Glossary

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A

ablation

A treatment that destroys all or part of a cancer using heat or cold.

Aboriginal Health Worker

A health professional who cares for and supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Aboriginal Liaison Officer

A health professional who provides support to patients and families of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, and helps them access health services.

acquired mutation

Damage to the genetic material in the cells that occurs during a person's life and is not not passed from parent to child.

adenocarcinoma

A cancer that starts in the mucus-producing (gland) cells that line many internal organs. Most cancers of the breast, pancreas, lung, prostate and colon are adenocarcinomas.

adjuvant treatment

A treatment given after the main treatment to reduce the chance of a cancer coming back (for example, chemotherapy after surgery).

adolescent and young adult (AYA)

Young people aged 15-25 years old.

adolescent oncologist

A specialist doctor with expertise in treating people with cancer in the 15 - 25 year age group.

adrenal glands

Two glands located just above the kidneys which make hormones that control heart rate, blood pressure, and other important body functions.

advanced cancer

Cancer that has spread from where it started to another part of the body.

afatinib (Giotrif)

A targeted therapy used to treat some non-small cell lung cancer with EFGR gene mutations.

afinitor (Everolimus)

A targeted therapy that interferes with the growth of cancer cells and slows their spread.

alectinib (Alecensa)

An oral targeted therapy used to treat non-small cell lung cancer that has an ALK gene mutation.

anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)

A gene which has a role in controlling the growth of cells. ALK mutations may increase the growth of cancer.

allied health professional

Trained health care workers who provide expert advice and care e.g. psychologist, social worker, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, dietitian

alopecia

The medical term for hair loss, which can be a side effect of some cancer treatments.

alveoli

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

anaemia

A reduction in the number or quality of red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Symptoms of anaemia include tiredness, breathlessness and looking pale.

anaesthetic

A drug that stops a person feeling pain during a medical procedure. A local anaesthetic numbs part of the body, and a general anaesthetic puts a person to sleep for a period of time.

anaesthetist

A doctor who specialises in administering anaesthetics.

anastomosis

Joining two things together. For example, when part of the bowel is cut out and the two cut ends are joined together.

angiogenesis inhibitors

A group of targeted therapy medications that stop new blood vessels from forming.

anorexia

The medical term for loss of appetite.

antibodies

Proteins made by white blood cells, to protect the body against viruses and bacteria.

antigen

Foreign substances, like bacteria and viruses, which cause the body’s immune system to respond by making antibodies.

apoptosis

The programmed death of normal cells, which is how the body usually gets rid of old or damaged or uneeded cells.

aromatase inhibitors

Drugs used to reduce the amount of the female hormone oestrogen in postmenapausal women. They are a type of hormonal therapy used to treat breast cancer.

asbestos

A fibrous material which has been shown to cause some cancers. It was used for insulation and in building products but is now banned in Australia due to the harmful effects of exposure to it.

axillary dissection

An operation to remove some or all of the lymph nodes in the armpit.

anus

The opening through which bowel motions (poo, faeces) are passed out of the body

abdominal-perineal resection

Surgery to remove the rectum and anus, and then create a colostomy or stoma.

anterior resection

Surgery to remove part of the rectum and mesorectum; a stoma may need to be created until the bowel heals.

anastomosis leak

An anastomosis is the joining together of the bowel ends after part of the bowel has been removed. Sometimes after the ends are joined there is a leak from the bowel into the abdomen.

adhesion

Scar tissue that forms internally.

active surveillance

A treatment plan that involves regular assessments by a doctor/specialist, including tests to see if prostate cancer is developing.

androgen deprivation therapy

Hormonal therapy that slows the production of testosterone.

B

barium swallow

A test that involves drinking a thick white liquid containing barium, followed by a series of X-rays to look for any swallowing problems.

basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

Cancer that begins in the lower part of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin). It is the most common form of skin cancer.

benign

Non-cancerous. Benign lumps do not spread to other parts of the body away from where they started.

bevacizumab (Avastin)

A type of monoclonal antibody used to treat several types of cancers. It is given intravenously, and works by slowing the growth of new blood vessels.

biliary bypass surgery

Surgery to relieve a blockage of the bile duct.

biopsy

A procedure used to take a small piece of tissue from part of the body. This is sent to a pathologist who checks it under a microscope to look for cancer cells or other abnormalities.

blood clot

A thickened lump of blood.

blood test

A procedure where a small amount of blood is taken from a vein. The blood sample is sent to a pathologist who tests it for any abnormalities.

body image

How we imagine ourselves physically. This can change after a cancer diagnosis or treatment.

bone marrow

A spongy substance in the centre of some bones where blood cells are made.

bone marrow biopsy

Removal of a small amount of bone marrow tissue with a needle for examination under a microscope.

bone scan

An imaging test that gives important information about the bones, including the location of cancer that may have spread to the bones. It uses a small amount of radioactive material (radioisotope) which is given into a vein.

bowel

The lower part of the digestive system. It is divided into the small bowel and the large bowel (colon and rectum).

bowel cancer

Cancer that starts in the bowel including the appendix, colon, rectum and anus.

BRCA1

A gene which, if faulty (mutated), puts a person at higher risk of developing breast, ovarian, prostate, and some other types of cancer.

