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Rare Cancers Australia

Glossary of Terms (H-Q)

Glossary of Terms (H-Q)




study of the blood


blood in urine

HDU (high dependency unit)

where patients are nursed, one nurse to two patients

HMO (house medical officer, also called a 'resident')

a junior doctor that is employed by a hospital to provide care and treatment as they train in a specialty field such as cancer

Hodgkin's lymphoma

a cancer that starts in the lymphatic system/immune system where cells grow abnormally and spread through the lymphatic system and beyond -- Hodgkin's lymphoma shows large, abnormal cells called Reed- Sternberg cells in the lymph cells

  • a chemical made in different body parts/organs that is sent out to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. Hormones watch over and help control how other cells or organs act
  • hormones can have a big effect on the body, they control how we grow, reproduce, feel and many other things

high blood pressure


low blood pressure


to remove the uterus (womb)

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ICU (intensive care unit)
  • a ward for very for very ill patients who need extra care
  • where patients are cared for by one patient to one nurse

is nearly the same as a colostomy but this operation joins the small bowel to an opening in the stomach wall/abdomen


a problem that usually happens after abdominal (belly/stomach) surgery where the digestive system intestines (bowel) go to sleep


not able to hold or control release of urine (wee/pee) or faeces (stools/poo)


where germs, bacteria or viruses that are not usually in the body, invade the body and make a person sick

informed consent

having and understanding all the health information you need to make decisions and choices about your health and treatments and then giving permission for your treatments

informed consent form

a form that is signed by a person to show they have been given and understand all the information for a procedure or treatment and approve (are happy for it to go ahead)


to slowly introduce/give fluid that is not blood or saline (salty water) into a vein

intestines (digestive)

the tubes/organs that work between the end of the stomach to the anus (back passage; bum)


into the muscle


through the skin and into a vein

INR (International Normalised Ratio)

a blood test to see/measure how quickly your blood clots.


a radioactive substance, usually belonging to nuclear medicine, that is used for testing, imaging and/or treatment of cancer

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body organ or part that filters blood and gets rid of waste products making them into urine (wee)

key hole surgery

only using small cuts/holes in the body and special tools to perform operations

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laparoscopic (surgery)

small keyhole surgery (surgery done through tiny holes in the body)


looking into the abdomen with a small, flexible camera called an endoscope


low white blood cell count

local anaesthetic

drug given to stop pain and feeling to one body area only


only to one area/place of body


a clear fluid that moves through the body through the lymphatic system, carrying cells that fight infection


swelling from a build-up of lymph fluid that happens when the lymph vessels and/or lymph nodes are damaged and not draining properly

lymph nodes (also called lymph glands)

lymph Cells that come together into small bean-shaped groups that are spread through the lymphatic system. Their job is to act as filters to get rid of bacteria and germs and to fight infection. Lymph nodes get bigger when they react\fight with infections or cancer -- major lymph nodes are found in the neck, armpit, chest, abdomen (belly area) and groin area (between the abdomen and upper thighs)

lymph(atic) system
  • is part of the immune system whose job is to fight infections and also to filter and get rid of excess/extra body fluid
  • is made up of many lymph nodes, spread across most of the body like a network/chain that are connected by very thin, lymph vessels (tube to carry fluids through)

known as a blood cancer, it is cancer of the white blood Cells

lymph vessels

a network/chain of thin tubes that are spread across tissues in the body to move lymph fluid from one place to the other

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when a growth in a body part is cancerous. very serious and can grow and spread very quickly to other parts of the body


a picture of a woman's breasts made by an x-ray


a growth of cells that come together to make a lump, either big or small, and may or may not be cancer


to remove all or part of your breast/s by surgery

medical enduring power of

a person who is chosen by a patient to act and speak for the

attorney (also called a MePOA)

patient in all medical matters

medical oncologist

a doctor who specialises in treating cancer

medical oncology

study and treatment of cancer using chemotherapy (chemical drugs)


a dangerous type of skin cancer

metastasis (also called 'mets')
  • known as secondary cancer, it grows/spreads from the original/ primary cancer
  • to spread or grow from one part of the body to another and create new cancer tumours exactly like the first/original cancer tumour

for cancer to spread or grow out of its original place

MET (medical emergency team) call

when many doctors and nurses come quickly to check a patient because they are very unwell


tumours that grow in other parts of the body from the spread of the first/original cancer tumour


to check on, keep track of

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

taking images/photos of inside body parts using magnet rather than x-ray

MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) multidisciplinary team (MDT)

an infection caused by a super bug/bacteria called 'staph', that cannot be treated/killed by some antibiotic medicines a team of many health specialists such as medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, nurses, allied health and pharmacists who work together to treat cancer patients

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a point in time, after chemotherapy, when blood count is lowest

nasogastric tube(s) (also known as NGT)

thin, plastic tubes put into and through the nose, all the way into the stomach, to get fluids/food/liquids to and from the stomach


to feel sick, to vomit

nebs (nebuliser)

a machine that changes liquid into a fine spray to inhale (breathe in) such as saline (salty water) to help loosen substances such as saliva (spit) or mucus (thick, snotty jelly like) from the airway and/ or mouth


dead cells or dead tissue

neoadjuvant therapy/treatment

therapy/treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, to shrink or slow a tumour before giving the main treatment such as surgery


when the number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, in your blood is too low and your body is less able to fight and kills germs and infection


low white (neutrophils) blood count


a type of white blood cell whose job, as part of the immune system, is to fight and kill germs and infection


