Useful prefixes and suffixes

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Following, in no particular order, are frequently used word beginnings (prefixes) and word endings (suffixes) used to make up many medical terms. You don’t need to memorize whether an item is a prefix or suffix, or even if it is a word root, just what it means! I know this is all “Greek” to you (and some of it really is!), but there will be so much reinforcement as we go along that you can’t help but remember meanings. Be patient with yourself.

-itis = inflammation tonsillitis, appendicitis (you know these!)
-osis = abnormal condition cyanosis (of blueness, due to cold or low oxygen)
-ectomy = to cut out (remove) appendectomy, tonsillectomy (you know these too!)
-otomy = to cut into tracheotomy (to cut into the windpipe,
temporary opening)
-ostomy = to make a
colostomy (to make a permanent opening in colon)
a/an = without, none anemia (literally no blood but means few red cells)
micro = small microstomia (abnormally small mouth, see “stomy” in colostomy above?)
macro = large macrostomia (abnormally large mouth)
mega/ -megaly = enlarged megacolon (abnormally large colon = large intestine)
-scopy/ -scopic = to look, observe colonoscopy (look into colon)

Just a few more that you will see and hear over and over again.

-graphy/ -graph = recording
an image
mammography (imaging the breasts)
-gram = the image (X-ray) mammogram

Whenever you see these endings, -graphy, -graph, -gram, they relate to recording an image such as an X-ray, CT or MRI scan or a written recording with pen and moving paper. Mammography is the process of recording, i.e. the machine and procedure. Mammogram is the image itself, the X-ray. A recording of heart activity is called an electrocardiogram using an electrocardiograph. A recording of brain activity is an electroencephalogram and the medical procedure and machine is called electroencephalography (whew, what a mouthful!).

-ology/ -ologist = study, specialize in cardiologist, nephrologist (study
the heart, the kidneys)

To see a lung specialist, you would visit a pulmonologist. To see a specialist in nerve and brain disease, make an appointment with a neurologist. If you have a bad eye infection, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist. Your rheumatism acting up? You would want to find a physician specializing in rheumatology.

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