Cancer Glossary: what does this word mean?

This glossary lists common cancer terms that your doctor and other health professionals may use when working with you.

Click or tap on the letters below to go to that part of the alphabet.



The part of the body between the chest and hips, which contains the stomach, spleen, pancreas, liver, gall bladder, bowel, bladder and kidneys.

abdominoperineal resection (APR)
An operation for rectal cancer. This involves removing part of the colon, the rectum and anus, and creating a permanent colostomy. Also used for anal cancer.

Inserting needles or probes into the cancer to destroy the cancer cells with heat.

Not engaging in penetrative sexual activity.

accelerated radiation therapy
Receiving a higher dose of radiation therapy in a shortened period of time.

acellular dermal matrix (ADM)
A type of material that is made from donated animal or human tissue and is used as a soft tissue substitute.

The inability of the oesophagus to move food down into the stomach.

acral lentiginous melanoma
A rare type of cutaneous melanoma that occurs on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or under the nails.

actinic keratosis 
See sunspot. 

active exercise techniques
Exercise techniques that require active participation to achieve benefits such as improving strength, wellbeing and quality of life and decreasing stress.

active myeloma
Myeloma that required treatment because it is causing symptoms or because the test results indicate a high risk of the disease progressing. Also known as symptomatic myeloma.

active ingredient
The compound in a medicine that has a beneficial effect on the body.

active surveillance
When a person does not receive immediate treatment, but instead has their health monitored regularly with the option of future treatment if necessary. Sometimes called watchful waiting or observation.

A traditional Chinese medicine technique that is similar to acupuncture. It involves applying pressure to specific points on the body to unblock energy.

A type of traditional Chinese medicine. Fine, sterile needles are inserted into points along the energy channels (meridians) in the body to reduce symptoms of ill health.

acute leukaemia
A fast-growing cancer that produces large numbers of immature white blood cells that enter the bloodstream.

acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)
A fast-growing leukaemia in which too many immature white blood cells from the lymphoid family (called lymphoblasts) are in the blood and bone marrow. Also called acute lymphatic leukaemia

acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)
A fast-growing leukaemia in which too many immature white blood cells from the myeloid family (called myeloblasts) are in the blood and bone marrow.

acute pain
Pain that starts suddenly and may be mild or severe. It lasts for a short time, perhaps only days or weeks.

acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APML)
A type of AML accounting for about 10% of all acute myeloid leukaemias. APML is treated differently to other types of AML.

Adam’s apple
The laryngeal prominence. This is the protrusion in the neck caused by cartilage around the thyroid and larynx (voice box).

A cancer that starts in the mucas-producing (glandular) cells that form part of the lining of the internal organs. Most cancers of the breast, pancreas, lung, prostate and colon are adenocarcinomas.

A benign growth of glandular tissue. Adenomas are usually benign but can become malignant. They can grow from many organs in the body, such as the colon and thyroid.

Relates to an adenoma.

Large or swollen lymph glands.

adenosquamous carcinoma
A type of cancer that features both squamous cells and glandular cells. Also called mixed carcinoma.

Scar tissue that forms between surfaces inside the body.

adhesive nipple
Silicone stick-on nipple.

adjuvant analgesic
Pain relief that is given with or shortly after the primary treatment. Also known as adjuvent drugs.

adjuvant treatment
A treatment given with or shortly after another treatment to enhance its effectiveness.

When a child is placed into the permanent care of a person who isn’t their biological parent.

adrenal glands
Triangular glands resting on top of each kidney that produce adrenaline and other hormones.

A hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to physical or emotional stress. It increases your heart rate and prepares the body to react to danger.

advance care directive
A written document intended to apply to a point in the future when you don’t have the capacity to make decisions. It provides a legal means for a competent adult to appoint a substitute decision-maker and/or record their choices for future medical and personal care.

advance care plan
A written document that records your medical treatment wishes that can be used if you are unable to speak for yourself due to illness or injury. Also called a living will or advance care directive.

advance care planning
When an individual thinks about their future health care and discusses their wishes with their family, friends and health care team. The written record of these wishes may be called an advance care directive, advanced personal plan, advance health directive or living will.

advanced cancer
Cancer that is unlikely to be cured. It may be limited to its original site (primary cancer) or may have spread to other parts of the body (secondary or metastatic cancer).

adverse action
Action taken against someone that is unlawful (e.g. an employer dismissing or refusing to employ a person, discriminating against them or demoting them).

Campaigning, speaking out publicly and making recommendations for positive change on behalf of oneself or other people.

Exercises that cause heart and breathing rates to rise.

Mould found on peanuts and some other foods that can cause primary liver cancer.

A general term for drugs or substances used in the treatment of illness.

aggressive lymphoma
A fast-growing type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Acquired Immune deficiency virus. A condition resulting from infection with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

The tubes that carry air into the lungs, including the trachea and bronchi.

A major protein found in the blood. The protein level can provide some indication of overall health and nutritional status.

alcohol injection
A type of tumour ablation treatment that directs ethanol into a tumour to destroy the cancer cells.

Alexander technique
A method of realigning posture.

alkylating agents
A group of chemotherapy drugs.

allied health professional
A tertiary-trained professional who works with others in a health care team to support a person’s medical care. Examples include psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and dietitians.

allogeneic stem cell transplant
A transplant where the stem cells or tissues are taken from one person and given to another.

Helps to keep the chemical balance of your blood state.

Hair loss.

alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)
A chemical found in the bloodstream of some people with liver cancer and men with non-seminoma testicular cancer. Doctors may monitor levels of AFP to see how successful treatment has been.

alternative therapies
Therapies that have not been scientifically tested but are used in place of conventional treatment, often in the hope that they will provide a cure.

The tiny air sacs in the lungs, where oxygen enters the blood and carbon dioxide leaves it.

amelanotic melanoma
A rare type of cutaneous melanoma.

A build-up of thick fibrous tissue called amyloid tissue that can impair the way some organs work.

A reduction in the number or quality of red blood cells in the body.

Exercises that focus on single muscles or muscle groups.

A drug that stops a person feeling pain during a medical procedure. Local and regional anaesthetics numb part of the body; a general anaesthetic causes a temporary loss of consciousness.

anal cancer
A rare cancer affecting the tissues of the anus.

A medicine used to relieve pain.

anal sphincter
See sphincter.

anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL)
A type of non-Hodgink lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system.

anaplastic thyroid cancer
A rare type of thyroid cancer.

The joining together of two tubes, such as two cut ends of the bowel.

Male sex hormones that produce male physical characteristics such as facial hair or a deep voice. The main androgen hormone, testosterone, is produced by the testicles.

anecdotal evidence
Evidence based on personal experience that has not been scientifically tested.

The formation of new blood vessels. This enables tumours to develop their own blood supply, which helps them grow.

angiogenesis inhibitors
A type of targeted drug therapy that attacks developing blood vessels so the cancer cells can’t grow and spread to other parts of the body.

An x-ray image of blood vessels.

A rare type of primary liver cancer that starts in the blood vessels.

animal research
Research using animals to check the safety and effectiveness of a treatment before it is tested on humans.

annual leave
Paid time off work. Full-time employees are generally entitled to four weeks of paid annual leave. Part-time staff receive it on a pro-rata basis.

Loss of appetite.

anterior resection
A surgical procedure to remove cancer in the rectum.

Part of the body’s immune system. Antibodies are proteins made by the blood in response to an invader (antigen) in the body. They help protect against viruses, bacteria and other foreign substances.

anti-cancer treatments
A medicine or procedure used to reduce or destroy cancer and cancer cells. Includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

anticipatory grief
Grief that occurs before an impending loss. It can affect the person who is dying as well as their family members and friends.

Medication to help relieve the symptoms of depression.

A drug that helps to control nausea and vomiting.

Any substance that causes the immune system to respond. This response often involves making antibodies.

Drugs used to treat cancers that depend on the female hormone oestrogen to grow.

A substance that prevents a process called oxidation, which can damage DNA. Antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E and selenium.

The opening at the end of the bowel where solid waste matter normally leaves the body. The muscles that control it are called the anal sphincter.

Strong feelings of fear, dread, worry or unease. Physical symptoms can include racing heart, shallow/fast breathing, shaking, nausea and agitation.

When blood is removed from the body and passed through a machine to separate a component such as stem cells. The remainder of the blood is then returned to the body. Aspheresis is one of the key steps in a stem cell transplant. 

A type of programmed (normal) cell death. This the body’s normal way of getting rid of damaged, unneeded or unwanted cells.

A small tube hanging off the end of the caecum.

See stoma bag.

A tool that is used to insert a radiation source into the body for brachytherapy (internal radiotherapy).

The brownish or pink rim of tissue around the nipple of the breast.

Group of people who receive the same treatment in a randomised trial. Most randomised trials have two arms, but some have three arms or even more.

aromatase inhibitors
Drugs that help prevent the growth of oestrogen-dependent cancer cells by reducing the amount of oestrogen in a postmenopausal woman’s body.

The use of essential oils extracted from plants to improve mood, physical symptoms and general wellbeing.

arterial embolisation
A treatment for kidney cancer in which the artery that feeds the diseased kidney is deliberately blocked. This causes the kidney and the tumour inside it to die.

A blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart.

art therapy
The use of art to help people express their feelings.

A naturally occurring silicate mineral that forms long, crystallised fibres. Formerly used in manufacturing and building, asbestos use is now banned in Australia because the fibres can cause serious illness.

A slowly progressing lung disease caused by asbestos in which the lungs are gradually replaced by scar tissue.

asbestos-related diseases
Disorders of the lung and pleura caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres. They include lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma as well as non-cancerous disorders such as asbestosis, diffuse pleural thickening, pleural plaques, pleural fluid build-up, rounded atelectasis.

ascending colon
The right side of the bowel.

Collection of fluid in the abdomen, making it swollen and bloated.

Inhaling food or drink into the lungs.

assisted reproductive technologies (ART)
Procedures that help infertile couples have a baby.

A type of glial cell.

A type of malignant brain tumour.

asymptomatic myeloma
See smouldering myeloma.

Slight changes in the cells of the cervix that could be precancerous.

atypical ductal hyperplasia
An abnormal but non-cancerous condition of the cells in the lining of the milk ducts in the breast.

autologous stem cell transplant
A transplant where stem cells are taken from a person’s body and then given back following high-dose chemotherapy.

The armpit.

axillary lymph nodes
Lymph nodes in and around the armpit.

axillary surgery
The removal of some lymph nodes in the armpit to check whether cancer has spread.

axillary tail
Breast tissue that extends into the armpit

axillary web syndrome
See cording.

Ayurvedic medicine
A traditional Indian system of medicine based on balancing the different organs and systems in the body using herbal medicine, diet, massage, yoga and meditation.

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Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG)
A vaccine against tuberculosis that is also used as an immunotherapy treatment for some bladder cancers.

balanced diet
Having a diet that includes a wide variety of food to give you the energy, protein, vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy.

Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) staging system
A set of criteria to guide management of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

barium enema
An examination of the bowel area using a white contrast liquid called barium. The barium is inserted into the rectum and x-rays are taken.

barium meal
A diagnostic test. The patient drinks liquid (barium) to coat the stomach and small bowel, and has x-rays to show abnormal areas.

barium swallow
A diagnostic test. The patient drinks liquid (barium) that coats the pharynx and oesophagus to show any abnormalities in x-rays.

Barrett’s oesophagus
Abnormal changes in the cells that line the lower oesophagus. This may be a risk factor for oesophageal cancer.

Bartholin glands
Small glands on each side of the vagina that secrete mucus.

basal cell
A type of cell that makes up the epidermis of the skin.

basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
A type of skin cancer that develops in the basal cells of the epidermis (top layer) of the skin.

A phase during a study when the participants are not receiving any treatments. This is usually at the beginning of a trial before treatment starts.

basement membrane
The layer of tissue that sits between the dermis and epidermis of the skin.

base oil
An oil used in massage or aromatherapy that allows the massage therapist to work over the skin easily. Base oils can be applied directly to the skin. Also known as carrier oil.

base rate of pay
The minimum rate payable to an employee for their ordinary hours of work.

basic research
Scientific research carried out in a laboratory to study the tiniest components of the body, including cells, compounds and molecules. Sometimes called test tube or laboratory research.

A lymphocyte type of white blood cell that forms and matures in the bone marrow.

See Bacillus Calmette-Guerin.

behavioural research
Research that looks at people’s behaviours and how these affect their chances of getting cancer or recovering from it.

Bence Jones protein
The name for a light chain protein found in the urine of some people with myeloma. For these people, urine tests may be used to help diagnose and monitor the disease. 

The amount paid by an insurer for an insured service.

Not cancerous or malignant. Benign lumps are not able to spread to other parts of the body.

benign prostate enlargement
A non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate that pushes against the urethra and the bladder, blocking the flow of urine.

The state of having experienced loss of someone important to you.

beta-2 microglobulin (β2M)
A small protein found in the blood. High levels occur in people with active myeloma. 

beta human chorionic gonadotropin (beta-hCG)
A chemical found in the blood of some men with either seminoma or non-seminoma testicular cancer.

Human choices or other factors not related to the treatments being tested that might affect a study’s results.

The muscles on the top of the arm between the elbow and the shoulder.

bilateral mastectomy
Surgery that removes both breasts.

bilateral salpingo oophorectomy
Surgical removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes.

A substance produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. It helps the digestive system break down fats from food.

bile duct
The passage through which bile from the liver passes to the duodenum.

biochemical function
The way the body works internally. There are thousands of reactions occurring every day in cells and organs to keep people alive and functioning. Medicines, including drugs, herbs and dietary supplements, affect internal functioning, just as food does.

biological-based therapies
In the complementary therapy industry, a term covering therapies such as herbal remedies, vitamins and other dietary supplements, which are taken internally and can affect the body’s way of working.

biological therapies
A range of medicines made from purified versions of chemicals that are naturally made in the body. They include monoclonal antibodies and immunotherapy. Also called biotherapies.

The removal of a sample of tissue from the body for examination under a microscope to help diagnose a disease.

See tissue.

Mesothelioma that is made up of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. These make up about 25% of all cases of mesothelioma. Also called mixed.

Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome (BHD)
A rare disorder that causes benign tumours of the hair follicles and may increase the risk of kidney tumours.

A type of drug that protects against bone breakdown.

The hollow, muscular organ that stores urine.

bladder reconstruction
The surgical creation of a new bladder from part of the bowel. The main types of bladder reconstruction are a urostomy (ileal conduit), continent urinary diversion, and a neobladder.

blast cells
Immature blood cells belonging to two families – myeloid and lymphoid. Blast cells are called myeloblasts in the myeloid family and lymphoblasts in the lymphoid family.

blinded trial/study
A trial in which participants do not know if they are receiving the control or the experimental treatment.

A full, uncomfortable feeling in the abdomen.

A watery body fluid that flows through the circulatory system. Blood comprises plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

blood brain barrier
Membrane that surrounds and protects the brain. It prevents harmful substances passing into the brain from the blood.

blood clot
A thickened lump of blood.

blood count
A test that counts the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in the blood.

The circulating blood in the body.

blood test
A test to look for abnormalities in a person’s blood.

blood transfusion
The process of transferring donated or stored blood and blood products into the circulatory system.

body-based practices (bodywork)
A range of therapies that involve touching the body or the energy field surrounding the body.

bone marrow
The soft, spongy material inside bones, which produces red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

bone marrow aspiration
The removal of a small amount of bone marrow liquid (aspirate) with a needle for examination under a microscope.

bone marrow biopsy
The removal of a small amount of bone marrow tissue with a needle for examination under a microscope. Also called a bone marrow trephine.

bone marrow transplant
A procedure to replace bone marrow destroyed by high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy treatment with healthy bone marrow.

bone marrow trephine
See bone marrow biopsy.

bone scan
A technique to create images of bones on a computer screen. A small amount of radioactive dye is injected into a vein. It collects in the bones and is detected by a scanning machine.

borderline tumour
A type of ovarian tumour that is not considered cancerous.

botanical medicine
See herbal medicine.

The long, tube-shaped organ in the abdomen that is part of the digestive tract. The bowel has two parts: the small bowel and large bowel.

bowel cancer
Cancer of the large bowel; also known as colorectal cancer, colon cancer or rectal cancer.

bowel movement
Defecation. Evacuating waste matter from the bowels.

bowel obstruction
When the bowel is blocked and waste matter cannot pass through easily.

bowel preparation
The process of cleaning out the bowel (removing faeces) before a test or scan to allow the doctor to see the bowel more clearly.

Bowen disease
An early form of skin cancer that looks like a red, scaly patch on the skin. Also called squamous cell carcinoma in situ.

Bowen therapy
A non-invasive bodywork technique involving light hand movements over the body to release tension.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene
Changes on these genes increases the risk of breast or ovarian cancer.

A type of internal radiation therapy treatment in which radioactive material is sealed in needles or seeds and implanted into or near cancerous cells.

BRAF gene mutation
A non-inherited gene change which can signal cancer cells to multiply.

brain stem
Connects the brain responsible for the coordination of voluntary movements, as well as balance, standing and walking.

brand name
The name given to a medicine by the manufacturer.

breakthrough pain
A brief and often severe pain that occurs even though a person is taking pain medicine regularly.

