UHealth - University of Miami Health System

Glossary - Pathology

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anesthesia - lack of normal sensation, especially the awareness of pain, which may be brought on by anesthetic drugs. General anesthesia causes loss of consciousness; local or regional anesthesia causes loss of feeling only to a specified area.

asymptomatic - to be without noticeable symptoms of disease.

atypical - not usual; often refers to the appearance of precancerous or cancerous cells.

autopsy - examination of a body after death. Autopsies are performed to determine cause of death, or to verify a diagnosis.


benign - non-cancerous.

bilateral - affecting both sides of the body. Bilateral breast cancer is cancer occurring in both breasts at the same time.

biopsy - a procedure performed to remove tissue or cells from the body for examination under a microscope.

blood - the life-maintaining fluid which is made up of plasma, red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes), and platelets; blood circulates through the body's heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries; it carries away waste matter and carbon dioxide, and brings nourishment, electrolytes, hormones, vitamins, antibodies, heat, and oxygen to the tissues.

blood banking - the process that takes place in a laboratory to ensure that the donated blood or blood products are safe before they are used for blood transfusions or other medical procedures.

bone marrow - the soft, spongy tissue found inside bones. It is the medium for development and storage of about 95 percent of the body's blood cells.

bone marrow aspiration and biopsy - the marrow may be removed by aspiration or a needle biopsy under local anesthesia. In aspiration biopsy, a fluid specimen is removed from the bone marrow. In a needle biopsy, marrow cells (not fluid) are removed. These methods are often used together.


cancer - not just one disease, but rather a group of diseases. All forms of cancer cause cells in the body to change and grow out of control. Most types of cancer cells form a lump or mass called a tumor. The tumor can invade and destroy healthy tissue.

carcinoma - cancer found in body tissues that cover or line surfaces of organs, glands, or body structures.

cellular pathology (Also called cytopathology.) - the study of cellular alterations in disease.

comparative pathology - the study of disease in animals and how it compares in humans.

cyst - a closed sac in or under the skin that is filled with fluid.

cytology - the study of individual cells.


dermatopathology - the study of the skin in diagnosing skin diseases.

dysplasia - abnormal development of tissue.


edema - build-up of fluid in the tissues, causing swelling.

epithelium - a specialized type of tissue that normally lines the surfaces and cavities of the body.

excisional biopsy - surgery to remove tissue for examination.



grade - the grade of a cancer reflects how abnormal it looks under the microscope. There are several grading systems for different types of cancer.


hematopathology - the study of blood, bone marrow, and the organs and tissues that use blood cells to perform their functions.

hyperplasia - an increase in the number of cells in an organ or tissue.


immunology - the study of the body's immune system and its functions and disorders.

inflammation - the response of the tissues of the body to irritation or injury. The signs of inflammation are redness, heat, swelling, and pain.

informed consent - a legal document that explains a course of treatment, the risks, benefits, and possible alternatives; the process by which patients agree to treatment.

invasive cancer - cancer that begins in one area and then spreads deeper into the tissues of that area.




lesion - a destructive change in body tissue, such as a wound, injury, or inflammation.

lobe - a roundish projection of any structure. In the breast, lobes of the mammary glands radiate from the central area to the nipple area like wheel spokes.

locally invasive - a tumor which can invade the tissues surrounding it by sending out "fingers" of cancerous cells into normal tissue.


malignant - cancerous cells that can invade other parts of the body.

metaplasia - the phenomenon by which one type of tissue is replaced by another type.

metastasize - when cancer cells spread to other parts of the body.


necrosis - death of tissue.

needle biopsy - use of a needle to extract tissue, cells, or fluid for microscopic examination.

neoplasm - any abnormal growth of new tissue; a proliferation of cells no longer under normal physiologic control. These may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

neuropathology - the pathology of the nervous system.


"-oma" - a suffix meaning "tumor" or "lump."


pathology - the study of diseases.

primary site - the place where cancer begins. Primary cancer is named after the organ in which it starts. For example, cancer that starts in the kidney is always kidney cancer, even if it spreads (metastasizes) to other organs such as bones or lungs.

polyp - a structure consisting of a rounded head which grows outward from a broad base or stalk.

prognosis - predicting the likely outcome of a disease based on the condition of the patient and the action of the disease.




secondary tumor - a tumor that forms as a result of spread (metastasis) of cancer from the place where it started.

serology - the study of blood serum (the clear fluid that separates when blood clots).

serum - a clear fluid that separates when blood clots.

sputum (Also called phlegm.) - mucous from the lungs.

stage - the measurement of the extent of the cancer.

stem cells - the blood cells that produce other blood cells. It is the stem cells that are needed in bone marrow transplantation.


tumor - an abnormal lump or mass of tissue. Tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).


unilateral - affecting one side of the body. For example, unilateral kidney cancer occurs in one kidney only.


venipuncture - drawing blood with a needle from a vein usually in the forearm.


whole blood - blood containing all its components, such as red and white blood cells, platelets and more.




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