- Absolute neutrophil count (ANC) test
A test used to calculate the number of neutrophils in a blood sample. An ANC of 2,500 or more per mm3 is considered a normal value. An ANC value below 1,000 per mm3 indicates a high risk of infection.
A complementary therapy in which fine, metallic needles are put into the skin at special “acupuncture points”. This may help ease pain or the side-effects of chemotherapy treatment such as nausea and vomiting.
A blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart.
- Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid)
A non-prescription medicine used to treat symptoms such as pain, inflammation, and fever. Consult a doctor before taking aspirin.
- Autonomic nervous system
The part of the nervous system that automatically regulates body functions such as digestion, heartbeat, and breathing.
A metallic element.
- Barium swallow
A test in which a liquid containing a metallic element called barium is swallowed and then an X-ray of the digestive system is taken.
- A type of tumour that is does not spread, i.e. it is non-cancerous.
- Biological therapy
A type of medicine that is made by living organisms, or from living organisms.
The removal of a small section of a tumour or of body tissue, which will be examined under a microscope to make a diagnosis.
An organ in the abdomen where urine is stored before being expelled from the body.
- Blood count
A blood test to see how many red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets there are in the blood.
- Blood transfusion
A process in which blood, usually from a donor, is put into the circulatory system via a needle in a vein
See “body mass index”.
- Body mass index (BMI)
A measurement used to see whether a person’s weight is healthy, or whether he/she is underweight, overweight, or obese. It is calculated by dividing someone’s weight in kilograms by the square of his/her height in metres.
- Bone densitometry
A test for measuring bone mineral density, also known as osteodensitometry.
- Bone marrow
The spongy substance inside some bones (e.g. the hip and thigh bones). Stem cells are produced in the bone marrow; these develop into different types of blood cells.
- Bone marrow biopsy
The removal of a small amount of bone marrow and bone using a syringe and a needle.
- Bone marrow transplant
A procedure that replaces unhealthy or damaged bone marrow with healthy bone marrow. It may be used as a treatment for some types of cancer.
- Bone scintigraphy
A scan that involves putting a radioactive product into the body; the product accumulates in the organ or tissue and “highlights” it so pictures can be taken to show how well it is functioning.
See “internal radiotherapy”.
- BRCA1 and BRCA2
Breast cancer 1 (BRCA1) and Breast cancer 2 (BRCA2) are genes that produce proteins that stop tumours forming. If someone has a mutation in one of these genes, he/she may be at higher risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or prostate cancer and some other types of cancer.
- Breakthrough pain
A sudden burst of pain that can happen even if any pain is otherwise well-controlled.
A procedure in which the doctor examines the inside of a person’s airways and lungs using a lighted tube passed down through the mouth.
A protein that is found in greater quantities in certain tumours than in healthy body cells. It is measured to examine evidence of known cancer, such as ovarian cancer.
- A small tube that can be inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. Chemotherapy treatment can then be administered slowly through this tube into the vein; it will be removed after treatment has finished.
A type of cancer that forms in the body’s glandular, membranous, or skin cells.
- Carcinoma in situ
Carcinoma in which the cancerous cells stay in their original tissue, without going into surrounding areas.
See “cognitive behavioural therapy”.
See “(Cytotoxic) chemotherapy”.
- Chemotherapy cycle
Chemotherapy is usually given in cycles. A cycle is a period of chemotherapy treatment which is often followed by a period of rest, e.g. 1 week of chemotherapy followed by 3 weeks of rest with no chemotherapy, allowing time for the body to recover and build up new healthy cells.
A complication of liver disease, in which liver cells are irreparably damaged and the liver is scarred.
- Clinical nurse specialist
A nurse who is specialised in caring for patients with a specific disease or condition, e.g. cancer.
- Clinical psychologist
A professional who aims to understand, prevent, and reduce the psychological upset and improve the psychological well-being of the person they are treating.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Psychological therapy used to help people to change the way they think and react to certain situations and circumstances. It may help relieve anxiety related to cancer or to ease the side-effects of treatment.
- Cold cap therapy
A way of cooling the scalp during chemotherapy using a cap filled with cooling gel. This treatment is intended to reduce hair loss caused by chemotherapy.
Part of the lower digestive system, where water is removed from digested food. Also known as the large intestine or large bowel.
A procedure in which the doctor examines the inside of the lower digestive system using a lighted tube passed up through the anus.
Refers to the colon and the rectum, the lower parts of the digestive system.