The gland in a woman that produces milk. The breast is made up of fat, connective tissue and lobes converging to the nipple.

breast care nurse
A registered nurse specially trained to provide information and support to people diagnosed with breast cancer.

breast-conserving surgery
Surgery that removes a breast lump without removing the entire breast. Also called a lumpectomy or wide local excision.

breast ducts
The canals within the breast that pass milk from the lobules to the nipples.

breast form
The term used by manufactures for a breast prosthesis.

breast mound
The shape of a reconstructed breast.

breast oedema
Swelling caused by too much fluid in the breast tissue.

breast prosthesis (plural: prostheses)
An artificial breast worn inside a bra or attached to the body with adhesive to recreate the shape of a natural breast. Also called a breast form.

breast reconstruction
The surgery that rebuilds the breast shape after all or part of the breast has been removed.  

breast reduction
Reducing the size of the breast using surgery.

breast surgeon
A doctor who specialises in surgery to the breast, including mastectomies.

The sensation of shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Also called dyspnoea.

Breslow thickness
A description of a melanoma’s thickness in millimetres.

A small passage that carries air into the outer parts of the lungs.

bronchiolo-alveolar cell carcinoma
A type of non-small cell lung cancer.                                                            

Inflammation of the bronchi caused by bacteria or viruses.

A thin, lighted (fibre-optic) tube that is inserted into the windpipe through the mouth and throat.

A diagnostic test to examine the lungs and respiratory system.

A passage or airway in the respiratory tract that carries air into the lungs.

When a doctor bills Medicare directly and accepts the Medicare benefit as full payment.

Repeated and unreasonable behaviour that causes a risk to health and safety.

bush medicine
Remedies and ways of healing used traditionally by Aboriginal people.

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A protein found in the blood that is often higher than normal in women with ovarian cancer.

A chemical marker produced by some types of cancer, which can be found in the blood. It is sometimes raised in people with pancreatic or stomach cancer.

Loss of body weight and muscle mass, and weakness.

The pouch at the beginning of the large bowel that receives waste from the small bowel.

A hormone produced by the thyroid gland that controls calcium levels in the blood.

See energy.

Uncontrolled growth of cells that may result in abnormal blood cells or grow into a lump called a tumour. These cells may spread throughout the lymphatic system or bloodstream to form secondary or metastatic tumours.

cancer of unknown primary
A secondary cancer that is found in the body, but the place where the cancer first started growing (the primary site) cannot be determined.

cancer survivor
A person who has finished their active cancer treatment. The doctor has told you that treatment has finished. You are free from any signs of cancer.

A plastic tube inserted into a narrow opening (usually a vein) so that fluids can be introduced or removed.

Having the cognitive ability to understand topics and make decisions.

The smallest blood vessels in the body.

capsular contracture
A build-up of fibrous or scar tissue around a breast implant, which makes the breast feel firm. It can cause discomfort and pain and may change the shape of the breast.

A protective layer of scar tissue that naturally forms around a breast implant, which can become thick and tight. This may lead to capsular contracture.

The part of food made of sugars and starches. A good source of energy (kilojoules/calories) for the body.

carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)
A protein that may be in the blood of a person with bowel cancer.

A substance known to cause and/or promote cancer.

carcinoid syndrome
A variety of symptoms, such as diarrhoea, wheezing and flushing of the face, that may occur in patients with carcinoid tumours.

carcinoid tumour
A type of neuroendocrine tumour that most commonly occurs in the appendix, small intestine, lung, kidney, colon or pancreas.

A cancer in the tissue lining the skin and internal organs of the body. Also called a flat tumour.

carcinoma in situ
A cancer that starts in the tissue lining the skin and internal organs of the body.

A person who provides physical and/or emotional support to someone who is ill or living with a disability or disease such as cancer.

Firm, flexible connective tissue found in the thyroid gland and other parts of the body, such as the respiratory tract and ears.

case control study
A type of study that compares people who have a particular disease (the cases) with people who are healthy (the controls) and looks back over time to see if they have anything in common, such as their history of smoking or exposure to asbestos. Also called retrospective studies.

casual employee
An employee who is paid on an hourly or daily basis, and who is not entitled to paid personal leave or annual leave. Termination notice periods do not apply to casual staff.

A hollow, flexible tube through which fluids can be passed into the body or drained from it.

A technique that uses heat to stop bleeding after curettage. 

The basic building blocks of the body. A human is made of billions of cells that are adapted for different functions.

An infection of the skin that can occur after lymph glands have been removed.

central line
A type of central venous access device used to give direct access to a vein in the chest or neck.

central nervous system
The brain and the spinal cord.

central venous access device (CVAD)
A thin plastic tube inserted into a vein. The CVAD gives access to a vein so blood or chemotherapy can be given and blood can be taken. Types of CVADs include central lines, Hickman lines, peripherally inserted central catheters and port-a-caths.

Part of the brain that is responsible for the coordination of voluntary movements.

cerebrospinal fluid
Clear, watery fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

The largest, upper part of the brain.

cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN)
Abnormal changes in the surface layers of the cervix. These changes are not cancer but are precancerous cells. Also called dysplasia.

cervical smear
See Pap smear.

The lower part of the uterus that connects the uterus to the vagina.

checkpoint immunotherapy
The use of drugs that work by allowing the immune system to pass ‘checkpoints’ set up by the cancer to block the immune system.

A medical appointment involving tests and scans after treatment has finished. Also known as a follow-up.

The study of matter (such as atoms and ions) and how it changes and reacts to other matter.

An alternative to standard chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is injected into the tumour directly, so stronger drugs can be used without creating as many side effects.

chemoradiotherapy (chemoradiation)
Treatment that combines chemotherapy with radiotherapy.

A cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. May be given alone or in combination with other treatments.

chemotherapy pump
A portable device, usually attached to a central line. It allows a person to have chemotherapy at home. The pump is carried around a person’s waist in a bag or belt holster.

chest cavity
The area enclosed by the ribs, that includes the lungs (covered by the pleura) and the heart. Also known as the thoracic cavity.

Child-Pugh score
A scoring system used to measure the severity of chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis.

Chinese herbal medicine
The use of herbs originating from Asia to help strengthen vitality, overcome illness and improve patient outcomes.

Primary liver cancer that starts in the cells lining the bile duct. Also called bile duct cancer.

X-ray images of the bile duct and pancreatic duct.

A thread-like structure found in all body cells (except red blood cells). Chromosomes are made up of strings of proteins called genes.

chronic leukaemia
A slow-growing leukaemia that starts in the bone marrow and produces large numbers of abnormal white blood cells that enter the bloodstream.

chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)
A slow-growing leukaemia in which too many immature lymphocytes (white blood cells of the lymphoid family) are found in the blood and bone marrow.

chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)
A slow-growing leukaemia in which too many immature granulocytes (white blood cells of the myeloid family) are found in the blood and bone marrow.

chronic pain
Pain that can range from mild to severe and lasts a long time, usually more than three months.

A condition in which healthy liver cells are replaced by scar tissue.

Clark level
A number (1–5) that describes how far a melanoma has penetrated into the skin.

classical Hodgkin lymphoma The most common type of Hodgkin lymphoma. It has four subtypes: nodular sclerosis, mixed cellularity, lymphocyte-rich, and lymphocyte-depleted.

Performing tests to determine how far a melanoma has penetrated into the skin.

clear cell carcinoma
A type of endometrial cancer.

clear margin
When the surrounding tissue removed during surgery for cancer does not contain any cancer cells.

The peak of sexual response. Also known as orgasm.

clinical research
Research that focuses on people’s health and medical care.

clinical trial
A research study that tests new and better treatments to improve people’s health.

The main sexual pleasure organ for women. It is made up of erectile tissue with rich sensory nerve endings and becomes erect during arousal.

code of conduct
A list of professional rules that health care providers must follow so that patients receive safe, fair and ethical health care. 

coeliac disease
A benign digestive disease that affects nutrient absorption.

coeliac plexus block
Pain medicine that is injected into the nerves at the back of the abdomen to block pain.

coffee enema
An alternative therapy that involves inserting coffee into the anus to open the bowels, cleanse the colon and remove toxins from the body.

cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
A common type of counselling that helps people identify unhelpful thoughts and behaviours and change how they respond to negative situations or emotions.

cohort study
A study to determine risk factors for a disease by tracking a group of healthy people who share a similar characteristic, such as their type of work, and seeing whether they develop the disease in question. A cohort study also has a control group. Also called prospective studies.

cold cap
A cap that is connected to a cooling system and worn on the head to help prevent hair loss.

An operation in which cancerous areas of the colon are cut out and the healthy parts are sewn back together. Colectomies are named for the part removed. They include right and left hemicolectomies; and transverse, sigmoid, subtotal and total colectomies.

Inflammation of the inner lining of the colon and rectum (large bowel).

The main working area of the large intestine, where water is removed from solid waste. The colon’s four parts are the ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon and sigmoid colon.

colonic J-pouch
An internal pouch surgically created using the lining of the large bowel. It may be formed during an ultra-low anterior resection.

An examination of the large bowel with a camera on a flexible tube (endoscope), which is passed through the anus.

colorectal cancer
See bowel cancer.

A surgically created opening (stoma) in the abdomen made from the colon (part of the large bowel) to the outside of the body. Also, the operation that creates this stoma.

An instrument that enables the doctor to see a magnified view of the cervix, vagina and vulva from outside the body.

An examination of the vulva, vagina and cervix with a magnifying instrument called a colposcope.

common bile duct
The passage through which bile from the liver passes to the duodenum. Also called bile duct.

community nurse
A nurse who provides primary health care to people in their homes and communities and may coordinate their palliative care. Community nurses usually work for local health services.

complementary therapies
Treatments that are used in conjunction with conventional treatment. They might improve general health, wellbeing and quality of life, and help people cope with side effects of conventional cancer treatment.

complete blood count (CBC)
A  test to check the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in a sample of blood.

complete remission
When there is no evidence of active cancer. This may not mean that the cancer is cured.

complicated grief
When a person feels ‘stuck’ in grief for a prolonged period and finds it hard to manage the tasks of daily living. Sometimes occurs after a traumatic death or when the relationship with the person who died was complicated.

To create an embryo by fertilising an egg.

See mediation.

cone biopsy
The removal of a cone-shaped piece of the cervix for examination under a microscope. Also called conisation.

conformal radiation therapy
A treatment technique where the radiation beams are shaped to overlap (conform to) the shape of the tumour.

congenital defect (birth defect)
A problem that happens while a baby is still developing in the womb. This may affect how the body looks and/or functions.

When you agree to something.

Difficulty passing a bowel motion regularly or often.

Ability to control urination and bowel movements.

continent urinary diversion
A surgical procedure that uses a piece of bowel to form a pouch with a valve to store urine.

Deliberate measures to prevent pregnancy as a result of sexual intercourse (e.g. condom use, the pill).

A medical condition or symptoms that would cause a person to have a bad reaction to a treatment.

A substance injected into a vein or taken orally before a scan (such as a CT or MRI scan), which helps make pictures clearer. Also called a contrast medium, agent or dye.

Existing treatment that is being compared with a new treatment in a clinical trial. The control is generally the best standard treatment available.

control group
A group of patients that is compared with a group receiving the experimental treatment. In a clinical trial, the control group receives the control treatment.

controlled release morphine
An opioid medication (one of the strongest pain relievers) that lasts for eight to 12 hours.

controlled trial
A trial that compares two or more treatments to find out which one is more effective.

control treatment
The existing treatment that is being compared with the experimental treatment. The control is generally the best standard treatment available. In some cases, a placebo is used.

conventional cancer treatment
Scientifically proven treatments for cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and pharmaceutical medications.

Surgery to remove a vocal cord.

Tight cords of tissue running down the inner arm. Cording can occur weeks or months after breast or axillary surgery. Also known as axillary web syndrome.

core biopsy
A type of biopsy where a tissue sample is removed with a wide needle for examination under a microscope. Also called core needle aspiration.

core needle biopsy
A procedure in which tissue is removed from an organ or lymph node using a needle.

core stability
The muscles in the stomach and lower back that stabilise the body during movement.

A class of drugs that are mostly used to reduce inflammation, and have been found to be effective in treating myeloma.

Helping someone discuss and resolve issues by listening to them.

CRAB criteria
A set of myeloma-defining events used to help identify people who need treatment. The letters stand for the events: C = calcium elevation; R = renal damage; A = anaemia; B = bone abnormalities. Often combined with the SLiM criteria to form the SLiM-CRAB criteria.

An operation to open the skull by removing some bone in order to access the brain. The bone is not replaced due to swelling.

craniofacial resection
Surgical removal of a tumour involving a cut through the face.

A type of benign brain tumour.

An operation to open the skull to access the brain. Similar to a craniectomy, but the bone is replaced afterwards.

Crohn’s disease
A benign type of inflammatory bowel disease that may increase a person’s risk of developing bowel cancer.

A process that freezes cells, tissue, semen or other substances.

The process of inserting a probe into a cancerous tumour to freeze and destroy cancer cells. Also called cryosurgery.

CT-guided core biopsy
A procedure that uses CT to guide the biopsy needle to an area and remove a sample.

CT scan
A computerised tomography scan. This scan uses x-rays to create a detailed, cross-sectional picture of the inside of the body.

curative treatment
Treatment given to damage or kill cancer cells.

The surgical removal of a growth using a small, spoon-shaped instrument with a sharp edge called a curette.

cutaneous melanoma
Melanoma that starts in the skin.

cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
A type of lymphoma that affects the skin.

The time between one chemotherapy treatment session and the next.

Surgical removal of part of the bladder (partial cystectomy) or all of the bladder and surrounding lymph nodes (radical cystectomy). In women, the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and a small section of vagina may also be removed. In men, the prostate, urethra and seminal vesicles are sometimes removed.

cystic astrocytoma
A type of benign brain tumour.

Inflammation of the bladder lining and urinary tract, usually caused by a bacterial infection.

A thin viewing instrument with a light and camera that is inserted into the urethra and advanced into the bladder.

A procedure that uses a tool called a cystoscope to see inside the vagina, cervix, bladder and rectum. It is performed under a general anaesthetic.

cytogenetic test
A test that checks whether cells have an abnormality in their chromosomes.

Proteins that activate the immune system. Cytokines are used in immunotherapy.

The study of cells.

See debulking.

cytoreductive nephrectomy
The surgical removal of the kidney. This technique is used when cancer has spread.

A substance (e.g. targeted therapy) that blocks the growth of cancer cells. 

cytotoxic drug
A substance (e.g. chemotherapy) that is toxic to cells, so it can kill or slow the growth of cancer cells.

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A silky thin sheet of latex used by both women and men when having protected oral sex. Also known as dental dam.

da Vinci system
A robotic technology that allows a surgeon’s hand movements to be translated into tiny precise movements during keyhole surgery. 

Surgical removal of a layer of connective tissue covering the lung, chest wall and diaphragm to allow the lung to re-expand.

Surgery to remove as much of a tumour as possible. This makes it easier to treat the cancer that is left and increase the effectiveness of other treatments, such as chemotherapy.

deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP)
A deep blood vessel that passes through the abdominal wall to supply blood to the skin and fat of the lower abdomen.

deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap
A type of flap reconstruction that uses blood vessels called deep inferior epigastric perforators along with fat and skin but no muscle.

deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
A blood clot that forms in the deep veins of the leg or pelvis, often caused by immobility after surgery or long-distance travel.

delayed reconstruction
Reconstructing the breast shape at some time after the initial breast cancer surgery.

dendritic cells
Specialised cells that are part of the immune system.

dendritic cell vaccine
A vaccine that may be used to treat melanoma that has spread beyond the skin.

When stopping the drug causes physical withdrawal symptoms.

Very low mood and loss of interest in life, lasting for more than two weeks. It can cause physical and emotional changes.

A doctor who specialises in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions.

The lower layer of the two main layers that make up the skin.

descending colon
The left side of the colon.

desmoid tumour
A type of tumour that develops in fibrous tissue covering some organs and muscles.

desmoplastic melanoma
A rare type of cutaneous melanoma.

A disorder in which sugars are not taken up in the body properly because the pancreas does not produce enough of the necessary hormone (insulin), or the body has become resistant to the effect of insulin. Diabetes may be a risk factor for some types of cancer.

The identification and naming of a person’s disease.

A dome-like sheet of muscle that divides the chest cavity from the abdomen and is used in breathing.

Opening the bowels very frequently. Motions may be watery.

DIEP flap reconstruction
A deep inferior epigastric artery perforator flap breast reconstruction. This operation is similar to a free TRAM flap reconstruction, but the abdominal muscle is not used and no mesh is required for abdominal support.

dietary fibre
The part of edible plants that can’t be digested. Foods containing fibre include wholegrain cereals and breads, fruit and vegetables, beans, dried peas, legumes, nuts and seeds. Most fibre is contained in the outer layer of grains and therefore can be removed by refining and processing.

dietary supplement
Nourishment given to increase the nutritional intake of kilojoules/calories (energy), vitamins and minerals.

diethylstilboestrol (DES)
A synthetic hormone drug identified as a cause of vaginal cancer.

A university-qualified health professional who supports and educates patients about nutrition and diet during treatment and recovery.

diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
A fast-growing type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that starts in the lymph nodes in the neck, groin or armpit.

The breaking down of food in the stomach and bowel so the nutrients can be used by the body. 

digestive system
The body system that processes food and drink, absorbs nutrients and disposes of solid waste. Also called the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

digital rectal examination (DRE)
An examination in which a doctor puts a gloved finger into the anus to feel for abnormalities in the anus or rectum.

dilation and curettage (D&C)
A procedure where the cervix is dilated and the lining of the uterus (endometrium) is scraped out. 

direct discrimination
When someone is treated less favourably because of a disability, such as cancer.

disability discrimination
When someone is treated less favourably or harassed on the basis of their disability. Cancer is considered a disability under NSW law.

Emotional, mental, social or spiritual suffering. Distress may range from feelings of vulnerability and sadness to stronger feelings of depression, anxiety, panic and isolation.

A tiny molecule in every cell of the body that carries instructions for how that cell behaves and functions. Also called deoxyribonucleic acid.

donor egg
An egg from another woman that is used to conceive a baby.

donor sperm
Sperm from another man that is used to conceive a baby.

