Medical Definition of Primary

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Primary: First or foremost in time or development. The primary teeth (the baby teeth) are those that come first. Primary may also refer to symptoms or a disease to which others are secondary.

A primary tumor is one that is at the original site at which it arose. For example, a primary brain tumor is one that arose in the brain as opposed to one that arose elsewhere and metastasized (spread) to the brain. The original tumor is sometimes called "the primary."

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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