Means sudden or severe.

See also: Chronic

Age Adjusted Mortality Rate

Age is a very important factor in determining mortality, for example people tend to get different cancers at different ages. To compare the mortality rates of two or more populations, differences in the age distributions of the population are removed by using an age-adjusted rate.

Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant

Healthy marrow is taken from a matched donor and used to replace the patients own marrow. The donor may be a relative, if the patient has a twin this may be the best match, otherwise a brother, sister, or another unrelated person may donate marrow.

See also: Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant
See also: Bone Marrow Transplant


Below normal levels of erythrocytes (red blood cells) causing a decrease in the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.


A molecule produced by lymphocytes in response to stimulation by an antigen. Antibodies bind to antigens, causing the cells bearing the antigens to clump together. These clumps are then destroyed by other blood cells.


Any substance capable of stimulating a specific immune response (i.e., a specific antibody) in the body.

Antigens are proteins that are present on the surface of all cells and bacteria and viruses. If foreign antigens (such as bacteria, viruses, or grains of pollen) are detected then the body's immune system will attack them.


To suck fluids out of a cavity e.g. bone marrow aspirate.

Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant

(ABMT) A process in which a patient's healthy bone marrow is withdrawn and preserved. It is later injected back into the patient to replace bone marrow damaged by high doses of radiation therapy. It can then produce healthy blood cells. This treatment is used to offset the detrimental effects of high-dose chemotherapy used in certain types of cancer.


Lymphocytes are white blood cells responsible for humoral (fluid based) immunity and antibody production.


May be a non-malignant or indolent disease, usually a more mild disease.

See also: Malignant


This is the removal of a small section of the tumour, the sample will be analysed by a histopathologist in order to establish a precise diagnosis. Surgical procedure. This may be a needle biopsy, where a very fine needle is used to take a tiny sample of the tumour. Occasionally a surgeon may remove the whole tumour prior to diagnosis; a resection biopsy.

See also: Pathology

Bone Marrow

The spongy material that fills the inner spaces of the bones. It is the place where many blood elements, such as red blood cells, are produced. High doses of radiation and chemotherapy can destroy bone marrow during cancer treatment.

See also: Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant
See also: Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant
See also: Bone Marrow Transplant

Bone Marrow Transplant

A procedure in which a section of bone marrow is taken from one person and transplanted into another. It is used to replace bone marrow that has been damaged or diseased. It can be a treatment option in leukaemia.

See also: Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant
See also: Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant
See also: Bone Marrow

Burkett’s lymphoma

A type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma which is a very rapidly growing tumour often arising in the abdomen.

See also: Lymphoma
See also: Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma


The malignant uncontrolled growth of cells, if left untreated would be fatal. Cancers have the capacity to metastasize, or form secondary tumours at other sites Cancer is not a single disease but a wide range of different diseases of which there well over a hundred types. Cancers can be classified into two broad types: haematological (malignancies of the blood / bone marrow) or solid tumours. The name of the cancer depends on the type of tissue and/or site it develops from.

See also: Malignancy
See also: Carcinoma
See also: Lymphoma


A malignant tumour arising from epithelial tissue (cells of the glands and the outer layer of skin, hollow organs and the body's orifices).

Cell Differentiation

is where normal cells go through physical changes in order to form specialised tissues of the body. Malignant cells may range from well-differentiated (closely resembling the tissue of origin) or undifferentiated or anaplastic (bearing little similarity to the tissue of origin). In general it is the undifferentiated or anaplastic histology’s which are more aggressive.

Central Line

A plastic line is placed into a  major vein in the body, e.g. femoral in leg / subclavian in chest (HICKMAN® catheter), which may be used to give chemotherapy.


The treatment of diseases such as cancer with drug therapy Since the 1960's the development and use of drugs has dramatically improved the prognosis for many types of cancer. Chemo- means chemicals, for most types of cancer chemotherapy will consist of a number of different drugs, this is known as combination chemotherapy. Chemotherapy may be given in a variety of ways; Intravenously (IV) -into a vein is the most common, Intramuscularly (IM) -injection into a muscle, Orally -by mouth, Subcutaneously (SC) -injection under the skin, Intra-lesionally (IL) -directly into a cancerous area, Intrathecal (IT)-into the fluid around the spine, Topically -medication will be applied onto the skin.

See also: Central-Line
See also: Toxicity


Structures in the cell nucleus which contain the genes responsible for heredity. Normal human cells contain twenty-two pairs of chromosomes. One of each pair is inherited separately from a person's father and mother.  In addition there are two sex chromosomes (XX for Female and XY for Male).

See also: DNA
See also: Autosome
See also: Gene


Long lasting or slowly progressing.

See also: Acute


The clotting of blood. The process by which the blood clots to form solid masses, or clots.