BRCA2

A gene which, if faulty (mutated), puts a person at higher risk of developing breast, ovarian, prostate, and some other types of cancer.

brain scan

An imaging test used to find anything that isn’t normal in the brain, including brain cancer and cancer that has spread to the brain from other places in the body.

breast cancer

Cancer that forms in the breast tissue.

breast conserving surgery

Surgery to remove a breast lump without removing the entire breast. It is also called a lumpectomy or wide local excision.

breast physician

A doctor with specialist training in in the diagnosis and management of breast disease, including breast cancer.

breast reconstruction

The surgical rebuilding of a breast after a mastectomy.

breast screening

A way of detecting breast cancer early. It involves women having a mammogram every two years to look for changes that could be cancer.

breast surgeon

A surgeon skilled in operating on the breast.

breathlessness

Feeling short of breath or having difficulty breathing.

bronchioles

The smallest airways in the lungs. They connect the smallest bronchi to the alveoli (air sacs) where oxygen is absorbed into the blood stream.

bronchoscopy

A test where the doctor uses a long flexible tube with a light and camera to look into the trachea (windpipe) and airways in the lungs.

bronchus

A large airway that leads from the trachea (windpipe) to a lung. The plural of bronchus is bronchi.

bulk billing

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

brachytherapy

A type of radiotherapy that delivers radiation from a source (such as radioactive seeds) directly to a cancer, or very close to the cancer.

bowel motion

The body’s waste after water is removed, also called faeces or poo

bowel obstruction

Blockage of the bowel.

C

Can Assist

A not-for -profit organisation that supports people with cancer who live in country NSW.

cancer care coordinator

A health professional who coordinates care for cancer patients and is a point of contact between home and the hospital.

cancer genetics service

A service to assist people who have a family history of cancer by providing information about their risk of developing cancer. They provide counselling, genetic testing, support and advice.

cancer of unknown primary (CUP)

A cancer in which cancer cells are found in the body but the place where the cancer began is not known.

carcinoma

Cancer that starts in epithelial cells in the skin or the tissues that line or cover internal organs.

carcinoma-in -situ

A group of abnormal cells that are still in the place where they first formed and have not spread anywhere else. These abnormal cells may become cancer.

cardiothoracic surgeon

A surgeon with specialist training in treating diseases affecting the organs inside the chest, like the heart and lungs.

cell

The basic building block of the body. We are made of trillions of cells, and different types of cells form the tissues and organs of the body.

cell division

The process where a cell divides into two identical daughter cells.

cervix

Is the lowest part of the uterus (womb) that connects it to the vagina.

chemotherapy

The use of drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells.

chemotherapy cycle

The time from the start of one round of treatment until the start of the next. Chemotherapy normally involves several cycles of treatment.

chest x-ray

An imaging test used to take a picture of the inside of the chest.

clinical trial

A research study used to test treatments or other areas of health care.

coeliac plexus

A network of nerves at the back of the abdomen. Some tumours can press on these nerves and cause pain.

coeliac plexus block

The injection of local anaesthetic into or around the coeliac plexus to relieve pain.

colon

Part of the bowel. It is also known as the large intestine.

colorectal surgeon

A surgeon with specialist training in the surgical management of diseases of the large intestine (bowel), including the colon, rectum and anus.

colposcopy

A procedure where a special maginifying instrument called a colposcope is used to examine the cervix, vagina and vulva.

community nurse

A nurse who provides health care to people in their homes or a community health centre.

compassionate access

When medication is supplied at a reduced cost by a drug company because it is not funded by the Australian Government Pharmacutical Benefits Scheme.

complementary medicine

Treatments that are sometimes used in addition to standard medical treatments, for example acupuncture, massage therapy, hypnosis, and meditation.

complete response

When there are no signs of cancer after treatment is completed.

complication

A medical problem that occurs during a disease, or after a procedure or treatment.

connective tissue

Tissue that supports and surrounds other tissues or organs. Connective tissue includes bone, cartilage, muscle and fat. Cancer of connective tissue is called sarcoma.

constipation

Difficulty with, or infrequent bowel movements.

contraception

A deliberate measure to prevent pregnancy, e.g. use of condoms or contraceptive pill.

cording

A possible side effect of breast cancer surgery. Cording creates rope like structure under the skin of the armpit (axilla) or inner arm. This can cause a feeling of tightness or pain. It is also known as axillary web syndrome.

core biopsy

Taking a sample of tissue (biopsy) through a needle.

crizotinib (Xalkori)

A targeted therapy used to treat non-small cell lung cancer with an ALK gene mutation.

cryosurgery

A procedure in which extreme cold is used to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue. It is also called cryoablation.

CT scan

An imaging procedure used to look at organs inside the body. A CT scan (also called computed tomography or a CAT scan) is series of x-rays taken by a specialised machine.

cystoscopy

A test used to look inside the bladder. A surgeon puts a tube with a light and camera (cystoscope) into the bladder, via the urethra (following local anaesthetic) to check for cancer or other problems.

cytotoxic

Something that kills or damages cells. Some anticancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, are cytotoxic.

colonoscopy

A procedure that involves inserting a long flexible tube (with a camera and light) into the back passage via the anus, while the patient is sedated, to examine the lining of the bowel.

colostomy

Surgery to create an artificial opening in the abdomen (tummy) where an end of bowel (colon) is bought through the abdominal wall. Bowel contents (poo) will come out of the opening (stoma) and be collected in a bag or pouch that covers the stoma.

Crohn's disease

Chronic inflammation of the bowel.

clinical nurse specialist

Specialist cancer nurses who provide patient assessment, support and advice

cancer care coordinator

Specialist cancer nurses who coordinate patient care and provide referrals to other health professionals when needed

clinical nurse consultant

Nurses with extensive knowledge and experience in cancer care, who may specialise in a particular cancer area

curative surgery

Surgery to remove a tumour and any cancer that might have spread into nearby tissue or lymph nodes.

conventional surgery

A surgeon cuts into the body to reach the cancer

D

debulking surgery

An operation to remove as much of a cancer as possible when it cannot be removed completely.

dermatologist

A specialist doctor trained in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the skin, including skin cancers.

diabetes

A disease caused when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. It can happen because of pancreatic cancer or pancreatic surgery.

diagnosis

The process of working out what disease or illness a person has.

diagnostic surgery

Surgery used to help diagnose a disease or condition.

diarrhoea

Passing bowel motions (stools or poo) more often than usual. The motions can be soft and watery.

dietitian

A health professional who specialises in nutrition and diet.

digestion

The breakdown of food in the stomach and bowel so the body can use the nutrients from the food.

digestive system

The body system that processes food and drink, absorbs nutrients and disposes of waste.

digital rectal examination

A physical examination in which a doctor inserts a gloved finger into the back passage (anus) to feel for abnormalities in the rectum or prostate gland.

dimpling

Small dips in the skin over the breast, which can be a sign of breast cancer. Sometimes described as being like orange peel.

disease progression

When cancer continues to grow and spread.

disease-free survival

The length of time after treatment that a patient survives with no sign of the disease. Disease-free survival may be used in a clinical study or trial to help measure how well a treatment works.

double mastectomy

Surgery to remove both breasts.

ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

When the cells inside some of the ducts of the breast have become abnormal, but have not started to spread into the surrounding breast tissue.

ducts

Tubes or channels which carry liquid or chemicals from one part of the body to another. For example, ducts in the breasts carry milk to the nipple.

duodenum

The first part of the small bowel, which lies between the stomach and the rest of the small bowel.

dry orgasm

Having an orgasm without the release of semen from the penis.

dihydrotestosterone

A hormone that is made from testosterone.

E

ear, nose and throat surgeon

A specialist surgeon trained in the treatment of diseases of the ear, nose throat and other parts of the head and neck including the mouth, nasal sinuses, pharynx and larynx (voice box).

early detection

Finding cancer as early as possible, either by recognising early symptoms of cancer, or by screening to find cancers before they cause any symptoms.

epidermal growth factor receptor (EFGR)

A receptor which occurs in high levels on the surface of some cancer cells. This can make these cells grow quickly when epidermal growth factor is present.

electromagnetic radiation

A type of energy that can be natural or man-made. Different types of electromagnetic radiation include sunlight, radio waves, microwaves, x-rays and gamma rays.

endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS)

A test to look at the areas just outside the airways of the lungs. A special bronchoscope with an ultrasound probe is used to do this.

endocrine

Describes tissues or organs that make and release hormones. Examples of endocrine tissues are the pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands.

endocrine cancer

Cancer that occurs in endocrine tissues, which are found in organs of the body that secrete hormones. These include the thyroid, pituitary, parathyroid glands, adrenal glands and pancreas.

endocrine surgeon

A specialist surgeon who has had further training in surgery of some endocrine organs, including the thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, adrenal glands and the pancreas.

endocrinologist

A specialist doctor trained in the diagnosis and management of diseases related to the glands, the tissues in the body that secrete hormones. This includes the thyroid, pituitary, parathyroid glands, adrenal gland and pancreas.

endometrium

The lining of the uterus (womb).

endoscope

A tube-like instrument used to look at tissues inside the body. An endoscope has a light at one end and a lens for viewing at the other. It may also have a tool to remove tissue.

endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography(ERCP)

A procedure that uses an endoscope to examine the pancreatic duct, hepatic duct, common bile duct, duodenal papilla, and gallbladder.

endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)

A test where a tube is passed into the mouth and throat to look at the oesophagus using ultrasound.

endoscopist

A health professional trained in the use of an endoscope. This is a long flexible instrument, with a light and camera on the end, which is used to examine the interior of a hollow organ or cavity in the body.

endoscopy

A test that uses a tube with a light and camera on the end to perform an internal examination.

ENRICH Program

A program conducted by the Cancer Council to improve the quality of life of people after cancer treatment.

enzyme

A protein that speeds up chemical reactions in the body.

epithelial cells

The cells that line or cover the internal and external surfaces of the body.

erlotinib (Tarceva)

A targeted therapy that interferes with the growth and division of cancer cells. Used to treat non-small cell lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.

everolimus (Afinitor)

A targeted therapy that interferes with the growth of cancer cells and slows their spread.

Ewing's sarcoma

A type of bone cancer that usually affects children or young people.

exercise physiologist

A health professional who specialises in exercise for the prevention and management of chronic diseases and injuries.

exocrine gland

A gland that makes enzymes and secretes them through a duct.

external beam radiotherapy (EBRT)

A type of radiotherapy that is delivered to the cancer from outside the body.

erectile dysfunction

The inability, or reduced ability to have an erection in order to have sexual intercourse.

endoscopic surgery

An endoscope is used to take biopsies or perform surgery.

endometrial

Relating to the endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus (womb).

F

faecal occult blood test (FOBT)

A test that checks faeces (bowel motion, poo) for small amounts of blood. It is the test used in the National Bowel Screening Program as blood in faeces can be an early sign of bowel cancer.

faeces

Waste matter from digested food that is passed out of the bowel through the anus. Also called poo, bowel motions or stools.

familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)

A rare, genetically inherited condition where many polyps form in the bowel. These polyps are not cancerous to begin with, but can become cancerous over time if they are not removed surgically (usually during a colonoscopy). People with FAP have an increased chance of getting bowel cancer.

familial atypical multiple mole melanoma (FAMMM)

An inherited condition that increases the risk of developing melanoma and possibly pancreatic cancer.

familial pancreatitis

A rare inherited genetic condition. It is associated with recurrent pancreatitis - inflamation of the pancreas. People with hereditary pancreatitis have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

family history

Health information about a person and their direct relatives. A family history may show a pattern of certain diseases in a family

fatigue

A feeling of extreme tiredness and lack of energy.

faulty gene

An abnormal gene or gene mutation. This can be inherited from parents or happen spontanously. Some faulty genes can increase the risk of certain cancers.

fertility

The ability to have children.

fine needle biopsy

A type of biopsy where tissue or fluid is removed using a thin needle, and examined under a microscope.

