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Rare Cancers Australia

Glossary of Terms (R-Z)

Glossary of Terms (R-Z)



radiation oncologist

a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with radiation therapy

radiation therapist

a trained health professional, who is not a medical doctor, that gives radiation therapy

radiation therapy

using very strong and powerful beams of radiation/energy to kill and/or slow cancer cells

radioactive tracer

a special dye (colour) injected into the body to make parts stand out in pictures/scans


to take pictures with an x-ray machine


clear a block in the prostate gland to let urine through to urinate (wee/pee)


to come back and happen again, to become sick again when disease\cancer comes back

recurrent (cancer)

cancer that has come back after a time when it could no longer be found/seen. Recurrent cancer can come or start again in the same place as before (the first original/primary cancer) or can restart in another place in the body


the last part of the large intestine/big bowel area (back passage) for faeces/stools (poo) to pass before coming out of the anus (bottom/bum)

referral (or referral letter)

is a letter from a GP (local family doctor) that asks a specialist doctor to see a person because they think the person needs specialist care and treatment


the return of the disease


a time when health improves and evidence of cancer disappears


remove part of organ and some of the tissue around it


the chance that something bad or unwanted can happen such as developing cancer or having side-effects from cancer

robotic surgery

using a robot that a surgeon guides to perform surgery


a gene that makes a protein called ROS1, which is involved in sending signals in cells and in cell growth. Mutated (changed) forms of the ROS1 gene have been found in some types of cancer, including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme, and cancers of the bile duct, ovary, stomach, colon, and rectum. ROS1 is a type of receptor tyrosine kinase.

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a cancer that grows from the soft tissues of a body. Soft tissues join, hold up and surround body parts. Soft tissues include fat, muscle, ligaments and lining of joints

sats (saturation)

is a measure to tell how much oxygen is in the blood

screening (for)

looking for a mass, tumour or anything unusual

secondary (cancer)

also called mets or metastasis -- a tumour or tumours that have spread from the first original/ primary cancer place

second opinon

a second opinion means seeing another GP or specialist doctor. They will give their view on your diagnosis or treatment. This usually means going to a different hospital or GP surgery.


drug to make you calm, more relaxed


using a drug or anaesthetic where you will be relaxed and maybe asleep but still able to feel

sentinel node
  • the first lymph node(s) to which cancer cells are most likely to spread from a primary/original tumour
  • are the first few lymph nodes into which a tumour drains and can spread its cancer cells
sepsis pathway

to find or look for places or causes that have led to infection(s)


an unwanted or bad effect or problem that comes from treatment such as feeling sick (nausea), hair loss, vomiting after some cancer treatments and/or medications

sim (simulation for radiotherapy)

a patient appointment to make the best plan for radiation treatment before it actually begins. This appointment can include:

  • showing the patient how to place their body for the best position and making sure they can hold their body like this for 15 minutes or more placing small marks on the skin (painless tattoo) to see exactly where the radiation needs to go
  • building and fitting a cast for the area of treatment to help keep the patient still during radiation taking scans or pictures of the area for treatment.
small intestine (also called small bowel)

is part of the digestive system. Food travels from the stomach into this intestine where it is further digested (broken down) and nutrients are absorbed into the body (taken from the food and given to the body) . The remaining food product moves from the small intestine to the large intestine (big bowel)

soft tissue(s)

tissue/the material that joins, holds up or surrounds inside body parts such as fat, muscle, ligaments and lining around joints


a sample for investigating such as blood, stools, urine, spit or saliva


spit or saliva sample


is a way to describe or label how far the disease has spread from where and when it was first found. The stage number explains how big it is, if it has grown and how far it has spread into other tissue or body systems from the original/primary cancer. The description for stage numbers can be different for different cancer types and is based on what is known about the cancer type and how it grows. The higher the stage number, the more the disease has spread

stage 0

a group of abnormal cells that stay in the same place where they first formed. They have not spread. Also called carcinoma 'in situ'

stage 1 (stage I)

where cancer cells begin to show they can move through to other tissue that is close to where it began. Also called 'localised cancer'

stage 2 (stage II) or stage 3 (stage III)

where a cancer cell(s) begins to move into nearby tissue and/ or lymph vessel(s). Our natural germ killers, lymph nodes, travel through our lymph vessels and can attack and kill these cancer cells but sometimes cancel cells escape attack and instead divide and form lumps in the lymph node(s). This is called 'regional spread'

stage 4 (stage IV)

where a cancer cell(s) has spread through tissue(s) and body systems such as the bloodstream or lymph and can go just about anywhere in the body to make new cancer cells and spread even further. This is known as 'distant spread'

stereotactic ablative body radiation (also called 'SABR')

is usually given to patients who cannot have surgery and is a type of radiation therapy where a really high level of radiation (more than normal) is given to small and very clear tumours a opening made by surgery to the outside of the body for such


a opening made by surgery to the outside of the body for such things as a colostomy, ileostomy, tracheostomy


waste product of food from the back passage (bum). Also called faeces or poo


under the skin


an operation where a doctor will put the patient to sleep and cut away tissue that is bad or fix things inside or outside the body

surgical margin

when cutting out a tumour/cancer to also take some of the healthy looking tissue from around the cancer (the edge) to make sure it has all been cut out. The edge of tissue is also used to check it's clear of cancer cells

surgical oncologist

a doctor who specialises in treating cancer by removing tumours and surrounding tissue through an operation.


