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- Mesothelioma & Asbestos Cancer Glossary of Medical Terms
Mesothelioma & Asbestos Cancer Glossary of Medical Terms
Hippokrátēs of Kos (ca. 460--370 B.C.E.) is generally regarded as the "Father of Modern Medicine." Although some of his theories may seem quaint to us today (primarily the concept of "bodily humors"), he--like many of his fellow Greeks of the Periclean Age--was among the first to attempt to describe the physical, tangible world in scientific terms.
He also gave medical science its terms for "cancer." Noticing that a tumor's cross-section bore a remarkable resemblance to a crab, he named it karkinós, from which comes the modern words carcinogen and carcinoma. This word was later translated into Latin as cancer. For centuries, the disease was known as the "Crab Sickness."
Hippokrátēs also described tumors as a bulky mass, which in Greek is onkos. Combined with the Greek word for study or word, logos, we get the modern term oncology.
Another Greek term that you may recognize is gnosis, meaning "to learn." When an oncologist makes a diagnosis, s/he is trying to "learn" about the patient's condition.
As you can see, a great many of the words that make up medical terminology ultimately derive from Greek. While this vocabulary is generally considered to be part of the English language, it is verbiage that has not forgotten its Hellenic roots. As a result, medical vocabulary, to a large extent, has its own peculiar linguistic and morphological characteristics.
For example, the root word of a medical term is usually a noun referring to an organ. Pleura is Greek for "rib," or "side (of the body)." By itself, it refers to the linings of the inner chest wall and the surface of the lung. By adding the suffix "-al," it means "pertaining to the pleura," i.e., "pleural." (As in 'pleural mesothelioma', or 'mesothelioma of the lining of the inner chest') Pleuritis is an inflammation of the pleura. A pleurectomy involves cutting the pleura away.
What follows is an extensive list of definitions and explanations of the terminology most commonly used in the diagnosis and treatment of asbestos cancer and other related diseases.