Colony Stimulating Factors

CSF - encourage production of blood cells. G-CSF stimulates granulocytes, and GM-CSF stimulates granulocytes and monocytes. Substances produced naturally by the body and recently also synthetically which stimulate the production of certain blood cells. Examples are G-CSF, GM-CSF, various interleukins, stem cell factor, erythropoietin, etc.

Computer (Axial) Tomography (CT Scan)

Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan) makes a cross-sectional x-ray picture of a "slice" of the body. The machine rotates around the patient taking x-rays from different angles; the information is then processed by a computer to produce a 3D image.

See also: Ultrasound
See also: X-Ray
See also: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma

A rare type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that first appears on the skin, then later spreads to the lymph nodes and organs.

See also: Lymphoma
See also: Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma


Also known as colony stimulating factors.
See also: Colony Stimulating Factors


This abbreviation stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. DNA is the component of the chromosomes that carries the genetic code.

See also: Chromosome
See also: Gene

Dose Intensity

In chemotherapy, the total amount of drug delivered in a one-week period.  Chemotherapy may be given all at once or over a period of several days.

Drug Resistance

Is where tumour cells become resistant to chemotherapy. Some tumour cells will be chemo-sensitive and are killed by anticancer drugs; the cells that remain are likely to be more resistant. Thus by selection it is the most resistant cells survive and divide, they may be resistant to a particular drug, a class of drugs, or all drugs.

See also: Chemotherapy.


The abnormal differentiation of cells, indicating possible malignancy.


Is where an image of the heart is formed when high frequency sound waves are reflected from the muscles of the heart. An echocardiogram may be done before treatment starts to establish a baseline cardiac structure and function from which to compare future tests.


Means with fever.

Five Year Survival

A term commonly used as the statistical basis for successful treatment. A patient with cancer is generally considered cured after five or more years without recurrence of the disease.

Follow up

When treatment is complete the periodic visits to the physician are needed to monitor the patient and ensure there has been no recurrence of the disease.

Fractions (RT)

The radiotherapy dose is divided into a number of smaller doses (known as fractions) to reduce the risk of side effects. There is normally one fraction per day.


Each gene carries the genetic code, or blue print, for a specific protein. Each human cell has about 80,000 genes, but most of these are not active in a given type of cell.

See also: DNA


Type of white blood cell containing granules; includes the basophilic granules, eosinophilic granules, and neutrophilic granules (secondary granules), which is the infection-fighting cell.


The branch of medicine that specialises in the study and treatment of blood and bone marrow disorders.

See also: Leukaemia
See also: Lymphoma
See also: Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma


The oxygen-carrying pigment of the red blood cells (carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s cells).




Histology is the microscopic study of changes in tissues caused by disease; Pathology is the study of the disease, cytology is the study of cells.  The histopathologist will determine a precise diagnosis by laboratory tests and microscopic examination of the cells.

Hodgkin's Lymphoma

A malignancy of the lymph tissue (a lymphoma characterised by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells) that occurs most often in males and the peak incidence is between ages 15 and 35. It is characterised by progressive, painless enlargement of the lymph nodes, spleen, and general lymph tissue and may be associated with fevers, weight loss and drenching sweats.

See also: Lymphoma.

See also: Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma


The most common life-threatening metabolic disorder associated with neoplastic diseases, occurring in an estimated 10%-20% of all persons with cancer. Carcinomas of the breast, lung, head and neck, kidney, and certain haematological malignancies, particularly multiple myeloma, are most frequently associated with hypercalcaemia.

Hyper-fractionated Radiotherapy

Is where more than one radiotherapy fraction is given per day.


Abnormally low levels of phosphate in the blood.


Incomplete or under development of a part of the body.

Immune System

The body system, made up of many organs and cells that defend the body against infection, disease, and foreign substances. The immune system is often stimulated in specific ways to fight cancer cells.


The prevention or suppression of the immune system. For example, some drugs or diseases may have the side effect of dampening the immune system making the patient prone to infections.


Treatment of disease by stimulating the body’s own immune system. This is a type of therapy is currently being developed as a treatment for cancer.  Antibodies such as Mabthera are used to treat lymphoma.


In place; localised and confined to one area. In situ tumours are at an early stage of development, when the cancer cells are still confined to one layer of tissue. In situ cancers tend to have a high cure rate.


The number of occurrences of a given disease within a population, e.g. acute leukaemia 4-6 / 100,000. Cancer incidence is the number of new cases of cancer diagnosed in one year. Data on the incidence of cancer are kept by regional and national cancer registries.

Informed Consent

Is where patients agree to a treatment or randomisation to a clinical trial having a reasonable understanding of it.  The consent is often signed (written).