a small lump or mass of tissue in your body


next of kin - the person responsible for you when you are sick.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • a cancer that starts in the lymphatic system/immune system where cells grow abnormally and spread through the lymphatic system and beyond
  • non-Hodgkin's lymphoma happens when your body makes too many abnormal lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell)
  • in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, tumours grow from lymphocytes which are a type of white blood cell found in lymph nodes
  • where there is no Reed-Sternberg Cells found in the lymph Cells

a mutation (change) that occurs when a piece of the chromosome containing a gene called NTRK breaks off and joins with a gene on another chromosome. NTRK gene fusions lead to abnormal proteins called TRK fusion proteins, which may cause cancer cells to grow. NTRK gene fusions may be found in some types of cancer, including cancers of the brain, head and neck, thyroid, soft tissue, lung, and colon. Also called neurotrophic tyrosine receptor kinase gene fusion.

nuclear medicine

all medicines that use radiation, or parts of radiation such as radioactive materials, to diagnose, manage and/or treat cancer

nuke or nukes

anything to do with nuclear medicine such images, pictures or scans

NUM (nurse unit manager)

the NUM is in-charge of a ward


the food and fluids people eat and digest for bodies to work

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obs (observations)

checking a person's vital signs such as blood pressure, heartrate, temperature and oxygen saturation (amount of oxygen in the blood).


a large build-up of too much fluid in the body/cells/tissues


a doctor who is a specialist in cancer treatment


the study and treatment of tumours, cancers


a group of strong pain relief medicines that include morphine, fentanyl, codeine, oxycontin/oxycodone and methadon

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the study of children and their diseases

pain and palliative care

lessening pain without curing the disease

panel test

a laboratory test in which many genes are studied in a sample of tissue. Multiple-gene panel tests help find mutations (changes) in certain genes that may increase a person's risk of a disease such as cancer. They may also look at the activity of certain genes in a sample of tissue.

PARP inhibitor

PARP inhibitors are a group of pharmacological inhibitors of the enzyme poly ADP ribose polymerase. They are developed for multiple indications, including the treatment of heritable cancers. Several forms of cancer are more dependent on PARP than regular cells, making PARP an attractive target for cancer therapy.


to test tissue and/or blood for disease


a person who specialises in understanding disease through testing of things like tissue, cells and blood

PCA (patient controlled analgesia)

an intravenous system (into the vein) that a patient controls by pushing a button to give themselves pain killer medicine


PD-1 inhibitors and PD-L1 inhibitors are a group of checkpoint inhibitor anticancer drugs that block the activity of PD-1 and PDL1 immune checkpoint proteins present on the surface of cells. Immune checkpoint inhibitors are emerging as a front-line treatment for several types of cancer.

pelvis/pelvic area

the lower part of abdomen area, covers from hip to hip and waist to groin (body part that ends at top of thighs/legs)


around the anus (bottom, entry area to back passage, bum)

PET (positron emission tomography) scan

a test that uses a radioactive drug to show a picture of how your tissues and organs are working


veins that are painful, red and maybe swollen


to draw (take) blood from a vein


use of movement such as special exercise or massage, to help heal and get better

PICC line

is a thin, soft, long catheter (tube) that is inserted into a vein in your child's arm, leg or neck. The tip of the catheter is positioned in a large vein that carries blood into the heart. The PICC line is used for long-term intravenous (IV) antibiotics, nutrition or medications, and for blood draws


small blood cells (shaped like plates) whose job it is to come together in a group(s) or clump(s) to stop bleeding when you are injured or cut


small lump/abnormal growth that grows inside your body such as the colon and very often sticks out/grows out of a stalk/stem like a tail


small, dome shaped device that is connected to a thin, flexible, catheter tube. The port is placed under the skin and the catheter tube is guided to a large vein usually in the chest or upper arm. The port gives access to the bloodstream by inserting a small needle into the dome of the port. This can be used to take blood as well as give drugs and drips. A port can stay in place for many weeks or months

post platelet increment

a test to see if your platelet count (special blood cells) has increased or risen since a blood transfusion

primary origin
  • the original/first cancer, where it started
  • Cells from the primary/first cancer can break away and travel to other parts of the body where they grow identical to the original but are called secondary cancers

to predict how a disease/condition may progress and what the outcome might be


to act, such as take medicine or have surgery, to prevent (stop) illness or spread of disease


a small gland only found in men. It is found at the bottom or base of the bladder, near the urethra

proton beam therapy

in the field of medical procedures, proton therapy, or proton radiotherapy, is a type of particle therapy that uses a beam of protons to irradiate diseased tissue, most often in the treatment of cancer.

PSA (prostate specific antigen)

a protein only made by the prostate gland. PSA levels are measured to check for prostate cancer

Pseudomyxoma peritonei

a rare cancer that starts in the appendix and grows slowly


a medical doctor who specialises in mental health


focuses on psychology (the state of mind), how people live and behave and act when there is cancer. It looks at many areas such as the psychological (state of mind) response to cancer at all stages of the disease and how psychology, behaviour and social factors can influence the disease


the PTCH1 gene provides instructions for producing the patched-1 protein, which functions as a receptor. Receptor proteins have specific sites into which certain other proteins, called ligands, fit like keys into locks. A protein called Sonic Hedgehog is the ligand for the patched-1 receptor. Together, ligands and their receptors trigger signals that affect cell development and function.

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quality of life

the level or standard of the whole of life such as health, comfort and happiness experienced by a person who has cancer and cancer treatment the level to which a person enjoys the important things in their life and how cancer or treatment can affect or change this

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