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Macmillan - Cancer information
Category: Health and Medicine > Cancer terms
Date & country: 28/01/2011, UK
Words: 355


Abdomen
The belly, tummy or gut. It is the part of the body below the chest which contains the organs of digestion, and the liver, pancreas and spleen. The lower abdomen (pelvis) also contains the organs of reproduction, the bladder and the rectum.

Acoustic neuroma
A type of brain tumour that starts in the nerve that controls hearing. Acoustic neuromas are benign (non-cancerous).

Actinic keratosis
A pre-cancerous skin growth that is sensitive to sunlight. It can become an early form of squamous cell skin cancer. It may appear as a dry, rough or scaly bump on the skin, as mottled skin or as horny growths. It is also called solar or senile keratosis.

Acupressure
A therapy in which acupuncture points are stimulated with the hands.

Acupuncture
An ancient Chinese medicine. In the West, it is used mainly as a form of pain relief. Fine needles are inserted into specific parts of the body (acupuncture points), rotated and then left in place for a few minutes.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)
ALL is the most common type of leukaemia found in children. It is a disease of the white lymphocytic blood cells. See leukaemia section.

Acute myeloblastic leukaemia (AML)
AML is a disease of the white myeloid white blood cells. It mainly affects adults. See leukaemia section.

Adenocarcinoma
Adenocarcinoma is a cancer that forms in the cells of glands or in parts of the body that produce mucous.

Adenoma
A non-cancerous (benign) tumour found on glandular (mucous-producing) linings in the body. With bowel cancer, the word is sometimes used instead of polyp.

Adjuvant treatment
A treatment given after another treatment, to improve the chances of controlling or curing the disease. For example, adjuvant radiotherapy may be given after breast cancer surgery.

Advanced cancer
A phrase used at the point of initial diagnosis. It means the cancer has begun to grow into nearby tissue (invasive cancer) or has spread elsewhere (metastases have formed).

Aggressive
An aggressive cancer is a quickly growing cancer.

Alexander Technique
A way of improving body posture. Teachers believe that, by achieving postural harmony, we can improve body functions such as circulation, digestion and breathing. See Alexander Technique section.

ALL
ALL stands for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. It is a disease of the white lymphocytic blood cells, and is the most common type of leukaemia found in children. See leukaemia section.

Allogenic bone marrow transplant
A bone marrow transplant where the new, healthy bone marrow is taken from another person (a donor). The donor is usually, but not always, a relative.

Alopecia
Hair loss. This can sometimes be a side effect of cancer treatments, for example chemotherapy and radiotherapy. See hair loss section.

Alternative therapy
A treatment used instead of a conventional treatment.

Amelanotic melanoma
A rare type of melanoma skin cancer in which no melanin pigment is made. Instead of being dark brown and black, the growth may be pink, red, light brown or grey at the edges.

AML
AML is a disease of the white myeloid white blood cells. It mainly affects adults. See leukaemia section.

Anaemia
Thinning of the blood. The reduction of the red blood cells and/or haemoglobin in the blood which absorb and carry oxygen round the body. The effect is tiredness, and sometimes breathlessness.

Anaesthetic
A drug used to numb an area of the body (local anaesthetic) or to put you to sleep for a while (general anaesthetic).

Analgesic
A painkilling drug.

Anti-emetic
A drug given to stop you feeling or being sick.

Antibody
An antibody is a blood protein that the body makes in response to contact with a particular foreign substance (an antigen). The antibody combines with the substance to make it harmless. Antibodies are triggered in response to a variety of substances such as bacteria, pollen grains, and foreign blood cells. The antibody response is the basis of both...

Antigen
An antigen is any substance that the body identifies as potentially dangerous and against which it produces a defence (an antibody).

Anus
The bottom or back passage. The muscular part at the end of the digestive system through which stools are passed.

Aphasia
Inability to speak.

Aromatherapy
A complementary therapy based on the healing properties of essential plant oils. The oils are usually massaged into the body, but they can be inhaled, used on a bath or in a cold compress placed next to the skin. See aromatherapy section.

Ascites
A build up of fluid in the abdomen. Some cancers can cause ascites. The fluid can be drained off through a tube, to make the patient feel more comfortable.

Astrocytoma
A type of brain tumour.

Autologous bone marrow transplant
A bone marrow transplant where the new, healthy bone marrow comes from the patient themselves. Healthy bone marrow is removed and then high dose chemotherapy or radiotherapy is given. Later, the bone marrow is given back to the patient, so that it can start to regrow.

Axillary lymph nodes
The lymph nodes in the armpit.

