Glossary of Medical Terms



Adenomyosis – A condition in which endometrial glands grow deep into the uterine muscle.
Adhesions – Scarring that binds together the surfaces of tissues inside the abdomen or uterus.
Amenorrhea – The absence of menstrual periods.
Amniocentesis – A procedure in which a small amount of amniotic fluid is taken from the sac surrounding the fetus and tested.
Antibody – A protein in the blood produced in reaction to foreign substances, such as bacteria that cause infections.
Antiprostaglandins – Drugs that relieve menstrual cramps by preventing the formation of the chemical substances (prostaglandins) responsible for uterine contractions.
Aspiration Biopsy – A procedure in which fluid or tissue within a cyst is withdrawn through a needle study.


Bacterial Vaginosis – A type of vaginal infection caused by the overgrowth of a number of organisms that are normally found in the vagina.
Baseline Mammogram – An X-ray of the breast taken for comparison with later mammograms.
Benign – The opposite of cancerous; does not spread to other parts of the body.
Biopsy – A minor surgical procedure to remove a small piece of tissue that is then examined under a microscope.
Birth Control Pills (Oral Contraceptives) – Pills containing hormones that prevent ovulation and thus pregnancy.
Bladder – A muscular organ in which urine is stored.


Candidiasis – Also called yeast infection or moniliasis, a type of vaginitis caused by the overgrowth of Candida (a fungus normally found in the vagina).
Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN) – Another term for dysplasia; a noncancerous condition that occurs when normal cells on the surface of the cervix are replaced by a layer of abnormal cells. CIN is classified 1, 2, or 3.
Chlamidia – Sexually transmitted organisms that can infect both men and women, causing infections in the urethra (in both men and women) and cervix (in women).
Clindamycin – An antibiotic used to treat, among other kinds of infections, certain types of vaginitis.
Clitoris – An organ that is located near the opening to the vagina and is a source of female sexual excitement.
Colposcope – A special magnifying instrument used to examine the cervix, vagina, or vulva.
Colposcopy – Viewing of the cervix under magnification with a colposcope.
Condylomas – Another name for the genital warts caused by human papillomavirus.
Conization – A procedure in which a cone-shaped wedge of tissue is removed from the cervix.
Corpus Luteum – The remains of the egg follicle after ovulation.
Curettage – A procedure in which a sample of the endometrium is removed with a small, spoon-shaped instrument.
Cystic Fibrosis – A genetic disease causing problems such as chronic lung problems, diarrhea, poor weight gain, and infertility.
Cystocele – The decent of a portion of the bladder into the vagina.


Densitometry – Measurement of bone mineral density. This test is helpful for diagnosis of osteoporosis.
Depression – A treatable medical disorder characterized by loss of interest in things you used to enjoy and feeling sad for periods of at least 2 weeks.
Dilation – Stretching of the walls of the cervix so that the opening of the cervix is widened.
Diverticulum – An abnormal pouch or sac in an internal organ or structure.
Dysmenorrhea – Discomfort and pain during the menstrual period.
Dyspareunia – Pain during or after intercourse.
Dysplasia – A noncancerous condition that occurs when normal cells on the surface of the cervix are replaced by a layer of abnormal cells. Dysplasia is classified as mild, moderate, severe or carcinoma in situ (CIS).


Ectopic Pregnancy – A pregnancy in which the fertilized egg begins to grow in a place other than inside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube.
Electrode – A small device that is attached with a wire to the fetus and transmits electronic impulses.
Electrosurgical Excision – The removal of abnormal growths (of the cervix, vagina, vulva, etc) using a thin wire loop and electric energy.
Endometriosis – A condition in which tissue similar to normally lining the uterus is found outside of the uterus, usually in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other pelvic structures.
Endometrial Ablation – An out-patient surgical procedure used to treat abnormal uterine bleeding.
Endometrium – The mucous membrane that lines the uterus.
Enema – A liquid injected into the rectum to empty the intestines.
Episiotomy – A surgical incision made into the perineum (the region between the vagina and the anus) to widen the vaginal opening for delivery.
Estrogen – A female hormone produced in the ovaries that stimulates the growth of the lining of the uterus.


