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Health Information

Women's Center

Glossary - Women's Center

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M
N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A

abdominal hysterectomy - the uterus is removed through the abdomen via a surgical incision.

abdominoplasty (Also called tummy tuck.) - a procedure that minimizes the abdominal area. In abdominoplasty, the surgeon makes a long incision from one side of the hipbone to the other. Excess fat and skin are surgically removed from the middle and lower abdomen and the muscles of the abdomen wall are tightened.

abortion - medical termination of a pregnancy before the fetus has developed enough to survive outside the uterus.

adhesion - a band of scar tissue that joins normally separated internal body structures, most often after surgery, inflammation, or injury in the area.

adrenal glands - two glands, one on top of each kidney, which produce a variety of hormones that affect nearly every body system.

advance directives - legal documents - such as living wills and durable powers of attorney for health care decisions - that detail a person's wishes regarding medical treatment prior to an illness or accident that makes him/her unable to do so.

Alzheimer's disease - A progressive, incurable condition that destroys brain cells, gradually causing loss of intellectual abilities - such as memory - and extreme changes in personality and behavior.

amenorrhea - absence or cessation of menstrual periods.

amenorrhea, primary - from the beginning and lifelong; menstruation never begins at puberty.

amenorrhea, secondary - due to some physical cause and usually of later onset; a condition in which menstrual periods which were at one time normal and regular become increasing abnormal and irregular or absent.

anemia - blood disorder caused by a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells); it can result from abnormal blood loss, such as heavy menstrual bleeding.

anesthesia - lack of a normal sensation brought on by an anesthetic drug.

anomaly - a health problem or feature not normally present in a healthy individual; a deviation from the normal.

anovulation - failure of the ovaries to produce or release mature eggs.

antibodies - proteins produced by the immune system to fight specific bacteria, viruses, or other antigens.

antioxidants - compounds that protect against cell damage inflicted by molecules called oxygen-free radicals, which are a major cause of disease and aging.

areola - dark area of skin that surrounds the nipple of the breast.

assisted reproductive technology (ART) - medical procedures, such as intrauterine insemination, that are performed to help infertile couples conceive.

asymmetry - lacking symmetry; parts of the body are unequal in shape or size.

autologous tissue breast reconstruction - the use of the patient's own tissues to reconstruct a new breast mound. The common technique is the TRAM (transverse rectus abdominous muscle) flap. A TRAM flap involves removing an area of fat, skin, and muscle from the abdomen and stitching it in place to the mastectomy wound.

B

basal body temperature - temperature of a person's body taken first thing in the morning after several hours of sleep and before any activity, including getting out of bed or talking; often charted to determine the time of ovulation.

benign - cell growth that is not cancerous, does not invade nearby tissue, or spread to other parts of the body.

biopsy - removal of sample of tissue via a hollow needle or scalpel.

blepharoplasty (Also called eyelid lift.) - a procedure in which the physician surgically removes excess fat, muscle, and skin from both the upper and lower eyelids to redefine the shape of the eye.

body mass index (BMI) - number, derived by using height and weight measurements, that gives a general indication if weight falls within a healthy range.

bone density - measure of the mass of bone in relation to its volume to determine the risk of developing osteoporosis.

breast augmentation (Also called augmentation mammaplasty.) - a procedure to reshape the breast in order to make it larger. The procedure can also be performed to reconstruct the breast following breast surgery.

breast cancer - cancer that starts in the breast.

breast conservation therapy - surgery to remove a breast cancer and a small amount of benign tissue around the cancer without removing any other part of the breast. These procedures include a lumpectomy or a partial (segmental) mastectomy.

breast implant - a manufactured, silicone, rubber sac which is filled with sterile saline or silicone gel that is used for either breast augmentation or reconstruction.

breast reconstruction - surgery to rebuild a breast mound after a mastectomy.

breast self-examination (BSE) - a method in which a woman examines her breasts and the surrounding areas for lumps or changes. A BSE should be performed once a month, usually at a time other than the days before, during, or immediately after the menstrual period.

breast specialist - term describing health care professionals who have a dedicated interest in breast health.