this care focuses on non-medical needs that cancer patients may have. Survivorship offers care and support to help patients and family members cope with life after diagnosis and treatment and improve overall quality of life


stitches; to sew up a wound on the body

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targeted therapy

targeted therapy or molecularly targeted therapy is one of the major modalities of medical treatment for cancer, others being hormonal therapy and cytotoxic chemotherapy.

TEDs or TED stockings (thrombo embolic deterrent)

a tight, elastic stocking that puts a little bit of pressure/squeeze on the legs to help healthy blood flow and stop blood from clotting in the veins


the provision of healthcare remotely by means of telecommunications technology


when cells that are the same come together in a group to work together and/or make a part of the body

tissue biopsy

to remove a piece of tissue and exam/look at it under a microscope to see if there are any abnormal cells


the windpipe from mouth to lungs that help us breath

TNM (a system to classify or label malignant tumours)

a way/system to classify or label the stage of cancer in the body. It measures 3 major areas of the cancer. Every cancer is different and how they are measured and labelled by the TNM system will vary T stands for tumour and the number given to the T (from 1 to 4), tells the size and thickness of the primary tumour and if it is growing. The higher the number, such as T4, the further the cancer has spread N stands for nodes and the N number (from 1 to 3) tells how many lymph nodes or which lymph nodes the cancer has spread to. The higher the number, the more nodes the cancer has spread to, for example N2 means more than one lymph node, near the primary tumour, has been attacked by cancer M stands for metastasis, the M number (either 0 or 1) describes if, and how far the cancer has grown. For example M0 means there is no sign of cancer spreading to other parts of the body but M1 means the cancer has spread to other areas The 3 areas are measured and put together to show how far a cancer has grown and this is used to give it a stage number (see staging)

TRUS (transrectal ultrasound)

an ultrasound done through the anus (back passage; bum) into the rectum to show pictures of the prostate


tissue that grows without control from abnormal cells and can be either cancer (malignant) or not cancer (benign)

tumour markers

chemicals that cancer cells make and can be seen and tested for in the blood

tumour progression

tumour progression is the third and last phase in tumour development. This phase is characterised by increased growth speed and invasiveness of the tumor cells. As a result of the progression, phenotypical changes occur and the tumour becomes more aggressive and acquires greater malignant potential. 

TURP (transurethral resection of the prostate)

surgery to the prostate to help ease urination (weeing) pain that is caused by a prostate that is bigger than usual through urethra removal of the excess prostate tissue that is blocking urine (pee) flow

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unknown primary origin

a cancer that has spread without knowing where it first started


using soundwaves (a sound that cannot be heard by humans), through a machine, to make pictures of inside body parts


a tube that carries urine (wee/pee) from the bladder to the outside of the body


study of the urinary system


the study and treatment of urological cancers found in the prostate, bladder, urethra and/or kidneys and so on

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VATS (video assisted thoracic surgery)

putting a small camera into the chest, to show pictures of the inside on a video display (like a TV) so the surgeon can see better and this helps the surgeon in doing the procedure such as biopsies, lung and oesophagus (food pipe) surgery


blood vessel, tube made of muscle, that moves blood to the heart from all the different parts of the body


to insert or put a needle through the skin and into a vein to take blood or give an injection


a thin tube to move/carry fluids through such as blood or lymph

void or voided

to urinate; do a wee

VRE (Vancomycin Resistant Enterococcus)

a supergerm (bacteria) that cannot be killed by usual antibiotic medicine

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watch and wait

‘Watch and wait’ refers to a period of time when you have no treatment for your cancer. It is also sometimes referred to as ‘active monitoring’. Your cancer will be monitored by your specialist but treatment will be delayed until such time as you need it.

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pictures of a body part(s) taken by x-ray beams

x-ray procedure

a fast and painless procedure where a machine passes x-ray beams through the body and picks up on internal/inside body parts which are then shown as shapes on film. Thick and solid shapes such as bones show up as white, air in the lungs show up as black, fat and muscle come up as grey. Sometimes a liquid called contrast is used to make the body parts/shapes stand out more

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