Bach flower remedies
Practitioners of this complementary therapy believe that the remedies, when swallowed, lift the spirits. See Bach flower remedies section.

Barium enema
A type of x-ray of the bowel. To make a better picture, a liquid called barium is put into the bowel before the x-ray is taken. See barium enema section.

Barrett's Oesophagus
This condition means that the cells lining the oesophagus have started to change to become more like the cells lining the stomach. It may develop following long-term acid reflux from the stomach. This means that stomach acid comes back up into the oesophagus and irritates the lining.

Basal cell carcinoma
The most common type of skin cancer that starts in the basal cells of the epidermis.

Basal cells
Small round skin cells found in the lowest part (base) of the outer layer of the skin. They divide to reproduce new skin cells.

Basaloid squamous cell carcinoma
A very rare type of fast-spreading squamous cell carcinoma that occurs in the upper parts of the airway or digestive tract.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
A non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate.

Benign tumour
Non-cancerous.

Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
An operation to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Bile duct
Bile ducts are tubes that drain bile from the liver and into the small intestine. Bile duct cancer is rare. Another name for it is cholangiocarcinoma.

Biopsy
A sample of cells or tissue taken from the body, to be looked at under a microscope.

Bladder cancer
The bladder is a balloon-like, hollow organ that stores urine before it passes out of the body. Bladder cancer is a disease that starts in the lining of the bladder wall. There are two main types - superficial and invasive. See bladder cancer section.

Bladder instillation
A treatment where drugs are put straight into the bladder through a fine tube passed through the urethra.

Blood count
A test to see how many red cells, white cells and platelets you have in your blood.

Bone marrow
A spongy substance inside the body's large bones. Our blood cells are made in the bone marrow.

Bone marrow test
A test to take a sample of bone marrow through a fine needle. The sample can then be looked at under a microscope.

Bone marrow transplant
A procedure to give healthy bone marrow to a patient. The healthy marrow may be taken from the patient themselves, at a time when the disease is not active. This is called an autologous transplant. Alternatively the marrow may be taken from another person (a donor). This is an allogenic transplant.

Bowel cancer
A disease that starts in the colon or rectum. Together the colon and rectum form a long muscular tube called the large intestine. Bowel cancer may also be called colorectal cancer.

Bowels
Another name for the intestines which are part of the food digestive system. There is the small bowel (duodenum, jejunum and ileum) and the large bowel (colon and rectum).

BPH
BPH stands for benign prostatic hyperplasia. It is a non-cancerous condition of the prostate.

Brachytherapy
A way of giving radiotherapy treatment from the inside of the body, by placing a radioactive source close to the cancer. The source may be contained in fine wires or tubes, or in tiny seeds. Radioactive seeds are sometimes used to treat early prostate cancer, for instance. See radiotherapy section.

Breast cancer
A common cancer that can affect both women and men. See breast cancer section.

Breast care nurse
A nurse who specialises in treating and supporting those with breast diseases, including cancer.

Bronchoscope
A thin, flexible telescopic instrument used during a brochoscopy test. It is passed through the nose or mouth and down into the airways. See bronchoscopy section.

Bronchoscopy
A test to examine the parts of the body that allow you to breathe. See bronchoscopy section.

Bronchus
One of the main tubes that branches off from the windpipe to the lung.

Cancer
A disease that occurs when the body's cells get out of control, multiply and spread. See general cancer information section.

Carcinogen
A substance that can cause cancer. Tobacco contains a number of carcinogens, for instance.

Carcinoid tumour
This is the most common type of neuroendocrine tumour (NET). NETs are slow-growing cancers that affect the neuroendocrine system - a network of glands that secrete hormones into the bloodstream. NETs usually start in the bowel but they can affect other parts of the body too, such as the lungs and pancreas. See NET section.

Carcinoma
A cancer that starts on the surface or lining of a body organ.

CAT scan
Computerised tomography (CT or CAT scan) is a type of x-ray that produces cross-section pictures of the body. To have the scan you lie on a couch while it passes through a large, hollow ring. See computerised tomography section.

Central line
Sometimes, chemotherapy drugs are given through a central line. A long, thin plastic tube (the line) is put into a vein in the chest. Drugs can be given through the line, and blood samples taken. This avoids the need for frequent injections. See chemotherapy section.

Cervical smear
A test in which a sample of cells is scraped from the surface of the cervix, to be looked at under a microscope. See cervical smears section.

Cervix
The entrance to the uterus (womb). See cervical cancer section.