C

CA-125 test - Blood test to detect an elevated level of a protein antigen called CA-125, which may indicate ovarian cancer, among other disorders.

calcium - mineral that gives strength to bones and teeth and has an important role in muscle contraction, blood clotting, and nerve function.

cancer - abnormal cells that divide without control, which can invade nearby tissues or spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.

capsular contracture - the most common complication of breast reconstruction surgery; occurs if the scar or capsule around the implant begins to tighten.

carcinogen - a substance that is known to cause cancer.

cervical dysplasia - condition in which cells in the cervix have undergone precancerous changes. It is detected by a Pap smear; treatment can prevent it from progressing to cervical cancer.

cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) - term used to classify the degree of precancerous change in cells of the cervix in a condition called cervical dysplasia.

cervicitis - an irritation of the cervix by a number of different organisms. Cervicitis is generally classified as either acute or chronic.

cervix - the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb) located between the bladder and the rectum. It forms a canal that opens into the vagina, which leads to the outside of the body.

chemical peeling - uses a chemical solution in order to improve the skin's appearance. It can reduce or eliminate fine lines under the eyes and around the mouth, correct uneven skin pigmentation, remove pre-cancerous skin growths, and soften acne or treat the scars caused by acne.

chlamydial infection - very common sexually transmitted disease or urinary tract infection caused by a bacteria-like organism in the urethra and reproductive system.

chromosomes - filaments of genetic material in every cell nucleus that are made up of genes and that transmit genetic information from one generation of cells to the next.

climacteric (Also called perimenopause.) - the transition period of time before menopause, marked by a decreased production of estrogen and progesterone, irregular menstrual periods, and transitory psychological changes.

collagen/fat injectable fillers (Also called soft-tissue augmentation.) - a plastic surgery technique used to correct wrinkles, depressions in the skin, and/or scarring.

colposcopy - visual examination of the cervix and vagina using a lighted magnifying instrument (colposcope).

computed tomography scan (Also called a CT or CAT scan.) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.

cone biopsy (Also called conization.) - a biopsy in which a larger cone-shaped piece of tissue is removed from the cervix by using the loop electrosurgical excision procedure or the cold knife cone biopsy procedure. The cone biopsy procedure may be used as a treatment for precancerous lesions and early cancers.

contractures - an abnormal condition of a joint caused by a loss of muscle fibers or a loss of the normal flexibility of the skin.

cosmetic plastic surgery (Also called aesthetic plastic surgery.) - one type of plastic surgery performed to repair or reshape otherwise normal structures of the body, primarily to improve the patient's appearance and self-esteem.

cryosurgery - use of liquid nitrogen, or a probe that is very cold, to freeze and kill cancer cells.

culdocentesis - a procedure in which a needle is inserted into the pelvic cavity through the vaginal wall to obtain a sample of pus.

cyst - a fluid-filled or semi-solid sac in or under the skin.

cystitis - inflammation of the bladder, usually caused by a bacterial infection.

cystocele - condition in which weakened pelvic muscles cause the base of the bladder to drop from its usual position down into the vagina.

cystometry - diagnostic procedure that measures bladder capacity and pressure changes as the bladder fills and empties.

cystoscopy - procedure in which a viewing tube (cystoscope) is passed through the urethra to examine the inside of the bladder and ureters or to treat a disorder.

cystourethrocele - condition that results when the urethra and its supporting tissues weaken and drop into the vagina leading to stress incontinence.

D

dermabrasion - a procedure that removes fine wrinkles and/or minimizes scars on the skin; involves the surgeon utilizing a high-speed rotating brush to remove the top layer of skin. The size and depth of the scars, as well as the degree of wrinkling, determine the appropriate level of skin that will be surgically sloughed.

dermaplaning - a plastic surgery technique used to treat deep acne scars with a hand-held instrument called a dermatome.

dermatome - an instrument that resembles an electric razor and has an oscillating blade that moves back and forth to evenly "skim" off the surface layers of skin that surround the craters or other facial defects.

DEXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) - imaging technique that uses a very low dose of radiation to measure bone density for the diagnosis of osteoporosis.

dilation and curettage (Also called D & C.) - a minor operation in which the cervix is dilated (expanded) so that the cervical canal and uterine lining can be scraped with a curette (spoon-shaped instrument).

domestic violence - violence and abuse by family members or intimate partners such as a spouse, former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, or date.

dysmenorrhea - pain or discomfort experienced just before or during a menstrual period.

dysmenorrhea, primary - from the beginning and usually lifelong; severe and frequent menstrual cramping caused by uterine contractions.

dysmenorrhea, secondary - due to some physical cause and usually of later onset; painful menstrual periods caused by an another medical condition present in the body (i.e., pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis).

dyspareunia - pain in the vagina or pelvis experienced during sexual intercourse.

dysplasia - an abnormality of growth.

E

endocervical curettage (ECC) - a procedure which uses a narrow instrument called a curette to scrape the lining of the endocervical canal. This type of biopsy is usually completed along with the colposcopic biopsy.

endometrial ablation - a procedure to destroy the lining of the uterus (endometrium).

endometrial biopsy - a procedure in which a sample of tissue is obtained through a tube which is inserted into the uterus.

endometrial hyperplasia - abnormal thickening of the endometrium caused by excessive cell growth.

endometrial implants - fragments of endometrium that relocate outside of the uterus, such as in the muscular wall of the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, vagina, or intestine, and bleed monthly just as endometrium does in the uterus.

endometriosis - condition in which tissue resembling that of the endometrium grows outside the uterus, on or near the ovaries or fallopian tubes, or in other areas of the pelvic cavity.

endometrium - mucous membrane lining of the inner surface of the uterus that grows during each menstrual cycle and is shed in menstrual blood.

endoscope - small, flexible tube with a light and a lens on the end used to look inside an organ or cavity such as the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, colon, or rectum.

endoscopy - use of a very flexible tube with a lens or camera (and a light on the end), which is connected to a computer screen, allowing the physician to see inside the hollow organs, such as the uterus. Biopsy samples can be taken through the tube.

enterocele - condition caused by weakened muscles in the pelvis in which a portion of the intestines bulges into the top of the vagina.

epidural anesthesia - method of pain relief used during surgery or childbirth in which an anesthetic is injected into a small area surrounding the spinal cord (the epidural space) to block pain nerve impulses from the lower half of the body.

estrogen - a group of hormones secreted by the ovaries which affect many aspects of the female body, including a woman's menstrual cycle and normal sexual and reproductive development.

estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) - use of the female hormone estrogen to replace that which the body no longer produces naturally after medical or surgical menopause.

expander/implant breast reconstruction - the use of an expander to create a breast mound, followed by the placement with a permanently filled breast implant.

F

facial implant - cosmetic plastic surgery to change the shape of the chin, check, or jaw. This procedure is typically done to enhance certain facial features, or to bring a certain aspect of the face into proportion with the rest of the facial structures.

fallopian tubes - two thin tubes that extend from each side of the uterus, toward the ovaries as a passageway for eggs and sperm.

fecal occult-blood test - screening test for possible signs of cancer of the colon or rectum.

fertile - able to become pregnant.

fibroadenoma - noncancerous, firm, rubbery lump in the breast that is painless and moves around easily when touched.

fibrocystic breasts - noncancerous condition in which small lumps and cysts develop in the breasts.

fibroids - non-cancerous growths in, on, or within the walls of the uterus.

flap surgery - one type of surgery that involves transporting healthy, live tissue from one location of the body to another - often to areas that have lost skin, fat, muscle movement, and/or skeletal support. There are several different types of flap surgery methods that may be utilized, depending upon the location of the flap and the structures that need to be repaired.

folic acid - a nutrient found in some green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, fortified breakfast cereals, and some vitamin supplements. Folic acid can help reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.

follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) - hormone secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain that stimulates the growth and maturation of eggs in females and sperm in males, and sex hormone production in both males and females.

forehead lift - the surgical removal of excess fat and skin, as well as a tightening of the muscles in the forehead area. It can correct sagging brows or deep furrows between the eyes. It is often done in conjunction with a facelift in order to create a smoother facial appearance overall.

functional incontinence - difficulty reaching a restroom in time because of physical conditions such as arthritis.

G

genes - basic, functional units of heredity, each occupying a specific place on a chromosome.

genetic counseling - providing information, advice, and testing to prospective parents at risk of having a child with a birth defect or genetic disorder.

genital herpes - a sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex virus.

genital warts - sexually transmitted disease caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

genitals - external sex organs.

GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer) - method of treating infertility by removing eggs from a woman's ovaries, combining them with sperm from her partner or a donor in the laboratory, and placing the eggs and sperm together in one of her fallopian tubes, where fertilization can occur.

gonorrhea - common sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterium, which can lead to infertility in women.

H

hematoma - blood that collects under the skin or in an organ.

hirsutism - excess growth of body and facial hair, including the chest, stomach, and back

hormone replacement therapy (HRT) - use of the female hormones estrogen and progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone) to replace those the body no longer produces after menopause.

hormone therapy - treatment of cancer by removing, blocking, or adding hormones.

hormones - chemical substances created by the body that control numerous body functions.

human chorionic gonadotropin - hormone produced by the placenta during early pregnancy.

human papillomaviruses (HPVs) - viruses that can cause warts. Some HPVs are sexually transmitted and cause wart-like growths on the genitals. HPV is a major risk factor for cervical cancer.

hyperplasia - an abnormal increase in the number of cells in a tissue or an organ (i.e., cervix or the lining of the uterus).

hypothalamus - small structure at the base of the brain that regulates many body functions, including appetite and body temperature.

hysterectomy - surgical removal of the uterus.

hysterosalpingography - x-ray examination of the uterus and fallopian tubes that uses dye and is often performed to rule out tubal obstruction.

hysteroscope - visual examination of the canal of the cervix and the interior of the uterus using a viewing instrument (hysteroscope) inserted through the vagina.

I

in vitro fertilization - treatment for infertility in which a woman's egg is fertilized outside her body, with her partner's sperm or sperm from a donor.

incontinence, urinary - uncontrollable, involuntary leaking of urine.

infertility - not being able to produce children.

intrauterine insemination - treatment for infertility in which semen is introduced into the uterus via a slim tube inserted through the vagina.

J

K

L

labia - the folds of skin at the opening of the vagina (and other organs).

laparoscopy - use of a viewing tube with a lens or camera (and a light on the end), which is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen to examine the contents of the abdomen and remove tissue samples.

laparotomy - a surgical procedure that involves an incision from the upper to lower abdomen; often used when making a diagnosis by less invasive tests is difficult.

liposuction - type of cosmetic surgery in which localized areas of fat are removed from beneath the skin using a suction-pump device inserted through a small incision.

loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) - procedure for treating cervical dysplasia in which a fine wire loop and low-energy current are used to remove abnormal tissue from the cervix.

lumpectomy - breast-conserving surgical procedure for breast cancer patients in which only the tumor and a small area of surrounding tissue are removed.

lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus) - a very serious, chronic, autoimmune disorder characterized by periodic episodes of inflammation of and damage to the joints, tendons, other connective tissues, and organs, including the heart, lungs, blood vessels, brain, kidneys, and skin.

luteinizing hormone (LH) - hormone secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain that stimulates the growth and maturation of eggs in females and sperm in males.

lymph nodes (Also called lymph glands.) - small organs located in the channels of the lymphatic system which store special cells to trap bacteria or cancer cells traveling through the body in lymph. Clusters of lymph nodes are found in the underarms, groin, neck, chest, and abdomen.

lymphatic system - tissues and organs, including bone marrow, spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes, that produce, store, and carry white blood cells to fight infection and disease.

M

magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a non-invasive procedure that produces a two-dimensional view of an internal organ or structure, especially the brain and spinal cord. The MRI may show abnormal nodules in bones or lymph nodes - a sign that cancer may be spreading.

malignant - cancerous cells are present.

mammogram - x-ray of the breast tissue.

mastectomy - surgical removal of all or part of the breast.

mastitis - infection of the milk ducts in the breast.

maxillofacial - pertaining to the jaws and face.

melanoma - the most serious, life-threatening form of skin cancer.

menarche - a young woman's first menstrual period.

menopause - end of menstruation; commonly used to refer to the period ending the female reproductive phase of life.

menorrhagia - the most common type of abnormal uterine bleeding (also called dysfunctional uterine bleeding) characterized by heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding. In some cases, bleeding may be so severe and relentless that daily activities become interrupted.

menses - menstrual flow.

