Glossary: what does that word mean?

Most of the words here are used in Getting on with life after treatment; others are words you are likely to hear used by doctors and other health professionals who will be working with you. If there are any other words in this information you don't understand and that aren't listed here, call the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237).

acupuncture – A type of complementary therapy where fine needles are inserted into the skin at specific points to try to relieve pain and other symptoms.

advanced cancer – Cancer that is locally advanced and/or has spread (metastasised) and is less likely to be cured, or incurable.

anaemia – Having a low number of red blood cells in your body. This is measured by a blood test and treated with iron supplements or a blood transfusion or blood stimulating medications.

analgesic – A drug that relieves pain.

anti-depressant – Medication to help relieve the symptoms of depression and sometimes also used to treat some types of pain.

check-up(s) – Medical appointments after treatment has finished. These appointments may also be called 'follow-up'.

chemotherapy – The use of special drugs to treat cancer by killing cancer cells or slowing their growth. Chemotherapy can also harm normal cells, but they are usually able to repair themselves.

complementary therapies – Therapy used alongside medical treatment to help manage symptoms and side effects and improve wellbeing.

diagnosis – The process of finding out about a person's illness by considering their signs and symptoms, medical background and results of diagnostic tests.

depression – Prolonged very low mood. Feeling sad, having no energy and being unable to change how you feel.

fatigue – Feeling extremely tired and lacking energy.

fertility – Ability to have children.

follow-up – Medical appointment to follow your progress after treatment.

hormone-dependent cancer – A tumour where cell growth is influenced by hormones.

hormone treatment – Treatments for 'hormone-dependent' cancers, including breast cancer and prostate cancer, to block hormones that may cause a cancer to grow.

menopause – The end of menstruation. Usually it happens in women around the age of 50, but illness and some medical treatments can cause an early menopause.

menopausal side effects – Side effects from menopause such as hot flushes, sweating, putting on weight and feeling anxious. These happen because the body is getting used to lower levels of sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone).

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. Metastases are named for the organ they came from: prostate cancer that spreads to the liver is secondary prostate cancer, not liver cancer.

morphine – A strong and effective drug for pain relief that is used commonly to treat people with cancer who have pain.

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

radiation treatment – The use of radiation, usually X-ray or electron beams, or radioactive inserts or substances to destroy cancer cells or injure them so that they cannot grow or multiply. Radiation treatment can also harm normal cells, but they are usually able to repair themselves.

recurrent cancer – A cancer that grows from the cells of a primary cancer despite previous treatment. Recurrent cancer may appear some years after the primary cancer was treated, depending on the type of cancer.

statistics – Collecting and analysing data to make comparisons and see patterns in research results. 

Leave us a message