Medical Jargon

Does it sometimes feel like everyone is talking in a foreign language? Medical terms and words are something out of this world, so we’ve put this page together to try and explain what some of it means!
  • Adoption: Adoption is when a child is placed into the care of a person who didn’t give birth to them. There is a process which you will have to undergo to determine your suitability for adoption, prior to having a child placed in your care.
  • Adjuvant Therapy: Additional treatment (chemotherapy or radiotherapy) after main treatment or surgery, not given because there is evident disease in the body, but because there is a statistical risk of relapse. Many patients who have adjuvant therapy will already have been cured by surgery.
  • Allogenic: Tissue from a matched donor (often referred to with bone marrow transfusions).
  • Alopecia: The technical term for hair loss. Alopecia often occurs as a result of chemotherapy.
  • Anaemia: A condition where there is insufficient red blood cells in the body. It can cause tiredness and fatigue.
  • Anaesthetic: A drug given to a patient to stop him or her feeling pain during a procedure. It can be given as a local anaesthetic to numb the area, or as a general anaesthetic to knock the person out!
  • Analgesic: A drug that relieves pain.
  • Antibiotics: A drug used to treat or prevent an infection.
  • Anti-emetics: Drugs that help control and prevent nausea and vomiting.
  • Aspiration: Removing fluid from the body with a needle.
  • Audiogram: This test evaluates your hearing.
  • Autologous: Tissue from oneself (the reverse of allogenic).
  • Benign: Non-cancer or non-malignant. Doesn’t spread to other parts of the body.
  • Bilateral: On both sides.
  • Biopsy: The removal of a small sample of tissue from the body. This sample is then viewed under a microscope. A biopsy helps in the diagnosis of disease.
  • Blood: Circulates around the body through arteries and veins. It carries all different substances such as food, oxygen and chemicals to the body’s cells, and helps to fight infection. Blood consists of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets suspended in a liquid called plasma.
  • Blood Count or Full Blood Count (FBC): Different numbers if the types of blood cells in the body.
  • Blood Transfusion: Red blood cells given through the IV.
  • Bone Marrow: The soft, spongy area in the middle of bones where red and white blood cells and platelets are made.
  • Bone Marrow Biopsy: The removal of a small amount of bone marrow, usually from the hip.
  • Bone Marrow Transplant: This involves transfusing healthy bone marrow to replace bone marrow destroyed by high doses of chemotherapy.
  • Cancer: A general term for a large group of diseases that have uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells.
  • Carcinoma: Cancer that forms in the tissue at the base of the skin that lines the body’s organs.
  • Catheter: A small tube that can be inserted into the body for removal or injection of fluids.
  • Central Line: A catheter placed into a vein in the chest. It is used to give IV fluids, blood products and take blood counts.
  • Cervix: The lower, narrow portion of the uterus where it joins with the top end of the vagina.
  • Cerebellum: A region of the brain that plays an important role in control of movement. It does not initiate movement, but is more involved in coordination and fine motor control.
  • Chemotherapy: The most common form of cancer treatment. ‘Chemo’ uses drugs called cytotoxics to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells.
  • Clinical Trial: Research that involves giving medications to patients and studying the results. The aim of a clinical trial is to find better ways to treat or prevent disease.
  • Conceive: To become pregnant with a child.
  • Contraception: Intentional prevention of conception or pregnancy through the use of various devices.
  • Core needle biopsy: Removes small but solid samples of tissue using a hollow “core” needle.
  • Cryopreservation: The freezing of eggs, sperm, embryos or ovarian or testicular tissue.
  • CT ScanA procedure that takes lots of x-rays of the body from all different angles so that a good picture can be formed.
  • Cytotoxic Drugs: Drugs that are given that damage or kill off cancer cells.
  • Diagnosis: The identification of a person’s disease.
  • Donor: The person giving their tissue or organ to another person.
  • Donor Eggs: Using an egg from another woman to conceive.
  • Donor Sperm: Using sperm from another man to conceive.
  • Early Menopause: The start of menopause at an age earlier than clinically normal.
  • Egg Freezing: Eggs are frozen for use at a later date.
  • Egg Harvesting: Eggs are collected through the vagina under ultrasound guidance.
  • Embryo Freezing: The fertilised egg (embryo) is frozen for use at a later date.
  • Epididymis: A collection of small tubes located at the back of each testicle.
  • Excision biopsy: When the entire lesion or cyst is removed.
  • External Beam Irradiation: Common form of radiation treatment.
  • Fallopian Tubes: The tube that lead from the ovaries to the uterus.
  • Fertility: The ability to conceive and have a child by becoming pregnant through normal sexual activity.
  • Fertility Preserving Interventions: Taking action to ensure that you give yourself the best possible chance to have children in the future.
  • Fractions: The name given to each radiotherapy treatment.
  • Frozen Section: A sample of tissue is taken and then frozen quickly so it can be examined immediately under a microscope.
  • Gamete: Egg or sperm.
  • Ganglioneuromas: Rare tumours that most frequently start in the autonomic nerve cells, which may be in any part of the body.
