Prefixes, Word Roots, & Suffixes

English medical terminology is often a derivative of the Greek or Latin language. For example, the word arthritis is based on the Greek word arthron (joint) + the Greek ending itis (inflammation of).

Medical terms can be divided into three basic word elements.

Word Element Description Purpose
Prefix one or two syllables placed before a word in order to modify the meaning of the word to help describe the appearance of, or the location of, an anatomical part
Root/Stem the basic meaning of the term expresses the basic meaning of the term
Suffix a syllable or a group of syllables attached to the end of a word root (or stem) to modify the meaning of the word root

As word elements, prefixes, roots, and suffixes make up the common medical terms related to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Several roots may be combined with a prefix and/or suffix to form a word. Knowledge of word elements and how they combine to form common medical terms is essential to a cancer registrar to decipher basic and complex medical terminology.

Updated: December 11, 2023