After a cancer diagnosis, you will hear many new words from your healthcare team. It’s like learning a whole new language. This glossary will help you learn some key terms so you can better understand cancer and its treatments.


Abnormal cell

A type of cell that behaves differently than normal. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) starts when abnormal cells form in your liver.


A protein made by the immune system that attaches to specific cells. It can affect the immune system's ability to target and kill abnormal cells.



A type of cancer that starts in the skin or in tissues that cover internal organs.


A disease where abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and can take over nearby tissues. Cancer cells can also spread to other parts of the body.


The basic part of all living things. Cells make the substances responsible for everything that happens inside the body.


A condition where the liver gets permanently damaged. It stops your liver from working normally and may cause liver cancer.


First-line therapy

A type of treatment that doctors prescribe first before using other treatments.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)

A type of liver cancer that starts in the liver. It’s often caused by damage to the liver over time from a condition called cirrhosis.



A type of treatment that is designed to help the immune system find and fight the cancer.

Immune system

A collection of special cells and substances that help protect you from infections and other diseases.


An infusion is a method of putting fluids, including drugs, into the bloodstream. Also called intravenous infusion.

Infusion reaction

Any sign or symptom you might get during or soon after the infusion of fluids into your blood. These fluids include medicines.



When cancer starts in one organ and spreads to another part of the body.



A molecule that helps make up the cells inside the body. Proteins are important for all biological functions.


Systemic therapy

Many medicines for HCC are systemic therapies. This means that the medicine goes in your blood and travels all over your body, affecting cells all over.


Targeted drug therapy

A type of treatment that may work to cut off blood and nutrients from reaching the tumor. Or it may use other targets to help keep the cancer from growing and spreading.

This list covers some of the terms you may hear during cancer treatment. Remember that there is always more to learn. You can find more terms in the National Cancer Institute Dictionary of Cancer Terms.

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