An opening in the abdominal wall during a surgical operation. The end of the large bowel protrudes through this opening and the stool then passes through it and is collected in a bag on the skin over the opening. A colostomy may be temporary, to give the bowel a rest, or may be permanent.
A medical condition that happens at the same time as another medical condition.
- Complementary therapy
A type of therapy that may be used alongside or in addition to medical treatment with the goal to improve quality of life and physical or emotional health. There are many different types of complementary therapies, including aromatherapy, acupuncture, massage, and yoga.
- Complete blood count (CBC) test
A blood test used to count the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in the blood.
- Compression garment
A piece of clothing that provides extra support, e.g. a sleeve. Wearing this might help ease swelling, e.g. in a person’s arm.
- Computerised tomography (CT)
A sort of X-ray that combines different images to provide a 3D or cross-sectional view of the inside of the body.
A type of medication that suppresses inflammation and immunity.
A process in which cells, tissues, or organs are stored at a very low temperature. It may be used to preserve sperm for later use.
See “computerised tomography”.
- Curative treatment
A treatment that is given with the aim of curing the cancer.
- Cytogenetic analysis
A test done to look at chromosomes located in white blood cells or bone marrow cells. It is used to confirm a diagnosis of some types of cancers and to help select appropriate treatment.
A procedure in which the doctor examines the inside of the bladder by inserting a lighted tube through the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body).
- (Cytotoxic) chemotherapy
A cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. It works by targeting cells that divide or grow quickly. Chemotherapy can be given to cure cancer, control cancer growth, or ease symptoms caused by the cancer.
Excessive loss of body water, e.g. due to vomiting or diarrhoea or the inability to drink enough.
A healthcare professional who can advise people on their diet.
- Digital rectal examination (DRE)
An examination through the lower part of the digestive system to feel the internal organs, e.g. the prostate gland. It is done by a doctor, who inserts a gloved finger into the anus.
- Distant recurrence
See “metastatic recurrence”.
A medication that encourages the passing of urine by the kidneys.
See “digital rectal examination”.
- Ductal carcinoma
A type of breast cancer that develops in the milk ducts.
A process in which eggs are removed and stored at very low temperatures. It may be used to preserve a female’s eggs for later use.
- A test used to examine proteins in the blood; it can detect abnormal immune system proteins that are sometimes elevated in cancer patients.
- Endoluminal ultrasonography (EUS)
A medical procedure involving the insertion of a hollow lighted tube (endoscopy) combined with ultrasound to give a detailed view of internal organs.
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
A technique used to view and treat biliary ducts or pancreatic ducts. A fine tube is inserted via the mouth into the ducts and a special substance is injected either to make the ducts show up on X-ray or to treat the cancer.
Examination of the inside of the body using a hollow lighted tube.
- Erythropoiesis-stimulating agent (ESA)
A drug that stimulates the bone marrow to produce red blood cells.
See “erythropoiesis-stimulating agent”.
See “endoluminal ultrasonography”.
- External beam radiotherapy
The most common form of radiotherapy. Radiation is directed at the cancer from a machine pointing from outside of the body.
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
An inherited condition in which many polyps form, mostly in the lining of the large intestine.
See “familial adenomatous polyposis”.
- Febrile neutropenia
A fever for longer than 60 minutes and/or signs of sepsis in the presence of a low number of neutrophils. Febrile neutropenia is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.
The ability to conceive and bear children.
- First-degree relative
Parent, sibling, or child.
See “granulocyte colony-stimulating factor”.
A cellular “recipe” that instructs a cell on how to make certain proteins. The genes of cells may be passed on to future generations, so a mistake in a gene that affects a parent’s cells may be passed on to their son or daughter.
- Genetic counselling
Talking to an expert who can advise about the likelihood of an inherited disorder or disease affecting family members.
- Genetic mutation
A change in a gene, which may result in passing on defects when a cell divides.
- Genetic predisposition
The chance of developing a disease or condition because of inherited genes.
- Genetic testing
Tests performed to determine whether a person has a type of genetic disease or whether he/she is likely to develop a certain disease or pass it on to his/her children. Some types of cancer are more likely to occur when specific genetic mutations are present.
A type of white blood cells that attack foreign organisms in the bloodstream. They are important in fighting infections.
- Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF)
A substance occurring naturally in the body, and which can also be in the form of medication given to prevent or treat neutropenia.
