The medical language associated with cancer can be complicated and difficult to understand. We have identified some of the key terms in use every day in relation to cancer:
A benign tumour is a tumour which is not cancerous.
A biopsy is the removal of tissue from the body which is then examined to reveal the presence, cause and extent of disease.
Blastoma is a type of cancer derived from immature cells. Blastomas are more common in children than in adults.
Bowel cancer is a form of cancer which begins in the large or small bowel. Also known as rectal or colon cancer.
Breast cancer is a type of cancer originating in breast tissue. We have a great deal of experience in dealing with cases where there has either been a delay in diagnosis, or where treatment of the condition has resulted in injury.
Cancer is a disease caused by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in a part of the body.
Carcinoma is a type of cancer derived from epithelial cells which line the cavities and surfaces of structures in the body. Many of the most common forms of cancer are carcinomas, for instance breast, prostate, lung, pancreas and colon.
Chemotherapy is a term used to describe the use of drugs to treat cancer. Chemotherapy works by destroying cancer cells or by preventing them from multiplying. Chemotherapy drugs may also have an effect on normal, non-cancerous tissue.
Cervical cancer is when cancerous cells occurring within the cervix. We are experienced in dealing with cases where there has been a delay in diagnosis of this condition.
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A colonoscopy is an examination involving a flexible fibre-optic instrument which is inserted through the anus in order to examine the colon.
An extravasation injury is when chemotherapy drugs have been infused into the body incorrectly causing damage to surrounding tissue.
Germ cell tumours
Germ cell tumours are cancers that most often arise in the testicle or ovary.
Leukaemia and lymphoma
Leukaemia and lymphoma are cancers that develop from blood-forming cells which develop in the lymph nodes (lymphoma) and blood (leukaemia).
Malignant tumours are tumours that contain cancerous cells and tend to spread and invade healthy tissues and organs in the body.
A mammogram is a procedure conducted to obtain an image of breast tissue.
Metastatic cancerrefers to the spread of cancer cells from the primary cancer site.
Misdiagnosis is when an incorrect diagnosis is made.
NICE is an acronym for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. NICE sets guidelines for medical practitioners to follow when managing cancer care.
An oncologist is a doctor who studies and treats cancer.
A primary cancer is the site at which cancer first develops.
Prostate cancer is a cancer occurring in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system.
Radiotherapy refers to the treatment of cancer and non-cancerous tumours by x-ray or other forms of radiation.
Sarcoma is a type of cancer which develops in connective tissue such as bone, cartilage, fat and nerves.
Screening describes the tests used to detect cancer after it has developed but before symptoms become apparent.
In the UK there are national screening programmes for breast, bowel and cervical cancer. To screen breast cancer, mammograms are used. For bowel cancer stool samples are analysed and to detect cervical cancer, smear tests are used.
Secondary cancer is when a tumour develops as a result of spread from another primary site.
A sigmoidoscopy is a procedure to examine the sigmoid colon using a flexible tube inserted through the anus.
Spinal cancer is a cancer occurring either in the spinal cord or in the vertebrae (bones in the spine). The most common primary cancers to spread to the vertebrae include lung, breast, lymphoma and prostate cancer.
Staging is a classification system to describe the extent to which the cancer has spread.
A patient is described as symptomatic when they develop symptoms.
TNM staging system
The TNM staging system is a system used by doctors to determine the extent of the cancer.
- T relates to the size of the cancer (1= small, 4 = large).
- N describes whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes (0 = cancer has spread, 1= cancer hasn’t spread).
- M refers to whether the cancer has spread to another organ (0 = cancer has spread, 1 = cancer hasn’t spread).
The TNM system is sometimes refined further still (for example, to subdivide each category, so stage 3a, 3b and 3c), and sometimes specific cancers have their own grading systems such as Dukes’ staging for bowel cancer.
Tumour is a term usually used to refer to an abnormal mass of tissue which forms when cells reproduce at an abnormal rate. Tumours can be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign).
An ultrasound is a type of scan using high frequency sound waves.