The amount of medicine taken.

double blind trial
A trial in which neither the patient nor their research team know what treatment the patient is receiving, to reduce bias.

dry needling
A technique that involves inserting an acupuncture needle into and around a trigger point to break up muscle tension.

dry orgasm
Sexual climax without the release of semen from the penis (ejaculation).

The canals within the great that pass milk from the lobules to the nipple.

ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
Abnormal cells in the breast ducts that may increase the risk of developing invasive breast cancer.

The first section of the small bowel.

Difficulty speaking clearly

Heartburn or indigestion.

Difficulty swallowing.

Difficulty speaking.

Difficulty producing voice.

A change in size, shape and arrangement of normal cells. Dysplasia can be either low-grade or high-grade.

dysplastic naevus (plural: naevi)
A mole with an irregular shape and uneven colour.

The medical term for difficulty breathing. Also called breathlessness.

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early menopause
The start of menopause at an age earlier than clinically normal.

An ultrasound scan of the heart to check its function. Also called a cardiac echo or cardiac ultrasound.

The outer surface of the part of the cervix that opens into the vagina.

egg (ovum)
The female cell required for reproduction. An immature egg is known as an oocyte.

egg harvesting
The collection of eggs through the vagina, using ultrasound guidance.

When semen passes through the urethra and out of the penis during an orgasm.

A substance in the body that conducts electricity.

eligibility criteria
Characteristics of the people for whom a trial is suitable.

Cutting off the blood supply to a cancer by blocking the blood vessels.

A collection of cells in the earliest stage of development (after the egg is fertilised by sperm).

emergency care plan
Document that provides direction and instructions to allow someone else to provide the care that you would usually provide.

To understand the feelings of someone else.

A benign (non-cancerous) condition in which the alveoli of the lungs are enlarged and damaged, usually due to smoking. It reduces the lung’s surface area, causing breathing difficulties.

endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS)
A type of bronchoscopy procedure that puts a flexible tube through the airways and trachea to examine the airways (bronchi) and take tissue samples. 

The inner surface of the cervix. Also called the cervical canal.

endocrine gland
A gland that releases hormones that control the amount of sugar in the blood.

endocrine system
The system of the body that produces hormones.

endocrine tumour
A rare type of tumour affecting the glands that produce hormones.

A doctor who specialises in treating people with disorders of the endocrine system.

end-of-life care
Health care provided in the final days and hours of life.

endometrial biopsy
Removing cells from the lining of the uterus (endometrium) with a thin tube.

endometrial hyperplasia
An abnormal increase in the number of cells in the lining of the uterus (endometrium).

endometrial sampling
Taking a biopsy of the lining of the uterus to test for cancer or other conditions.

endometrial stromal sarcoma
A type of uterine sarcoma.

endometrioid carcinoma
A type of endometrial cancer.

The lining of the uterus.

endorectal ultrasound (ERUS)
In this scan, a probe that generates soundwaves is inserted into the rectum. A picture of the rectum is built up from the echoes of the soundwaves.

A flexible tube with a light and camera on the end. It is used during diagnostic tests, e.g. to examine the bowel during a colonoscopy.

endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR)
A type of surgery for stomach cancer. Tissue is removed using an endoscope.

endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
A procedure used to examine the bile duct. The doctor injects dye into the organs and creates x-ray pictures of the organs.

endoscopic stent placement
The use of an endoscope to place a small, thin tube into a bile duct to unblock it and relieve jaundice. 

endoscopic ultrasound
A diagnostic test. An endoscope with a probe on the end is inserted into the body. The probe releases soundwaves that are translated into a picture on a computer screen.

A type of internal examination or diagnostic test. A thin, flexible tube with a light and camera (endoscope) is used to examine the inside of the body.

end point
What a clinical trial is trying to measure or find out. It is important that the goals for clinical trials be clearly defined in advance. Typical end points include measurements of toxicity, response rate and survival.

enduring guardian
The person you appoint to make medical decisions on your behalf if you lose capacity.

enduring power of attorney
A document that gives a person the ability to act on your behalf on financial, legal and medical matters after you lose capacity.

A liquid solution that washes out the bowels.

energy (calories/kilojoules)
Energy is counted in calories or kilojoules and provides fuel for our daily activities. Energy is obtained from food and drink. Different amounts of energy are found in different foods; some may be high in energy, while some may be low in energy.

energy field
Vital force or life force that runs within and outside of the body. Energy is believed to surround the body in an energy field, as well as running along invisible meridians inside the body.

energy therapies
Therapies based on the concept of energy or vital force surrounding or running through the body.

The process by which transplant stem cells develop into new blood cells.

enteral feeding tube
A fine flexible plastic tube used to insert food directly into the stomach if a person is unable to eat.

enteral nutrition
Receiving all or part of daily nutrition requirements through a feeding tube.

Irritation of the small bowel.

Proteins that aid digestion and are essential for the normal functioning and performance of the body.

A type of malignant brain tumour.

The study of how and why diseases occur in different populations.

The top, outer layer of the two main layers that make up the skin.

epididymal aspiration
Inserting a needle into the epididymis under anaesthetic to extract sperm.

A tube which runs from the back of each testicle through the groin region and into the abdominal cavity, and attaches to the spermatic cord. The epididymis stores immature sperm.

An injection of anaesthetic drugs into the spinal column.

The small cartilage flap that prevents food from going into the trachea when a person swallows.

epithelial abnormality
Changes in the cells of the cervix.

epithelial ovarian cancer
Cancer that starts in the epithelium of the ovary.

A type of mesothelioma. The cells resemble normal cells of the mesothelium. 

Layers of cells covering internal and external surfaces of the body.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
A common human virus in the herpes family that may increase a person’s risk of developing some types of cancer. Also called glandular fever or infectious mononucleosis.

erectile dysfunction
Inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for penetration. Also called impotence.

An enlarged, rigid penis (sexual excitement).

erogenous zones
Areas of the body that respond to sexual stimulation.

Red blood cells, which carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

A red velvety spot or patch in the mouth that may be precancerous.

essential fatty acids
Types of fat in food that are necessary for good health.

essential oil
Aromatic oil extracted from different plant parts, such as seeds, bark, flowers and leaves.

The study of moral values or principles, including responsible conduct and what is fair.

ethics committee
A committee that reviews the plans and other paperwork relating to a research study to make sure it is safe and ethical.

ethmoid sinuses
Sinuses located above the nose behind the ethmoid bone in the skull.

The act or practice of deliberately ending the life of a person suffering from a terminal illness or incurable condition. It is illegal in Australia.

evidence-based medicine
Where health care providers make decisions based on research studies that measure how well a particular treatment works.

The amount you pay towards your hospital admission before your private health insurer pays a benefit.

A surgical procedure to remove diseased tissue. The surgeon may cut out the cancerous tissue and some tissue around it.

excisional biopsy
A type of biopsy where a lump is surgically removed (excised) so it can be looked at under a microscope.

exercise physiologist
A health professional that specialises in exercise prescription, particularly for people with medical conditions.

exocrine gland
A gland that secretes a substance through a duct.

exocrine tumour
The most common type of pancreatic cancer. It starts in the cells that make pancreatic enzymes, which aid digestion.

experimental treatment
A new or modified treatment that is being tested in a clinical trial.

exploratory laparotomy
A type of laparotomy surgery in which the surgeon looks in the body for evidence of disease by taking a tissue sample (biopsy).

external beam radiotherapy
A type of radiotherapy delivered to the cancer from outside the body.

external genitalia
The collective term for the external genitals (reproductive organs). In men, it includes the penis, scrotum and testes. In women, it is known collectively as the vulva and includes the clitoris, labia minora, labia majora and mons pubis.

external prosthesis
An artificial body part that is worn on the outside of the body, such as a breast form.

external radiation therapy
Radiation therapy administered by a machine that aims radiation at the cancer.

extramammary Paget’s disease
A rare, slow-growing adenocarcinoma that appears as a rash on the vulva.

extranodal lymphoma
Advance lymphoma that spreads from the lymph nodes to other places in the body.

extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)
Surgery to remove the affected lung, plus the lining of the heart (pericardium), the diaphragm and the lining of the chest (parietal pleura) on the affected side.

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facial nerve
A major nerve in the skull that controls muscle movement in the face. It runs through the parotid salivary gland.

faecal occult blood test (FOBT)
A test that checks stool for microscopic traces of blood.

Waste matter that normally leaves the body through the anus.

fallopian tubes
The two thin tubes that extend from the ovaries to the uterus. The tubes carry sperm to the egg, and a fertilised egg from the ovaries to the uterus.

A genetic condition that can be inherited or ‘passed down’ through generations of a family.

familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
A benign condition that causes polyps to form in the large bowel. The polyps will become cancerous if untreated.

familial medullary cancer
A hereditary type of medullary thyroid cancer.

Abstaining from all food.

Extreme feeling of tiredness and lack of energy.

fat necrosis
Damaged or dead tissue.

fatty liver disease
A build-up of fats in the liver that can damage the organ.

Fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography scan. A person is injected with a modified sugar molecule (fluorodeoxyglucose or FDG) to show up cancer cells. When combined with a PET scan it is called a FDG-PET.

feeding tube
A flexible tube used to provide nutrition to people unable to swallow.

A system of gentle movements that encourage self-awareness to improve movement and posture.

fenestrated tracheostomy
A type of tracheostomy tube with an opening to allow air to flow through the voice box.

The ability to conceive a child.

fertility preservation
Methods used to help someone retain their ability to conceive and/or carry a baby.

An unborn human more than eight weeks after conception.

The part of plant foods that cannot be digested. It helps the body move food through the digestive system. There are two different types: insoluble and soluble fibre.

Benign (non-cancerous) growth in the muscle layer of the womb.

fibrous tissue
Tissue developed at a wound site that forms a scar.

International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics.

fine needle aspiration (FNA)
A type of biopsy where a thin needle is inserted into a lump to extract cells. Also called fine needle biopsy.

first line treatment
The initial treatment used to target tumours.

five-year survival rate
The percentage of people alive five years after diagnosis.

flap reconstruction
A type of breast reconstruction that uses muscle, fat and skin from other parts of the body to build a breast shape. 

Wind or gas.

flat urothelial carcinoma
A tumour that grows in the lining of the bladder.

The range of movement in a joint (e.g. knee) or series of joints (e.g. leg).

flexible sigmoidoscopy
Type of endoscopy used to examine the rectum and colon.

flexible working arrangements
Work practices that allow an employee the ability to change hours of work, change patterns of work and change the location of work.

flower remedies
Natural medicines extracted from flowers and diluted several times so that no active ingredient remains. Also known as flower essences.

A cavity in the ovary that contains a maturing egg.

follicular cells
One of the two main types of cells that make up the thyroid gland. They create, produce and store the thyroid hormones T3 and T4.

follicular lymphoma
A slow-growing type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that affects the B-cells. The cancer cells grow in circular groups called follicles.

follicular thyroid cancer
The second most common type of thyroid cancer, developing from the follicular cells.

Medical appointments to follow your progress after your treatment.

foodborne illness
Illness caused by eating food that contains bacteria, viruses or parasites.

When an adult takes responsibility for a child, but does not have legal parental status.

The individual, usually once daily, dose of radiation that makes up part of a course of radiation therapy treatment.

The process of delivering radiation therapy in a series of small doses over several treatment sessions.

free flap
Tissue transplanted from one site of the body to another.

How often medicine is taken.

frontal sinuses
Sinuses located behind the forehead.

fulguration (cautery)
A treatment technique that uses electric current to destroy tissue by heat.

full blood count (FBC)
A test that counts the number of red blood, white blood cells and platelets in the blood. Sometimes called a complete blood count.

functioning tumour
A type of neuroendocrine tumour that secretes (releases) hormones, which may cause symptoms.

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gall bladder
A small, pear-shaped organ on the underside of the liver that stores bile.

gallium scan
A test using a weak radioactive substance, gallium, which shows where the cancer has spread.

A cell that fuses with another during fertilisation (e.g. an egg or sperm).

 gap fee
The difference between the Medicare Benefits Schedule fee and the doctor’s fee.

gastric juices
Acidic juices in the stomach that help to break down food.

gastric stromal tumours
Cancer of the stomach’s connective tissue and muscle.

A hormone released from cells in the lining of the stomach after eating. Gastrin causes the stomach to release an acid that helps digest food.

A pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour. It makes and releases (secretes) abnormal amounts of a hormone called gastrin.

A specialist doctor who diagnoses and treats disorders of the digestive system.

gastrointestinal (GI) tract
The passage from the mouth to the anus that allows a person to digest food and eliminate waste. The lower GI tract includes the colon, rectum and anus.

gastro-oesophageal junction
The point where the stomach meets the oesophagus.

gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
A condition when stomach acid leaks back into the oesophagus, causing irritation. This is caused by the muscle at the end of the oesophagus not closing properly.

See endoscopy.

gastrostomy tube
A feeding tube inserted directly into the stomach through the abdomen.

gated heart pool scan
A test that shows how the heart is working and how much blood is pumped through the heart.

Geiger counter
An instrument used to measure radiation levels.

general anaesthetic
See anaesthetic.

general practitioner (GP)
A doctor in general practice.

general surgeon
A specialist doctor trained in a variety of minor surgical procedures.

generic surgeon
The name given to a type of medicine based on its key (active) ingredient, for example, paracetamol.

The microscopic units that determine how the body’s cells grow and behave. Genes are found in every cell of the body and are inherited from both parents.

gene therapy
Treatment aimed at correcting or interfering with a genetic abnormality causing cancer.

genetic counsellor
A health professional who has been trained in genetics and counselling. 

genetic marker
A gene or DNA sequence associated with a particular characteristic.

The sexual organs.

genital wart
A raised growth on the surface of the genitals caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

The entire collection of genes found in an organism.

genomic assay
A test that provides information about the risk of the cancer coming back and whether chemotherapy will be of benefit. Also called a molecular assay.

germ cell ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer that begins in the cells that eventually develop into eggs.

germ cells
Cells that produce eggs in females and sperm in males. Germ cell cancers can occur in the ovaries and testicles.

Gerson therapy/Gerson diet
An alternative nutritional therapy based on pure fruit and vegetable juices and coffee enemas to detoxify the body.

Specialised organs or groups of cells that make various fluids that are used in the body or excreted (eliminated).

glandular cell
A type of cell found in the inner surface of the cervix (endocervix).

Gleason score
A way of grading prostate cancer biopsies. A low Gleason score indicates a slow-growing (less aggressive) cancer and a higher score indicates a faster-growing (more aggressive) cancer.

glial cell
 A type of nervous system cell that surrounds and holds neurons in place; nourishes them; and gets rid of dead cells and germs. Also called neuroglia.

A type of malignant brain tumour. Also known as glioblastoma multiforme or GBM.

The surgical removal of part or all of the tongue.

See vocal cords.

A hormone that increases blood sugar levels.

A pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour that secretes too much of the hormone glucagon.

glucose supplement
A type of sugar. A good source of energy (calories/kilojoules) that often tastes less sweet than sugar.

The muscles that make up the bottom.

A benign enlarged thyroid.

gonadotropin-releasing hormones (GnRH)
Long-acting hormones used to slow and stop the function of the hormones.

A number that describes how similar cancer cells look to normal cells.

graft-versus-host disease (GVHD)
A possible complication of an allogeneic bone marrow transplant. The immune system in the person receiving the tissue (graft) attacks the cells in the recipient’s body (the host).

A type of white blood cell of the myeloid family. There are four different kinds of granulocytes: neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils and mast cells.

granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF)
A protein that helps the bone marrow produce more neutrophils, the white blood cells that defend the body against bacteria and yeast.

The internal process of reacting to loss. Grief can affect all parts of your life.

growth factor
A protein that stimulates the development and growth of cells.

guided imagery
A type of meditation in which a person is led through imagining a series of scenes that promote healing thoughts in order to achieve peace, pain relief and relaxation.

gynaecological cancers
Cancers of the female reproductive system. They include vulvar and vaginal cancers, as well as cervical, uterine and ovarian cancers.

gynaecological oncologist
A gynaecologist who has completed specialist training in treating women diagnosed with cancer of the reproductive organs.

A doctor who specialises in treating diseases of the female reproductive system.

The enlargement of male breast tissue. Often referred to as ‘man boobs’. It can be a symptom of testicular cancer.

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A doctor who specialises in studying and treating diseases of the blood, bone marrow and lymphatic system.

A collection of blood that clots to form a solid swelling.

Blood in the urine.

A condition that causes the body to absorb more iron than usual from food.

Enlarged blood vessels on or just inside the anus, usually caused by periods of constipation.

hair follicle
The sac in which hair grows.

The muscles on the back of the leg between the knee and the hip.

Any form of behaviour that is uncalled for; offensive, humiliating or intimidating; and creates a hostile environment.

healing touch
The use of soft touch to restore harmony and balance by working with the flow of energy in the body.

health care team
A group of health professionals who are responsible for treating a person who is sick. This may also be called the multidisciplinary team.

heartburn (indigestion)
A sensation of tightness or burning in the chest. Heartburn is caused by stomach acid backing up into the oesophagus and throat (reflux).

heart rate
The number of times the heart beats in a minute. Also called pulse.

heavy chains
Long chains of proteins in an antibody.

Helicobacter pylori
Bacteria that can live in the stomach and small bowel and may lead to stomach ulcers and cancer. Also called H. pylori.

Removing a whole lobe of the liver.

Surgery to remove the left or right half of the larynx.

The surgical removal of part of the thyroid gland. Also called a partial thyroidectomy.