Chemoembolisation
A way of blocking the blood supply to a tumour so that it can't grow. To block the blood supply, special drugs are injected through a fine tube.

Chemotherapy
A treatment that uses special drugs to kill cancer cells. For most chemotherapy treatments, the drugs get into the bloodstream and move around the body, reaching the cancer cells wherever they are. For a few treatments the drugs are put straight into the bladder, abdomen or chest, to work directly on the cancer. See chemotherapy section.

Cholangiocarcinoma
Cancer that starts in the cells lining the bile duct. The bile ducts are the tubes that link the liver and gall bladder to the small intestine.

Cholecystectomy
the surgical removal of the gall bladder.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)
CLL is a type of leukaemia that is most common in the over 50s. It affects the white lymphocyte blood cells. See leukaemia section.

Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)
CML is a type of leukaemia that can affect all age groups. It is a disease of the white myeloid blood cells. See leukaemia section.

CIN
CIN stands for cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia. It is the name given to abnormal but non-cancerous cells found in the cervix. If left untreated, CIN may turn into cancer. See cervical cancer section.

Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)
A qualified nurse who specialises in a particular illness or treatment, or in supporting a particular type of patient.

Clinical oncologist
A doctor who specialises in treating cancer with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Clinical trial
A study to find out whether a new type of care is better than the best standard care currently available. See clinical trials section.

CML
CML stands for chronic myeloid leukaemia. It is a disease of the white myeloid blood cells, and can affect all age groups. See leukaemia section.

Coelio schauta
A way of carrying out a hysterectomy operation through the vagina, rather than by making a cut in the abdomen.

Colectomy
An operation to remove part, or all, of the colon.

Colon
The main part of the large bowel within the digestive system. It is a long folding muscular tube that removes water and salts from waste food. This makes a solid mass of waste, ready to be stored in the rectum until it is passed out through the anus.

Colonoscope
A long, flexible instrument used during a colonoscopy examination. See colonoscopy section.

Colonoscopy
An examination of the lining of the bowel (the colon or large intestine) with a long, flexible instrument called a colonoscope. X-rays and samples of tissue (biopsies) can also be taken. See colonoscopy section.

Colorectal cancer
Another name for large bowel cancer. it is a disease that starts in the colon or rectum. Together the colon and rectum form a long muscular tube called the large intestine.

Colostomy
An operation to make a new opening (a stoma) for the bowel. After the operation, the bowel will open onto the wall of the abdomen (belly).

Colposcope
A magnifying instrument that can be placed into the vagina to look at the cervix (the entrance to the womb).

Colposcopy
A test to look at the cervix (neck of the womb) to see if it is healthy. A magnifying instrument called a colposcope is used for this.

Complementary therapy
A complementary therapy is one that is used alongside a conventional treatment, not instead of it. Popular complementary therapies include massage, aromatherapy, reiki and relaxation. Complementary therapies cannot cure cancer, but many patients use them as a way of coping with their illness and treatment. They may help to relieve pain or stress, f...

Computerised tomography
Computerised tomography (CT or CAT scan) is a type of x-ray that produces cross-section pictures of the body. To have the scan, you lie on a couch while it passes through a large, hollow ring. See computerised tomography section.

Consent
Your health care team must seek your permission (your consent) before you have an examination or treatment. See giving your consent section.

CT scan
Computerised tomography (CT or CAT scan) is a type of x-ray that produces cross-section pictures of the body. To have the scan, you lie on a couch while it passes through a large, hollow ring. See computerised tomography section.

Cure
Cancer is said to be cured when there is no sign of the disease and there is no chance of the cancer coming back.

Curettage and cautery
Curettage is the scraping of the skin or an internal body surface to remove tissue using a curette. It is usually done to remove diseased tissue or to obtain a sample for testing. Afterwards, the wound may be sealed with heat (cautery).

Curette
A spoon-shaped surgical instrument with a sharp edge. It is used to scrape tissue from the skin or from an internal body surface.

Cystectomy
An operation to remove the bladder.

Cystoscope
A long, flexible telescopic instrument used to look at the bladder and to take tissue samples. It is passed through the urethra and into the bladder.

Cystoscopy
An examination of the bladder using a long, flexible telescopic instrument called a cystoscope.

Cytology [cf histology]
The study of the form and working of cells.

DCIS
DCIS stands for ductal carcinoma in situ. DCIS is an early form of breast cancer that starts in the milk ducts. See breast cancer section.

Dermatologist
A doctor who is also a specialist in treating illnesses of the skin, hair and nails.

Dermatology
The branch of medicine that treats illnesses of the skin, hair and nails.