Cancer Information

Good Information Sources

CancerNet: Cancer Basics
Medline Plus: Cancer
Penn Medicine: OncoLink
American Cancer Society: Learn About Cancer
MacMillan Cancer Support (Great Britain): About Cancer


History of Cancer

Article: A Brief History of Cancer

Historical Cancer Highlights



Common terms you’ll hear when dealing with cancer


Cancer Statistics

American Cancer Society: Cancer Statistics
New York State Cancer Registry
Cancer Control Planet


Videos on Cancer

CancerNet: Videos

Cancer has its own language that is unfamiliar to most people when they are newly diagnosed. Our volunteers and staff are happy to help you understand the terms listed below or any other terminology that you may encounter.

General Terms

Benign: Not cancer.

Cancer: Abnormal, uncontrolled growth of cells of any organ of the body. Cancer is not one disease, but over 100 different diseases. (Breast cancer, for example, is a different disease than colon cancer).

Malignant: Another term for cancer.

Tumor: An abnormal mass of tissue. Tumors may be benign (not cancer), or malignant (cancer).

Metastasis: The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another.

Pathology Terms

Stage: The extent of a cancer in the body. It is based on the size of the tumor and whether it has spread. Stage 1 is early stage and Stage 4 is the most advanced stage.

Grade: how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how quickly the tumor is likely to grow and spread. High grade tumors tend to be more aggressive than low grade tumors.

Margins: When a tumor is removed, it’s examined to determine if the borders of the tumor are cancer-free. If there are cancer cells on the border, more surgery may be required.

Testing Terms

CT Scan: a series of X-ray that are combined by computer into images of the bones and soft tissues inside your body. CT scan images provide much more information than do plain X-rays.

MRI: Another imaging device that is especially useful in viewing the brain, spine, the soft tissue of joints, and some other parts of the body. MRIs do not use X-Rays.

PET Scan: Unlike CT and MRI which look at structures (i.e., the architecture of the body), PET looks for cancerous activity. Cancer cells often “light up” on a PET Scan because they metabolize glucose differently than do normal cells. PET scans are often used to see if cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Ultrasound (Sonogram): Uses sound waves to identify tumors and other structures within the body.

Tumor Markers: blood tests that may indicate the presence of certain cancers in the body. The PSA test for prostate cancer is a tumor marker. Not all types of cancers have tumor markers.

Treatment Terms

Chemotherapy: Treatment with drugs that kill cancer cells.

Radiation Therapy: The use of radiation from x-rays and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.

Hormone Therapy: Treatment that blocks, removes or adds hormones to slow or stop the growth of certain cancers (such as prostate and breast cancer). Tamoxifen and Lupron are examples of hormonal therapies.

Targeted therapies: Newer drugs that specifically target cancer cells while doing minimal damage to normal cells. Herceptin is an example of a targeted therapy.

First Line Treatment: the initial treatment that is used to treat a patient’s cancer.

Second Line Treatment: a treatment that is started when the first-line treatment stops being effective. (There are also third-line treatments and so on).

Source: Adapted from the National Cancer Institute Dictionary of Cancer Terms.

Further Resources

National Cancer Institute Dictionary of Terms

The Alphabet Soup of Health Care Providers (What do all of those initials stand for?)

Reducing Your Risk of Cancer

Good Sources of Information

Cancer Resource Center: Reduce Your Risk of Cancer

American Institute for Cancer Research: Foods that Prevent Cancer

National Cancer Institute: Cancer Prevention

Centers for Disease Control: Cancer Prevention and Control

The Cancer Project: Diet and Cancer Research

Environmental Working Group: Consumer Guides

Smoking Cessation

New York State: Smokers’ Quitline

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Tobacco

Understanding Risk

OncoLink's Reduce My Risk Questionaire

Mayo Clinic: Cancer Risk: What the Numbers Mean

Mayo Clinic: Cancer Causes: Popular Myths about the Causes of Cancer

Rating the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer (a good summary article on the topic).

Cancer and the Environment

Environmental Working Group

Environmental Advocates of New York

Clean and Healthy New York

Silent Spring Institute

Reduce Your Risk of Cancer

About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products is an excellent resource from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.