  • Germ Cell TumoursGerm cell tumours develop from cells that produce eggs or sperm.
  • Gonad: Ovary or testis.
  • Gonadal toxicity: Damage to ovaries or testes, either temporary or permanent.
  • Graft: Healthy tissue is taken from a part of the body or from another person and transplanted to replace diseased or injured tissue.
  • Haemoglobin: The component of red blood cells that carry oxygen.
  • Haematology: The type of medicine that studies the blood.
  • Haematologist: A doctor who specialises in the treatment of disorders of the blood.
  • Haemangioma: Are small tumours of endothelial cells (the cells that line blood vessels).
  • Hereditary: The description given when something is pasted down from one generation to the next.
  • Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system.
  • Hormone: A substance made by a gland that helps to regulate reproduction, metabolism and growth.
  • Hysterectomy: Removal of the uterus.
  • Immune System: The network of cells and organs that help to defend the body against foreign invaders.
  • Immuno-compromised: Weakening of the immune system often caused by disease or treatment.
  • Incision biopsy: When only a sample of the suspicious lesion or cyst is removed.
  • Infusion: Slow injection of a fluid into a vein or tissue.
  • Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI – pronounced “eeksee”): Is an IVF procedure in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg.
  • Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): Depositing sperm directly into the uterus to increase the chances of conceiving.
  • Intravenous: Giving fluids, drugs or blood directly into a vein.
  • In vitro fertilisation (IVF): When an egg is fertilised with sperm in a laboratory.
  • In vitro maturation: This involves maturing eggs in the laboratory.
  • Laparoscopy: Small operation into the abdomen.
  • Leydig cells: Cells found in the testicle that secrete testosterone.
  • Limb Salvage Surgery: The original bone or part of the bone is replaced with an artificial (prosthetic) bone or bone from another part of the body.
  • Localised Cancer: Cancer that has not spread to other parts of the body.
  • Long Term EffectsThese are the impacts on the body that may occur as a result of your cancer treatment, but may not show up for years after completing treatment. In terms of fertility and pregnancy for women, it may involve having an undeveloped pelvis therefore making childbirth more difficult, or chemotherapy having an impact on heart function, therefore requiring monitoring during pregnancy.
  • Lymph: A clear fluid that flows through the body carrying cells through the lymphatic system to help fight infection.
  • Lymph Nodes: Small, bean shaped structures that filter the lymph to remove bacteria and other cells, such as cancer cells.
  • Malignant: Cancerous. Can spread to other parts of the body.
  • MammogramA specialised x-ray of the breast used to detect early breast cancers that may not be felt. The breast is put between the x-ray plate and a clear plastic plate, and then compressed. The tissue needs to be made flat, so this can be quite uncomfortable as the breast is squashed. It only takes a few seconds though. Normally 2 views are taken, front-on and side-on. Even if there is a known lump in one breast, a mammogram of both breasts will usually be performed.
  • Menopause: Cessation of periods either temporarily or permanently. Is a normal age-related process or can be associated with ovarian failure.
  • Menstruation: Having periods.
  • Metastasis: A secondary tumour that has spread from the primary site through the lymphatic or blood system.
  • Neurosurgeon: A doctor that specialises in the surgical treatment of diseases of the brain including brain tumours.
  • Neutropaenia: An abnormal decrease in the number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell.
  • Neoadjuvant therapy: Treatment (chemotherapy or radiotherapy) before the main treatment, usually given to decrease the size of a tumour prior to surgery to make surgery easier.
  • Oedema: Swelling cause by an accumulation of fluid in the body or tissues.
  • Oestrogen: The primary female sex hormone.
  • Oncologist: A doctor that specialises in the treatment of cancer.
  • Oocyte: Egg.
  • Oophrectomy: The removal of one (single) or both (bilateral) of the ovaries.
  • Open surgical biopsy: A large mass or lump is removed during a surgical procedure. This is normally performed in an operating room under general anaesthetic, although local anaesthetic is also sometimes used.
  • Orthopaedic surgeon: A doctor that specialises in the surgical treatment of bone disease including cancer.
  • Ova: An egg that is released at ovulation.
  • Ovarian Follicles: A cavity on the ovary that contains a maturing egg.
  • Ovarian Tissue Freezing: Involves taking a slice of ovarian tissue and freezing it for a later date.
  • Ovary: Organ which contains eggs and produces oestrogen and progesterone.
  • Ovulation: A phase of the menstrual cycle that involves the release of an egg from one of the ovaries.
  • Palliative Care: Treatment that focused on relieving the side effects of a disease, but will not cure it.
  • Pathology: Study of disease, how it behaves and how it’s progressing.
  • Pap TestAn internal examination for women used to detect changes in the cells of the cervix. The doctor or nurse will insert a small instrument into the vagina called a speculum to hold the vagina walls apart. Then a soft brush is used to wipe the cells around the opening of the cervix. This usually only takes a few minutes and is generally not painful just a little uncomfortable.
  • Prognosis: The likely outcome of your cancer or your family member’s cancer is called “prognosis”, which is completely different for every person. As a general rule, the treating specialist doctor will be the person who discusses prognosis with you or your family
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