- Group therapy
A form of psychotherapy in which a trained psychotherapist works with more than one person at the same time. Some people with cancer find it helps them talk through their worries and concerns with other people.
- Haematological cancer
A type of cancer found in blood-forming tissue, such as the bone marrow, or in cells of the immune system. Examples include leukaemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
A protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body’s organs and tissues, and transports carbon dioxide from these organs and tissues to the lungs. A normal haemoglobin range is 13.5 to 17.5 g/dL in males, and 12.0 to 15.5 g/dL in females.
The HER2 gene makes HER2 proteins. HER2 protein levels are measured in certain cancers like breast and gastric cancer to gauge how aggressive the disease may be.
- HER2 status
This can be positive or negative. In HER2-positive cancer the HER2 protein is expressed more than normal. This type of breast cancer is considered a particularly aggressive form of the disease.
- Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
An inherited disorder that increases the risk of many different kinds of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. Also known as Lynch syndrome.
See “hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer”.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
A therapy in which hormones are given to replace those naturally lacking in the body.
Hormones are responsible for controlling most major bodily functions such as hunger and reproduction as well as emotions and mood.
The homeobox 13 (HOXB13) gene makes the HOXB13 protein which slows down the growth of some tumour cells. A mutation in this gene may lead to an increased risk of developing various cancers, as the HOXB13 protein may not be able to function as efficiently.
See “human papillomavirus”.
See “hormone replacement therapy”.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
A common sexually transmitted virus. It may cause no symptoms at all, or may cause genital warts or cervical or other cancers. A preventive vaccination is available.
A complementary therapy that uses hypnosis to bring people into a trance-like state in which their body is extremely relaxed, but their mind is highly aware and more focused.
A medicine used to treat symptoms such as pain, inflammation, and fever. Consult a doctor before taking ibuprofen.
Taking a picture of the inside of the body.
A treatment to stimulate, modify, or restore the body’s own ability to fight infection or disease.
The frequency with which a disease or condition occurs in a population of people.
- Incident pain
A type of pain that can be expected to occur at a certain moment, e.g. when coughing or having a wound redressed.
A hormone that stimulates cells of the body to remove and use glucose carried in the blood. It is produced by the pancreas. If the pancreas does not produce enough, artificial insulin can be given.
- Internal radiotherapy
A cancer treatment in which a radioactive source such as a metal or liquid is used inside the body very close to the tumour site.
- Intra-arterial (i.a.):
i.a. medications are injected into an artery.
- Intramuscular (i.m.)
i.m. medications are injected into a muscle.
Refers to anything within the peritoneal cavity, the area containing the abdominal organs. Some cancer medications may be put directly into the intraperitoneal cavity via an injection or infusion.
- Intravenous chemotherapy
Chemotherapy that is administered via a tube inserted into a vein usually in a hand, arm, or the chest.
- Intravenous (i.v.)
i.v. medications are administered into a vein.
- Invasive carcinoma
Carcinoma in which the cancerous cells invade nearby tissue.
- Keyhole surgery
A type of surgical operation performed through a very small incision in the body rather than through a large cut. It is also known as minimally invasive surgery.
A process by which a lighted tube is passed into the abdominal cavity. It may be used to look at internal organs or to perform surgery.
Any damage or abnormal change in tissue.
A group of cancers affecting the body’s blood-forming tissues, such as the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Cancerous cells commonly circulate in the bloodstream.
- Local recurrence
When a cancer comes back after initial treatment at the same site as the original cancer.
A clear fluid, rich with white blood cells, that circulates through the lymphatic system.
- Lymphatic system
A part of the circulatory and immune system, which helps fight infections and discard waste.
The accumulation of fluid in the lymphatic system causing swelling. It can be a side-effect of some cancer treatments.
Cancer of the lymphatic system, the system that transports a clear fluid called lymph throughout the body. This includes Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
- Lynch syndrome
See “hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer”.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
A diagnostic process that uses magnetic fields, radio waves, and a computer to view the inside of the body in great detail.
A malignant tumour can grow uncontrollably, and may invade neighbouring tissues and spread to other parts of the body.
An X-ray of the breasts. It may show up lumps that cannot be felt, and can be used to guide the doctor when taking biopsies.
See “MYH-associated polyposis”.
A complete surgical removal of one or both breasts.
See “myelodysplastic syndromes”.
A drug or other form of medicine used to treat a disease.
A mindfulness practice that involves focusing on something specific to allow a person to shed the many thoughts that usually occupy the mind.