Other useful resources:

Cancer Alternative Therapies (Medline Plus)

Complementary and Alternative Therapies (Cancer Research UK)

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (National Cancer Institute)


Columns by Bob Riter about alternative cancer care

Living with advanced cancer is scary. One must cope with a serious reality but also move forward with life on a day-to-day basis. We’ve compiled some helpful resources below. We also offer a twice-a-month support group for people living with cancer as a chronic disease. We call it Pat’s Group in honor of Pat Thonney who created the group. Please call us at 277-0960 or email We’d love to talk with you.

Good Information Resources

National Cancer Institute: Coping with Advanced Cancer

National Cancer Institute: When Someone you Love has Advanced Cancer

MacMillan Cancer Support (Great Britain): Coping with Advanced Cancer

Center to Advance Palliative Care: Get Palliative Care.Org

CancerNet: Advanced Cancer

Bob Riter’s columns about advanced cancer

Aging with Dignity


American Bar Association

Local Resources

Hospicare and Palliative Care Services of Tompkins County

Palliative (Comfort) Care at Cayuga Medical Center

Cornell Law School Estate Planning Practicum

Link to Bob's Columns >

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appear regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

People are generally more worried about chemotherapy than any other type of cancer treatment. While it’s no one’s idea of fun, most people find that it’s more manageable than they had expected.

Good Information Sources

National Cancer Institute: Chemotherapy and You

Medline Plus: Chemotherapy

American Cancer Society: Chemotherapy

MacMillan Cancer Support (Great Britain): Chemotherapy Explained


What are Ports?

Ports are often implanted before chemotherapy. Here is a description from MacMillan Cancer Support (Great Britain).


Healthy Diet Tips For Chemotherapy”

Courtesy of  ‘Breast Cancer Car Donations

Good Information Sources

National Cancer Institute: Radiation Therapy and You

ASTRO: What is Radiation Therapy?

American Society of Clinical Oncologists: Understanding Radiation Therapy

Medline Plus: Radiation Therapy

American Cancer Society: Understanding Radiation Therapy

MacMillan Cancer Support (Great Britain): Radiotherapy (Note: Radiotherapy is a British term for radiation therapy)

The newest generation of cancer treatments specifically target processes within cancer cells. These treatments generally have fewer side effects that traditional treatments like chemotherapy. More and more, cancer treatment will be personalized to each person’s specific biology.

Good Information Sources

National Cancer Institute: Biological Therapies

National Cancer Institute: Targeted Therapies

National Cancer Institute: Immunotherapy

CancerNet: Understanding Immunotherapy

MacMillan Cancer Support (Great Britain): Biological Therapies

Cancer Research UK: Biological Therapies

Surgery is often the initial form of treatment for most solid tumors. In some situations, chemotherapy and other treatments are performed before surgery. This is known as neoadjuvant therapy.

Good Sources of Information

Mayo Clinic: Cancer Surgery

American Cancer Society: Cancer Surgery

MacMillan Cancer Support (Great Britain): Cancer Surgery

Medline Plus: Videos of Surgical Procedures

Everyone worries about the potential side effects of cancer treatment. While some problems – like fatigue – are nearly universal, others vary widely from one person to the next. Here are some resources to help.

General Information

MacMillan Cancer Support (Great Britain): Cancer Symptoms and Side Effects
American Cancer Society: Managing Side Effects of Treatment Treatment Side Effects
American Occupational Therapy Association: The Role of Occupational Therapy in Oncology


Cleveland Clinic: Cancer-Related Fatigue
New York Times: The Many Shades of Cancer Fatigue
National Cancer Institute: Causes of Fatigue in Cancer Patient


ASCO: Managing Cancer-Related Pain

Hair Loss

Chemo and Hair Loss: What to Expect During Treatment (Mayo Clinic)
MacMillan Cancer Support (Great Britain): Coping with Hair Loss Hair, Skin and Nails

Weight Gain & Loss

MacMillan Cancer Support (Great Britain): Eating Well
Royal Marsden Hospital: Eating Well When You Have Cancer
Mayo Clinic: Tips to Make Food Tastier During Cancer Treatment
American Cancer Society: Nutrition for the Person with Cancer
University of Michigan: Managing Eating Problems