menstruation - a cyclical process of the endometrium shedding its lining, along with discharge from the cervix and vagina, from the vaginal opening. This process results from the mature egg cell (ovum) not being fertilized by a sperm cell as it travels from one of the ovaries down a fallopian tube to the uterus, in the process called ovulation.

metastasis - the spread of cancer from its original site to other sites in the body.

metrorrhagia - any irregular, acyclic non-menstrual bleeding from the uterus; bleeding between menstrual periods.

modified radical mastectomy - the removal of the entire breast (including the nipple, the areola, and the overlying skin), some of the lymph nodes under the arm (also called the axillary lymph glands), and the lining over the chest muscles. In some cases, part of the chest wall muscles is also removed.

morning-after pills - hormonal medications to prevent pregnancy taken within 72 hours of having unprotected intercourse.

mycoplasma - very common sexually transmitted disease or urinary tract infection caused by a bacteria-like organism in the urethra and reproductive system.

myomectomy - surgical procedure done to remove fibroids from the uterus and leaving the uterus intact.

N

nasal - relating to the nose.

needle biopsy - biopsy procedure in which a small sample of tissue is removed through a hollow needle.

neural tube defect - type of birth defect, such as spina bifida, that results from failure of the spinal cord or brain to develop normally in a fetus.

O

obesity - an excessive accumulation of fat in the body. A person with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 is considered obese.

Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OB/GYN) - Physicians who specialize in general women's medical care, diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the female reproductive system, and care of pregnant women.

oligomenorrhea - infrequent or light menstrual cycles.

oncogenes - genes that promote normal cell division.

oncologist - physician who specializes in treating cancer.

oophorectomy - surgical removal of one or both ovaries.

osteoporosis - disorder in which bones thin and become brittle and more prone to fracture; most common in women after menopause due to estrogen deficiency.

otoplasty (Also called ear surgery.) - a type of cosmetic plastic surgery procedure aimed at setting prominent ears closer to the head, or reducing the size of larger ears.

ovaries - pair of small glands, located on either side of the uterus, in which egg cells develop and are stored and the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone are produced.

overflow incontinence - the leakage of small amounts of urine from a bladder that is always full.

overweight - a label of ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given weight. A person with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 30 is considered overweight. 

ovulation - release of a mature egg from an ovary.

ovum - a mature egg cell released during ovulation from an ovary.

P

Pap test (Also called Pap smear.) - Test that involves microscopic examination of cells collected from the cervix, used to detect changes that may be cancer or may lead to cancer, and to show noncancerous conditions, such as infection or inflammation.

partial (segmental) mastectomy - surgery to remove the breast cancer and a larger portion of the normal breast tissue around the breast cancer. The surgeon may also remove the lining over the chest muscles below the tumor and some of the lymph nodes under the arm.

partial abdominoplasty - a "mini tummy tuck." This procedure is ideal for individuals who have fat deposits limited to the area below the navel.

pelvic examination - an internal examination of the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum.

pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) - inflammation of the pelvic organs caused by a type of bacteria.

pelvic lymph node dissection - removal of some lymph nodes from the pelvis.

pelvis - a basin-shaped structure that supports the spinal column and contains the sacrum, coccyx, and hip bones (ilium, pubis, and ischium).

perimenopause (Also called climacteric.) - the transition period of time before menopause, marked by a decreased production of estrogen and progesterone, irregular menstrual periods, and transitory psychological changes.

perineum - area between the anus and the sex organs.

pessary - rubber or plastic device that is inserted through the vagina to help hold the uterus in place in women who have prolapse of the uterus.

pituitary gland - gland at the base of the brain that secretes hormones and regulates and controls other hormone-secreting glands and many body processes, including reproduction.

plastic surgery - the surgical specialty that deals with the reconstruction of facial and body tissue that requires a reshaping or remolding due to disease, a defect, or disorder - in order to approximate a normal appearance or to repair working ability.

polymenorrhea - too frequent menstruation.

polyp - growth that projects, usually on a stem, from a membrane in the body and can sometimes develop into cancer.

postmenopausal bleeding - any bleeding that occurs more than 6 months after the last normal menstrual period at menopause.

premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) - a much more severe form of the collective symptoms known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is considered a severe and chronic medical condition that requires attention and treatment.

premenstrual syndrome (PMS) - a group of physical and emotional symptoms that some women experience during their menstrual cycle. Although the symptoms usually cease with onset of the menstrual period, in some women, symptoms may last through and after their menstrual periods.

progesterone - a female sex hormone, produced by the ovaries during the second half of the menstrual cycle.

progestin - synthetic form of the female sex hormone progesterone.

prolactin - hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates breast development and milk production.

prolapse of the uterus - displacement of the uterus down into the vagina caused by a weakening of supporting tissues in the pelvis.

pyelonephritis - kidney infection.