G

gamma rays

A type of high energy radiation that is different from x-rays.

gastroenterologist

A specialist doctor trained in the diagnosis and management of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, including the oesophagus, stomach, liver, bile ducts, pancreas, small intestine, colon, rectum and anus.

gastrointestinal surgeon

A surgeon who specialises in surgery on the gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach, liver, pancreas, oesophagus and intestines.

gastroscopy

A type of endoscopy used to examine the oesphagus, stomach and duodenum. A gastroscope is inserted through the mouth.

gefitinib (Iressa)

A type of targeted therapy used for cancer that has a epidermal growth factor receptor (EFGR) gene mutation.

general anaesthetic

Drugs given to causes a temporary loss of consciousness. An anaesthetist gives a general anaesthetic to stop a person feeling pain during surgery.

general surgeon

A specialist doctor trained in the treatment of injury or disease using surgery. General surgeons often undertake gastrointestinal and breast surgery.

gene mutation

An abnormal gene or gene mutation. This can be inherited from parents or happen spontanously. Some faulty genes can increase the risk of certain cancers.

genes

Pieces of DNA that contain information for making proteins. They determine how the body's cells grow and behave.

genetic counsellor

A health professional who provides advice and counselling for people with a family history of cancer.

genetic oncologist

A specialist doctor trained in medical oncology and cancer genetics.

genetic testing

Using blood tests or other tests to look for gene mutations (faulty genes).

geneticist

A specialist doctor trained in genetics who can evaluate, diagnose, and manage patients with hereditary conditions.

glucagon

A hormone produced by the pancreas. It increases the amount of glucose in the bloodstream.

general practitioner (GP)

A specially trained doctor who delivers health care in the community.

grading

A system for classifying cancer cells in terms of how abnormal they appear when examined under a microscope.

gynaecological cancer

Cancer of the female reproductive tract, including the cervix, endometrium, fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, vulvar and vagina.

gynaecological oncologist

A specialist doctor trained in the diagnosis and management of cancers of the female reproductive system, including ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, vaginal cancer, cervical cancer, and vulvar cancer.

gynaecologist

A specialist doctor trained in the diagnosis and management of disorders of the female reproductive system.

Gleason score

A system of grading prostate cancer based on how the cells look under the microscope. It can be an indication of how likely the prostate cancer will spread.

H

haematological cancer

Cancer of the blood cells or bone marrow, such as leukaemia, lymphoma, myelodysplastic syndrome or multiple myeloma.

haematologist

A specialist doctor trained in diseases of the blood.

haematology

The branch of medicine that deals with dieases of the blood, including blood cancers.

haemoptysis

Coughing up sputum (spit) with blood in it.

head and neck cancer

Cancer that starts in the head or neck area. This can include cancer of the mouth, tongue, gums, tonsils, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, nasal cavity, paranasal sinuses and salivary glands.It does not include brain tumours.

health care team

A group of health care professionals who work together to treat people who are ill.

hepatobiliary surgeon

A specialist surgeon trained in surgery of the liver, pancreas, gallbladder and bile ducts.

hepatologist

A specialist doctor trained in the management of diseases of the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts and pancreas.

hormonal therapy

Drugs that stop or slow the growth of cancer cells by affecting the production or activity of hormones in the body.

hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Drug therapy that supplies the body with hormones it can no longer produce. It is used to relieve menopausal symptoms.

hormones

Chemicals that are produced by glands in the body. They travel in the bloodstream to tissues and organs in different parts of the body. They can affect how some cells grow and reproduce.

human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2)

A protein involved in normal cell growth. Some breast and ovarian cancer cells, have increased receptors for this protein.

human papilloma virus (HPV)

A virus that can cause abnormal tissue growth (for example, warts) and other changes to cells. It is a risk factor for some types of cancer.

hyperplasia

An increase in the number of cells in an organ or tissue. These cells appear normal under a microscope. They are not cancer, but may become cancer.

herceptin (Trastuzumab)

A drug used to treat breast cancer. It is a monoclonal antibody that targets HER2 receptors, and is given intravenously or subcutanously.

hemicolectomy

Surgery to remove part of the colon/bowel.

T

trastuzumab (Herceptin)

A targeted therapy that is used to treat HER2-positive breast cancer.

targeted therapy

Drugs that target particular cells in some cancers. There are several different types of targeted therapy.

telehealth

The use of telecommuniction systems, e.g. video conferencing, for health appointments. It is helpful for people who live in rural and remote communities.

tertiary health care

Specialised health care, usually in a hospital with speciality units, e.g. cancer, cardiac, neurology.

thermal ablation

Procedure that involves inserting needles into the cancer and applying heat to them to kill the cancer. A CT scan is used to guide the needle placement.

thoracotomy

An operation that involves opening the chest.

thyroid

A gland in the neck, which helps with growth regulation and metabolism.

tissue

A group of cells that work together to perform a specfic function.

TNM system

A staging system used for cancer to identify how far a cancer has spread. It stands for T - tumour , N - nodes and M - metastasis.

topical

Relating to the surface of the body. It is often used to describe medicines or creams that are applied to the skin.

transarterial chemoembolisation (TACE)

A procedure that involves giving anticancer drugs into blood vessels near the tumour, and then blocking the blood supply to the tumour. This allows a higher amount of drug to reach the tumour for a longer period of time.

treatment plan

A plan which includes detailed information of the patient's disease and the treatment that has been agreed on. It also includes plans for follow up when treatment is finished.

tumour

A new or abnormal growth of tissue on or in the body. A tumour may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).

transverse colectomy

Surgery to remove the middle part of the bowel; the ends are then joined together (anastomosis).

total mesorectal excision

Surgery to remove the rectum and some of the surrounding fatty tissue known as the mesorectum.

total colectomy

Surgery to remove all of the large intestine not including the rectum.

transanal endoscopic microsurgery

An operation using special instruments to allow surgery to be performed through the anus (back passage) into the rectum.

transurethral resection of the prostate

Surgery to remove tissue from the prostate using an instrument that is inserted into the urethra (tip of the penis).A local anaesthetic gel is used first.

testosterone

A hormone that is mainly made in the testes.

