Learning the Lingo

March 12, 2008 by  
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A Very Basic Primer for the Uninitiated Cancer Patient


First time in the hospital? When traveling to the land of white lab coats it is necessary to know enough of the language to be able to interact with the natives. Speak slowly when you are addressing the locals and always carry a notebook to document those fun interactions. Don’t be afraid to ask for translations.

Common Medication Terminology:

AC-before eating, or before meals

QD-Once a day

BID-Twice a day

TID-Three times a day

QID-Four times a day

HS- At hour of sleep

QS-Every hour

PRN-as needed

Basic Primer of Tests You May Encounter:

Biopsy-An invasive procedure that involves removing a portion of tissue for microscopic examination. Your guide to biopsies can be found at CancerGuide.

CBC-complete blood count (for a detailed explanation of all the tests included in a cbc, check out Merck Online.

PET scan-(positron emission tomography)-Test that measures body functions and metabolism utilizing the introduction of a small amount of radioactive material into the body. For more information, Radiology Info has a great patient information site on PET scans

CT or CAT-(computerized tomography )-noninvasive x-ray scan of the body. More information available at Radiology Info.

MRI-(magnetic resonance imaging)-A noninvasive scan that does not use x-ray, but utilizes radio waves in a magnetic field to visualize areas of the body. For more information, Radiology Info.


Random Terminology:

AMA-(Against Medical Advice)- a patient who checks himself out of the hospital against the advice of his doctor

Benign-not malignant, of no danger to health

Hematuria-Blood in the urine

Invasive-requiring use of a catheter, needle or other instrument into the body.

Malignant-characterized by uncontrolled growth, cancerous, invasive and/or metastatic

Metastatic-transferring cancerous cells from one site to another

NKA-No known allergies

Noninvasive-not penetrating the body


BM-Bowel Movement


FFP-Fresh Frozen Plasma

FUO- Fever of Unknown Origin

Hct-Hematocrit-The oxygen carrying portion of your red blood cells

Hgb-Hemoglobin-The volume of red blood cells to the volume of whole blood

I & O-intake and output-Measuring what goes into your body and what comes out (includes, fluids by mouth, IV fluids and urine)

NPO- (Latin: nulla per os) Nothing by mouth, or nothing by mouth after midnight. Generally used as preparation for lab tests or surgery.

RBC-Red Blood Count

WBC-White Blood Count

Overheard in the Nurses Lounge: or on reruns of ER and Grey’s Anatomy

3H Enema-Hot, High and a Heck of a lot

ALS-Absolute Loss of Sanity

Blood Suckers-Lab Personnel

Chart Dehiscence-Dropping patient chart and everything falls out

Chem-Blood Chemistry Panel/CBC


Foley-catheter for urine drainage

LPT-Low pain threshold

Meeting of the Knife & Gun Club-Busy night in the emergency room

Sats-Oxygen Saturation Levels, measured in percentage

OOB-Out of bed


Positive Hilton Sign-patients who demand Hilton Hotel treatment and are obviously well enough to go home


SubQ-subcutaneous injection (small needle) given into the area between the skin and the muscle

Tough Stick-patients whose veins are hard to find when drawing blood


Taber’s Cyclopedia Medical Dictionary

The Merck Manual.

The REAL Gray’s Anatomy.

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2 Responses to “Learning the Lingo”
  1. Tina says:

    Anne, thanks for dropping by. Your name is added to the book give away drawing. If you have any topics you’d like covered, just drop me a note.

  2. Anne Tyra says:

    This is an extremely informative blog. I have sent the link to everyone I know. Well researched and interesting…….

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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