Q

R

radiation therapy (Also called radiotherapy.) - treatment with high-energy rays (such as x-rays or gamma rays) to kill cancer cells; may be by external radiation or by internal radiation from radioactive materials placed directly in or near the tumor.

radical mastectomy - surgery to remove the entire breast (including the nipple, the areola, and the overlying skin), the lymph nodes under the arm, also called the axillary lymph glands, and the chest muscles.

rape - forced or manipulated nonconsensual sexual contact, including vaginal or anal intercourse, oral sex, or penetration with an object.

reconstructive plastic surgery - one type of plastic surgery that is performed on abnormal structures of the body that may be caused by trauma, infection, developmental abnormalities, congenital defects, disease, and/or tumors. This type of surgery is usually performed to improve function, but may also be performed to approximate a normal appearance.

rectocele - condition in which weakening of the lower vaginal wall causes the rectum to bulge into the vagina.

rectum - lower end of the large intestine, leading to the anus.

rhinoplasty - the surgical repair of a defect of the nose, including reshaping or resizing the nose. Rhinoplasty may be performed to change the size of the nose, change the shape of the nose, narrow the nostrils, and/or change the angle between the nose and lips. Rhinoplasty involves the resculpting of the bone and cartilage.

rhytidectomy (Also called facelift.) - a surgical procedure that involves the removal of excess facial fat, the tightening of facial muscles, and the stretching of facial skin - to approximate a smoother, firmer appearance. The procedure takes place on either the face, neck, or both.

S

safe sex - sex in a monogamous relationship where neither party is infected with a sexually transmitted disease or urinary tract infection is considered to be "safe." However, many healthcare professionals believe there really is no such thing as "safe" sex and the only way to be truly safe is to abstain because all forms of sexual contact carry some risk.

salpingectomy - surgical removal of one or both fallopian tubes.

salpingo-oophorectomy - surgery to remove the fallopian tubes and ovaries.

scar - the body's natural way of healing and replacing lost or damaged skin. A scar is usually composed of fibrous tissue. Scars may be formed for many different reasons, including as a result of infections, surgery, injuries, or inflammation of tissue.

Schiller test - a diagnostic test in which the cervix is coated with an iodine solution to detect the presence of abnormal cells.

screening mammogram - an x-ray of the breast used to detect breast changes in women who have no signs of breast cancer.

septoplasty - the surgical correction of defects and deformities of the nasal septum (the partition between the nostrils).

serotonin - chemical messenger in the brain that affects emotions, behavior, and thought.

sexually transmitted disease (STD) - infection spread through sexual intercourse and other intimate sexual contact.

sigmoidoscopy - examination of the rectum and lower part of the colon (sigmoid colon) using a flexible viewing tube passed through the rectum. simple mastectomy - see total mastectomy.

skin grafts - a skin graft may be used to cover skin that has been damaged and/or is missing. This surgical procedure involves removing healthy portions of skin from one part of the body to restore normal appearance and/or function to another portion of the same body. The location where the skin is removed is called the donor site. There are various types of skin grafts that may be utilized, depending upon the size and location of needed skin.

spinal anesthesia - injection of an anesthetic into the area around the spinal cord to block pain sensation during surgery.

squamous cell cancer - a slow-growing cancer in cells in the top layer of the skin.

squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL) - like CIN, SIL is a term used to classify the degree of precancerous change in cells of the cervix in a condition called cervical dysplasia.

stress incontinence - involuntary leaking of urine during activities that increase pressure inside the abdomen, such as coughing, sneezing, or jogging.

systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) - a very serious, chronic, autoimmune disorder characterized by periodic episodes of inflammation of and damage to the joints, tendons, other connective tissues, and organs, including the heart, lungs, blood vessels, brain, kidneys, and skin.