I

immune system

The network of cells and organs that defends the body against attacks by bacteria, viruses and other organisms.

immunologist

A specialist doctor trained in immunology (the study of the body's defence mechanisms) and allergy.

immunotherapy

A treatment that stimulates the body's immune system to fight cancer.

incidence

The number of new cancers diagnosed in a partcular time period.

inflammatory breast cancer

A type of breast cancer that affects lymphatic vessels in the skin of the breast. It causes the breast to become red and swollen.

informed decision

A decision made after receiving and understanding all the appropiate information.

inherited

Passed down from parents to their children.

inpatient care

Medical care that takes place when a patient is admitted to a hospital.

insulin

A hormone produced by the pancreas to control the amount of sugar in the blood.

integrated care

The provision of seamless, effective and efficient care that reflects the whole of a person's health needs.

interpreter

A trained professional who helps patients and their families communicate with doctors and others in their own language.

interventional radiologist

A specialist doctor trained in the use of minimally invasive, image guided procedures to diagnose and treat disease.

intra-arterial

Inside the arteries, e.g. intra-arterial chemotherapy is given into an artery.

intramuscular (IM)

Inside the muscles, e.g. intramuscular injection is an injection into a muscle.

intraperitoneal

Inside the peritoneun, which lines the abdomen. e.g. intraperitoneal chemotherapy is given into the space around the abdominal organs.

intrathecal

Inside the fluid-filled space around the spinal cord or brain.

intravenous (IV)

Inside the veins, e.g. intravenous chemotherapy is given into a vein.

intravesical

Within the bladder, e.g. chemotherapy can be put directly into the bladder to treat bladder cancer.

invasive

Cancer that has spread past the layer of tissue where it started and is growing into surrounding healthy tissues.

IPTAAS

Isolated Patient Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS) is a NSW Government initiative designed to financially assist people, particularly in isolated or rural areas, who have to travel significant distances to access specialist medical treatment which is not available locally.

Immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT)

A test that looks for blood in the bowel motion, and is used to screen for bowel cancer.

ileostomy

Surgery to create an artificial opening in the abdomen (tummy) where an end of bowel (ileum) is bought through an opening (stoma) in the abdomen (tummy). Bowel contents (poo) will come out of the opening (stoma) and be collected in a bag or pouch that covers the stoma.

incontinence

The accidental loss or leaking of urine (wee) or bowel contents (faeces, poo, or wind).

impotence

The inability to have an erection.

L

lobular carcinoma in situ

Abnormal cells in the lobules of the breast that increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

laparoscopy

A type of surgery also known as key hole surgery. A surgeon uses small instruments and a camera to look inside the body.

laser surgery

Surgery that uses a laser beam to cut tissue.

leukaemia

A cancer of the blood which begins when white blood cells become abnormal and grow out of control. These white cells are immature and abnormal, and don't carry out their infection fighting function.

libido

The desire for sexual intercourse; sex drive.

linear accelerator

A machine used to create the high-energy radiation used in external beam radiotherapy.

liver

A large organ in the upper abdomen.

lobectomy

An operation to remove a whole lobe of an organ, e.g. a lobe of the lung or liver.

lobules (breast)

The milk producing glands of the breast.

local anaesthetic

A drug used to block pain in a certain area of the body. It causes temporary loss of feeling.

localised

When cancer is limited to the area it started and hasn't spread to nearby structures or other parts of the body.

lumbar puncture

A test used to look at the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and brain (cerebrospinal fluid or CSF). A needle is inserted into the spine in the lower back to collect a small sample of CSF. The sample is checked for cancer cells or abnormal substances, such as blood or proteins.

lumpectomy

An operation to remove a breast cancer and some normal tissue around it. Also called breast-conserving surgery or partial mastectomy.

lung

A pair of organs in the chest that supply the body with oxygen and remove carbon dioxide.

lung cancer

Cancer that forms in the tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining the air passages.

Lung Cancer Network

An Australian not-for-profit organistion that provides education and support to people affected by lung cancer.

lymph

A clear fluid that travels throughout the lymphatic system and carries cells that help fight infections and other diseases.

lymph nodes

Small bean shaped structures that are part of the immune system. They filter lymph fluid and help fight infection and diseases. They are in many parts of the body including under the arms and in the neck.

lymphatic system

A network of tissues and organs found throughout the body. It produces, stores, and carries white blood cells that fight infections and other diseases. It includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels.

lymphoedema

A swelling of a part of the body caused by the lymphatic vessels or nodes being damaged or not forming correctly. Some people can get lymphoedema after surgery or radiotherapy for certain cancers.

lymphoedema therapist

A trained health professional who manages the effects of lymphoedema and teaches self management techniques to people affected by lymphoedema.

lymphoma

Cancer of the lymphatic system. There are two main types of lymphoma: non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and Hodgkin lymphoma.

Lynch syndrome

An inherited disorder. People with Lynch syndrome have a higher than normal chance of developing colorectal and other types of cancer. It used to be called hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC).

lapatinib (Tykerb)

A targeted therapy drug used to treat breast cancer that is HER2 positive.

laparoscopic surgery

A surgeon performs surgery inside the abdomen using a laparoscope through small cuts in the abdominal wall.

J

jaundice

A condition where the skin and whites of the eyes become yellow and urine becomes darker. This happens when the liver isn't working properly.

K

Klinefelter’s syndrome

A disorder that affects men who are born with an extra X chromosome. It isn't inherited.

KRAS

A gene that can increase the risk of cancer when there is a mutation in it. The KRAS gene is involved in cell growth and cell death (apoptosis).

M

magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test to look at the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts and pancreas. It gives very detailed images.

malignancy

A cancerous tumour that can invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

mammogram

An x-ray of the breast that can be used to check for cancer.

mastectomy

The surgical removal of the whole breast.

multidisciplinary team (MDT)

A team of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals who meet regularly to plan treatment for people with newly diagnosed cancer and to review the treatment plans of existing patients during or after their treatment.

mediastinoscopy

A test that uses a tube with a light and camera at the end to examine inside the chest, e.g. the lungs and nearby lymph nodes. It may also have a tool to take a sample of tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.

medical imaging

The use of different technologies to produce images of the body to help with diagnosis or management of medical conditions. Examples include x-rays, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

medical oncologist

A doctor who specialises in treating cancer using drugs, including chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and targeted therapy.

medical physicist

An allied health professional involved in radiotherapy. They monitor radiation safety, and are involved with treatment planning.

