Glossary

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

abdomen – the part of the body below the chest, which contains the stomach, liver, bowel, bladder, uterus, ovaries and kidneys.

adenocarcinoma – a cancer that begins in glandular cells.

adenosquamous carcinoma – a type of cancer that contains two types of cells: squamous cells (thin, flat cells that line certain organs) and gland-like cells.

adjuvant treatment – a treatment given with or shortly after another treatment.

advanced cancer – cancer that has spread (metastasised) and/or is unlikely to be cured.

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

anti-oestrogens – drugs such as provera and tamoxifen, which are used to treat cancers that depend on hormones to grow.

benign – not cancerous. Benign cells do not spread like cancer cells.

bilateral salpingo oophorectomy – surgical removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes.

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

brachytherapy – a type of radiation treatment where the radiation source is placed in the area being treated.

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

cells – the ‘building blocks’ of the body. A human is made of billions of cells, which have different functions.

clear cell carcinoma – a rare type of tumour, usually of the female genital tract, in which the inside of the cells look clear when viewed under a microscope.

endometrial hyperplasia – an abnormal increase in the number of cells in the endometrium.

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

endometrium – glandular lining of the inside of the uterus that is stimulated by the hormones oestrogen and progesterone and shed each month as the period.

frozen section – a sample of fresh tissue is quickly frozen until it is hard enough to cut into sections. These can be stained so that a rapid diagnosis can be made, for example, while a patient is under anaesthetic.

genes – the tiny factors that control the way the body’s cells grow and behave. Each person has a set of many thousands of genes inherited from both parents. These genes are found in every cell of the body.

gynaecological oncologist – a doctor who has been certified as a specialist in treating women diagnosed with cancer of the reproductive organs.

hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – drug therapy that supplies the body with hormones that it is no longer able to produce; it is used to relieve menopausal symptoms.

hormones – substances which have specific effects on the way the body works. Made in very small amounts by a gland, various hormones help to control growth, metabolism and reproduction. They are distributed in the bloodstream.

hysterectomy – surgical removal of the uterus and the cervix.

infertility – for women, not being able to conceive a child.

laparotomy – operation in which a long cut is made in the abdomen to examine the internal organs; also sometimes called an exploratory operation.

lymphadenectomy – operation that removes lymph nodes.

lymph nodes – also called lymph glands. Small, bean shaped structures which are part of the lymphatic system. Lymph is the fluid that flows through this system and carries cells that help to fight disease and infection. The lymph nodes filter the lymph to remove bacteria and other harmful agents, such as cancer cells.

lymphoedema – swelling caused by a build-up of lymph. This happens when lymph vessels or lymph nodes don’t drain properly. This can happen after lymphadenectomy.

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

medical oncologist – a doctor who specialises in treating cancer by using chemotherapy.

menopause – the time in a woman’s life when the ovaries stop producing eggs and monthly periods stop; the woman is no longer able to have children. Menopause can also be caused by the removal of the ovaries, chemotherapy or by drugs such as tamoxifen that stop the ovaries from functioning.

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

oestrogen – female sex hormone, mainly made by the ovaries.

papillary serous carcinoma – an aggressive cancer that usually affects the uterus/endometrium, peritoneum or ovary.

pathologist – a doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

progesterone – hormone made by the ovaries that prepares the lining of the uterus (endometrium) for pregnancy.

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

radiation – energy which can injure or destroy cells by damaging their genes. In radiation treatment, this energy is used to destroy cancer cells. Radiation can be directed at a tumour from outside the body, or a radioactive source may be implanted into the tumour and its surroundings.

radiation oncologist – a doctor who specialises in treating cancer by using radiation treatment.

rectum – the last 12–15 cm of the large bowel, which opens to the outside at the anus. Faeces collect in the rectum before they are passed as a bowel motion.

recurrent cancer – a cancer that grows from cells of a primary cancer that evaded treatment. Recurrent cancer may appear up to 20 years after the primary cancer was treated.

risk factor – things that cause people to have a greater chance of developing an illness. Risk factors for cancer include exposure to harmful substances (such as asbestos, some viruses and cigarette smoke) and a family history of cancer.

surgery – treatments which involve an operation. This may involve removal of tissue, change in the organisation of the anatomy or placement of prostheses.

tamoxifen – a drug that blocks the effects of oestrogen in cancer cells; a treatment for oestrogen-receptive and progesterone-receptive cancers.

tissue – a collection of similar cells. In a tissue biopsy, the tissue removed may be, for example, a very tiny piece of skin, or a small piece of a body organ. When this tissue is magnified under a microscope, cancerous abnormalities in the cells can be seen.

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

ultrasound – sound-waves of a very high frequency, higher than a human can hear: used to examine structures within the body.

uterus – also called the womb, this is the hollow muscular organ in which a fertilised egg can grow and the baby can be nourished until birth.

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