical terms related to their disease and its treatment.  We’ve highlighted four common cancer treatment terms below and provided brief overviews of what each term means. 

Local Control:  Refers to cancer that hasn’t grown and progressed and remains at the original tumor site. Radiation is used for local control of cancer cells at the site of the tumor.  Stereotactic radiosurgery and stereotactic body radiation therapy have shown to provide excellent local control rates for several types of primary and metastatic cancers. 

Localized Recurrent Cancer:  When cancer returns after a period of remission, it’s considered a recurrence.  These cancer cells may have been dormant for a period of time, but eventually they continued to multiply, resulting in the reappearance of the cancer. 

Metastatic Cancer:  Metastatic cancer is cancer that has spread from the place where it first started to another place in the body.  Cancer cells can travel through the lymph system to other organs or in the bloodstream to other parts of the body.  Metastatic cancer has the same name and the same type of cancer cells as the original, or primary, cancer.  For example, breast cancer that spreads to the lung and forms a metastatic tumor is metastatic breast cancer, not lung cancer. 

5-Year Survival Rate:  Refers to the percentage of patients who are alive at least 5 years after their cancer diagnosis.  Many of these people live much longer than 5 years after diagnosis, but the 5-year rate is used as a standard way to discuss a patient’s prognosis, or outlook for survival.  

Being diagnosed with cancer, or having a loved one battling cancer, can be scary.  Alliance Cancer Centers at Greenville and Clarksdale are here to help.  For more information, or to speak to our patient coordinator, please call (662) 332-6150 (Greenville) or (662) 624-8731 (Clarksdale).