Medicare

Australia's public health scheme that is funded by the federal government. It provides Australian citizens with affordable health care.

Medicare Safety Net

A government scheme that provides benefits for people who require frequent medical attention. This is to try to limit medical costs for these people.

melanoma

A form of skin cancer that begins in cells called melanocytes.

mesothelioma

A type of cancer that starts from mesothelial cells. These cells line the outer surface of most of the body's internal organs

metastasis

A tumour formed by cancer cells that have spread from a primary tumour in another part of the body. It can also be called a metastatic tumour or secondary cancer.

metastatic

Describes cancer that has spread from where it started to another part of the body.

moderately-differentiated

Used to describe the grade of a cancer. The cells don't look the same as normal cells, and are dividing faster than normal.

Mohs surgery

A special skin cancer surgery where pieces of the cancer are removed and examined under a microscope. The surgeon continues to cut away tissue until all the cancer is removed.

mole

A benign growth on the skin that is usually dark in colour.

monoclonal antibodies

A group of targeted therapies that interfere with how the cancer cells grow and divide.

magnetic resonance imaging

An imaging procedure used to look at organs inside the body. It uses radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body.

multidisciplinary care

When doctors, nurses and allied health professionals work together to manage the care of patients.

mutation

A permanent change to the DNA of a gene. Some mutations can increase the chance of developing cancers.

myelodysplastic syndrome

A group of cancers in which the bone marrow produces abnormal, immature blood cells.

myeloma

A type of cancer that develops from plasma cells in the bone marrow.

mucinous cancer

Cancer that starts in the epithelial cells that line internal organs and produce mucin (the main part of mucous).

MYH-associated polyposis (MAP)

A form of Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) although it is milder, and both parents must carry a genetic mutation for MAP in order for the condition to develop in any of their children.

MRI scan

An imaging procedure used to look at organs inside the body. It uses radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. MRI is short for magnetic resonance imaging.

multidisciplinary team

A group of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals who treat cancer patients. Team members meet regularly to discuss their patients and plan their treatment.

N

Nanoknife surgery

A procedure that involves inserting needles (electrodes) into the cancer and sending electrical impulses to kill the cancer.

nausea

Feeling sick or as though you are going to vomit.

neo-adjuvant treatment

Treatment that is given before the main (primary) treatment.

neurofibromatosis

A condition caused by an inherited faulty gene. People with neurofibromatosis have an increased risk of developing some cancers.

neurological cancer

Cancer that starts in cells in the nervous system, such as the brain or spinal cord.

neutropenia

A decrease in the number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that are important in fighting infection.

nivolumab (Opdivo)

A type of immunotherapy treatment used to treat some cancers.

non-invasive

Cancer that has not spread from where it started.

non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

One of the main types of lung cancer. It is further divided into adenocarcinoma, squamous cell and large cell lung cancers.

nuclear medicine

A medical specialty which uses radioactive material to diagnose and treat disease.

National Bowel Screening Program

A national screening program for bowel cancer. It involves testing people who don’t have any symptoms of bowel cancer.

nuclear medicine physician

Specialist doctor who performs some special tests, like PET scans and bone scans

nurse practitioner

Registered nurse who has completed extra training and can see patients in clinics and prescribe medications.

O

obese

Being very overweight. It is a risk for developing some forms of cancer.

occupational therapist

A health professional who assesses people's daily activities and helps them to manage problems caused by illness.

oesophagus

The 'food pipe' that takes food and drink from the mouth to the stomach

oestrogen

One of the female sex hormones.

Oncotype DX test

A test to help predict how some breast cancers will behave and respond to treatment.

optimal cancer care pathways

Guides to help explain what happens from diagnosis and throughout people's cancer care. They describe the recommended care for specific types of cancer.

oral and maxillofacial surgeon

A medical and dental specialist who treats the entire facial area including the mouth, jaws, neck and face.

organ

A part of the body that is made up of different tissues and performs a specific function e.g. the heart.

orthopaedic oncologist surgeon

A specialist orthopaedic surgeon who manages bone and soft tissue tumours.

osimertinib (Tagrisso)

A targeted therapy used to treat some advanced cancers.

osteosarcoma

A cancer of the bone that usually affects the large bones of the arm or leg. It occurs most commonly in young people.

osteoporosis

Thinning or weakening of the bones.

outpatient care

Medical care that takes place without being admitted to hospital.

outreach service

When specialists from large cancer centres provide services to smaller regional locations, in person or through telemedicine.

ovarian

Relating to the ovaries. These are the female reproductive organs that contains eggs (ova).

ovum

The female egg that is produced by the ovaries.

orchidectomy

The surgical removal of one or both testes.

P

paediatric oncologist

A doctor who specialises in treating cancers in children, adolescents and young adults.

paediatric surgeon

A specialist surgeon trained in the surgical management of disease in infants, children, adolescents and young adults.

Paget’s disease of the nipple

A rare form of breast cancer that affects the nipple and the area around it. It can be red, scaly and itchy.

PALB2

An abnormal inherited gene that can increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

palliative care

Care to control symptoms and improve quality of life. It includes the treatment of physical symptoms as well as helping with emotional, spiritual and social needs.

palliative surgery

Surgery used to relieve symptoms.