Cancer Related Diarrhea

Cancer-Related Diarrhea

Mouth Problems

MacMillan Cancer Support: Mouth Problems
Mayo Clinic: Mouth sores caused by cancer treatment


American Cancer Society: Peripheral Neuropathy caused by Chemotherapy
MacMillan Cancer Support: Peripheral Neuropathy


Medline Plus: Lymphedema Lymphedema
MacMillan Cancer Support: Lymphoedema
National Lymphedema Network

Life Following Active or Curative Treatment

You’ve been through surgery and many weeks, maybe months of chemotherapy and radiation. Your oncologist tells you that you have completed this phase of active or curative treatment.  You may have a follow-up appointment in 3-6 months or you may be transitioning to maintenance or prophylactic (preventative or protective) treatment.  Now what?  How do you put your life back in order, or in a new order?


Your recent world (and often the world of those closest to you) has been dominated by changes in lifestyle, doctor’s appointments, medications, not feeling like yourself physically or mentally and multiple therapies.  What has filled your time for so long is now coming to an end or at least is being significantly changed.  The medical support team you have come to know and depend on during your active treatment phase will no longer be a part of your life in the same way it has been.  What will it be like without them? How will you move forward with this new phase of your life? How will your life get back to normal or a “new normal?”


Many people diagnosed with cancer identify with the term survivor or survivorship to define their experience with cancer while many others do not.  The term “survivorship” has been defined in many different ways.  One definition explains survivorship as starting with a diagnosis of cancer and lasting throughout one’s entire experience with cancer, including all of the phases following active treatment. Another definition is having no sign of the disease following treatment.


Some individuals living with cancer choose not to use this term as they feel they have not “survived” cancer but rather are still dealing with it.  The key is that “survivorship” and dealing with life post curative treatment are unique to the individual and each person has to find his or her own way while navigating their own cancer experience.


Below are some resources to help you answer some common questions and address concerns that individuals often have in this phase of their experience with cancer.


Publications Covering Many Relevant Issues

Cancer.Net: ASCO answers Cancer Survivorship

Macmillan Cancer Support: What to do after Cancer Treatment Ends: 10 Top Tips

MD Anderson Cancer Center: Life After Cancer

National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship: Cancer Survival Toolbox

National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship: Cancer Survival Toolbox (Audio)

National Cancer Institute: Facing Forward – Life after Cancer Treatment


Common Questions

Cancer.Net: Expert Q&A – What Comes Next After Finishing Treatment

Journey Forward: Managing Fatigue

Journey Forward: Managing Pain

Cure: 10 Tips to Help You Navigate Life after Cancer

Livestrong: Late Effects of Cancer Treatment

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Resources for Survivors


Follow-up Care

National Cancer Institute: Follow-up Care after Cancer Treatment-Fact-Sheet

Cancer.Net: The Importance of Follow-up Care

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Follow-up Care Common Questions


Living with Advanced Cancer /Maintenance Treatment

Cancer Resource Center: Advanced Cancer

American Cancer Society: Managing Cancer as a Chronic Illness

Cancer Council: Living with Advanced Cancer

Cancer Council: Information for Different Stages of Advanced Cancer


Body Issues

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Your Body after Treatment

Journey Forward: Body Changes and Intimacy

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center: Questions about Body Image after Cancer

Livestrong: Adjusting to Body Changes


Dealing with your Emotions

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Your Emotions after Treatment

Mayo Clinic: Managing Your Emotions after Cancer Treatment

Cancer.Net: Coping with the Fear of Recurrence

Livestrong: What to Expect after Treatment


Relationships & Intimacy

Canadian Cancer Society: Relationships after Cancer

Cancer Information and Support Network: Common Relationship Challenges

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Social Relationships

Cancer Support Community: Improving Sexual Intimacy after Cancer


Returning to Work

Cancer + Careers: Cancer and Careers

National Cancer Institute: Going back to Work

American Cancer Society: Options for Returning back to Work

CancerCare: Knowing Your Legal Rights (Download MP3)


Financial Issues

OncoLink: Financial Concerns During and After Cancer Treatment

Cure: Coping with Cancer-Related Financial Toxicity

MD Anderson Cancer Center: Legal and Financial Impacts of Cancer

Links to other helpful pages on our Web site