T

tamoxifen - an anticancer drug used in hormone therapy to block the effects of estrogen.

testosterone - key male sex hormone, which stimulates bone and muscle growth and the development of male sex characteristics.

thrombosis, deep-vein - formation of blood clots in veins deep inside the legs.

tissue expansion - a surgical procedure that involves inserting a balloon-like device (called an expander) under the skin. The expander then slowly secretes liquid into the area to be repaired to actually stretch and expand the skin. This serves the function of "growing" extra skin to repair nearby lost or damaged skin.

total (or simple) mastectomy - surgery to remove the entire breast (including the nipple, the areola, and most of the overlying skin) and may also remove some of the lymph nodes under the arm, also called the axillary lymph glands.

total hysterectomy - the removal of the uterus, including the cervix; the fallopian tubes and the ovaries remain.

total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy - the entire uterus, fallopian tubes, and the ovaries are surgically removed.

transvaginal ultrasound (Also called ultrasonography.) - an ultrasound test using a small instrument, called a transducer, that is placed in the vagina.

trichomoniasis - very common vaginitis caused by a single-celled organism usually transmitted during sexual contact.

tubal ligation - surgical sterilization procedure in which the fallopian tubes are sealed or cut to prevent sperm from reaching an egg.

U

ultrasound - diagnostic imaging procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to create a picture of internal body structures on a video screen.

ureters - two tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

urethra - narrow channel through which urine passes from the bladder out of the body.

urethritis - infection limited to the urethra.

urge incontinence - the inability to hold urine long enough to reach a restroom.

uterus - hollow, muscular organ in the center of the female pelvis that sheds its lining each month during menstruation and in which a fertilized egg implants and grows into a fetus.

V

vacuum aspiration - procedure in which a suction tube attached to a vacuum pump is inserted through the vagina into the uterus to loosen and remove its contents.

vagina (Also called the "birth canal.") - the passageway through which fluid passes out of the body during menstrual periods. The vagina connects the cervix (the opening of the womb, or uterus) and the vulva (the external genitalia).

vaginal atrophy - often a symptom of menopause; the drying and thinning of the tissues of the vagina and urethra. This can lead to dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse) as well as vaginitis, cystitis, and urinary tract infections.

vaginal hysterectomy - the uterus us removed through the vaginal opening.

vaginitis - inflammation, redness, or swelling of the vaginal tissues; usually resulting from a bacterial infection.

vaginitis, atrophic - a form of noninfectious vaginitis which usually results from a decrease in hormones because of menopause, surgical removal of the ovaries, radiation therapy, or even after childbirth - particularly in breastfeeding women. Lack of estrogen dries and thins the vaginal tissue, and may also cause spotting.

vaginitis, bacterial - very common vaginal infection characterized by symptoms such as increased vaginal discharge or itching, burning, or redness in the genital area.

vaginitis, noninfectious - a type of vaginitis that usually refers to vaginal irritation without an infection being present. Most often, the infection is caused by an allergic reaction to, or irritation from, vaginal sprays, douches, or spermicidal products. It may also be caused by sensitivity to perfumed soaps, detergents, or fabric softeners.

vaginitis, viral - very common vaginal infection, often sexually transmitted, that is caused by one of many different types of viruses (i.e., herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus).

varicose veins - twisted, widened veins caused by swollen or enlarged blood vessels. The blood vessels have enlarged due a weakening in the vein's wall or valves.

vulva - external, visible part of the female genital area.

vulvitis - an inflammation of the vulva, the soft folds of skin outside the vagina. This is not a condition but rather a symptom that results from a host of diseases, infections, injuries, allergies, and other irritants.

W

X

x-ray - electromagnetic energy used to produce images of bones and internal organs onto film.

Y

yeast infection (Also called Candida.) - one type of vaginitis caused by the Candida fungus characterized by itching, burning, or redness of the vaginal area.

Z

zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT) - method of treating infertility by removing eggs from a woman's ovaries, fertilizing them in the laboratory with sperm from her partner or a donor, and inserting one or more of the fertilized eggs into one of her fallopian tubes.