Pancare Foundation

A not-for-profit organisation that provides information and support for people affected by pancreatic cancer and other upper gastrointestinal cancers.

pancreas

An organ in the digestive system. It produces enzymes that help with digestion, and insulin that helps to regulate the body's blood sugar level.

pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (PNET)

A tumour that forms in islet cells (hormone-making cells) of the pancreas. PNETs may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).

pancreaticoduodenectomy

A complex surgical procedure that removes part of the pancreas and surrounding tissues. Also called a Whipple procedure.

pancreatitis

Inflammation of the pancreas.

partial response

When a cancer has reduced in size but hasn't been cured.

pathologist

A specialist doctor who examines cells or tissues to identify abnormalities or diagnose cancer.

pembrolizumab (Keytruda)

A targeted therapy.

peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT)

A treatment for some neuroendocrine cancers. A radiopeptide is used to deliver a small amount of radioactive material directly to the cancer cells.

peritoneum

The lining of the abdomen.

pertuzumab (Perjeta)

A monoclonal antibody given to treat some types of breast cancer.

positron emission tomography

An imaging procedure used to look at organs inside the body. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein. Then a PET scanner makes images of areas in the body where it is used. It is often combined with a CT scan (PET/CT).

Peutz-Jeghers syndrome

An inherited condition. People with this condition have an increased risk of developing some cancers.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)

A government funded scheme that subsidises the costs of some medications.

physical examination

When a doctor examines the whole body or parts of the body.

physiotherapist

A health professional who assesses, diagnoses and treats patients through physical means. Physiotherapists are specialists in how the body moves and functions.

plastic and reconstructive surgeon

A specialist surgeon who corrects the appearance or function of parts of the body affected by injuries or diseases, including cancer.

platelets

Cells in the blood that are involved with blood clotting.

pleura

A thin layer of tissue that covers the lungs and lines the interior wall of the chest cavity.

pneumonectomy

The surgical removal of a lung.

poorly-differentiated

A tumour grade, where the cancer cells appear very abnormal and different from normal cells.

postmenopausal

When a women has gone through the change of life (menopause).

predictive testing

A form of genetic testing to see if family members of a person with a gene mutation (faulty gene) also have the mutation.

prehabilitation

Improving a patient's health before they start treatment.

premenopausal

When a women has not been through the change of life (menopause).

prevalence

The number of people in a population with a certain illness at a particular time, or over a period of time.

primary cancer

Cancer when it first starts in the body. Cancer cells from a primary cancer may spread to other parts of the body and form secondary cancers.

primary health care

Health care that is provided in the community or home, e.g. care from a GP, pharmacist or dentist.

primary treatment

The main treatment for a cancer, e.g. surgery.

progesterone

One of the female sex hormones.

prognosis

The likely outcome of someone's disease.

prophylatic surgery

Surgery to reduce a person's risk of getting cancer. Usually done for people with a high risk of developing a particular cancer.

prostate

A gland in the male reproductive system. It produces a fluid that forms part of the semen.

psychologist

A health professional who specialises in providing emotional support and managing emotional difficulties such as anxiety, distress and depression.

psycho-oncologist

A health professional who specialises in providing psychological support for people with cancer.

punch biopsy

A biopsy where a small round piece of tissue is removed. The tissue is reviewed by a pathologist.

panproctocolectomy

Surgery to remove all of the bowel including the rectum and anus.

paralytic ileus

Obstruction of the bowel due to paralysis of the abdominal muscles. It causes constipation, distended abdomen, nausea and vomiting.

polyp

An abnormal growth in the lining of the bowel.

prostate specific antigen (PSA)

A blood test that measures the amount of a protein produced in the prostate called prostate specfic antigen (PSA).

pharmacist

A health professional who prepares and dispenses medicines (drugs).

palliative care physician

A doctor who specialises in palliative care, to manage symptoms and improve the quality of life of patients.

PET scan

An imaging procedure used to look at organs inside the body. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein. Then a PET scanner makes images of areas in the body where it is used. PET is short for positron emission tomography.

prophylactic surgery

Surgery to reduce the risk of cancer. For example, some women with a very high risk of getting breast cancer may choose to have a double mastectomy (both breasts removed) to reduce this risk.

R

radiation oncologist

A doctor who specialises in treating cancer using radiotherapy.

radiation therapist

A health professional who helps to plan and give radiotherapy.

radioactive

A substance that gives out radiation energy.

radioembolisation

A procedure that involves putting radioactive pellets into blood vessels that lead to a tumour. This blocks the blood supply to the tumour and makes sure the radiation is given directly into it.

radiofrequency ablation

A procedure which uses radio waves to heat and destroy cancer cells.

radioisotope (radionuclide) scan

An imaging procedure used to show the function of organs inside the body. Small amounts of radioactive material are injected into a vein, breathed in or swallowed, and a machine called a gamma camera is used to produce images.

radioisotope therapy

A treatment that uses radioactive materials (radioisotopes) to treat diseases including cancer.

radiologist

A doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating diseases using medical imaging techniques, such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

radiotherapy

The use of radiation to kill or damage cancer cells and stop them from growing and multiplying.

receptor

A special area on the surface on a cell, that some substances can attach to. This can change the way the cell works. There are many types of receptors.

reconstructive surgery

Surgery to reshape or rebuild a part of the body that has been damaged or operated on previously, e.g. breast reconstruction following a mastectomy.

recurrence

When cancer comes back after treatment.

regional anaesthetic

The use of medication to numb an area of the body.

regional spread

When a cancer has spread from where it started to nearby tissue.

registrars

Doctors undergoing training to become consultants in a particular specialty.

rehabilitation

Helping people to improve their strength, function and independence after illness.

respiratory physician

A specialist physician trained in the diagnosis and treatment of lung conditions.

respiratory system

The system in the body responsible for breathing. It includes the nose, throat, trachea (windpipe), and lungs.

response rate

The number or percentage of people who benefit from a cancer treatment.

risk factors

Something that increases a person's chance of getting cancer.

robotic surgery

Surgery performed using a robot controlled by a surgeon.

