Glossary

Most of the words listed here are used in this information; others are words you are likely to hear used by doctors and other health professionals who will be working with you.

advanced cancer – secondary/metastatic and primary cancer that is unlikely to be cured.

anaesthetic – a drug given to stop a person feeling pain. A ‘local’ anaesthetic numbs part of the body; a ‘general’ anaesthetic causes temporary loss of consciousness.

analgesic – a drug that relieves pain.

benign – not cancerous. Benign cells are not able to metastasise like cancer cells.

carer – a person who provides physical and emotional support to someone who is ill or disabled.

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 – treatment of cancer with drugs that destroy cancer cells or prevent or slow further growth.

hospice – a place which provides comprehensive care for people with incurable disease. This includes inpatient medical care, respite care, and care of the dying person if he or she is not able to die at home. Hospices also offer day care facilities and home visiting teams.

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.

malignant – cancerous. Malignant cells can spread (metastasise) and can eventually cause death if they cannot be treated.

metastases – also known as ‘secondaries’. Tumours or masses of cells that develop when cancer cells break away from the original (primary) tumour and are carried by the lymphatic and blood systems to other parts of the body.

morphine – a strong and effective painkiller which is used commonly to treat people with cancer who have pain.

nerve block – a procedure sometimes used for pain control. Nerves are ‘blocked’ by injecting them with alcohol or a local anaesthetic.

oncologist – a doctor who specialises in the study and treatment of cancer.

palliative care – treatment which aims to promote comfort, relieve symptoms, and maximise quality of life.

primary cancer – the original cancer. At some stage, cells from the primary cancer may break away and be carried to other parts of the body, where secondary cancers may form.

prognosis – an assessment of the course and likely outcome of a person’s disease.

radiation treatment – the use of radiation, usually X-rays or gamma rays, to kill cancer cells, or injure them so that they cannot multiply. Radiation can be directed at a tumour from outside the body, or a radioactive source may be implanted into the tumour and its surroundings.

randomised clinical trial – a trial where people are put into groups by chance. One group is given the best current treatment or a placebo and their progress is compared with those having the treatment that is being tested. People are usually selected for each group by a computer.

recurrent cancer – a cancer which grows from cells of a primary cancer which evaded treatment. Recurrent cancer may appear up to 20 years after the primary cancer was treated, depending on the type of cancer.

respite care – alternative care arrangements which allow the carer and person with cancer a short break from their usual care arrangements.

resuscitation – the process of reviving someone who appears to be dead; for example, by heart massage or artificial respiration.

secondary cancer – cancer metastases.

tissue – a collection of cells.

tumour – a new or abnormal growth of tissue on or in the body.

voluntary euthanasia – choosing to die rather than suffer from the possible effects of treatment or disease.

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