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What Did My Doctor Say?

The special words doctors and nurses use can be hard to understand. You may see or hear these words at your doctor’s office, on the Internet, on the radio or TV, or in newspapers or magazines. We call these words “medspeak.” The Medical Library Association created this site to help you understand what a doctor or nurse tells you. You’ll find tips on how to understand many health words. The terms on this site were created with the help of the Working Group for Health Literacy, Massachusetts Health Sciences Library Network (MAHSLIN)
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  • ASPIRATION

    This means using a syringe or needle to take out fluid from a lump or cyst.
  • ATROPHY

    This means when a body part, cells, or tissue decrease in size or shrink.
  • ATYPICAL LOBULAR HYPERPLASIA (ALH)

    ALH is a condition where cells that do not look normal grow in the breast glands that make milk; it is not cancer, but the chance of getting breast cancer later may be greater if you have ALH.
  • AVERAGE RISK (FOR BREAST CANCER)

    This means the chance of getting breast cancer for people who do not have any risk factors for the disease.
  • B-CELLS

    These are a type of white blood cell. They help to fight infections and viruses.
  • B.I.D.

    This means “two times a day.” An example is if you take your medicine once in the morning and once at night.
  • BACTERIA

    These are tiny organisms found in dirt, water and air. Some of them are helpful, but others may make you sick. Germs are bacteria.
  • BASAL METABOLIC RATE

    This is a test that measures how much air you breathe and how much energy you spend. The test is done when you are resting quietly.

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