ROS1

A gene that affects cell growth. ROS1 gene mutations have been found in some types of cancer.

rectum

The final part of the bowel, where faeces/poo is stored before it is passed out of the body via the anus

RAS

A group of genes that make proteins that control cell growth and cell death. Mutation of the RAS gene can cause cancer cells to grow and spread.

radical prostatectomy

The surgical removal of the entire prostate and some of the tissue around it.

radiographer

A health professional who performs medical imaging tests, such as x-rays and scans.

radioactive

Giving out radiation energy.

S

sarcoma

Cancer of the bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue.

satellite service

A small service providing cancer treatment and support, generally in a regional area, which is linked to a larger cancer service.

scan

A test that makes pictures of the inside of the body. There are several types of scans that include ultrasound, CT, MRI and PET.

schedule fee

The amount the government recommends as a charge for a medical service. Benefits received from Medicare are based on the schedule fees. Health service providers can charge more than the schedule fee.

screening

Testing large groups of people to diagnose cancer early before there are symptoms e.g. breast screening mammograms.

second opinion

Getting another doctor's opinion about your diagnosis or treatment.

secondary cancer

A cancer that starts to grow in a distant part of the body, from cells that have broken away from the original (primary) cancer. It can also be called a metastatic cancer or a metastasis.

sedation

Giving someone a medication to make them calm and relaxed.

sentinel node biopsy

Procedure to identify the first lymph node a cancer is likely to spread to, and remove it to test for cancer.

seroma

A collection of fluid under the wound after an operation.

side effects

Unwanted effects of treatment.

skin cancer

Cancer that forms in the tissues of the skin.

small cell lung cancer

One of the main types of lung cancer.

social worker

A health professional who specialises in providing emotional support, counselling and advice about practical and financial matters.

solid tumours

A mass or lump of tissue that does not contain any fluid. Solid tumours can be malignant (cancer) or benign (not cancer).

speech pathologist

A health professional trained in the diagnosis, management and treatment of people who have problems communicating, or who have difficulty with eating and swallowing.

sputum cytology

The examination of sputum (spit) under a micrscope to look for any cancer cells.

squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

Cancer that begins in squamous cells. These are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin and the lining of the respiratory and digestive tracts.

staging

Finding out the size of a cancer and how far it has spread. It usually involves having scans and other tests.

statistics

A type of maths that involves collecting and interpreting large amounts of information.

stent

A hollow tube that is placed in the body to relieve a blockage.

sterotactic body radiation therapy

A specialised and highly targeted type of external beam radiotherapy.

stomal therapy nurse

A nurse responsible for the care and education of people who have a stoma. This is an artificial opening created by surgery to get rid of body wastes, such as urine or faeces. A stoma may be permanent or temporary.

subcutanous

Relates to the layer of fat just under the skin, e.g. some chemotherapy can be given as a subcutanous injection.

sunitinib

A targeted therapy.

surgeon

A specialist doctor who treats diseases using surgery.

surgery

A type of treatment that involves operations, for example to remove a tumour from the body.

surgical oncologist

A specialist surgeon trained in the surgical management of benign and malignant tumours.

survival rates

The number or percentage of people diagnosed with a particular type of cancer who are alive after a certain period of time.

symptoms

Changes to the body that a person notices e.g. a lump, pain, or a cough.

sigmoidoscopy

A procedure where a flexible tube (with a camera and light) is inserted into the back passage via the anus, while the patient is sedated, to look at a section of the colon, known as the sigmoid colon, for any abnormalities.

signet ring cancer

An aggressive type of cancer where the cells look like signet rings under the microscope.

sigmoid colectomy

Surgery to remove a part of the bowel called the sigmoid colon.

stoma

An artificial opening on the outside of the abdomen (tummy).

sonographer

A health professional who performs diagnostic ultrasound scans.

secondary health care

Usually involves care by specialist doctors and other health professionals in a hospital or a private clinic.

U

ultrasound

An imaging procedure used to look at organs inside the body. It uses high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) to form a picture of body tissues.

undifferentiated

A tumour grade, where the cancer cells have not specialised and don't look normal.

upper gastrointestinal cancer

Cancer of the stomach, oesophagus, pancreas, small intestine, liver, gallbladder or spleen.

upper gastrointestinal surgeon

A specialist surgeon trained in surgery of the upper parts of the gastrointestinal tract. These include the oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver and gallbladder. Also called an Upper GI Surgeon.

urinalysis

A test in which a urine sample is checked for blood, proteins, bacteria, cancer cells or other abnormalities.

urogenital cancer

Cancer of the urinary tract in both men and women, or of the male genitalia. Urogenital cancer includes cancer of the prostate, bladder, kidney, testes and penis.

urologist

A specialist doctor trained in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the urinary tract in both men and women, and male reproductive diseases.

ulcerative colitis

Inflammation and ulceration of the lining of the bowel.

urgency

An unstoppable urge to pass urine (wee).

V

vaccine

A substance given to make a person's immune system develop a resistance to a particular disease.

vacuum biopsy

A type of biopsy where a small amount of tissue is removed using a vacuum.

vascular surgeon

A specialist surgeon trained in the surgical treatment of diseases of the blood vessels (arteries and veins).

von Hippel-Lindau syndrome

A rare genetic disorder where there is an abnormal growth of blood vessels. People with von Hippel-Lindau syndrome have a higher risk of developing some cancers.

virtual colonoscopy

A technique that uses x-rays to create two and three dimensional images of the bowel.

W

wedge resection

An operation where a small V-shaped piece of tissue is removed.

well-differentiated

A tumour grade, where the cells and tissues look similar to normal cells when viewed under a microscope.

wheeze

A high pitched whistling sound when breathing. It indicates that a person is having breathing problems.

Whipple procedure

A complex surgical procedure that removes part of the pancreas and surrounding tissues. Also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy.

watchful waiting

Regular reviews with a doctor are done (with regard to a condition/disorder that has been diagnosed), and if symptoms develop then treatment may be started.

X

x-ray

An imaging procedure which uses radiation (x-rays) to take pictures of parts of the body, for example the bones and the lungs.

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