The time in life when a female’s menstrual periods permanently stop. This may be accompanied by physical symptoms such as hot flushes or night sweats.
The spread of a tumour from its first (primary) location to other parts of the body. Cancer that has spread to other parts of the body is known as “metastatic cancer”.
- Metastatic recurrence
When a cancer, after initial treatment, comes back in a different part of the body to the original site.
- Minimally invasive surgery
See “keyhole surgery”.
A pigmented spot on the skin; a doctor might call this a “nevus”.
One drug used on its own, rather than in combination with other drugs.
- Motor nerve
A nerve that directly contacts a muscle, instructing the muscle to move.
See “magnetic resonance imaging”.
Refers to a type of method, approach, or team that involves experts from many different disciplines.
- Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)
A medical condition in which the stem cells of the bone marrow do not produce healthy blood cells. This can lead to neutropenia, anaemia, infection, bleeding, and even leukaemia.
- MYH-associated polyposis (MAP)
A hereditary condition in which people tend to develop multiple polyps in the colon and are at increased risk of colorectal cancer.
An uneasiness in the stomach, “feeling sick”.
- Neo-adjuvant chemotherapy
Chemotherapy that is given before an operation or radiotherapy, in an attempt to shrink a tumour and make it easier to remove or destroy.
A procedure that destroys or inactivates specific nerve tissue.
A procedure that alters nerve activity using electrodes or chemicals.
A reduction in neutrophils that makes the body more susceptible to infections. There are several grades of neutropenia: mild (fewer than 1,500 neutrophils per mm3), moderate (fewer than 1,000 neutrophils per mm3), and severe (fewer than 500 neutrophils per mm3).
A type of white blood cells that protect the body from infection.
- Nuclear scan
A type of scan in which a tracer (a safe radioactive material) is injected into the bloodstream, so that the scanner can take a picture of the bones or organs.
Acquiring the food necessary for health and growth by having the sustenance and fluid the body needs.
A medical condition in which a person has become so overweight that it affects their health. It is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above.
- Occupational therapist
A professional who helps people whose health prevents them from performing activities they need to perform in everyday life, e.g. getting dressed or taking a shower.
Swelling of body tissues as a result of the accumulation of too much fluid.
A female sex hormone, responsible for the development and working of the female reproductive system.
A doctor specialised in cancer treatments, e.g. chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery.
- Oral chemotherapy
Chemotherapy that can be taken by mouth.
A test for measuring bone mineral density, also known as bone densitometry.
- Ovarian-tissue banking
A process in which some ovarian tissue containing eggs is removed, and stored at very low temperatures. It may be used to preserve eggs for later use.
- Palliative chemotherapy
Chemotherapy that is given to: shrink or control an incurable cancer; relieve cancer-associated symptoms, such as pain; or reduce the number of cancer cells.
- Pathological examination
A tissue sample taken at biopsy to learn more about a condition or disease such as cancer, e.g. to diagnose cancer and determine what type of cancer it is.
A doctor who interprets laboratory tests and the results of biopsies to diagnose disease, e.g. cancer.
- Peripheral neuropathy
A condition that happens when nerves are damaged, e.g. by chemotherapy. It causes weakness and numbness, usually in the hands and/or feet, which may be painful.
See “positron emission tomography”.
A professional who prepares and dispenses the drugs prescribed by a doctor.
A professional who specialises in taking blood for various laboratory tests and procedures.
A professional who assesses, diagnoses, and treats disability or problems with movement, e.g. by suggesting exercise programmes or manipulating joints.
A dummy medicine commonly used during clinical trials.
The smallest structures in the blood. They are required for blood clotting.
An abnormal outgrowth of tissue from a mucous membrane; polyps are usually benign, but some types, e.g. in the colon, may become malignant.
- Positron emission tomography (PET)
A sort of X-ray that combines different images to provide a 3D view of processes taking place inside the body.
- Primary tumour
The initial tumour to grow; a cancer is always named after the site of this first tumour, e.g. if the initial tumour grows in the lung, the cancer is called lung cancer.
A female sex hormone, involved in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA)
A substance produced by certain cells in the prostate gland. Raised levels of PSA in the blood may indicate the presence of prostate cancer, but may also indicate a benign tumour.
The building blocks of cells.
A medical term for itchy skin.
See “prostate-specific antigen”.
- Psychiatric oncologist
A doctor concerned with the psychological and emotional well-being of people with cancer.
Refers to the lungs.