Surgery to remove all or part of the liver. Removing part of the liver is called a partial hepatectomy. Removing a whole lobe is called a hemihepactectomy. Removing a small section is called a segmentectomy.

hepatic arterial infusion
Chemotherapy delivered directly through a tube into the artery to the liver.

hepatic artery
The main blood vessel carrying blood to the artery.

hepatic encephalopathy
A build-up of toxins in the body, which can lead to brain damage.

Inflammation in the liver, usually caused by a virus.

hepatobiliary surgeon
A surgeon who specialises in surgery to the liver and surrounding organs, such as the gall bladder.

hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
A type of primary liver cancer that starts from the main cells in the liver, which are called hepatocytes. HCC is the most common type of primary liver cancer.

A gastroenterologist who has further specialised in diseases of the gall bladder and liver.

Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. A type of protein found on most cells in the human body.

A part of a plant, such as leaves, flowers, roots or berries, which is used for medicinal or cooking purposes.

herbal medicine
The use of herbs taken by mouth or applied to the body to treat and prevent illness, and to strengthen the body. Also known as botanical medicine.

Passing from one person to another (parent to offspring) through the genes.

hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
A condition affecting the lower GI tract. HNPCC may be a risk factor for bowel cancer. Also called Lynch syndrome.

When an organ or tissue sticks out (protrudes) from its usual location due to a weakness of the muscle surrounding it.

Hickman line
A type of central venous access device inserted into a vein in the chest.

high-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma
A fast-growing cancer that starts in the cells of the lymphatic system.

high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU)
A type of treatment for localised prostate cancer that uses soundwaves (ultrasound) to heat and destroy tissue. It may be used for those patients who are unsuitable for surgery or radiotherapy.

The study of body tissues and cells under a microscope.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)
The virus that causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).

Hodgkin lymphoma
Cancer of the lymphatic system. Also called Hodgkin disease.

holistic health care
Health care that assesses the causes and effects of disease, and the way the different systems of the body impact on each other. It incorporates different types of therapies and services to ensure that a person’s physical, emotional, spiritual and practical needs are met.

A system of health care based on the idea of treating ‘like with like’. Remedies stimulate an ill person’s inner strength and direct energy in the body to where it is needed most for healing.

hormone receptors
Proteins in a cell that bind to specific hormones.

hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Drug therapy that supplies the body with hormones that it is no longer able to produce naturally. Often used to treat the symptoms of menopause.

hormone resistance
When cancer cells that usually grow in the presence of a hormone keep on growing despite the absence of that hormone.

Chemicals in the body that send information between cells to bring about changes in the body. Some hormones control growth, others control reproduction.

hormone therapy/treatment
A treatment that blocks the body’s natural hormones, which sometimes help cancer cells grow. It is used when the cancer is growing in response to hormones. Also called endocrine therapy for hormone-blocking therapy.

A place that provides comprehensive care for people with a life-limiting illness. This includes inpatient medical care, respite care and end-of-life care for people who are unable to be cared for at home, or don’t wish to die at home. Also known as a palliative care unit.

See human papillomavirus

See hormone replacement therapy

human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG)
A hormone made by the body in early pregnancy. This hormone may also be produced by some types of cancer.

human papillomavirus (HPV)
A group of viruses that can cause infection in the skin surfaces of different areas of the body, including the genital areas. HPV is a risk factor for some types of cancer. Also called the wart virus.

human resources (HR)
The department of an organisation that manages the recruitment, administration and training of staff. Some organisations use terms such as ‘people, learning and culture’, ‘human capital’ or ‘personnel’.

The build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain.

hyperbaric treatment 
Involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurised room or tube.

Higher than normal levels of calcium in the blood.

hyperfractionated radiotherapy
Receiving two or more radiotherapy treatments each day, Monday to Friday, during a designated treatment period.

A benign condition that occurs when the thyroid produces too many hormones. Also known as overactive thyroid.

A syndrome triggered when blood thickens and starts to circulate more slowly. Symptoms include blurred vision, confusion, headaches and dizziness. Hyperviscosity may occur if myeloma cells release large amounts of paraprotein into the blood.

A type of counselling where a practitioner induces a deep relaxation so a patient’s subconscious (inner) mind can communicate its thoughts with their conscious (aware) mind to overcome mental, physical and emotional problems.

The lowest part of the back of the throat. Also called the laryngopharynx.

A birth defect in males and females in which the opening of the urethra is not in its normal place.

hypothalamus gland
An endocrine gland in the brain that produces a type of thyroid-stimulating hormone.

An explanation or guess based on limited evidence that serves as a starting point for research.

A benign condition that occurs when the thyroid does not produce enough hormones. Also known as underactive thyroid.

The surgical removal of the uterus and cervix.

A procedure to look inside the uterus using a device called a hysteroscope.

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See radioactive iodine.

International Classification of Disease coding system.

ICG test
A test using dye injected into the blood to see how well the liver is working. The dye is called indocyanine green (ICG).

See image-guided radiation therapy

ileal conduit
A small passage created from a piece of bowel and connected between the ureters and a stoma on the abdomen wall. It takes the place of the bladder, allowing urine to flow through it and the stoma into a bag on the outside of the body.

ileoanal anastomosis
A surgical procedure that creates a colonic J-pouch, which stores stool and acts as a rectum.

A surgically created opening (stoma) in the abdomen made from the ileum (part of the small bowel) to the outside of the body. Also, the operation that creates this stoma.

The lowest section of the small bowel; transfers waste to the large bowel.

image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT)
A type of external radiation therapy that uses imaging techniques, such as x-ray or ultrasound, during each session to focus treatment on the correct area of the body.

immediate reconstruction
Reconstructing the breast shape at the same time as the initial breast cancer surgery.

immediate release medicine
A medicine that releases quickly and lasts only 30 minutes.

immobilisation masks
A device that helps keep a person in a fixed position during radiation therapy.

immune cells
White blood cells (leucocytes).

immune system
A network of cells and organs that defends the body against attacks by foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses.

immunoglobulin (Ig)
A protein that is produced by plasma cells and fights infections. There are five main types: IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG and IgM. They are also known as antibodies.

A technique that uses antibodies to identify specific proteins called antigens in cells of a tissue sample.

A branch of medicine that studies the immune system, which helps fight off disease in the body.

Drugs that interact with the immune system to attack cancer cells in a number of different years. Thalidomide, lenalidomide and pomalidomide are immunomodulators that are used in the treatment of myeloma.

A way of characterising cells by the signals they display on their surface.

A medication that reduces the actions of the immune system.

Treatment that stimulates the body’s immune system to fight cancer. 

An artificial device that is surgically inserted into the body to replace an organ or tissue that has been damaged or removed, such as a breast. Also called an internal prosthesis.

implant reconstruction
A type of breast reconstruction that reconstructs the breast by inserting an implant is inserted under the chest muscle. 

See erectile dysfunction.

The number of new cases of a disease diagnosed each year.

Inability to hold or control the loss of urine or faeces.

Indigenous medicine
In Australia, remedies and ways of healing used traditionally by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

indirect discrimination
When a policy, rule or practice that seems fair actually disadvantages a person with a disability, such as cancer.

indolent or low-grade lymphoma
A slow-growing cancer that starts in the cells of the lymphatic system.

induction chemotherapy
The first chemotherapy treatment used to make further treatments (surgery or radiation therapy) more effective.

indwelling catheter
A hollow, flexible tube that can be inserted into the urethra. Fluids can be passed into the body or drained from it. Also called Foley catheters.

indwelling pleural drain
A soft tube inserted into the pleural cavity to help drain a build-up of pleural fluid.

Difficulty conceiving a child after trying to conceive for 12 months if under 35, or six months if over 35.

inflammatory bowel disease
A benign condition that causes inflammation of the bowel.

inflammatory breast cancer
Cancer that develops in the lymphatic vessels in the skin of the breast. Rather than forming a lump, it causes the breast to become red and swollen.

inflatable tissue expander
A balloon-like bag designed to expand the skin. It is placed under the skin during an operation and filled gradually by injecting saline into it over a number of weeks.

informed consent
Receiving and understanding all relevant information, such as potential risks, before agreeing to or declining a medical treatment.

informed financial consent
Receiving and understanding all relevant information about the likely expenses of treatment.

See port-a-cath.

A slow injection of a substance into a vein or other tissue. Or, a herbal remedy prepared by steeping dried herbs in hot or boiling water.

inguinal lymph node dissection
Surgical removal of lymph nodes from the groin area.

inherent requirement
A task that is an essential part of a job.

Not able to be surgically removed. Also called unresectable.

A person who stays in hospital while having treatment.

The deliberate injection of semen into a woman’s body for the purpose of achieving conception/pregnancy.

The inability to pay one’s debts as they fall due.

Inability to get to or stay asleep for a prolonged period of time.

When chemotherapy drugs are put directly into the bladder using a catheter.

A chemical messenger (hormone) secreted by the pancreas to regulate the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. If the body does not produce enough insulin, diabetes will develop.

A type of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour that secretes too much insulin.

A contract between a company and an individual that guarantees a payment in the case of covered loss, accidents or death.

integrative medicine (integrative therapies)
The combined use of evidence-based complementary therapies and conventional medicine.

intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
A type of external radiation therapy in which the radiation beams are aimed from several directions, while the intensity (strength) is controlled by computers. This helps to reduce some side effects of radiation therapy.

An effect that occurs when two or more substances react with each other.

A substance that occurs naturally within the body and which enhances the immune system’s fight against viruses.

internal prosthesis
See implant.

internal radiation therapy
Radiation therapy that delivers radiation directly to the tumour from within the body.

A type of neuron that connects other neuron cells in the brain and spinal cord.

interventional radiologist
A specialist doctor who used imaging scans to diagnose cancer, may perform biopsy under ultrasound or CT, and delivers some treatments.

Inability to digest a particular food properly.

intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
An in vitro fertilisation procedure in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg.

intramuscular injection
An injection into a muscle.

intraperitoneal chemotherapy
A technique of administering chemotherapy into the abdominal cavity via injection into the peritoneum.

intrascrotal haematoma
Blood that collects in the scrotum.

intrathecal chemotherapy
Chemotherapy drugs that are delivered via a lumbar puncture.

intrathecal injection
An injection into the fluid-filled space that surrounds the spine.

intratubular germ cell neoplasia (ITGNC or IGCN)
Non-invasive precursor to testicular cancer.

intrauterine insemination (IUI)
Depositing sperm directly into the uterus to increase the chances of conceiving.

intravenous (IV)
Injected into a vein.

intravenous pyelogram
A radiological procedure used to see abnormalities of the urinary system, including the kidneys, ureters and bladder.

intravesical chemotherapy
Chemotherapy that is put directly into the bladder through a tube. It is often used for treating non-muscle invasive bladder cancer.

invasive breast cancer
Cancer that has spread from the lining of the breast ducts or lobules into the surrounding breast tissue.

invasive cancer
Cancer that has spread deep into tissues at the primary site, and/or to other parts of the body.

invasive ductal carcinoma
Cancer that started in the milk duct but has spread into the breast tissue around them.

invasive lobular carcinoma
Cancer that began in the milk lobules but has spread into the breast tissue around them.

Another term for a researcher.

in vitro
Laboratory experiments that are done using scientific equipment, such as test tubes and dishes.

in-vitro fertilisation (IVF)
When an egg is fertilised with sperm in a laboratory then eventually implanted into a woman’s body. One of the main treatments for infertility.

in vivo
Experiments that are done using a living organism, such as an animal or human.

An element found in food that allows the thyroid gland to produce hormones. Iodine is found in foods such as seafood, some dairy products, eggs and iodised salts.

Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assisted Scheme

Not able to be surgically removed. Also called unresectable.

The band of tissue that connects the two lobes of the thyroid.

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A condition caused by increased amounts of bile in the blood, which occurs when the bile ducts are blocked. Jaundice causes yellow, itchy skin; the whites of the eyes to turn yellow; pale stools; and dark urine.

The central section of the small bowel.

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A cell that makes up most of the epidermis. Types include squamous cells and basal cells.

keratinocytic skin cancer
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

keratosis (plural: keratoses)
A red, scaly spot on the skin that is a sign of sun damage to the skin. Also called a sunspot.

keyhole surgery
See laparoscopy.

A pair of organs in the abdomen. The kidneys remove waste from the blood and make urine. They also produce hormones that stimulate red blood cell production and control calcium levels.

See energy.

Klinefelter syndrome
A genetic disorder where a man has three sex chromosomes (XXY) instead of the normal two (XY).

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The lips of the vulva.

labia majora
The outer lips of the vulva.

labia minora
The inner lips of the vulva, which join at the top to cover the clitoris.

Place where experiments are carried out and new medicines developed.

laboratory research
Research that is carried out in a laboratory.

lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)
A chemical found in the blood of some men with seminoma or non-seminoma testicular cancer.

A type of sugar found in milk and some milk products. Lactose is digested by an enzyme found in the digestive system called lactase.

lactose intolerance
Occurs when people have trouble breaking down lactose. A person with lactose intolerance may be able to dairy products that are low in lactose, such as hard cheeses.

lamina propria
A layer of tissue and blood vessels surrounding the inner layer of the bladder (urothelium).

Surgery that involves cutting into the spinal column and removing a spinal cord tumour.

langerhans cell
A type of cell that makes up the skin’s epidermal layer.

A thin viewing instrument with a light and camera that is inserted through a cut (incision) in the abdomen to look inside the abdomen and pelvis during laparoscopy.

laparoscopy/laparoscopic surgery
Surgery done through small cuts in the abdomen using a tiny telescope called a laparoscope for viewing. Also called keyhole surgery or minimally invasive surgery.

A type of open surgery in which a long cut is made in the abdomen to examine and remove internal organs.

large bowel
Part of the lower GI tract. The large bowel stores waste until it leaves the body as faeces. Its four main sections are the caecum, colon, rectum and anus. Also called the large intestine.

large cell undifferentiated carcinoma
Cancer cells are not clearly squamous cell carcinoma or adenocarcinoma.

large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ)
A procedure to remove cervical tissue for examination and to treat some precancerous changes of the cervix.

The surgical removal of the larynx. In a partial laryngectomy, part of the larynx is removed. In total laryngectomy, the whole larynx is removed.

The surgical removal of part or all of the larynx and pharynx.

See hypopharynx.

A procedure that allows the doctor to closely examine the back of the throat, inclduing the larynx and pharynx using a laryngoscope (a tube with a light on it) or a mirror.

The voice box. The larynx is part of the throat that contains the vocal cords and connects the pharynx with the trachea. 

laser surgery
The use of a laser beam to remove tissue.

late effects
Side effects of cancer treatment that occur several months or years after treatment has been completed.

latency period/interval
The interval between exposure to a cancer-causing material and the clinical appearance of disease.

lateral rhinotomy
A cut along the edge of the nose to access the nasal cavity and sinuses.

latissimus dorsi (LD) flap
A type of flap reconstruction that reconstructs the breast shape using the latissimus dorsi muscle.

latissimus dorsi muscle
A broad, flat muscle in the back.

A medicine that stimulates bowel movements and relieves constipation.

left hemicolectomy
A type of colectomy where tissue is removed from the left side of the colon.

A type of uterine sarcoma.

lentigo maligna melanoma
A type of cutaneous melanoma that develops in a lentigo maligna (Hutchinson’s melanotic freckle). Also called melanoma in-situ.

An area of abnormal tissue.

A cancer of the white blood cells, usually causing large numbers of white blood cells to be made.

White blood cells.

A procedure to quickly reduce white blood counts to a safe level.

A white spot or patch in the mouth that may be precancerous.

Sex drive/sexual drive.

life coaching
A type of counselling in which a coach collaborates with the client to set goals and work out ways to change one’s life to achieve them.

life-limiting illness
When an illness is unlikely to be cured and will cause death at some stage in the future. A person with a life-limiting illness may live for weeks, months or even years.

lifestyle factors
Factors that help give a holistic (well-rounded) picture of your health and wellbeing. Include what you eat and drink, how much you exercise, your occupation and its risks, relationships, stress and pressures in your life, and whether you smoke.

A band of tissue that connects bones and holds organs in place.

light chains
Short chains of proteins in an antibody. Often referred to as Bence Jones protein when found in the urine of myeloma, or as free light chains when found in their blood.

linear accelerator
A machine used to create high-energy radiation beams for use in external radiation therapy to treat cancer.

An important source of energy and some essential nutrients. More commonly known as fats and oils.

The surgical transfer of fat from one part of the body to another using liposuction. The fat is injected under the skin to improve shape and contour.

liquid extract
Herbal remedies in which the herb is extracted in concentrated form into a solution of water and alcohol. The extract is further diluted in water when taken.

liquid nitrogen
A substance that is applied to the skin to freeze and kill abnormal skin cells.

literature review
A review of the previous research that has been done on a particular area and which relates to a current problem being investigated.

A large organ in the top right side of the abdomen. The liver plays an important role in metabolism, digestion, detoxification and removal of substances from the body.

liver cancer
Cancer in the liver. Usually refers to cancer that started in the liver (primary liver cancer). May be used to refer to cancer that spread to the liver from somewhere else in the body (secondary cancer in the liver).

liver function test (LFT)
A blood test to see how well the liver is working before, during and after treatment.

A section of an organ. For example, the left lung has two lobes and the right lung has three lobes.

An operation to remove a lobe of a lung.

lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
Abnormal cells in the breast.

