Barrett's Esophagus

Glossary of Terms

A - C

Abdomen
The portion of the body between the diaphragm and the pelvis.
Abscess
A pus-filled cavity.
Adenocarcinoma
The form of cancer that most people are talking about when they refer to "cancer of the bile ducts."

Microscopically, adenocarcinomas form glands. These tumors can grow large enough to invade nerves which can cause back pain. They also frequently spread (metastasize) to the liver or lymph nodes. If this happens the tumor may be considered unresectable.
Adenoma
A benign (non-cancerous) tumor made up of cells that form glands (collections of cells surrounding an empty space.)
Adjuvant chemotherapy
Chemotherapy given to patients after their cancers have been surgically removed. It is a secondary treatment given to supplement surgical treatment. (see Neoadjuvant chemotherapy)
Anastamosis
A surgical joining of two hollow structures. It is similar to attaching two ends of a garden hose. For example, a gastrojejunostomy is a surgical procedure that connects the stomach and the jejunum (small intestine.)
Anemia
A condition characterized by a deficiency in red blood cells. This can lead to fatigue among other symptoms.
Anorexia
A condition marked by a diminished apetite and aversion to food. Often results in physical signs of wasting.
Angiography
A radiographic technique used to visualize blood vessels. A contrast medium (a dye) is usually injected into the vessels to make them appear white on the x-rays.
Ascites
The collection of excess amounts of fluid in the abdominal cavity (belly). It often is a sign that the cancer has spread to either the liver or the portal vein that goes to the liver. If normal liver function is affected, a complex set of biochemical checks and balances is disrupted and abnormal amounts of fluid are retained.
Barrett's Esophagus
A condition in which the normal lining of the esophagus is replaced by a type of lining normally found in the intestines (this is called intestinal metaplasia). This is believed to be a sequel to chronic reflux (regurgitation) of stomach contents into the esophagus.
Benign tumors
Tumors which are non-cancerous. These generally grow slowly and do not invade adjacent organs or spread (metastasize) beyond the bile ducts or gallbladdder.
Cancer
A malignant tumor. It has the potential of invading into the adjacent tissues, spreading to other organs and may eventually lead to the patient's death.
Carcinogen
A cancer-causing agent.
Carcinoma
A malignant (cancerous) new growth. These tumors infiltrate into surrounding tissues and, if untreated, will spread to other organs, and may eventually lead to the patient's death.
Catheter
A small, flexible tube inserted into the body to inject or suck out fluids.
Chemotherapy
The treatment of a cancer by chemicals. For bile duct and gallbladder cancers these include: 5-flurouracil, leukovorin, mitomicin C, and others.
Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
A series of x-ray pictures taken by a machine that encircles the body like a giant tube. Computers are then used to generate cross-sectional images of the inside of the body.
Contrast agent (or medium)
A dye, taken by mouth or injected, that is sometimes used during x-ray examinations to highlight areas that otherwise might not be seen.
Cyst
A fluid filled sac. Some tumors of the biliary tree, including mucinous cystadenocarcinomas are cystic. These have a distinct appearance in CT scans. They are important to recognize because the treatment of cystic tumors can differ from that for solid tumors.