Below are explanations of some of the most common medical terms relating to Cancer
Adjuvant Therapy – Treatment, usually chemotherapy or radiotherapy given following surgery. It is given even if there are no symptoms of cancer at the time of treatment but where the risk of a secondary cancer is thought to be high.
Alopecia – Hairloss
Benign – Non-cancerous, used to refer to tumours which grow slowly in one place and which, once removed by surgery, tend not to recur.
Biopsy – Microscopic examination of a sample of tissue that has been removed from an area of the body where cancer is suspected. Sometimes a small sample is taken with a special needle and sometimes a complete growth is removed for examination.
Bone Marrow – The spongy inner part of large bones where blood cells are made. Bone marrow aspiration is the removal by fine needle of a small amount of bone marrow for examination.
Bronchoscopy – A test used to examine the inside of the lung.
Cancer – The name given to a group of diseases that occur in any organ of the body, and which all involve abnormal or uncontrolled growth of cells.
Carinogen – A substance that can cause, or help to cause, cancer
Carcinoma – A cancer that arises from the lining of an organ or system. They are the commonest cancers.
Chemotherapy – The treatment of disease with chemicals, such a cytotoxic (cancer destroying) drugs. The drugs can be given as tablets or more usually by injection or by a drip inserted into the arm by a needle.
Cytology – Microscopic study of individual body cells.
CT (Computed Tomography) scan – Produces a cross-section image of the head and body which is then analysed by computer.
Diagnosis – Identification of a disease in a person’s body.
Endoscopy – Looking inside the body through a small fibre-optic tube passed into the lungs or the digestive system
Haematologist – A doctor who specialises in the treatment of blood disorders.
Histology – The Study of tissues, used in diagnosis.
Hormone Therapy – Treatment with hormones to control cancer growth, usually for cancer of the breast, prostate, thyroid and uterus (womb).
Isotope Scan – A scan involving the injection of a very weak radioactive substance, which collects in the organ being investigated so that it can be viewed more easily with a special camera.
Lesion – Damage or change to the tissue which may or may not be cancer.
Lumpectomy – The surgical removal of a lump
Lymphangiogram – A special x-ray procedure carried out to display the lymphatic system.
Lymphatic system – The system of lymph nodes and the vessels or small tubes which connect them. Lymph nodes are located throughout the body, filtering out dangerous substances and producing infection-fighting cells called lymphocytes.
Lymphoedema – Swelling, usually in the arms or legs, which occurs became the lymph vessels are damaged or blocked. This can occur following some treatments for cancer, or due to the cancer itself.
Malignant – Cancerous. Malignant tumours can invade and destroy surrounding tissue and have the capacity to spread to other parts of the body.
Mammogram – A specialised x-ray which shows up the breast tissue and can detect breast cancer at a very early stage.
Mastectomy – The removal by surgery of all or part of the breast.
Metastasis – The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another, by way of the lymphatic system or bloodstream.
Neoplasm – Another name for a tumour.
Oncologist – A type of medicine dealing with the study of tumours that may or may not be malignant.
Oncology – A type of medicine dealing with the study of tumours that may or may not be malignant.
Orchidectomy – Surgical removal of a testicle.
Palliative Care – Palliative care concentrates on your quality of life and that of your family. It focuses on the provision of pain relief and symptom control during illness. It is especially important for those whose illness cannot be cured, but should be available to all cancer patients.
Primary cancer – The place where cancer originally developed.
Prognosis – The predicted future course of an illness.
Prosthesis – A specially made replacement for a part of the body which has been removed, such as a breast or a limb.
Radiographer – The person in the health care team who takes x-rays and scans or gives radiotherapy (therapeutic radiographer)
Radiology – The use of x-rays in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
Radiotherapy – The treatment of cancer by x-rays or gamma rays to destroy cancer. A dose of radiation is directed at a particular area of the body. It can also be carried out internally, under general anaesthetic.
Secondaries – A site to which a cancer has spread through the blood stream.
Staging – Determining the extent of cancer in a person, using strict measures. It helps doctors to decide on best treatment.
Syringe drivers – A means to administering pain-killers or chemotherapy drugs under the skin which relieves patients of the need for frequent injections.
Systemic therapy – Use of treatments, like chemotherapy, which affect the whole body.
Terminal care – Care of a person in the last days or weeks before they die. The emphasis is on making the person free of pain and as comfortable as possible.
Terminal illness – Active and progressive illness which cannot be cured. The Patient receives palliative care.
Tumour – A growth, formed out of a mass of cells, which can be either benign or malignant. Also known as a neoplasm.
Tumour markers – Substances produced by some tumours that can be traced in the blood.
Ulcer – A sore that doesn’t heal. An ulcer can be cancerous or non-cancerous.