The milk-producing glands in the breast.

local anaesthetic
A medicine that blocks the feeling of pain in a specific location in the body for a short time.

local excision
A surgical procedure to remove a small area of diseased tissue.

localised cancer
Cancer that is confined to a small area or areas.

localised melanoma
A melanoma that has not spread from its starting point to other organs or lymph nodes.

localised prostate cancer
Early-stage prostate cancer that has not spread beyond the prostate gland.

locally advanced breast cancer
Cancer that has spread outside the breast, e.g. to the chest or lymph nodes in the armpit.

longitudinal study
A study done over a long period of time – often decades – with the participants being asked the same questions or having the same tests periodically to assess how their health changes over time.

long service leave
A type of leave that’s generally available to employees after they’ve spent a long period of time with a single employer.

low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma
A slow-growing cancer that starts in the cells of the lymphatic system.

low intensity
Activity that is easy and doesn’t cause much exertion.

lumbar puncture
A test in which a needle is inserted into the base of the spine to collect fluid for testing or to inject drugs for treatment. Also called a spinal tap.

See breast conserving surgery.

The two spongy organs in the chest cavity, made up of large numbers of tiny air sacs. The lungs are used for respiration (breathing).

luteinising hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH)
A hormone that stimulates ovulation in females and the production of androgens in males.

A clear fluid that circulates around the body through the lymphatic system, carrying cells that fight infection.

Removal of the lymph nodes from a part of the body. Also called a lymph node dissection.

lymphatic system
A network of tissues, capillaries, vessels, ducts and nodes that removes excess fluid from tissues, absorbs fatty acids and transports fat, and produce immune cells. Includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus and lymph nodes.

lymph glands
See lymph nodes.

lymph nodes
Small, bean-shaped structures that collect and destroy bacteria and viruses. Also called lymph glands.

A type of white blood cell that helps fight infection. Lymphocytes destroy bacteria, viruses and other harmful substances. 

Swelling caused by a build-up of lymph fluid. This happens when lymph vessels or nodes can’t drain properly because they have been removed or damaged.

One of the two groups of white blood cells. The lymphoid family only produces white blood cells.

A type of blood cancer affecting the lymphatic system. There are two main types of lymphomas: non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma.

A procedure in which a radioactive substance is injected into the skin to identify the sentinel lymph node.

lymph vessels
Thin tubes that carry the body’s tissue fluid (lymph) all over the body.

Lynch syndrome
A disease that increases the risk of developing some types of cancer such as bowel or uterus. Previously called hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).

lytic lesions
Areas where bone has been damaged.

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magnetic resonance imaging scan
See MRI scan.

maintenance treatment
Treatment given for months or years as part of the treatment plan.

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

malignant mesothelioma
Cancer that starts in the mesothelial cells that line parts of the body, such as the chest cavity or abdominal cavity.

malignant mixed Müllerian tumour
A less common type of endometrial cancer.

malignant transformation
When a benign tumour  is damaged and becomes a rapidly growing, cancerous tumour.

The imbalance of energy, protein or other nutrients in the body which can impact health and how the body responds to cancer treatment and recovery.

mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors
Drugs that block an enzyme called mammalian target of rapamycin, which tells cancer cells to grow and spread.

An x-ray of the breast to detect cancer.

The lower jawbone

mandible resection
Removal of part of the lower jaw (mandibulectomy) or upper jaw (maxillectomy).

Removal of part or all of the lower jaw.

Cutting the lower jaw to access the mouth or throat.

mantle cell lymphoma
A type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that develops in the outer edge (mantle zone) or B-cells.

manual lymphatic drainage
A type of specialised massage in which therapists help to reduce the swelling caused by lymphoedema by manually stimulating the flow of lymph.

The edge of tissue removed during surgery. Clear or negative margin means no cancer cells were found on the edge of the removed tissue. Positive margin means cancer cells were found on the edge of the removed tissue. 

A type of bodywork therapy in which muscles are stimulated, stretched and relaxed through specialised pressure and strokes.

massage therapist
A person who practises therapeutic massage. They may be a member of a professional massage association, and can practise independently or in a medical setting.

Surgery to remove the whole breast. In some cases the skin and/or nipple is left behind. See nipple-sparing mastectomy and skin-sparing mastectomy.

mastectomy bra 
See pocketed bra.

A surgical procedure to lift the breasts.

Stimulation of your own or a partner’s genitals without sexual intercourse for pleasure or orgasm.

The upper jawbone.

maxillary sinuses
Sinuses located under the eyes and within the maxillary (cheek) bones.

Removal of part or all of the upper jaw.

maximum heart rate
The fastest a person’s heart can beat.

A paraprotein, which is a substance produced when plasma cells multiply abnormally.

mechanical speech
The use of a battery-powered device such as an electrolarynx to create vocal sounds.

A surgical procedure for examining the lymph nodes at the centre of the chest and remove a sample, if necessary.

The area in the chest between the lungs. It contains the heart and large blood vessels, the oesophagus, the trachea and many lymph nodes.

An informal type of resolution using a mediator or negotiator who communicates between two parties to settle differences and problems. Also called conciliation.

medical intervention
Medical tests, procedures or treatments that are aimed at relieving illness or injury, or curing disease.

medical negligence
When a health care provider is proven to have breached their duty of care to a patient, causing injury or personal loss.

medical oncologist
A doctor who specialises in treating cancer with chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy.

medical record
Notes about a person’s health care history (e.g. scan and test results and doctors’ recommendations).

medical science
An area of study focusing on maintaining health and preventing and treating disease.

A list of the names, dosages and times of a patient’s medications.

A technique to relax the mind and body by focusing on breathing, learning to still the mind and thinking only about the present.

medullary thyroid cancer
A type of thyroid cancer arising from the C-cells.

A type of malignant brain tumour.

Dark pigment produced in melanocytes that gives skin its colour.

One of the three types of cells that make up the skin’s epidermis. Melanocytes produce melanin.

Cancer of the melanocytes. The cancer usually appears on the skin but may affect the nervous system, eye or mucous membranes (e.g. the lining of the mouth and nasal passages).

melanoma in-situ
An early melanoma that is confined to the upper layer of the skin (epidermis) and has not penetrated into deeper tissue (the dermis).

A thin layer of tissue that covers a surface, lines a cavity or divides a space or organ.

Time in a woman’s life when menstruation stops. 

The membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

A type of benign brain tumour.

When a woman stops having periods (menstruating). This can happen naturally; because of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or hormone treatment; or because the ovaries have been removed.

A woman’s monthly bleed from the vagina. Also called periods.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the body is believed to have meridians, or energy channels, through which energy flows to keep people balanced and healthy.

Merkell cell
A type of cell that makes up the skin’s epidermal layer.

Reinforcing material placed in the abdominal wall during a TRAM flap reconstruction. It helps to avoid complications such as hernia.

A type of cancer that affects the protective membrane around the body’s internal organs (the mesothelium). It often occurs in the membranes of the lungs (pleura).

A membrane that lines the chest cavity (pleura) and abdominal cavity (peritoneum) and surrounds the heart (pericardium).

The chemical process by which food is changed into energy in the body.

The substance produced when food or drugs are broken down in the body.

metastasis (plural: metastases)
Cancer that has spread from a primary cancer in another part of the body. Also called secondary cancer.

metastatic neck cancer with unknown primary
Cancer that is found in the lymph nodes of the neck but the primary location cannot be located.

microinvasive cancer
Cancer cells that have just broken through the bottom layer of the surface of the cervix.

Surgery on very small structures of the body using miniature instruments under a microscope. 

midface degloving
Surgical access to the nasal cavity or sinuses using a cut under the upper lip.

mind–body techniques
Techniques that help people address emotional issues and other problems that have a mental component, such as anxiety, depression, stress and pain.

mineral oil
A highly processed and refined colourless and odourless oil used by some massage therapists.

Components of food that are essential for the body (similar to vitamins). Examples include iron, calcium and magnesium.

minimally invasive surgery
A surgical technique that involves several small cuts instead of one large cut on the abdomen. Also called keyhole or laparoscopic surgery.

minimal residual disease (MRD)
Small number of leukaemia cells left behind after treatment.

mini transplant
See reduced intensity stem cell transplant.

mixed glioma
A type of brain tumour.

moderate intensity
Activity that isn’t too hard, but is hard enough to be of benefit. Breathing and heart rate increase during moderate intensity activity.

Mohs’ surgery
Specialised surgery to remove skin cancers one segment at a time until only healthy cells remain. Also called microscopically controlled excision.

See naevus.

molecular research
Laboratory research that focuses on discovering which genes are responsible for certain diseases and how the disease develops.

A very small particle in a chemical element. 

monoclonal antibodies
A group of targeted therapy drugs that lock onto a specific protein on the surface of cancer cells and interfere with the cells’ growth or survival. 

monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)
A benign condition that affects plasma cells in the blood. This condition may increase the risk of developing cancers of the blood, such as myeloma.

mons pubis
In women, the area of fatty tissue above the labia. It is covered with pubic hair.

A strong and effective pain reliever that is commonly used to treat people with cancer who have pain.

The death rate, or number of deaths, in a certain group of people in a certain period of time.

The movement of sperm.

motor neuron
A type of neuron that causes muscle contractions in the body.

The outward expression of sorrow for a loss, often influenced by cultural customs and rituals. It may include conventions such as wearing black or lowering flags at half-mast.

MRCP scan
A magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography scan. It is a type of MRI scan that produces more detailed pictures and can check the common bile duct for blockages.

MRI scan
A magnetic resonance imaging scan. It uses magnetism and radio waves to take detailed cross-sectional pictures of the body.

Moist tissue that lines organs of the body, such as the digestive tract, lungs and nose.

Sores in the mouth or throat.

mucous membrane
A layer of tissue that is covered with a thick, slippery fluid (mucous).

Müllerian sarcoma
A type of uterine sarcoma.

multidisciplinary care
A system where all members of the treatment team collaborate to discuss a patient’s physical and emotional needs as well as any other factors affecting their care. The team meets to review cases and decide on treatments.

multidisciplinary team (MDT)
A team of health care professionals who collaborate to discuss a patient’s physical and emotional needs and decide on treatment.

multileaf collimators
Moveable pieces of metal built into the head of radiotherapy machines to shield normal tissue and organs from the radiation beam.

multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN)
A benign condition that increases a person’s risk of developing endocrine tumours.

muscle-invasive bladder cancer
Cancer that has spread into or beyond the muscle layer of the bladder, and/or to other parts of the body.

music therapy
The use of music to improve health and wellbeing.

A change in a gene causing a permanent change in the DNA sequence that makes up a gene.

One of the two groups of white blood cells. The myeloid family produces some types of white blood cells and all red blood cells and platelets.

Cancer of the plasma cells.

Smooth muscle tissue that makes up the bulk of the uterus.

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naevus (plural: naevi)
A small, dark spot on the skin that arises from skin cells called melanocytes. Also called a mole.

nasal cavity
The large, hollow space located behind the nose and in the middle of the face.

A flexible tube with a light and camera on the end.

An internal examination of the nose and upper airways using a long, flexible tube with a light and camera called an nasendoscope. Also called a nasoendoscopy.

nasogastric (NG) tube
A plastic feeding tube that is passed through the nose into the stomach.

The part of the pharynx that lies behind the nose and above the soft palate.

National Employment Standards (NES)
The minimum standards of employment that apply to national system employees from 1 January 2010. These are set out in the Fair Work Act 2009.

natural therapies
A broad range of therapies that don’t involve the use of drugs.

naturopathic nutrition
A form of nutrition based on naturopathic principles of healthy eating. Specific foods are chosen to create a balanced diet and emphasis is placed on correcting problems in the digestive system to enhance digestion and absorption of nutrients.

A holistic system of health care incorporating diet, bodywork and herbal medicine to stimulate the body’s own healing system.

Feeling sick or wanting to be sick.

neck dissection
Surgery to remove lymph nodes in one or both sides of the neck. Also called lymphadenectomy. 

needle core biopsy
A procedure in which tissue is removed from an organ or lymph node using a needle.

neo-adjuvant therapy (neoadjuvant)
A treatment given before the main treatment to make the main primary treatment more successful.

A new bladder formed from a section of bowel tissue.

Any new or abnormal growth of tissues, in which the growth is uncontrolled and progressive.

See tumour.

Surgical removal of a whole kidney (radical nephrectomy) or part of a kidney (partial nephrectomy).

A doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating kidney disease.

The branch of medicine relating to the function and diseases of the kidneys.

The basic units of the kidney that filter the blood. Nephrons also regulate blood volume, pressure and pH and levels of electrolytes and metabolites.

nerve block
Pain medicine that is injected directly into or around a nerve or into the spine to block pain.

nerve-sparing surgery
A type of surgery to save the nerves that affect ejaculation and urination.

Cancer of the immature nerve cells. Mostly affects infants and children.

neuroendocrine tumour
A type of tumour that affects the endocrine and nervous systems. Some types of neuroendocrine tumours affect the pancreas.

A doctor who specialises in the structure, functioning and diseases of the nervous system (including the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves).

A type of benign brain tumour.

A cell that transmits electrical impulses that carry information from one part of the body to the other. The three types of neurons are sensory neurons, motor neurons and interneurons.

neuropathic pain
Pain caused by pressure on nerves or the spinal cord, or by damage to nerves. Also called nerve pain. 

A psychologist who specialises in helping people with brain impairments.

A surgeon who specialises in operations on the nervous system.

A drop in the number of normal, healthy granulocytes (a type of white blood cell in the myeloid family).

A type of white blood cell that fights infection in the bone marrow.

nil by mouth
When you are unable to have food or drink for a period of time before surgery.

nipple reconstruction
Constructing the nipple and areola.

nipple-sparing mastectomy
A type of mastectomy where the breast skin, nipple and areola are not removed.

nodular lymphocyte-predominant
Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL) The least common type of Hodgkin lymphoma.

nodular melanoma
A type of cutaneous melanoma. Makes up about 10–15% of melanomas and is often aggressive.

A swelling or lump that may be cancerous or non-cancerous.

non-epithelial ovarian cancer
A type of ovarian cancer that does not start in the lining of the ovary. Types include germ cell ovarian cancer and sex-cord stromal cancer.

non-functioning tumour
A type of neuroendocrine tumour that does not produce hormones.

non-Hodgkin lymphoma
A cancer of the lymphatic system in which lymphocytes (lymphatic cells) become abnormal and the immune system is less able to fight infections.

non-invasive bladder cancer
Cancer that has not spread beyond the lining of the bladder. Sometimes called superficial bladder cancer.

non-invasive breast cancer
Cancer that is confined to the ducts or lobules of the breast.

non-melanoma skin cancer
Skin cancer that doesn’t develop from the melanocytic cells, e.g. basal cell and squamous cell cancer.

non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer
Cancer that has spread into the muscle layer of the bladder. Sometimes known as superficial bladder cancer.

non-prescription medicine
Available without a prescription, often from pharmacies and supermarkets, and includes over-the-counter medicines such as pain-killers and cold medicines, vitamin supplements and herbal medicines.

A type of testicular cancer. Non-seminomas include teratoma, yolk sac tumour, choriocarcinoma and embryonal cell carcinoma.

non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
One of the two types of lung cancers. Includes squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell undifferentiated carcinoma.

non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)
A type of mild pain relief.

NRAS gene mutation
A non-inherited gene change which can cause cells to grow and divide uncontrollably. It increases the risk of developing a melanoma.

nurse care coordinator
Registered nurse who specialises in caring for people with cancer and their families.

Nutrient Reference Values
Average amount of nutrients needed each day for optimal health. 

The process of eating and digesting the food the body needs.

Provides information and support about nutrition. Has at least a diploma of nutrition, or equivalent, form a university or naturopathic college.

Food that is a good source of energy (kilojoules/calories) and/or protein as well as vitamins and minerals.

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See active surveillance.

A special prosthesis or plate that is used to close a gap in the palate, to form a new roof of the mouth.

Pain on swallowing.

Excessive amount of fluid around the cells or tissues of the body.

oesophageal cancer
A malignant tumour found in the oesophagus, usually in the gastro-oesophageal junction.

oesophageal speech
Forcing air into the top of your oesophagus and then out again to produce a voice.

The surgical removal of all or part of the oesophagus.

Pain in swallowing.

The examination of the oesophagus with an endoscope.

The passage that carries food from the throat into the stomach. 

A surgical procedure to remove parts of the oesophagus and stomach at the same time.

The primary female sex hormone produced mainly by the ovaries that helps mature and regulate the female reproductive cycle. Oestrogen is also present in men.

oestrogen receptor positive (ER+)
Breast cancer cells that have a receptor protein to which oestrogen will attach. Breast cancer cells that are ER+ depend on the hormone oestrogen to grow.

A type of glial cell.

A type of brain tumour.

Surgical removal of the omentum.

A protective apron of fatty tissue over the abdominal organs.

A doctor who specialises in the study and treatment of cancer.

The study, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

oncology massage training
Specialist training for massage therapists to develop their awareness and expertise to modify conventional massage for someone with a history or diagnosis of cancer.

oncoplastic breast conserving surgery
An operation in which the cancer is removed and plastic surgery techniques are used to preserve the appearance of the breast as much as possible.

oncoplastic breast surgeon
A breast cancer surgeon with training in breast reconstruction techniques.

Oncotype DX Gene Assay Test
A test that analyses the activity of a group of genes that affect how a cancer is likely to behave and respond to treatment.

one-stage reconstruction
A type of implant reconstruction completed in one operation.

An immature egg.

The surgical removal of an ovary. If you have both ovaries removed, it is called a bilaterla oophorectomy.

The surgical relocation of one or both ovaries to another area of the body to protect ovarian function. Also called ovarian transposition.

open surgery
A surgical method that involves one large cut (incision) in the body to view and access the organs.

The strongest pain relievers available. These include morphine, fentanyl, codeine, oxycodone, hydromorphone and methadone.

