What does that term mean?
abdomen – the part of the body between the chest and hips, which contains the stomach, liver, intestines, bladder and kidneys.
acute – have a short and relatively severe course.
adenocarcinoma – a type of lung cancer which starts in the bronchial glands which are found in the mucous membrane lining the airways.
adjuvant chemotherapy – treatment of cancer with drugs to aid or assist another treatment.
alcohol ablation – injection of ethanol (alcohol) directly into a liver tumour to kill the cancer cells.
alveoli – the tiny air sacs in the lungs; an adult has about 300 million. When air is breathed in, it goes via the airways to the alveoli, where oxygen is taken from them into the bloodstream.
alopecia – hair loss, baldness.
anaemia – having less than the normal amount of red cells in the blood.
analgesic – a drug that relieves or improves pain.
anastomosis – where the bowel is rejoined after a section has been removed during surgery.
anti emetic – a drug that prevents or reduces nausea and vomiting.
antifungal – a drug to treat fungal infections.
anus – the entrance to your rectum.
asbestosis – a slowly-progressing lung disease caused by asbestos. It is not a cancer.
ascites [a-sight-ease] – fluid collecting in the abdomen and pelvis.
atypical hyperplasia – the milk ducts contain increased numbers of abnormal cells.
atypical naevi – moles which are large, irregular shaped and are multi-coloured. They are not cancers.
axilla – the armpit.
axillary lymph nodes – lymph nodes in the armpit.
barium enema – a test to look for cancer in the bowel. A white chalky liquid is put into your rectum and then x-rays are taken.
benign – a tumour that is not malignant, not cancerous and won't spread to another part of your body.
benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland.
biopsy – the removal of a small sample of tissue from the body for examination under a microscope, to help diagnose a disease.
bladder – hollow organ that stores urine.
bone marrow – soft, spongy tissue found in the center of most large bones, that produces the cellular component of blood: white cells, red cells and platelets.
bone scan – a picture of the bones that can show cancers, other abnormalities and infection. When a mildly radioactive substance is injected, cancerous areas of the bone pick up more of the substance than normal bone.
brachytherapy – a form of radiation therapy where the radiation source is placed into the area of the body being treated.
bronchi/bronchioles – bronchi are the larger tubes that carry air in the lungs. Bronchioles are the tiny tubes that carry air to the outer parts of the lungs.
bronchiolo-alveolar cell carcinoma – a type of lung cancer that occurs in the part of the lung where air exchange takes place.
bronchoscopy – an examination in which a tube is passed through the nose or the mouth into the lungs so that they can be examined for disease and some tissue sampled, if necessary.
carcinoma – a cancer that starts in the skin, glands, and the lining of organs (epithelial tissue).
carcinoma in situ – a malignant [cancerous] tumour that is confined to its original site.
cells – the 'building blocks' of the body. A human is made of millions of cells, which are adapted for different functions. Cells are able to reproduce themselves exactly, unless they are abnormal or damaged, as are cancer cells.
chemotherapy – the use of special (cytotoxic) drugs to treat cancer by slowing the growth of cancer cells or killing them.
chronic – persisting over a long period of time.
colon – large bowel.
colonoscope or colonoscopy – a colonoscope is a long flexible tube inserted through the rectum into the bowel. A specialist can look through the tube to check for signs of cancer.
colostomy – an opening in the skin of the abdomen to which the large bowel is attached.
complete remission – disappearance of all signs and symptoms of cancer.
CT (computerised tomography) scan – a technique for constructing pictures from cross-sections of the body, by x-raying the part of the body to be examined, from many different angles.
Crohn's disease – chronic inflammatory disease of unknown origin usually affecting the small or large bowel or both.
cryotherapy – liver tumours are frozen and destroyed using liquid nitrogen probes.
dermis – the inner layer of the skin which contains the roots of the hairs, glands that produce sweat and oil, blood and lymph vessels and nerves.
diaphragm – a dome-like sheet of muscle that divides the chest cavity from the abdomen. It is used in breathing.
differentiation – medical term used to describe how closely cancer cells resemble normal cells.
ducts – a small tube in the body. In the breast, the milk ducts carry milk from the milk sacs to the nipple.
emphysema – a condition in which the alveoli of the lungs are enlarged and damaged, which reduces the lung's surface area, causing breathing difficulties.
epidermis – the outer layer of the skin. Cells at the bottom of the epidermis (basal layer) divide in an orderly way to replace the dead cells continually worn away from the surface of the skin.
excision – the surgical removal of tissue from the body.
faeces – bowel motions.
familial adenomatous polyposis coli (FAP) – a condition that causes hundreds of small growths (known as polyps) in the bowel of the person affected. If left untreated FAP always turns into bowel cancer. Only about 1% of bowel cancer is due to FAP.
fine needle aspiration – a procedure in which a fine needle is used to withdraw a few cells from a tumour for biopsy.
genes – the tiny factors that govern the way the body's cells grow and behave. Each person has a set of many thousands of genes inherited from both parents. Genes are found in every cell of the body.
glands – an organ or group of organs that makes certain fluids.