Interferons: are proteins produced by the body with the specific purpose of regulating cell functions. Interferon’s are produced in the laboratory in large quantities, and are sometimes used in the treatment of certain cancers (another form of chemotherapy).


A hormone-like substance produced by the body (certain blood cells, specifically) that stimulates the growth of blood cells important to the body's immune system.


(IV) Means into a vein.


A progressive malignant disease of the blood and blood-forming organs (bone marrow); characterized by over-proliferation and development of leukocytes (a type of white blood cell). There are many different forms of leukaemia.

See also: Haematology


Confined entirely to the organ of origin.

Lymph Nodes

These are small, bean-shaped organs that supply lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) to the bloodstream. They also filter out bacteria and other foreign substances from the lymph fluid that contains white blood cells. Lymph nodes (also called lymph glands) are located throughout the body.

See also: Lymphoma.
See also: Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
See also: Immune System

Lymphatic System

The tissues and organs that produce and store the lymphatic fluid used to fight infection. This includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes.

See also: Immune System
See also: Lymph Nodes
See also: Lymphoedema
See also: Lymphocytes
See also: Lymphoma.
See also: Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
See also: Tumour Infiltrating Lymphocytes


This is the accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the interstitial spaces, principally in the subcutaneous fat, due to a disorder of the lymphatic system.


Are a type of white blood cell that fights disease and infection by producing antibodies and other protective substances. There are 2 categories: a) B cells these recognise specific antigens and produce antibodies to combat them, and b) T cells which are produced in the lymph system, and work in conjunction with the immune system.

See also: Cutaneous T-Cell lymphoma
See also: T-Cell
See also: B-Cells
See also: Lymph Nodes
See also: Lymphatic System
See also: Lymphoedema
See also: Lymphoma.
See also: Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
See also: Tumour Infiltrating Lymphocytes
See also: Leukaemia


A general term form for any neoplastic disease of the lymphatic tissue characterized by abnormal uncontrolled cell growth of lymphatic tissue. Hodgkin's disease is a type of lymphoma.

See also: Hodgkin's disease
See also: Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
See also: Lymphatic System


A type of white blood cell that assists in the body's fight against bacteria and infection by engulfing and destroying invading organisms.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A technique used to image internal structures of the body, particularly the soft tissues (muscles, organs, tendons, etc.). An MRI image without the use of radiation and may be more sensitive than x-rays.


An uncontrolled growth of tissue which may infiltrate surrounding tissue or may spread (metastasise) through blood vessels or lymphatic system.  

See also: Cancer


Cancerous, growth.

See also: Cancer
See also: Benign


Where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body beyond the primary site.  Metastatic sites (secondaries) my be regional or distant from the original tumour.


A tumour of the bone marrow (usually malignant) composed of cells normally found in bone marrow

Monoclonal Antibody

An antibody produced in the laboratory that can target specific antigens (substances that provoke an immune response). They can be made in large quantities, and are being tested for their use in cancer diagnosis and treatment.

See also: Immune System


Any departure, subjective or objective, from a state of physiological or physical wellbeing. In this sense, sickness, illness, and a morbid condition are synonymous.


Looking at the death rates caused by a disease.

Mortality rate

Calculated by dividing the number of people who have died of a particular cancer during a given period of time by the total population at risk.

Multiple Myeloma

A cancer of the plasma cells (antibody producing) found in the bone marrow.

See also: Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant
See also: Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant
See also: Bone Marrow
See also: Bone Marrow Transplant


Abnormal production and maturation of blood cells; often leading to deficiency of red cells, white cells and platelets; sometimes leading to bone marrow failure or leukaemia.


A new growth of tissue serving no physiological function.


Some anti cancer drugs may have the side effect of damaging the kidneys, for example ifosfamide and cisplatin are known to be nephrotoxic. There are two categories; glomerular and tubular toxicity relating to the two main areas of the nephron. In studies of ifosfamide the degree of nephrotoxicity is thought to be related to the cumulative dose, but there is a good deal of variability between patients.


Below normal levels of granulocytes in the blood. Febrile-neutropenia (neutropenia with fever) is a common toxicity following chemotherapy.

See also: Toxicity
See also: Chemotherapy.


Type of white blood cell; also called a polymorph; granulocyte; the body's primary defence against harmful bacteria.  Neutrophils that die as a result of fighting bacterial infections may form pus.

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Any kind of cancer of the lymph tissues other than Hodgkin's disease.

See also: Lymphoma.
See also: Hodgkin's Disease


Abnormally large amounts of fluid in the intercellular tissue spaces.


A doctor who specializes in cancer treatment.


A science dealing with the physical, chemical, and biological properties and features of cancer, including causes and the disease process.


Infection of the bone.