Referring to the mouth region, including the lips, gums, cheeks, floor of the mouth, front of the tongue, and inside area of the jaws.

oral cavity
Refers to the mouth and includes the lips, gums, cheeks, the rood and floor of the mouth, front two-thirds of the tongue, and the area behind the wisdom teeth.

orbital exenteration
The surgical removal of the eye and other contents of the orbit.

Surgery to remove one or both testicles. Also called inguinal orchidectomy.

See orchidectomy.

The peak of sexual response. Also known as climax.

The part of the pharynx that includes the soft palate and tongue base.

orthopantomogram (OPG)
Special x-ray used to examine the jaw and teeth of people with mouth cancer.

osteonecrosis of the jaw
A condition in which bone tissue of the jaw breaks down, causing pain.

Thinning and weakening of the bones that can lead to bone pain and fractures.

osteoradionecrosis (ORN)
A condition in which bone tissue of the jaw breaks down, causing pain. 

See stoma.

A person who visits a hospital for medical treatment and care without being admitted.

ovarian ablation
Stopping the ovaries from producing oestrogen by surgically removing the ovaries (oophorectomy) or giving a dose of radiotherapy to the ovaries.

ovarian cancer
Cancer that starts in the ovaries. There are several different types of ovarian cancer, including epithelial and non-epithelial cancers.

ovarian suppression
Methods to stop the functions of the ovaries.

ovarian transposition or relocation
The surgical relocation of one or both ovaries from the pelvis into the abdomen. The procedure is used to protect the ovaries from radiation therapy. Also called oophoropexy.

A female reproductive organ that contains eggs (ova). It produces the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

The release of an egg (ovum) during a woman’s menstrual cycle.

ovum (plural: ova)
A female egg that is produced by the ovary and released during ovulation.

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Paget’s disease of the nipple
Cancer cells develop in the breast ducts and spread to the skin of the nipple and the areola.

pain diary
A record of when pain is greatest during the day and the medicine used to relieve the pain.

pain medicine specialist
A medical specialist who treats difficult pain problems.

pain scale
A scale that helps the patients to show how mild or severe their pain is based on a range of numbers, descriptions or facial expressions.

palliative care
The holistic care of people who have a life-limiting illness, their families and carers. It aims to improve quality of life by addressing physical, practical, emotional, spiritual and social needs. Also known as supportive care. It is not just for people who are about to die, although it does include end-of-life care.

palliative care nurse
A nurse who has specialised in the field of palliative care. Provides support to the patient, family and carers, and may coordinate the palliative care team.

palliative care nurse practitioner
A nurse who has had additional training and is able to prescribe some medicines and order some tests.

palliative care specialist (physician)
A doctor who has specialised in the field of palliative medicine, prescribes medical treatment for pain and other symptoms, and supports and advises other members of the palliative care team and the patient, family and carers.

palliative care unit
A place that provides comprehensive care for people with a life-limiting illness. This includes inpatient medical care, respite care and end-of-life care for people who are unable to be cared for at home, or who don’t wish to die at home. It may also offer day care facilities and home visiting teams. Also called a hospice.

palliative treatment
Medical treatment for people with advanced cancer to help manage pain and other physical and emotional symptoms of cancer. Treatment may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy or other therapies. It is an important part of palliative care.

An organ in the digestive system. The pancreas produces insulin and some of the enzymes needed to digest food.

pancreatic exocrine insufficiency (PEI)
The inability to properly digest food due to a lack of digestive enzymes made by the body.

pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour (PNET)
A neuroendocrine tumour affecting the pancreas.

See Whipple’s procedure.

Inflammation of the pancreas.

papillary thyroid cancer
The most common type of thyroid cancer, developing from the follicular cells.

papillary urothelial carcinoma
A tumour that projects into the hollow of the bladder.

Pap test 
A test that can detect changes in cells of the vagina and cervix. Cells are scraped off and examined under a microscope. Also called a Pap smear.

The drainage of excess fluid from the abdomen. Also called an ascitic tap.

parafollicular cells (C-cells)
One of the two main types of cells that make up the thyroid gland. They produce calcitonin.

paranasal sinuses
Small, air-filled spaces within the head that lighten the weight of the skull.

A substance produced when plasma cells multiply abnormally. Also called M-protein or monoclonal protein.

The removal of the parathyroid glands, which regulate calcium in the body.

parathyroid glands
Four glands located behind the thyroid gland. They produce hormones that control the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood.

parenteral nutrition
The delivery of calories and nutrients into a vein.

parietal pleura
The outer layer of the pleura that lines the chest wall.

Surgery to remove the parotid gland.

parotid gland
One of the major salivary glands. It is found just in front of the ears.

partial gastrectomy
See subtotal gastrectomy.

partial hepatectomy
Surgical removal of part of the liver, along with the gall bladder.

partial mastectomy
An operation to remove a breast cancer and a small amount of the surrounding healthy breast tissue. This is a type of breast-conserving surgery, like lumpectomy, but more of the breast is removed.

partial nephrectomy
The surgical removal of part of a kidney.

partial remission
When there has been a significant reduction in symptoms but some cancer is still present.

partial vulvectomy
The surgical removal of part of the vulva.

participant information
An information sheet that explains everything a participant needs to know about the trial and treatment. Sometimes called a fact sheet.

passive bodywork techniques
Body-based therapies, such as massage and reflexology, where the therapist applies manual pressure to the client’s body or works on the energy fields of the client.

passive smoking
Breathing in second-hand smoke.

A specialist doctor who interprets the results of tests (such as blood tests and biopsies).

pathology report
A document that provides information about the cancerous tissue, including information about its size and location, hormonal status, how far it has spread, how fast it is growing, and surgical margins.

patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) system
An intravenous system that allows a person to administer a measured dose of pain relief by pressing a button.

patient responsibilities
Expectations of patients to treat their health care team with respect, honesty and consideration.

patient rights
Rules and guarantees for people receiving medical care. Some rights are legally enforceable; other rights are what you can reasonably expect from your care and are not enforceable.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

PBS Safety Net
This government scheme reduces the cost of prescription medicines for individuals and families once the Safety net threshold has been reached.

Muscles on the front of the upper chest, behind the breasts in women.

pedicle flap
A narrow strip of tissue including blood vessels to maintain blood supply to transplanted tissue.

peer review
A process in which independent experts check research to make sure it is accurate and reliable.

pelvic exenteration
The surgical removal of all organs from the pelvis, including the uterus, ovaries, cervix, vagina, bladder and part of the bowel.

pelvic floor exercises
Exercises to strengthen the muscles controlling the bladder.

pelvic sidewall
A structure of bone and ligament on the side of the pelvis.

The lower part of the trunk of the body: roughly, the area that extends from hip to hip and waist to groin.

pemetrexed (Alimta®)
A chemotherapy drug used to treat malignant mesothelioma.

The surgical removal of part or all of the penis.

Through the skin.

percutaneous endoscopic gastronomy (PEG) tube
A feeding tube inserted directly into the stomach through the abdomen.

percutaneous endoscopic jejunostomy (PEJ) tube
A feeding tube inserted through the abdomen directly into the small bowel (jejunum), bypassing the stomach.

percutaneous stent placement
Placing a tube (stent) through the skin to unblock the bile duct and relieve jaundice.

A thin, double-layered sac that surrounds the heart.

The area of skin between the vulva (or, for males, the scrotum) and the anus.

peripheral blood stem cell transplant
The replacement of stem cells in the bone marrow after high-dose chemotherapy with healthy stem cells that have been collected from the blood of the patient or a donor.

peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC)
A type of central venous access device that is inserted into a vein in the arm.

peripheral nervous system
The system of nerves extending outside the central nervous system to the limbs and organs.

peripheral neuropathy
Weaknesses, numbness, tingling or pain, usually in the hands and feet, caused by damage to the nerves that are located away from the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nerves). This damage can be a side effect of chemotherapy.

peripheral T-cell lymphoma
A type of lymphoma that often starts as a painless lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin.

Muscle contractions that move food into the stomach.

The lining of the abdomen.

permanent employee
An individual who works for an employer and receives entitlements such as paid personal leave and annual leave.

pernicious anaemia
A type of anaemia caused by vitamin B12 not being absorbed, which affects red blood cell development.

personal/carer’s leave
Leave that can be taken when an employee can’t attend work because they are sick or injured. Carer’s leave is also taken when you need to provide care or support to a member of your immediate family due to an illness, injury or unexpected emergency.

Person Responsible
A person who, under law, can make decisions on behalf of a patient who cannot make their own decisions and has not appointed someone to act on their behalf. 

A solid medicinal substance that is inserted into the vagina where it will dissolve.

Small red or purple spots on the skin or mouth. A symptom of leukaemia.

PET scan
Positron emission tomography scan. A scan in which a person is injected with a small amount of radioactive glucose solution to find cancerous areas. Cancerous areas show up brighter in the scan because they take up more of the glucose.

PET-CT scan
Positron emission tomography combined with CT scan. In a PET scan, a person is injected with a small amount of radioactive glucose solution making cancerous areas show up brighter.

Peyronie’s disease
Pain in the penis as it becomes erect, or a curve in the erect penis. This sometimes develops as a result of radiotherapy to the penis.

phantom pain
Pain felt in a limb or body part even though it has been surgically removed.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
A government-funded scheme that subsidises some prescription medicines.

A branch of pharmacology that examines both drugs and genes to see why certain people react positively or negatively to different treatments. Also called pharmacogenomics.

The study of drugs and how they can be used to treat diseases.

The surgical removal of part or all of the pharynx.

The throat. This is a muscular tube at the back of the nose that connects the mouth and nose with the oesophagus.

A stage of a clinical trial. There are usually four phases of testing.

An ingredient in some old pain-relieving drug, such as Bex and Vicks powder. It has not been used since the 1970s because it has been linked to kidney damage and kidney cancer.

Philadelphia chromosome
An abnormal chromosome associated with chronic myeloid leukaemia and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. It carries instructions for the body to produce tyrosine kinase, a protein that makes too many white blood cells.

Thick mucus in the mouth.

photodynamic therapy
A type of cancer treatment using a cream which is activated by a red light.

Chemical compounds that occur naturally in fruit, vegetables, legumes (beans and peas) and grains. Also called phytonutrients.

peripherally inserted central venous catheter

A system of exercises that increase awareness of muscles in the body to improve breathing, core strength and posture.

pilocytic astrocytoma
A type of brain tumour.

pilot project
A small project that is carried out to see whether a similar large-scale study is feasible.

pituitary gland
A gland in the brain that produces hormones. These hormones control many of the body’s functions, including growth, metabolism and production of sex hormones. 

pituitary tumour
A type of benign brain tumour.

A dummy pill, injection or other treatment that looks like the new treatment being tested but doesn’t contain the active ingredient.

placebo effect
The placebo effect occurs when someone who is given a placebo, such as a harmless sugar pill, feels an improvement, like a reduction in symptoms, after taking the pill.

The clear fluid part of the blood that carries blood cells.

plasma cells
A type of white blood cell that stays mostly in the bone marrow. Plasma cells make antibodies.

plasma exchange
When the plasma portion of the blood is removed and replaced with donate plasma or a plasma substitute. Plasma exchange may be used if high levels of paraprotein are causing hyperviscosity.

plastic surgeon
A medical practitioner who has had advanced surgical training in the restoration of skin and tissue to near-normal appearance and function. Also known as reconstructive surgeon.

A prolonged period of stable disease, where the disease is present but well controlled.

One of three types of cells found in the blood. Platelets help the blood to clot and stop bleeding. Also called thrombocytes.

The thin sheet of tissue that lines the chest wall and covers the lungs. It has two layers: parietal and visceral.

pleural cavity
The space between the two layers of the pleura, which normally contains a small amount of fluid.

pleural effusion
A collection of fluid between the two sheets of tissue that cover the lungs.

pleural fluid
Fluid that builds up between the two layers of the pleura.

pleural plaque
A localised area of fibrous thickening sometimes containing calcium material on the pleura, which can be seen on x-rays of people exposed to asbestos. Strongly linked to inhaling asbestos.

pleural tap
See thoracentesis.

pleural thickening
Extensive scarring that thickens the pleura. As the scar tissue grows, it can encase the lung and close off the pleural cavity. Also known as diffuse pleural thickening (DPT).

Surgical procedure to remove part of the pleura.

pleuritic pain
Pain caused by inflammation of the pleura. It can be sudden and sharp, stabbing, burning or dull, and occur during breathing, especially when inhaling and exhaling.

An injection of sterile talcum powder into the pleural cavity. This causes inflammation that closes the space and prevents accumulation of fluid.

A surgical operation to remove a lung.

A bacterial infection in the lungs which causes some of the air sacs fill up with pus.

pocketed bra
A bra designed for women who have had a breast removed. Each cup has a pocket to hold a breast prosthesis. Also called mastectomy bra.

polarity therapy
A gentle bodywork technique using touch to clear blockages in energy flow around the body.

polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
A hormonal disorder. In women with PCOS, their ovaries produce too many male hormones, which affects the development and release of eggs during ovulation.

A condition in which red blood cell levels are higher than normal.

A projecting growth from a surface in the body, such as the large bowel. Most polyps are benign, but they can become malignant.

The surgical removal of a polyp.

The condition of having several polyps in the large bowel.

port-a-cath (port)
A type of central venous access device. A thin tube put into a vein with an opening under the skin for delivering medicine.

positron emission tomography scan
See PET scan.

power of attorney
A document that gives a person the ability to act on your behalf on financial, legal and medical matters.

A term used to describe a condition that may or is likely to become a cancer.

precursor T-lymphoblastic lymphoma
A type of lymphoma that starts in immature (precursor) T-cells in lymph nodes in the spleen.

pre-existing condition
An illness or injury that existed before applying for an insurance policy.

pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD)
Testing embryos for specific genetic or sex-linked disorders before implantation into the woman’s uterus.

premature ejaculation
The inability to delay ejaculation.

premature menopause
Menopause that occurs before the age of 40.

premature ovarian failure
The loss of ovarian function. This occurs when the ovaries no longer produce adequate amounts of sex hormones and can’t develop a mature egg for ovulation.

prescription medicine
Medicine that can only be given (dispensed) by a pharmacist after receiving authority from a doctor.

pressure points
Areas on the body that correspond to different organs and may offer relief from a variety of symptoms.

prevention trial
Trial that tests a new approach that researchers and doctors believe may lower the risk of getting cancer.

preventive mastectomy
Surgery to remove breast tissue in a woman with a high risk of developing cancer.

primary cancer
The original cancer. Cells from the primary cancer may break away and be carried to other parts of the body, where secondary cancers may form.

primary health care
A person’s main health care, which is provided by a general practitioner (GP) or a community nurse. It can include initial tests and diagnoses of disease, health promotion, disease prevention, and management of chronic illnesses.

primary health care provider
A health professional, such as a general practitioner or community nurse, who provides the first point of contact for a person with the health care system and helps them with a range of health-related matters.

primary liver cancer
Cancer that started in the liver.

primary site
The part of the body where the cancer first developed.

private health insurance
An insurance policy that covers some medical expenses. Patients with private health insurance can choose their own doctor and whether they want to be treated in a private or public hospital.

Inflammation of the rectum.

The surgical removal of the entire colon and rectum.

An examination of the end of the bowel and rectum using an instrument called a proctoscope.

A female sex hormone made mostly by the ovaries that prepares the lining of the uterus (endometrium) for pregnancy. It can also be produced artificially to help shrink some cancers and control cancer symptoms.

progesterone receptor positive (PR+)
Breast cancer cells that have a receptor protein to which progesterone will attach. Breast cancer cells that are PR+ depend on the hormone progesterone to grow.

The predicted outcome of a person’s disease.

prospective study
Research that looks at what happens to different groups of people from the start of the study up to a point in the future.

A gland in the male reproductive system that produces most of the fluid that makes up semen.

An operation to remove all or part of the prostate.

prostate specific antigen (PSA)
A protein produced by prostate cells and found in the blood. High levels may indicate prostate cancer.

An artificial replacement for a lost or damaged body part.

proteasome inhibitors
Drugs that block the breakdown of protein within cancer cells, causing them to stop growing and die.

An essential part of food which the body needs to repair itself and build muscle.

A plan that describes all the details about a study, including its aims and methods and the reasons for conducting it.

psychological techniques
Mind–body techniques.

A psychologist or psychiatrist who has special training and experience in the treatment of psychosocial aspects of cancer.

psychosocial research
Research looking at the emotional, psychological and social effects of disease and how people can be helped through supportive care measures.

A range of techniques that help people improve their mental health and wellbeing by giving them the opportunity to express their thoughts, and consider how their behaviour and feelings impact on their day-to-day life.

The process of reaching sexual maturity and becoming capable of reproduction.

public guardian
A legal official who can be appointed to make important health and lifestyle decisions on behalf of another person. 

public health insurance (Medicare)
Health care insurance provided free of charge to citizens and permanent residents of Australia.

Relating to the lungs.

pulmonary decortication
Surgical procedure to remove some of the linings of the chest wall and lung.

pulse analysis
A form of diagnosis used in traditional Chinese medicine where the practitioner feels a person’s pulse – usually on the wrists – to determine the imbalances in their body.

pulse oximeter
A small machine, usually attached to a finger or toe, that measures how much oxygen is in the blood.

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Pronounced ‘chee’, this is another term for energy or vital force.

qi gong
Pronounced ‘chee goong’, this is a form of movement therapy from traditional Chinese medicine.

The muscles on the front of the leg between the knee and the hip.

qualitative study
Research that focuses on individual responses rather than numerical data to obtain the results.

quality of life
Your comfort and satisfaction, based on how well your physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, social and financial needs are met within the limitations of your illness.

