Cancer Terminology: 11 Terms To Know

doctor talking to couple

We hope you never have to use these cancer terms, but knowledge is power. If you or someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, you would be a step ahead if you were familiar with them. Cancer terminology: 11 terms to know.


The stage of a cancer is how far it has moved from its origin to when it is diagnosed. Stages range from 1 through 4, with the higher number being the more serious. Things like the number of lymph nodes and or organs affected determine the stage. This helps New Jersey Cancer Care determine the best treatment options.


This refers to the nature of successful results. Physicians look at previous patients with similar diagnoses and their treatments to predict how successful it will be. It gives a patient an idea of how long they can live, or their life expectancy. It’s a guess but a scientific one.


This means the cancer is not responding to treatment(s).


This is another term to explain severity along with stage. It quantifies how fast cancer cells are reproducing. The faster they multiply, the higher the grade, and the more severe. Sometimes a cancer’s grade can define its stage.


This describes a cancer treatment that works with the body’s own immune system. It helps to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells, helps the immune system destroy cancer cells, prevents cancer from spreading, and helps to control side effects from other treatments.


When there is a second malignant growth in another part of the body separate from the original cancer.

Benign And Malignant

Benign is a tumor which is non-cancerous.

Malignant refers to one that is cancerous.

In Situ

A cancer that has remained “in place.”

Locally Advanced

This term refers to a cancer that has spread to lymph nodes near the original tumor. If it spreads to other organs or lymph nodes, it is known as distant metastatic disease.


What cancer returns after a period when it has not been detected.

Always ask your doctor or caregivers to define any cancer terminology you aren’t familiar with and request a definition. For further questions or to schedule an appointment, please call 973.751.8880 today.



Cancer Terms | Cancer.Net

NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms – National Cancer Institute

Basic Cancer Terms and What They Mean (

Common Cancer & Oncology Terms, Definitions | Summa Health