Reduction in bone mass = prone to fractures (brittle bone disease).

Palliative Treatment

Treatment which relieves the symptoms and pain but does not prolong life.


Deficiency of all types of blood cells.


A doctor who specializes in the nature, structure, and identification of disease.


The branch of medicine concerned with nature, structure, and identification of disease.
Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Rescue (PBSC)

See also: Stem Cell Transplant
See also: Stem Cells
See also: Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant
See also: Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant
See also: Bone Marrow Transplant
See also: Stem Cell Transplant


Tiny red dots on the skin due to bleeding under the skin caused by low platelet count.


Cell eating: the engulfment and destruction of dangerous micro-organisms or cells by certain white blood cells, including neutrophils and macrophages.


A colourless fluid which contains water, nutrients and other components in which red cells, white cells, and platelets are suspended.

Plasma Cells

White blood cells.


A blood component that is instrumental in clot formation, which stops bleeding in injured areas and prevents haemorrhage. Blood cells containing clotting factors which prevent bleeding and bruising.


Is the expected outcome of a disease. This may be influenced by a variety of factors such as stage, age, site etc. depending on the particular type of cancer. For example, in general a patient with localised disease may have a more favourable prognosis compared to a patient with widespread disease which may be less favourable.


Severe itching.  Possibly due to a drug reaction.


Fever / abnormally high body temperature.


Cancer treatments which utilize high-energy waves or particles of radiation.


The branch of medicine dealing with imaging and intervention of treatment.

See also: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
See also: Computed Tomography (CT-Scan)
See also: Ultrasound

Red Blood Cell

Red blood cell (erythrocyte): Oxygen-carrying cell in the blood which contains the pigment haemoglobin; produced in the bone marrow.

Reed Sternberg Cell

A type of cell that indicates the presence of Hodgkin's disease.

See also: Hodgkin's Disease

See also: Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma


This is where the cancer is resistant to treatment.


This is when the disease reoccurs after a period in remission.

See also: Remission


Is where the symptoms of cancer are no longer present. There is no longer any evidence of the disease using the available investigations.

See also: Relapse


Surgical removal of an area of tissue or of an entire organ. The surgical specimen may be examined by a pathologist to determine if it is likely to have removed all of the tumour. If there is any tumour left after surgery this may be macroscopic (visible to the eye) or microscopic, in either case radiotherapy may be needed to kill the remaining tumour cells.

Risk Factors

Anything that has been identified as increasing an individual's chance of getting a disease.  Adverse effects of intervention / treatment.


Tests undertaken to identify patient’s with disease or at risk of developing disease.


Staging is where the disease is categorised as to how far it has spread. The precise staging system used will depend on the type of cancer the patient has. TNM Classification: the higher the stage the more extreme the disease and overall the worse the prognosis.  Early stage disease may be curable by resection / local therapy.

Stem Cell Transplant

See also: Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant
See also: Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant
See also: Bone Marrow Transplant

Stem Cells

Unspecified cells capable of self renewal and differentiate into specialized cells.  Its descendents have the potential to develop into several different types of mature cells.

alt Original cell from which Megakaryocytes (giant cells from which mature blood platelets originate), red blood cells, and white cells develop in the bone marrow.

See also: Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant
See also: Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant
See also: Bone Marrow Transplant
See also: Stem Cell Transplant


An operation.


A small lymphocyte, made in the thymus, that circulates through the bloodstream. T-cells have several functions, and are especially important in the body's immune response.



See also: Platelets


Low platelet count.

Total Body Irradiation

Radiation to the whole body.


Side effects of treatment.


Biopsy needle to remove a cylinder of bone for examination.

Tumour Infiltrating Lymphocytes

Special cancer-fighting cells of the immune system found in tumours. In a type of experimental therapy, scientists harvest these cells from the tumour, grow them in a laboratory, and then return them to the patient with the hope of the cells destroying the tumour.

Tumour Marker

A substance in the body that may indicate the presence of cancer. Markers may be secreted by the tumour itself or produced by the body in response to the cancer. Tumour markers may aid diagnosis or give an indicator of how treatment is progressing. These markers are usually specific to certain types of cancer.


The use of sound waves to image internal structures of the body.  Ultrasonic waves are reflected differently depending on the type of tissue they pass through, aiding the detection of abnormal tissues.

See also: X-Ray
See also: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
See also: Computed Tomography (CT scan)

White Blood Cell

Infection fighting cells (lymphocytes, neutrophils, macrophages, basophiles and eosinophils) which are found in the blood and bone marrow.

See also: Leukaemia


(1) Low dose radiation used to make images of internal body structures; or (2) High dose radiation used to treat cancer.

See also: Computed Tomography (CT-Scan)
See also: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
See also: Ultrasound