NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms

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The NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms features 7,804 terms related to cancer and medicine.

Browse the dictionary by selecting a letter of the alphabet or by entering a cancer-related word or phrase in the search box.

spinal cord
(SPY-nul kord)
A column of nerve tissue that runs from the base of the skull down the center of the back. It is covered by three thin layers of protective tissue called membranes. The spinal cord and membranes are surrounded by the vertebrae (back bones). The spinal cord and the brain make up the central nervous system (CNS). Spinal cord nerves carry messages between the brain and the rest of the body.

EnlargeDrawing of brain anatomy showing the brain stem, pons, medulla, spinal cord, cerebellum, cerebrum, meninges, ventricles (fluid-filled spaces), and skull.

Anatomy of the brain, showing the cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, and other parts of the brain.

EnlargeDrawing of the inside of the brain showing ventricles (fluid-filled spaces), choroid plexus, hypothalamus, pineal gland, pituitary gland, optic nerve, brain stem, cerebellum, cerebrum, medulla, pons, and spinal cord.

Anatomy of the inside of the brain, showing the pineal and pituitary glands, optic nerve, ventricles (with cerebrospinal fluid shown in blue), and other parts of the brain.