Gleason score – a system for grading prostate cancer tumours according to size and severity.
grading – refers to the appearance of cancer cells under the microscope.
gray – a unit of radiation.
haematologist – a doctor who specialises in treatment of blood diseases.
hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) – a condition in some families where the tendency to develop bowel cancer is inherited. Up to five per cent of all bowel cancer is due to HNPCC. About 80 per cent of people who have the gene for HNPCC will develop a bowel cancer sometime in their life.
hormone – a chemical produced by glands in the body.
hormone receptors – indicators on the surface of some cancer cells that suggest the cancer depends on hormones to help it grow, and it may thus respond to hormone treatment.
hormone tests – laboratory tests that are done on a sample of tissue, to find out whether the cancer is likely to respond to hormone treatment.
hormone therapy – treatment using hormones.
ileostomy – an opening in the skin of the abdomen to which the small bowel is attached.
impotence – inability to have an erection.
incontinence – loss of bladder control, or urinary leaking.
infusion pump – some chemotherapy drugs can be given via an infusion pump which is a small portable device allowing the patient to have their chemotherapy at home. There are several types of pumps available, all designed to deliver a measured dose of medication continuously.
invasion – a tumour is said to be invasive if it grows into and damages the tissues around it.
large cell carcinoma – a type of lung cancer that usually develops in the airways and is characterised by large rounded cells.
laser therapy – involves the use of high intensity light to destroy tumour cells.
leucocyte – general term for a white blood cell.
linear accelerator – a machine which produces high energy x-rays and electron beams to treat cancer.
lobectomy – a surgical operation to remove a lobe of a lung.
lobes – the sections that make up the lungs – the left lung has two lobes and the right lung, three.
lumbar puncture – insertion of a hollow needle into the lower spinal cord to withdraw fluid for diagnosis or to give drugs.
lungs – the two spongy organs within the chest cavity, made up of very large numbers of tiny air sacs.
lymph – a fluid which circulates in the body and helps fight infection and disease.
lymph glands or nodes – small, kidney-shaped sacs scattered along the lymphatic system. The lymph nodes filter the lymph fluid to remove bacteria and other harmful agents, such as cancer cells. There are lymph nodes in your abdomen, neck, armpit and groin.
lymphatic system – the lymphatic system is part of the immune system, which protects the body against 'invaders', like bacteria and parasites. The lymphatic system is a network of small lymph nodes connected by very thin lymph vessels, which branch into every part of the body. Lymph fluid flows through this system and carries cells that help to fight disease and infection.
lymphocyte – a type of white blood cell.
lymphoedema – swelling caused by a buildup of lymph; this happens when there is an insufficient draining in lymphatic vessels or lymph nodes, and can occur following some cancer treatments.
malignant – a tumour that is cancerous and likely to spread if it is not treated.
mammogram – an x-ray of the breast that can be used to examine a breast lump. Mammograms are also used for women without any breast changes because they may detect a breast cancer before a lump can be felt.
mastectomy – the surgical removal of the breast.
mediastinum – the area in the chest cavity between the lungs. It contains the heart and large blood vessels, the oesophagus, the trachea and many lymph nodes.
melanocytes – pigment cells in which melanoma usually starts.
mesothelioma – A rare cancer of the membranes around the lungs. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma.
metastasis (plural = metastases) – a cancer that has grown in a different part of the body because of the spread of cancer cells from the original site. For example, someone with breast cancer may have metastases in their bones. Also called secondary cancer.
milk sacs – the gland in a woman that produces milk. Each breast consists of a number of lobes (divisions) which contain milk sacs where the milk is produced.
myeloma – a malignant tumour composed of plasma cells of the type normally found in the bone marrow.
neo-adjuvant chemotherapy – chemotherapy given before the primary treatment to improve the effectiveness of the treatment.
neoplasm – a new and abnormal growth of cells, commonly used to describe cancer.
non-small cell lung carcinoma – one of the two main groups of lung cancers. This group includes squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, large cell carcinoma and bronchiolo-alveolar cell carcinoma.
oesophagus – the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach.
oncologist – a doctor specialising in the study and treatment of cancer.
oncology – an area of medicine that specialises in the treatment of cancer.
orchidectomy/orchiectomy – surgical removal of the testes.
ovaries – a woman has two ovaries, which produce the female sex hormone oestrogen and, once a month, release an egg (ovum).
palliative treatment – controlling the symptoms of a disease rather than curing it.
pelvic lymph node dissection – surgical removal of some lymph glands for dissection to determine if the cancer has spread.
peritoneum – the lining of the abdomen.