- Radioactive isotope
A radioactive substance used in certain types of scans and used to treat some cancers.
A doctor with special training in reading imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans.
An expert in radiotherapy, a method of treating cancer by using high-energy waves such as X-rays.
A type of cancer therapy that uses radiation to damage cancer cells and prevent them from growing and dividing.
The final section of the intestine.
- Recurrent cancer
A cancer that comes back after initial treatment. It may come back immediately or many years later, and may come back in a different part of the body.
- Regional recurrence
When a cancer, after initial treatment, comes back in lymph nodes near the original site.
A period following cancer treatment when no more cancer cells can be detected.
- Resection biopsy
A process similar to biopsy, but in this case the surgeon may remove the entire tumour prior to diagnosis.
A tumour that forms in the body’s connective tissues, such as bone or muscle.
Looking for a disease, e.g. cancer, before symptoms are present, with the aim of treating the disease in an early phase when treatment is more likely to be successful.
- Secondary tumour
A new tumour that has formed because cancer cells have spread from the original (primary) tumour; it forms in a different part of the body from the primary tumour, but is given the same name as the original tumour, e.g. lung cancer that spreads to the liver is still called lung cancer.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
A class of drugs used in treating depression and anxiety disorders.
- Sentinel node
A type of lymph node; a primary tumour is most likely to spread to this node.
A process caused by an overreaction of the immune system to an infection. Sepsis is a dangerous condition that may lead to shock and internal organ failure. Signs and symptoms of sepsis include a raised heart rate, increased breathing rate, and fever. Sepsis requires immediate medical attention.
- Side effect
An unintentional effect of a treatment.
A procedure in which the doctor examines the inside of the lower part of the digestive system using a lighted tube passed up through the anus.
- Social worker
A professional who helps people by finding solutions to social problems such as housing or benefits.
- Solid tumour
A tumour that does not contain liquid, but forms a lump (e.g. breast, prostate, and lung cancer).
An organ located in the upper left part of the abdomen; it helps the body to get rid of bacteria and old red blood cells and to fight infection.
- Spontaneous pain
A type of pain that occurs unpredictably and is unrelated to any movement or activity.
See “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors”.
- Subcutaneous (s.c.)
Refers to just underneath the skin. s.c. medications are injected just under the skin using a fine needle.
An addition to a diet, e.g. vitamin tablets and nutritional drinks and shakes, to provide the body with things it may not be getting from normal food and drink.
- Support group
A group of people who meet to talk about their experiences, e.g. while being treated for a particular kind of cancer, and offer each other help and support.
A doctor who specialises in performing medical operations.
The medical term for “an operation”.
- Surgical oncologist
A doctor who specialises in performing medical operations to treat cancer.
A term used to mean the journey through the entire course of cancer, from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up care. It deals with all aspects of treatment, psychology, lifestyle, and quality of life.
- Targeted therapy
Drugs used to treat cancer by interfering with specific molecules involved in the growth and spread of that type of cancer.
See testicular sperm extraction.
- Testicular sperm extraction (TESA)
A process in which a small portion of tissue is removed from the testicle under local anaesthetic and the sperm cells are extracted from the tissue. It may be used to preserve sperm for later use.
A hormone responsible for the growth and development of male organs and characteristics and in male sexual function.
A decreased number of platelets (thrombocytes) in the blood; this can lead to bleeding into the tissues, bruising, and slow blood clotting after injury.
A substance injected into the body to show up organs, structures, or abnormalities during an X-ray or scan.
- Transurethral resection (TUR)
A procedure used to remove the prostate or to take cell samples from the prostate or bladder via the penis rather than via an incision.
See “transurethral resection”.
A method for taking pictures of the internal organs by passing high-frequency sound waves through the body.
- Ultraviolet radiation
See “UV radiation”.
A tube from the bladder that allows urine to exit the body. The male urethra also carries semen that is ejaculated upon orgasm.
A test to measure the composition of the urine, such as the level of sugars, proteins, white blood cells, and red blood cells.
A type of CT scan used to take pictures of the urinary tract, including the kidneys and bladder and all of the connecting tubes.
- UV radiation
A type of radiation present in sunlight and sunbed lamps. Overexposure may increase the risk of skin cancer.
A blood vessel that carries blood towards the heart.
- White blood cells
One of the types of cells in the blood. There are several types of white blood cells; they fight infections and remove waste from other cells.
A method for taking pictures of internal organs by passing a specific type of beam (an X-ray) through the body.