Barrett's Esophagus

Glossary of Terms

P - S

Palliative
Any treatment that reduces the severity of a disease or its symptoms.
Pathologist
A medical doctor specially trained to study disease processes.
Primary cancer
A cancer found in the organ it started in. A primary cancer of the esophagus is one that started in the esophagus as opposed to a cancer that started somewhere else and only later spread to the esophagus.
Prognosis
A forecast for the probable outcome of a disease based on the experience of large numbers of other patients with similar stage disease. Importantly, making a prognosis is not an exact science. Some patients with poor prognosis beat the odds and live longer than anyone would have predicted. Steve Dunn's Cancer Guide has an excellent article on statistics and prognoses and stories of other cancer patients.
Proton Pump Inhibitors
A class of powerful drugs which markedly reduce the ability of the stomach to produce acid. For patients with reflux (regurgitation, heartburn), these drugs can be extremely effective in reducing unpleasant symptoms, but these drugs do not reduce the possibility of developing cancer.
Pylorus
A thick ring of muscle (a sphincter) between the stomach and duodenum. This sphincter helps control the release of the stomach contents into the small intestine.
Radiation Therapy
The use of high-energy waves similar to x-rays to treat a cancer. Radiation therapy is usually used to treat a local area of disease and often is given in combination with chemotherapy.
Reflux
This term usually refers to the regurgitation of stomach contents into the esophagus. This causes heartburn and can even cause a laryngitis-like sensation.

Patients with esophageal reflux are at increased risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Resectable
Able to be removed surgically.
Sarcoma
A malignant tumor that mimics connective tissues (bone, cartilage, muscle) under the microscope.
Sepsis
An infection of the blood.
Small intestine
A long (20 foot) tube that stretches from the stomach to the large intestine. It helps absorb nutrients from food as the food is transported to the large intestine. There are three sections: the duodenum, the jejunum and the ileum. Due to its proximity to the pancreas, the duodenum is the section most often affected by pancreatic and distal common bile duct cancers.
Spleen
A maroon, rounded organ in the upper left part of the abdomen, near the tail of the pancreas. This organ is part of your immune system and filters the lymph and blood in your body.
Squamous cell
A flat, scale-like cell.
Stage
A classification system used to describe the extent of disease. For esophagus cancer:

Stage I tumors - The tumor has spread only into loose tissue beneath the lining (submucosa) but not into the esophagus muscular wall or beyond. No lymph nodes are involved.

Stage II tumors - Tumor has invaded into the muscle wall but has not spread to lymph nodes (IIA) OR the tumor is small (as in stage I) but has spread to lymph nodes.

Stage III tumors - The tumor has invaded into or through the muscular wall of the esophagus and also involves lymph nodes.

Stage IV tumors - The tumor can be any size (is usually large) and has spread to distant sites.

In general, the lower the stage, the better the prognosis.
Stent
A slender hollow tube inserted into the body to relieve a blockage. For example, bile duct cancers often narrow the bile duct. This can block the flow of bile and cause the patient to become jaundiced. In these cases the flow of bile can be reestablished by placing a stent into the bile duct, through the area of blockage.