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Energy in the form of waves or particles, including gamma rays, x-rays and ultraviolet (UV) rays. This energy is harmful to cells and is used in radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells.

radiation oncologist
A doctor who specialises in treating cancer with radiation therapy.

radiation shielding
Protecting a part of the body from external radiation therapy using a shield.

radiation therapist
A health professional who administers radiation therapy.

radiation therapy
The use of targeted radiation to kill or damage cancer cells so they cannot grow, multiply and spread. The radiation is usually in the form of x-ray beams. Also called radiotherapy.

radical hysterectomy
An operation that removes the uterus, cervix, ovaries and fallopian tubes.

radical local excision
An operation that removes the cancer and a larger area of normal tissue all around the cancer.

radical nephrectomy
The surgical removal of the whole of the diseased kidney. If diseased, the adrenal gland, surrounding fatty tissue and nearby lymph nodes are sometimes removed as well.

radical prostatectomy
An operation to remove the entire prostate gland and some of the tissue around it.

radical radiotherapy
High-dose radiotherapy aimed at treating all areas where cancer cells are likely to remain after surgery.

radical surgery
A type of extensive surgery that aims to remove the diseased organ or tumour as well as the blood supply, lymph nodes and, sometimes, attached structures.

radical vulvectomy
An operation that removes the entire vulva, including the clitoris, and usually the surrounding lymph nodes.

radioactive iodine
A form of iodine often used for imaging tests or as a treatment for cancer. Also known as RAI or I131.

radioactive iodine ablation
Receiving radioactive iodine after a thyroid operation in order to destroy any normal or cancerous tissue left behind by surgery. Also called thyroid ablation.

radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment
A type of internal radiation therapy to treat thyroid cancer. It is usually taken in gel tablet form, known as I131.

radiofrequency ablation (RFA)
A treatment that uses radio waves to heat and destroy cancer cells.

Radioactive liquid.

radioisotope bone scan
A scan using small amounts of radioisotope to find areas of bone where there is cancer.

radioisotope treatment
The use of radioactive liquid that is taken by mouth as a capsule or given by injection (intravenously). Also called radionuclide therapy.

radiologically inserted gastrostomy (RIG) tube
A feeding tube inserted directly into the stomach through the abdomen using x-rays or other scans.

A treatment that involves giving drugs with radiation therapy to make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation therapy treatment.

A method used to prevent bias in research. A computer assigns patients into groups by chance, rather than the researchers or doctors choosing the groups.

randomised controlled trial (RCT)
A trial in which participants are randomly assigned to receive the experimental treatment or the standard treatment (the control).

rating of perceived exertion
A scientific way of telling how hard exercise is based on how it feels.

reasonable accommodation
See reasonable adjustment.

reasonable adjustments
Any accommodations, modifications or provisions made in the workplace to allow a person to work effectively. Other terms include workplace modifications or reasonable accommodations.

reconstructive surgeon
A doctor who has advanced surgical training in the restoration of skin and tissue to near-normal appearance and function. Also known as a plastic surgeon.

reconstructive surgery
Surgery to rebuild an area of the body that has been damaged.

recovery room
A hospital room for the care of patients immediately after surgery.

rectal bleeding
Bleeding from the anus.

The last 15–20 cm of the large bowel, which stores faeces until a bowel movement occurs.

rectus abdominis muscle
One of the two large, flat stomach muscles, commonly known as the abs or sixpack. It can be used to reconstruct a breast.

The return of a disease after a period of improvement (remission).

recurrent cancer
Cancer that has returned after treatment of the primary cancer. A recurrence may be local (in the same place as the primary cancer) or distant (in another part of the body).

red blood cells
One of three types of cells found in the blood. They carry oxygen around the body. Also called erythrocytes.

reduced intensity stem cell transplant
An allogeneic transplant that uses lower doses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy than normal, so it is easier for the body to tolerate.

Reed-Sternberg cell
Large, abnormal cells found in classical Hodgkin lymphoma.

referred pain
Pain that is felt away from the area that is actually causing the pain.

A type of complementary therapy. Reflexology is a type of bodywork involving the massage of nerve reflex points on the hands and feet.

When stomach acid is released back up into the oesophagus.

refractory disease
Disease that does not respond to treatment. Also called resistant disease.

registered health professional
A health care provider, such as a doctor, nurse or pharmacist, who needs to be registered and approved by the government before working in that field.

A hospital doctor is training to be a specialist.

registration board
A board authorised by the government to oversee the registration and professional standards of health care providers.

A program  to help a person recover and regain function after illness or injury.

rehabilitation professional
A professional who works with an employee to help them return to work.

rehabilitation scheme
A process that aims to return an employee to their previous level of work.

A system of light or no-touch movements that may turn blocked negative energy into positive energy.

See recurrence.

relaxation (relaxation techniques)
Any technique that encourages relaxation to reduce stress and the physical problems it causes.

When the signs and symptoms of the cancer reduce or disappear. A partial remission is when there has been a significant reduction in symptoms but some cancer is still present. A complete remission is when there is no evidence of active cancer. This may not mean that the cancer is cured.

renal artery
A blood vessel that carries blood to the kidney.

renal cell carcinoma (RCC)
The most common type of kidney cancer. Also called renal adenocarcinoma. It begins in the kidney’s nephrons. Types of RCC include clear cell carcinoma, papillary, chromophobe or sarcomatoid kidney cancers.

renal pelvis
A funnel-shaped structure where the kidney and ureter meet.

renal sarcoma
A rare cancer that affects the connective tissues of the kidney.

renal vein
A blood vessel that carries blood away from the kidney.

research governance officer
The person responsible for the management and approval of applications for research at their particular location.

Able to be surgically removed.

Surgical removal of a portion of any part of the body.

resident medical officer
A hospital doctor who has not undertaken specialist training.

residual cancer
Cancer that remains after treatment has been given.

resistance training (strength training)
A type of exercise using free weights, weight machines, medicine balls, resistance bands or your own body weight to help strengthen muscles.

Relating to the lungs.

respiratory system
The system of the body responsible for breathing.

respite (short-term) care
Alternative care arrangements that allow the carer and person with cancer a break from their usual arrangements.

A significant decrease in the size of tumours as a result of treatment.

The process of reviving someone who appears to be dead, for example, by heart massage or artificial respiration.

retrograde ejaculation
A condition where the sperm travels backwards into the bladder, instead of forwards out of the penis.

retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (RPLND)
Surgery to remove the retroperitoneal lymph nodes. Also called lymphadenectomy.

retroperitonel lymph nodes
Lymph nodes in the area outside of behind the peritoneum (the tissue the lines the abdominal walls).

retrospective study
Research that looks at what has happened in the past to gain an understanding about why something is occurring in the present.

The surgical removal of part or all of the nose.

Recombinant human thyroid-stimulating hormone. A type of man-made thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

right hemicolectomy
A type of colectomy where tissue is removed from the right side of the colon.

risk factor
A substance or condition that increases an individual’s chances of developing a particular type of cancer.

robotic hysterectomy
A form of keyhole surgery where the instruments used are controlled by robotic arms guided by the surgeon, who sits next to the operating table.

When an implant breaks. This causes the contents of the implant to leak out.

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A water and salt solution, which equals the body’s own fluids.

saline-gel implant
An implant with two sections: one that can be filled with saline to expand the skin covering the implant, and one that is filled with gel. This type of expander implant can remain in place permanently.

Also called spit. The watery substance released into the mouth from the salivary ducts.

salivary glands
Glands where saliva is made. Includes the parotid gland (front of the ears) and the sublingual and submandibular glands (under the oral cavity).

salvage treatment
A treatment given after a tumour has not responded to other treatments, or any treatment given after cancer recurrence.

A cancer that starts in the bone or in the soft tissue under the skin.

A type of malignant pleural mesothelioma. The cells have a growth pattern resembling a malignant tumour arising from fibrous tissue.

schedule fee
Medicare’s recommended fee for a medical service.

A type of benign brain tumour.

scientific evidence
Rigorous testing to prove something works or does not work. Clinical trials are a form of scientific evidence.

A scanning method that uses a radioactive substance to locate tumours in the body. Types of scans include PET (positron emission tomography) scans, SRS (somatostatin receptor scinitigraphy) and MIBG (metaiodobenzylguanidine) scans.

An organised program to identify disease in people before any symptoms appear.

screening test
Help to detect cancer in people who don’t have symptoms.

screening trial
A trial that tests the best way to find cancer, especially in its earliest stages.

The external pouch of skin behind the penis that contains the testes.

secondary cancer
See metastasis.

secondary cancer in the liver
Cancer that started in another part of the body, but has spread (metastasised) to the liver.

second hand smoke
Smoke exhaled by a smoker and also burning from the end of a cigarette.

second opinion
Talking to another specialist to consider other treatment options or to confirm a recommended course of treatment.

second line chemotherapy
Chemotherapy that is given if standard chemotherapy doesn’t work or the disease comes back.

The release of a substance.

Surgery to remove a small section of an organ.

A disruption of the normal electrical impulses of the brain, causing a person to convulse or have other symptoms.

selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT)
A type of internal radiation therapy used to treat liver tumours. Also called radioembolisation.

Working for oneself rather than for another person or company.

The fluid ejaculated from the penis during sexual climax. It contains sperm from the testicles and secretions from the prostate gland and seminal vesicles.

seminal vesicles
Glands that lie near [very close to] the prostate and produce secretions that form part of the semen.

A type of testicular cancer.

sensory neuron
A type of neuron that responds to light, sound and touch.

sentinel lymph node biopsy
A surgical procedure used to determine whether cancer has spread beyond a primary tumour into the lymphatic system.

sentinel node
The first lymph node to receive lymph fluid directly from a tumour.

sentinel node biopsy
Removal of the sentinel node.

sentinel node mapping
A way to identify the sentinel lymph node by injection of a radioactive substance, blue dye or both near the tumour.

A collection of fluid under a wound after surgery.

serous carcinoma
A type of endometrial cancer.

serous membrane
A smooth membrane consisting of a thin layer of cells that secrete fluid, and an underlying thin epithelial layer.

serum free light chain assay
A test that can detect free light chains in the blood, which can be a sign of myeloma.

sex-cord stromal cells
Ovary cells that release the female hormones.

A small, permanent tube used to drain fluid build-up in the brain.

side effect
Unintended effect of a drug or treatment.

sigmoid colectomy
A type of colectomy where tissue is removed from the sigmoid colon.

sigmoid colon
The section of the colon below the descending colon and above the rectum and anus.

The rigid or flexible tube used during a sigmoidoscopy.

A procedure in which a doctor inserts a sigmoidoscope into the anus to examine the rectum and lower colon.

An indicator that a person may have something wrong with them. Signs are determined via a physical examination or test results, e.g. an enlarged prostate gland or low blood counts.

signet-ring tumour
A type of adenocarcinoma (bowel cancer).

silicone gel
A substance used to make implants and medical devices. It can be soft and durable to create a breast prosthesis, semi-solid to fill an implant, or tough to form the outer shell of an implant.

silicone implant
A type of breast implant filled with silicone gel.

An x-ray machine that is used to ensure the correct alignment of the radiation treatment beam with the tumour.

single blind study
A study in which only the research team know whether patients are receiving the standard treatment or the new treatment.

Radioactive beads that are inserted into the liver in selective internal radiation therapy.

sitz bath
A shallow bath in which only the hips and buttocks are immersed. Some sitz baths are plastic bowls designed to fit on toilet seats.

skin flap
Nearby skin or fatty tissue that is pulled over the wound left by the removal of a skin cancer and stitched.

skin graft
A layer of skin from another part of the body that is stitched over the wound left by the removal of a skin cancer. 

skin-sparing mastectomy
A type of mastectomy in which the whole of the skin of the breast, except the nipple and the areola, is kept.

SLiM criteria
A set of signs of myeloma (biomarkers of malignancy) used to identify people who need treatment. The letters stand for the biomarkers: S=significant plasmacytosis (myeloma cells in bone marrow); Li=light chain ratio; M=MRI lesions (bone abnormalities found by MRI). Often combined with the CRAB criteria to form the SLiM-CRAB criteria.

A piece of synthetic mesh that is surgically placed to apply pressure to the urethra and reduce the problem of incontinence.

slow release medicine
A medicine that releases slowly and lasts 8-12 hours.

small bowel
The middle part of the gastrointestinal tract, which takes food from the stomach and absorbs nutrients. It has three sections: the duodenum, the jejunum and the ileum. Also known as the small intestine.

small bowel cancer
A rare cancer that occurs in the small bowel. Also called small intestine cancer.

small cell lung cancer (SCLC)
One of the two main types of lung cancers. It tends to spread early and causes few initial symptoms.

small lymphocytic  lymphoma
A type of slow-growing lymphoma affecting the B-cells. It is similar to chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

small molecule inhibitors
A group of targeted therapy drugs that can get inside cancer cells and block proteins that tell the cells to grow.

small molecule therapies
Drugs that stop reactions that cause cancer cells to grow.

smouldering myeloma
Early myeloma that does not cause the person any problems and does not need treatment. Also called asymptomatic myeloma.

soft tissue techniques
A range of manual therapy techniques directed towards muscles and connective tissues in the body.

solar keratosis
See sunspot.

solitary plasmacytoma
A single tumour formed in the bone or tissue by cancerous plasma cells.

A hormone that helps to control the production of insulin by the pancreas and gastrin by the stomach.

A type of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour that secretes too much of the hormone somatostatin.

A doctor with qualifications and skills in a particular branch of medicine.

specialist palliative care team
A multidisciplinary team of health professionals who offer a range of services to improve a patient’s quality of life. A palliative care nurse usually coordinates the team.

An instrument used to hold open the vagina during an internal examination to see the vagina and cervix more clearly.

speech pathologist
A univerity-qualified health professional who helps with speech or swallowing difficulties.

The male sex cell. Sperm is made in the testicles and is required for reproduction.

spermatic cord
A cord that runs from the testicles to the abdomen. The spermatic cord contains the tube that carries sperm, blood vessels, nerves and lymph vessels.

sphenoid sinuses
The sinuses located at the centre of the base of the skull.

Strong muscles that form a valve. The urethral and anal sphincter muscles control the release of urine and faeces from the body. An artificial sphincter can aid people with incontinence.

spinal cord
The portion of the central nervous system enclosed in the spinal column, consisting of nerve cells and bundles of nerves that connect all parts of the body with the brain.

spinal tap
See lumbar puncture.

spiral CT scan
A computerised tomography scan that scans the body in a spiral path (helical pattern) to create clearer pictures.

spiritual care practitioner
A professional who offers emotional and spiritual care to patients and their families. Often part of the palliative care team and sometimes called a pastoral carer or chaplain.

spiritual practices
Connection with a higher being or one’s inner self, which often brings comfort and understanding about the world, one’s place in it and the reasons behind life’s challenges. Also called spirituality.

An organ in the lymphatic system located on the left side of the abdomen under the ribs. The spleen produces lymphocytes, filters the blood, and destroys old blood cells, abnormal cells and bacteria.

sporadic cancer
Cancer occurring in an individual without a family history of cancer.

Liquid coughed up from the lungs. Also known as phlegm.

sputum cytology test
Examination of sputum under a microscope to look for cancer cells.

squamocolumnar junction
See transformation zone.

squamous cell
Thin, flat cells found on the surface of the skin.

squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
A type of cancer that starts in the squamous cells of the body, which are thin, flat cells found on the surface of the skin or the lining of certain organs, such as the lungs, vagina and cervix.

The extent of a cancer and whether the disease has spread from an original site to other parts of the body.

Performing tests to determine how far a cancer has spread.

standard treatment
The best treatment known and in current use, based on the results of past research.

A type of mathematics used to collect and analyse large quantities of numerical data.

stem cell research
Research to better understand how stem cells work and how they might be used to help treat disease.

stem cells
Unspecialised cells from which various types of mature cells can develop. Stem cells are found in the bone marrow.

stem cell transplant
A treatment in which diseased blood cells are destroyed by high-dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy, then replaced by healthy stem cells. The healthy stem cells may come from the bone marrow (bone marrow transplant), from the bloodstream (peripheral blood stem cell transplant) or from the umbilical cord blood (cord blood transplant).

A tube placed into a blocked organ to create a passage for substances to pass through.

stereotactic body radiosurgery (SBRT)
A highly targeted form of radiation therapy that focuses thin beams of radiation onto the tumour.

stereotactic surgery
Surgery done using a computer to guide the surgeon.

A class of drugs that are mostly used to reduce inflammation.

A surgically created opening to the outside of the body.

stoma bag
A bag or pouch used to cover a stoma and collect urine or faeces.

The hollow, muscular organ between the end of the oesophagus and the beginning of the small bowel that stores and breaks down food.

stomach cancer
A malignant tumour in the tissue of the stomach. It often starts in the cells that line the mucosa.

stomal therapy nurse
A registered nurse who specialises in caring for people with stomas.

The bulky mass of waste matter that leaves the body through the anus. Also known as faeces.

The connective tissue supporting the lining of the uterus (endometrium).

stromal cell cancer
Ovarian cancer that begins in the cells that release female hormones.

stromal tumour
A rare type of testicular tumour that is not usually cancerous. May include Sertoli cell tumours and Leydig cell tumours.

Injection under the skin.

sublingual gland
One of the major salivary glands. It is found under the tongue.

submandibular gland
One of the major salivary glands. It is found under the jawbone.

The layer of the digestive system next to the mucosa. It has glandular cells that produce mucus and moisten the mucosa.

substitute decision-maker
A person who makes decisions on your behalf if you become incapable of making them yourself. The documents for appointing this person may be called an enduring power of attorney, an enduring guardian or a power of guardianship.

subtotal colectomy
Surgery that removes most of the large bowel.

subtotal gastrectomy
The surgical removal of part of the stomach.

A red, scaly spot on the skin that is a sign of sun damage. Also called solar or actinic keratosis.