PET (positron emission tomography) scan – a technique that is used to build up clear and detailed cross-section pictures of the body.
plasmacytoma – malignant tumour of plasma cells, very similar to myeloma – plasmacytomas usually develop into multiple myeloma
platelets – particles in the bloodstream that help with the blood clotting process. They are formed in bone marrow.
pleura – membranes which line the chest wall and cover the lungs.
pleural cavity – a space, normally empty, that lies between the two layers of the pleura.
pleural effusion – fluid collecting in the pleural cavity around the lung.
pneumonectomy – a surgical operation to remove a whole lung.
polyp – a small growth in the bowel. It can be either cancerous or not cancerous.
polypectomy – removal of a polyp.
primary tumour – a malignant tumour starts in one site of the body where it is known as the primary tumour.
prostate-specific antigen (PSA) – a protein normally produced by prostate cells. Tests of PSA levels are used in the diagnoses and monitoring of prostate cancer. This involves a simple blood test.
prostatitis – an inflammation of the prostate.
prosthesis – an artificial substitute for a missing part of the body such as a breast. It may help with balance and improve appearance.
radiation therapy/ radiotherapy – the use of radiation, usually x-rays, to kill cancer cells or injure them so they cannot grow and multiply.
radical prostatectomy – the surgical removal of the prostate gland.
radiologist – a doctor who specialises in the use of x-rays to diagnose disease.
rectum – the last 12-15 cm of the large bowel leading to the outside of the body.
recurrence/relapse – when a disease comes back after what seemed to be a cure.
remission – reduction or disappearance of signs or symptoms.
resection – surgical removal of a portion of any part of the body.
resectoscope – an instrument to remove tissue that causes obstruction in the bladder or urethra.
sarcoma – cancer arising in connective tissue, such as muscle, cartilage or bone.
scrotum – the external bag or pouch containing the testes.
secondary tumour – the same as metastasis.
sentinel node – this is the lymph node which a cancer first spreads to.
sigmoidoscope or sigmoidoscopy – similar to a colonoscope, except the tube is short and straight and examines the lower bowel only. A flexible sigmoidoscope is sometimes used.
small cell carcinoma – a type of lung cancer which is strongly associated with cigarette smoking. It spreads early and causes few initial symptoms.
sputum – liquid coughed up from the lungs. Also known as phlegm.
sputum cytology test – examination of sputum under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
squamous cell carcinoma – a cancer found most commonly on skin, but also in inner linings of the body, for example, a lung.
staging – investigations to find out how far a cancer has progressed. This is important in planning the best treatment.
stenting – when a tube made of metal or plastic is inserted into a duct to keep it open and prevent closure when a tumour is growing rapidly.
stoma – the opening of a colostomy.
stoma therapist – a registered nurse who specialises in caring for people who have stomas.
testes/testicles – two egg-shaped glands that produce semen and sex hormones.
testosterone – a male sex hormone produced by the testes which stimulates male sexual activity and the growth of other sex organs including the prostate.
thoracentesis – a medical procedure to draw fluid or air from the chest, using a hollow needle.
trachea (windpipe) – the pipe through which air passes to reach the lungs. The trachea starts in the neck, immediately below the voice box (larynx), and descends a few centimetres into the chest before branching to form the two bronchi, one of which goes into each lung.
transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) – surgery via the urethra to remove blockages in the urinary tract.
transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) – an ultrasound probe is inserted into the rectum so that ultrasound scans of the prostate can be made.
tumour – a swelling or lump. Tumours can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
tumour type – this refers to the type of cells that make up the original tumour and this will affect the way the cancer behaves. Each part of the body is made up of many different types of cells, so not all cancers from a particular organ will behave in the same way.
tumour stage – the stage refers to how far the tumour has spread around the body and this is one of the main factors that determine the success of treatment. There are four stages for each type of cancer.
- Stage 1 refers to cancers that have not spread outside of the organ where the cancer started and so might be able to be successfully treated with surgery.
- Stage 4 means that the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body.
ulcerative colitis – a chronic, episodic, inflammatory disease of the large bowel and rectum.
ultrasound – sound waves of a very high frequency used to examine structures within the body.
ureters – tubes that carry urine from each kidney to the bladder.
urethra – tube that carries urine from the bladder and semen from the sex glands to the outside of the body via the penis.
urinary catheter – artificial tube inserted to drain urine from the bladder into a collecting bag.