SEER Training Modules

Abbreviations, Symbols, & Acronyms

Medical records can be very difficult to read and comprehend. Often the handwriting is almost illegible, and the widespread use of symbols and abbreviations has reached a point where a handy reference is a necessity. Several such references are listed in the selected bibliography.

You will find that reading a medical record becomes easier as you learn the meaning of the technical terms associated with cancer. Many words that are not clearly written will make sense to you because you will be able to recognize the meaning of the common symbols and abbreviations used in a medical record. These symbols and abbreviations are a useful speedwriting technique for the tumor registrar as well as for the medical staff. However, when there is any possibility of confusion, words should be written out.

The style of abbreviation for a term may vary slightly in different texts. For example, periods may or may not be used between letters; capital or small letters may be used. Remember, you often will have to read the content to understand the meaning of the abbreviation. Variation in use of periods and capitalizations is frequent and widespread (as A.M., AM, a.m., am). Do not use nonstandard abbreviations in abstracts. The current trend is to write abbreviations in capital letters without periods excerpt where understanding or common usage dictates otherwise.

CAUTION: The examples listed do not include all the possible meanings for each acronym, abbreviation or symbol, and the abbreviations may not be those used in your hospital. You will have to determine your local usage.