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Naming Cancer

Here is a quick lesson on the confusion caused by cancer acronyms. Doctors use different abbreviations for different cancers.  ACC is used for adenoid cystic carcinoma, acinic cell carcinoma, adrenal cortical carcinoma, advanced colorectal carcinoma, anal canal carcinoma, and advanced cervical carcinoma.

Another alternative used by doctors for adenoid cystic carcinoma is AdCC (which is the one that I use most often).  Oddly enough, when they starting switching acronyms for that disease, other physicians started using the AdCC acronym for adrenocortical carcinoma also.


Physicians and researchers normally use several different names to identify your cancer.  These names may be a little confusing, since naming conventions are not standardized.  The name that your physician may use could be based on any one of the following:

The tissue type involved (for example: adenocarcinoma, carcinoma, etc.).

Cancer cell type (for example: acinar, basal cell, squamous cell, etc.).

The body site of the original cancer (breast, liver, prostate, etc.)

And the stage of the cancer.

Some medical professionals will give you the name of your cancer according to the body site where the cancer originated.  Others will use the name of the cell structure.  And occasionally one may use an alternate name based on an older naming convention.  For example, my cancer may be described by one professional as breast cancer.  Another may call it adenoid cystic carcinoma of the breast or AdCC/B.  Still others might call it cribriform or cylindroma.  And other countries may use different terms, like adenocystic for this same cancer.

What you can do

So, what is a cancer patient to do?  Don't let your physician or oncologist talk to you in acronym terms only.  Tell him/her that they need to give you the entire name of the cancer and all names that may be used to describe it in literature.  Also ask for the primary site (body site where the cancer started) and any metastatic sites (body sites where the cancer has migrated).  All of these things are important when you are trying to do research on your particular rare cancer.

Finding information can be very tedious for the average rare cancer patient.  Ask your doctor all the questions that you need to clarify the information you may be receiving.