Fascia – A sheet or band of fibrous tissue supporting muscles and organs of the body.
Fertilization – Joining of a mature female egg cell and a male sperm cell.
Fetal Distress – A sign that the baby may be having problems before delivery.
Fetus – A baby growing in a woman’s uterus.
Fibrocystic Changes – Formation of benign cysts of various sizes in the breast.
Fibroids – Benign (noncancerous) growths that form on the inside of the uterus, on its outer surface, or within the uterine wall itself.
Fistula – An abnormal opening or passage between to internal organs.
Follicle – The sac-like structure that forms inside an ovary when an egg is produced.
Functional Cyst – A benign cyst that forms on an ovary and usually resolves on its own without treatment.


Genital Warts – Known as condyloma by medical professionals, genital warts are a sexually transmitted disease caused by a virus. They are characterized by small pink or red warty growths on the genitals or rectum.
General Anesthesia – The use of medications that produce a sleep-like state to prevent pain during surgery.
Group B Streptococcus – A bacteria commonly residing in the vagina or rectum and is not a sexually-transmitted infection. Newborns may be infected if they are exposed during the birth process.


Hormones – Substances produced by the body to control the functions of various organs.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) – A virus that attacks certain cells of the body’s immune system and causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – The common name for a group of related viruses, some of which cause genital warts and are linked to cervical changes and cancer.
Hysterectomy – Surgical removal of the uterus.
Hysteroscopy – A surgical procedure in which a slender light-transmitting telescope, a hysteroscope, is used to view the inside of the uterus.


Impotence – The inability in a male to have an erection or to sustain it until ejaculation or intercourse takes place.
Incontinence (Urinary) – A condition in which urine leaks involuntarily from the bladder.
Induced Abortion – The planned termination of a pregnancy before the fetus can survive outside the uterus.
Infertility – A condition in which a woman has been unable to get pregnant after 12 months without the use of any form of birth control.
Informed Consent – The process by which a patient gains an understanding of what will be involved in receiving a medical treatment or procedure, including why it is being done, its risks, and other alternatives, before agreeing to treatment.
Insulin Resistance – A condition in which an individual requires a high level of insulin in order to maintain a normal blood sugar.
Intrauterine Device (IUD) – A small device that is inserted and left inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy.


Kegel Exercises – Pelvic muscle exercises that assist in bladder and bowel control.


Laparoscope – A slender, light-transmitting instrument that is used to view the pelvic organs or perform surgery.
Laparoscopy – A surgical procedure in which a slender, light-transmitting instrument, the laparoscope, is used to view the pelvic organs.
Leiomyomas – Benign (not cancerous) tumors made of muscle tissue that grow in the uterus and may cause pain or bleeding; commonly called fibroids.
Lichen Planus – A skin disease that can sometimes affect the vulva, vagina, and inside the mouth. The disease may cause infected areas to be white or to have superficial ulcerations, with accompanying itching and pain.
Lichen Sclerosus – A skin disease occurring most often on the vulva. The disease causes itching, and, in later stages, easy bruising, tearing, and pain. Infected skin is usually white and sometimes there is a fine, crinkled texture.
Local Anesthesia – The use of drugs that prevent pain in a part of the body.
Lumpectomy – Surgical removal of a breast lump; also biopsy.
Lymph – A nearly colorless fluid that bathes the body cells and moves through a system of lymph vessels and nodes in the body.