A long-term investment fund operated for the purpose of providing a person with retirement income.

superficial cancer
Cancer that only affects cells on or near the surface. Not invasive.

superficial skin cancer
Cancer that only affects the cells on the surface of the epidermis.

superficial spreading melanoma
The most common type of cutaneous melanoma, making up 55–60% of all cases.

supportive care
Care that extends beyond treating the actual cancer. It covers wider issues that occur due to cancer and includes counselling, practical assistance, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, spiritual care and complementary therapies.

Medicine placed in the rectum (the last part of the bowel).

supracricoid laryngectomy
Surgery to remove the upper part of the larynx, including the vocal cords.

supraglottic laryngectomy
Surgery to remove the upper part of the larynx above the vocal cords (supraglottis).

supra-pubic catheter
A catheter inserted through an incision made above the pubic bone and below the bellybutton.

surface epithelium
A skin-like layer of the lining of the uterus (endometrium).

An operation by a surgeon to remove or repair a part of the body affected by cancer, create a stoma, or insert a prosthesis.

surgical oncologist
A doctor who specialises in the surgical treatment of cancer.

When another woman (a surrogate) carries a child and gives birth on behalf of someone else.

When a person does not receive immediate treatment, but instead has their health monitored regularly, with the option of future treatment if necessary. Also called active surveillance.

surveillance policy
Regular check-ups after a cancer is removed to make sure it has not returned.

survival rate
The proportion of patients diagnosed with the same disease who are still alive after a particular period of time.

Changes in the body that a patient feels or sees, which are caused by an illness or treatment, e.g.  pain, tiredness, rash or a stomach-ache.

A substance made by chemical process to imitate a natural product.

syringe driver
A battery-operated pump that gives a continuous dose of a drug.

systemic chemotherapy
Chemotherapy that circulates through the body. It is usually given through a vein (intravenously) or as tablets.

systemic treatment
Treatment that affects the whole body.

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tai chi
Part of traditional Chinese medicine, this active exercise technique incorporates coordinated body movement, breathing techniques and meditation to create stability in the body.

An anti-oestrogen drug used to treat breast cancer.

targeted drug therapy
A type of targeted therapy. Drugs may prevent angiogenesis (blood vessel growth), cause apoptosis (cell death) or block proteins or enzymes telling the cancer to grow.

targeted therapy
Treatment that attacks specific particles (molecules) within cells that allow cancer to grow and spread. The two main types of targeted therapy at present are monoclonal antibodies and small molecule inhibitors.

A lymphocyte that is produced in the bone marrow and matures in the thymus gland.

TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation)
A technique that involves applying a mild electric current to the skin where the pain occurs.

terminal illness
An illness that is unlikely to be cured and will eventually result in a person’s death. It may also be called a life-limiting illness.

terminal stage
When a person who has an incurable disease is showing signs and symptoms that suggest their death is imminent.

See testicles.

Two egg-shaped glands that produce sperm and the male sex hormone, testosterone. They are found in the scrotum. Also called testes.

testicular sperm extraction
Surgically removing sperm from testicular tissue.

The major male sex hormone produced by the testicles. Testosterone promotes the development of male sex characteristics. A small amount is also made in the ovaries and helps increase sexual desire in women.

therapeutic mammaplasty
A breast reduction done at the same time as breast-conserving surgery.

therapeutic touch
A bodywork technique where the practitioner’s soothing touch calms the body by restoring the flow of energy.

Another word for treatment.

A procedure in which a hollow needle is inserted between the ribs to drain excess fluid. Also called a pleural tap.

A surgical procedure where a cut is made in the chest and a small video camera with a telescope called a thorascope is inserted. Also called video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS).

A surgical procedure in which a long cut is made in the chest to examine, biopsy and/or remove a tumour.

three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT)
A type of external radiotherapy that uses a computer to precisely map the location of the cancer within the body. Delivers high doses of radiation to the tumour while sparing the normal tissues as much as possible. Beams are usually delivered from several different directions.

A low level of platelets. It can be a side effect of chemotherapy and makes you more prone to bleeding and bruising. 

The formation of presence of a blood clot.

thymus gland
A part of the lymphatic system. It contains lymphocytes and filters blood.

A brand of man-made thyroid-stimulating hormone. It is used to test for remaining or recurring cancer cells in people treated for thyroid cancer, or to prepare for radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment.

thyroglobulin (Tg)
A protein used by the thyroid to make thyroid hormones.

A butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located at the base of the neck. The thyroid produces hormones to control the body’s metabolism and calcium levels.

The surgical removal of the thyroid gland. Also called a total thyroidectomy.

Benign inflammation of the thyroid.

thyroid lymphoma
A type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma affecting the thyroid gland.

thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
A hormone produced by the pituitary gland that prompts the thyroid gland to produce and release the hormones T3 and T4. The pituitary and hypothalamus glands are responsible for TSH production.

thyroxine (T4)
A hormone produced by the thyroid gland that regulates the body’s metabolism. T4 can be converted into a hormone called tri-idothyronine (T3).

Continuous ringing in the ears.

A collection of cells of similar type that make up an organ or structure in the body. When removed from the body, tissue is sometimes called a biospecimen.

tissue bank
A secure place where body tissue, such as blood, is frozen and stored for future research.

tissue banking
When people donate their tissue for research in the future.

tissue expander
An inflatable implant inserted under the skin where the breast was, which is slowly stretched with regular injections of saline until it is the same size as the natural breast. The expander is later removed and replaced with a permanent implant.

TNM system
A type of staging system detailing the extent of the cancer. T stands for tumour, N for lymph nodes and M for metastasis.

When the body no longer responds to a drug, so a higher dose is needed to get the same level of pain control.

A type of radiotherapy that allows the radiation beams to be shaped around a tumour more precisely.

tongue analysis
A diagnostic technique used in traditional Chinese medicine in which the tongue’s colour, shape, coating and texture are examined to find out about the state of a person’s health.

Small masses of lymphatic tissue on either side of the back of the mouth that help to fight infection.

topical chemotherapy
Treatment with a drug that is applied to an area of your skin, rather than being given by injection or tablet.

topical treatment
Treatment that is applied to an area of the skin as a cream, lotion or gel.

total colectomy
Surgery that removes the entire large bowel.

total gastrectomy
The surgical removal of the stomach.

The study of poisonous substances. It is a branch of pharmacology.

The windpipe. The airway that brings inhaled air from the nose and mouth into the lungs.

The surgical removal of the cervix and some surrounding tissue.

tracheoesophageal puncture
A surgically created valve between the trachea and oesophagus to create a low-pitched voice.

tracheoesophageal speech
When a person forces air between a surgically created valve between the trachea and oesophagus to create a voice-like sound.

Surgery to make a hole at the base of the neck into the trachea (windpipe), which allows you to breathe. 

traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)
A broad system of holistic health care originating in Asia, which includes treatments such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, acupressure, qi gong and tai chi.

traditional medicine (traditional therapies)
A term used by complementary therapists to mean old systems of medicine that are passed down through the ages. Medical practitioners may use the term to mean mainstream (conventional) medicine that is practised in hospitals today.

TRAM flap reconstruction
A transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous (TRAM) flap reconstruction. This is an operation that uses tissue and muscle from the stomach to create a reconstructed breast.

transarterial chemoembolisation (TACE)
Chemotherapy is injected directly into a tumour and the blood vessels are closed off so the cancer is starved of oxygen and nutrients.

A small device used in an ultrasound. It can be passed over the surface of the body or inserted into an opening like the vagina or rectum.

transformation zone
The area in the cervix where the squamous cells and the glandular cells meet. 

The process of transferring body fluid (such as blood) from one person into another.

transitional cell carcinoma
Cancer that occurs in the cells that line parts of the urinary tract (transitional cells).

transitional cells
A type of cell lining many organs, including the bladder. Also called urothelial cells.

translational research
Research that fast-tracks results from basic research into studies that focus on a clinical situation.

trans-oral robotic surgery (TORS)
Surgery to remove a tumour with robotic surgical equipment.

When a diseased organ is removed and replaced by a healthy organ that has been given by a donor.

transurethral resection of bladder tumour (TURBT)
The most common type of surgery for non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer. A cystoscope is used to remove the tumour through the urethra.

transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP)
A surgical procedure to remove tissue from the prostate that is restricting urinary flow.

transvaginal ultrasound
A test that uses soundwaves to create pictures of the uterus, ovaries and other female reproductive organs.

transverse colectomy
A type of colectomy where tissue is removed from the middle of the colon.

transverse colon
The section of the colon between the ascending and descending colon.

treatment trial
A trial that tests a new or modified treatment.

transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous (TRAM) flap
A type of breast reconstruction that uses the transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous muscle along with skin and fat to create a new breast shape.

transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous (TRAM)
One of the two large, flat stomach muscles called the rectus abdominis muscle. Commonly known as the abs or six-pack.

trephine biopsy
The removal of a bone tissue sample using a needle.

trial of void
A test to see how much urine is produced (void) during urination.

The muscle on the back of the arm between the elbow and the shoulder.

trigger point
A sensitive area of the body which, when stimulated, gives rise to a reaction elsewhere in the body.

tri-idothyronine (T3)
A hormone produced by the thyroid gland that regulates the body’s metabolism.

trimodality therapy
The use of three different types of treatment: chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy.

triple test
Collection of three tests to diagnose breast cancer. Includes physical examination, breast imaging such as mammogram and ultrasound, and biopsy results.

Difficulty opening the mouth fully, with usually less than 2 cm between top and bottom teeth.

A new or abnormal growth of tissue on or in the body. A tumour may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).

tumour ablation
Treatment that focuses directly on a tumour with the aim of destroying it but not actually removing it from the body.

tumour markers
Chemicals produced by cancer cells and released into the blood. These may suggest the presence of a tumour in the body. Markers can be found by blood tests or by testing tumour samples.

tunica vaginalis
A pouch of serous membrane covering the testicles.

two-stage hepatectomy
When a tumour is surgically removed from one side of the liver, then after a period of recovery and liver regrowth, another tumour is surgically removed from the other side of the liver.

two-stage reconstruction
A type of implant reconstruction completed over two separate operations.

A genetic syndrome linked to oesophageal cancer.

type 2 diabetes
When the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or does not use it properly.

tyrosine kinase
A chemical messenger that tells cells when to divide and grow.

tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI)
A small molecule inhibitor that blocks enzyme involved with cells growth. A targeted therapy.

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ulcerative colitis
A benign bowel disease that may increase the risk of bowel cancer.

A small wound in skin or lining of mouth or stomach.

A scan that uses soundwaves to create a picture of part of the body. An ultrasound can be used to measure the size and position of a tumour.

ultraviolet (UV) radiation
The part of sunlight that causes tanning, sunburn and skin damage. It is also produced by solariums, tanning lamps and sun beds. UV radiation cannot be seen or felt.

undifferentiated sarcoma
An aggressive type of uterine sarcoma.

unfair dismissal
When an employee is terminated from a job and the dismissal is considered to be harsh, unjust or unreasonable.

unlawful termination
When a person’s employment is terminated by their employer for a number of reasons, including a reason that is discriminatory, or absence from work because of illness.

unregistered health practitioner
A health care provider who is not legally required to be registered with a government registration board but can practise in their field as long as they meet professional requirements. 

Not able to be surgically removed. Also called irresectable or non-resectable.

upper GI endoscopy
See gastroscopy.

A medical instrument used for examining the ureters.

A test using a thin tube with a light and camera (ureteroscope) to examine the ureters. It is performed under a general anaesthetic.

The tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

The tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. For men, the urethra also carries semen.

urinary system
The system that removes wastes from the blood and expels them from the body in urine. It includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.

Liquid waste from the body.

A surgeon who specialises in treating diseases of the urinary organs in females and of the urinary and sex organs in males.

A procedure that creates a small passageway from a piece of bowel to replace the bladder. The passageway (ileal conduit) carries urine from the ureters to an opening (stoma) on the abdomen wall. The urine drains from the stoma into a bag on the outside of the body.

urothelial carcinoma
Cancer that starts in the urothelium, the layer of urothelial cells that line the bladder. Sometimes called transitional cell carcinoma (TCC).

urothelial cells
Cells that line parts of the urinary tract, such as where the kidney joins the ureter, in the ureter itself, in the bladder and in some parts of the urethra. This forms a watertight lining. Also called transitional cells.

The inner lining of the bladder.

uterine sarcoma
A cancer affecting the smooth muscle of the uterus or the stroma (connective tissue around the lining of the uterus).

A hollow muscular organ in a woman’s lower abdomen in which a fertilised egg (ovum) grows and a foetus is nourished until birth. Also called the womb.

UV Index
An internationally standard measure of the intensity of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.

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A substance given to stimulate the body’s production of antibodies and provide immunity against a disease.

A muscular canal about 7–10 cm long that extends from the entrance of the uterus to the vulva.

vaginal adenosis
Abnormal cellular changes on the surface of the vagina.

vaginal atrophy (atrophic vaginitis)
Thinning and inflammation of the vaginal walls due to a decline in oestrogen.

vaginal dilator
A cylinder-shaped device that is inserted into the vagina to keep the walls of the vagina open and supple.

vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN)
A condition of the vagina that can develop into vaginal cancer if untreated.

vaginal reconstruction
See vaginoplasty.

vaginal stenosis
Narrowing of the vagina. It may be caused by radiation therapy to the pelvic area or by vaginal surgery.

An operation that removes some or all of the vagina.

A spasm in the vaginal or pelvic muscles that may prevent sexual intercourse.

An operation to create a new vagina using skin and muscle from other parts of the body. Also called a vaginal reconstruction.

An examination of the vagina with a colposcope, a magnifying instrument with a bright light.

vaporiser (oil burner)
A vessel in which essential oils are placed above a flame or other heat source to release the aroma.

vas deferens
Tubes in the male reproductive system that carry the sperm from the testes to the prostate.

A blood vessel that takes blood towards the heart.

venous access device
A catheter or other intravenous device surgically placed under the skin to provide access to veins.

verrucous carcinoma
A rare, slow-growing type of vulvar cancer that looks like a large wart.

The bones or segments of the spinal column that protect the spinal cord.

video-assisted thorascopic surgery (VATS)
A surgical procedure where a cut is made on the chest and a small video camera with a telescope called a thoracoscope is inserted.

vigorous intensity
Hard exercise that can usually only be done for short periods of time.

A type of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour that produces a hormone-like substance called vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP).

virtual colonoscopy
A medical imaging procedure that uses a CT or MRI scanner to create and display images.

visceral pleura layer
The inner layer of pleura that is attached to the lungs.

Guided imagery.

vital force (vital energy)
The life force within the body that contributes to people’s health and wellbeing. It is stimulated by nourishing foods or medicines, mind–body techniques and touch therapies.

vital signs
Measurements of the body’s pulse rate, temperature, respiration rate and blood pressure. This indicates the state of essential body functions.

Essential substances found in food. The body needs vitamins to burn energy, repair tissue, assist metabolism and fight infection.

vocal cords
The part of the larynx that vibrates to produce the sounds required for speech. Also called the glottis.

volume replacement of miniflap
A procedure to place a small flap of muscle and tissue from the back into the breast to fill in an area where cancer has been removed.

volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT)
A type of radiation therapy that rotates around the treatment area to deliver radiation to the body.

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

von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL)
A rare genetic condition that involves abnormal tumour growth in parts of the body rich in blood supply. People with VHL may have a higher risk of developing kidney cancer.

The external sexual organs (genitals) of a woman. It includes the mons pubis, labia and clitoris.

vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN)
A condition that occurs in the skin of the vulva and can develop into vulvar cancer if untreated.

vulvar lichen planus
A non-cancerous condition affecting the skin in the vulvar area.

vulvar lichen sclerosus
A non-cancerous condition affecting the skin in the vulvar area.

vulvar melanoma
A type of vulvar cancer that develops from  melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells that give skin its colour.

Removal of some or all of a woman’s outer sex organs (the vulva). In a partial vulvectomy, part of the vulva is removed; in a radical vulvectomy, the entire vulva is removed.

An examination of the vulva using a colposcope, a magnifying instrument with a bright light.

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wart virus
See human papillomavirus (HPV).

watchful waiting
When a person does not need immediate treatment, but instead has their health monitored regularly, with the option of future treatment if necessary. 

wedge resection
Surgery to remove a wedge or part of a lung, but not a complete lobe.

Western herbal medicine
The use of herbs – mainly from Europe – to correct imbalances in the body and bring it back into a state of health. Herbalists prepare individual blends of herbs to address a range of symptoms.

Whipple’s procedure
An operation to remove the head of the pancreas and surrounding structures. Also called a Whipple’s operation, Whipple’s surgery or pancreaticduodenectomy.

white blood cells
One of three types of cells found in the blood. They help fight infection. Types of white blood cells include neutrophils, lymphocytes and monocytes. Also called leucocytes.

wide local excision
A surgical procedure to remove a cancer or tissue and some healthy tissue around it.

Wilms’ tumour
A rare cancer that occurs almost exclusively in children.

withdrawal symptoms
A range of symptoms that occur when a drug is stopped suddenly.

See uterus.

working carer
A full-time or part-time employed person who provides physical, practical and/or emotional support to someone who is ill or disabled.

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Dry mouth.

A type of high energy radiation that shows solid areas in the body such as bone. It is used to diagnose different conditions.

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Yin and Yang
An ancient Asian concept of balance used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is believed that everything is made up of opposites that complement each other. Yin represents coolness, gentleness and darkness; Yang represents heat, strength and light.

An active exercise technique originating from India which focuses on breathing, stretching, strengthening and relaxation. There are many different types of yoga.

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A drug that reduces the brain’s production of oestrogen-stimulating hormones.

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