A-Z of Medical Jargon. 

You may hear medical staff using lots of jargon / cancer terms that you don’t understand. We’ve added some of them here in plain English.

  • Adjuvant Therapy – this is a treatment that your child may have after their initial treatment to lower the chances of the cancer coming back. (Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, biological therapy)
  • ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia)
  • Anti-sickness tablets – children can feel very sick following chemotherapy. If your child is not good at swallowing tablets they may be given tablets that dissolve under the tongue. (Some tablets will make your child very sleepy)
  • Benign – this means your child’s tumour is not cancerous. Benign tumours tend to grow slowly and do not spread to other parts of the body. However, they can grow very large which can cause problems if they are pressing on other organs, or affecting hormone levels
  • BID – refers to twice a day
  • Biological Therapy – this therapy uses substances to stop cancer cells growing or dividing. (See also Immunotherapy). There are many types of biological therapies, e.g. cancer growth inhibitors, gene therapy, monoclonal antibodies and vaccine.
  • BM – refers to bone marrow
  • Bx (Biopsy) – this is a sample of tissue taken from the tumour. (Normally the tissue is taken during an operation.
  • Carcinogen – a substance known to cause cancer
  • Carcinoma – a cancer which occurs in the cells that line internal organs or skin
  • Chemotherapy – medicine (usually liquid) put into the bloodstream through a line (a Hickman line or portacath). This medicine kills all fast dividing cells, e.g cancer cells. (It can also affect healthy cells). Hair falls out when hair cells are killed, if healthy cells are killed in the mouth it can lead to mouth ulcers or even digestive ulcers. After treatment finishes healthy cells recover.
  • Clinical oncologist – a doctor specialising in radiotherapy and chemotherapy (but not surgery)
  • CNS (central nervous system) the brain and spine.
  • D/C – discharge (referring to leaving hospital)
  • Drip stand – this holds the bag for the drip (most chemotherapy goes into the body slowly in a drip). The attached monitor will ‘bleep’ if an air bubble gets into the line (this is common)
  • Dx – refers to diagnosis
  • Echo Scan – ultra sound scan that looks at the heart. (Chemotherapy can affect the heart so your child may have a scan to check all is worked okay)
  • Endrocine Therapy (see hormonal therapy)
  • ENT – refers to ears, nose and throat
  • FBC – refers to full blood count
  • F/H – refers to family historyFU – refers to follow up
  • GA – refers to general anaethestic
  • Gastrostromy (PEG) if you child needs feeding for a long time, they may need to have a small operation to insert a feeding tube into their stomach. (Supplements can also be given this way which is useful for the ‘nasty’ tasting ones).
  • G-CSF (granulocyte-colony stimulating factor). An injection given to boost immunity levels. (may also be given via a drip)
  • Hb (Haemoglobin) – a protein molecule in the red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs around the body and returns carbon dioxide back to the lungs. (Every blood test your child has will check for haemoglobin levels)
  • Hickman Line (also known as a broviac central line, or ‘wiggly’)
  • Histopathologist – a cancer specialist who examines cells under a microscope (taken by biopsy) to look for any cancer cells.
  • Hormonal therapy – (also referred to as endrocrine therapy) is used to change the production or activity levels of hormones.
  • In Remission – patients can be in complete remission (the cancer has disappeared) or partial remission (some of the cancer has disappeared, but there are still signs and symptoms of cancer)
  • In situ – refers to a cancer that has not spread to other parts of the body
  • ISQ (In status quo) doctors use this term to mean there’s no changes
  • IV (Intravenous) – Into a vein)
  • Kidney test : this test is done to show if your child’s kidneys can manage a full dose of medicine. Dye is injected and blood tests taken every hour to see how well the kidneys have broken down the dye.
  • LN – refers to lymph node
  • LP – refers to lumbar puncture
  • Malignant – another term to mean cancer. A malignant tumour can spread to other parts of the body and destroy surrounding tissues.
  • Medical oncologist – a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with medicines (chemotherapy, biological agents & hormone therapy
  • Melanoma – another term for skin cancer (the most serious kind)
  • Metastatic cancer – (also known as secondary cancer). It means the cancers has spreadto another part of the body
  • Mets (metastases) where the tumour has spread to another part of the body
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) – a detailed x-ray. Sometimes contrast dye is injected to give a clearer picture. During the scan your child will need to lie on a bed that slides into a tunnel. They will wear headphones as the machine noise is loud.
  • NBM (Nil by mouth) This means your child must not eat or drink in preparation for a procedure
  • Neoadjuvant therapy – this refers to chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy when used to prepare the patient for the main treatment
  • Neoplasm – a lump of cells which can be either a malignant tumour (cancer) or a benign tumour.
  • Neutrophils. part of the body’s natural defence systems. If they drop below 0.5, your child is more likely to catch infections and become ill, (known as netropenic) Your child will need to avoid anyone with a cold or stomach upset)
  • NG tube – if your child needs feeding doctors may insert a tube up the nose and into the stomach.
  • Oncologist – doctors who supervise the planning of cancer treatments (see also clinical oncologist & medical oncologist)
  • O/E – refers to on examination
  • Palliative care – refers to pain management and care to improve the quality of life either when the cancer can not be treated or cancer treatment has been unsuccessful
  • PEG – see gastrostromy
  • PH – refers to past history
  • Platelets (part of the blood). Platelets help clot the blood. If your child’s platelets get too low they may need to have a platelet infusion.
  • Portacath (a line used in chemotherapy) Similar to a Hickman line but the line under your skin instead of the tube hanging outside. Nurses use the line to give treatments (chemotherapy, antibiotics) and to take blood.
  • Primary cancer – means where the cancer started. If it spreads to another part of the body this is referred to as secondary cancer.
  • Prognosis – this refers to the chance of recovery or the risk of the cancer coming back
  • Qid – refers to four times a day
  • RBC – refers to red blood count
  • RMS (rhabdomysosarcoma) – a tumour of the muscles that are attached to bones
  • RT (Radiotherapy) A cancer treatment used to destroy cancer cells or to slow down the growth of the tumour. (Sometimes used with chemotherapy or sometimes instead of chemo)
  • Secondary cancer – If the cancer spreads to another part of the body this is known as secondary cancer
  • Staging – this refers to the size and the spread of the tumour.
  • Stage IV is considered the most advanced (serious) stage
  • Supplements – nutrition used if your child is lacking the vital balance for the body to function.
  • Systemic therapy – refers to a treatment to reach the whole body (chemotherapy, biological therapy or hormonal therapy)
  • Targeted therapy – refers to a medicine that aims to interfere with how the cancer cells grow therefore restricting the growth and spread of the cancer cells
  • TDS – refers to three times a day
  • Tumour – (also known as a neoplasm)a lump of cells which can be either a malignant tumour (cancer) or a benign tumour.
  • UA – urine analysis
  • US – an ultrasound (scan)
  • WBC refers to white blood cells