Mammography – A procedure in which X-rays of the breast are used to detect breast cancer.
Masturbation – Self-stimulation of the genitals, usually resulting in orgasm.
Menarche – The time in a young woman’s life when menstrual periods begin.
Menopause – The time in a woman’s life when the ovaries stop functioning and menstruation stops.
Menstruation – The discharge of blood and tissue from the uterus that occurs when an egg is not fertilized.
Metronidazole – An antibiotic used to treat bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis.
Miscarriage – The spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the fetus can survive outside the uterus.
Molluscum Contagiosum – Appears like pearly, flesh-colored, dome-shaped bumps on the skin. Molluscum do not usually itch or hurt. Most people have only a few bumps.
Myomectomy – Surgical removal of uterine fibroids only, leaving the uterus in place.


Needle Aspiration – A procedure in which a small amount of fluid or tissue is withdrawn through a needle for study.


Ovulation – The release of an egg from one of the ovaries.


Pap Test (Pap Smear) – A test in which cells are taken from the cervix and vagina and examined under a microscope.
Pelvic Exam – Examination of a woman’s internal and external reproductive organs.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – An infection that involves that fallopian tubes and nearby pelvic structures.
Perforation – An injury to the wall of the uterus; it can be caused by an intrauterine device or by an instrument used in a D&C.
Peritoneum – The membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and surrounds the internal organs.
Placenta – Tissue that connects mother and fetus and provides nourishment to and takes away waste from the fetus.
POP – Progestin Only Pills, commonly known as the mini-pill.
Postpartum – Intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, or despair after childbirth that interfere with a new mother’s ability to function and that do not go away.
Postpartum Blues – Feelings of sadness, fear, anger, or anxiety occurring about 3 days after childbirth and usually fading within 1-2 weeks.
Postpartum Sterilization – An operation that prevents a woman from becoming pregnant, preformed immediately after the birth of her last child.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) – The term used to describe a group of physical or behavioral changes that some women experience before their menstrual periods every month.
Progesterone – A female hormone that is produced in the ovaries and prepared the lining of the uterus during the second half of the menstrual cycle to nourish a fertilized egg.
Prostagladin – A chemical that is made by the body and causes the muscle of the uterus to contract, usually causing cramps.


Rectocele – Protrusion of the rectum through the vaginal wall.
Regional Anesthesia – The use of drugs to block sensation in certain areas of the body.
Retracted Nipple – A nipple that had pulled inward.
Rh Immunoglobulin (RhIg) – A substance given to prevent an Rh-negative person’s antibody response to Rh-positive blood cells.


Salpingo-oophorectomy – Removal of the ovary and fallopian tube.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) – Diseases that are spread by sexual contact, including chlamydia infection, gonorrhea, genital warts, herpes, syphilis, and infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Speculum – An instrument used to spread the walls of the vagina so that the cervix can be seen.
Spermicides – Chemicals that inactivate sperm. They come in creams, gels, foams, and suppositories. Some condoms are coated with spermicides.
Squamous Intraepithelial Lesion (SIL) – Term used in Pap test reports that includes dysplasia, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), and changes caused by Human Papillomavirus. A noncancerous condition that occurs when normal cells on the surface of the cervix are replaced by a layer of abnormal cells. SIL is classified as low grade or high grade.


Trichomonas Vaginitis – A type of vaginal infection caused by a parasite that is transmitted through sex.
Tubal Occlusion – Blockage of the fallopian tube.


Ultrasound – A test in which sound waves are used to examine or view the internal organs or fetus.
Ureters – A pair of tubes, each leading from one of the kidneys to the bladder.
Urinary Incontinence – A condition in which urine leaks involuntarily from the bladder.
Urethra – A short, narrow tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body.
Uterus – A muscular organ located in the female pelvis that contains and nourishes the developing embryo and fetus during pregnancy.


Vaginismus – Involuntary spasm of the pubic muscles and lower vagina that makes penetration by the penis difficult, painful, or impossible.
Vulva – The lips of the female external genital area.


Yeast Infection – An infection causing mild to intolerable vulvar or vaginal itching or burning in females. The male partner may also have symptoms.