Glossary of Terms


Adjuvant therapy usually refers to chemotherapy or radiation treatment used after initial main treatment

Advanced cancer describes stages of cancer when it has spread from the primary site to other parts of the body

Alveoli air sacs in the lungs that enable blood/ oxygen exchange

Anaemia shortage of red blood cells in the bloodstream, resulting in lack of oxygen reaching tissues and organs

Analysis detailed examination in order to interpret or explain

Anaesthetic a substance that induces insensitivity to pain

Asbestos highly heat resistant fibrous silicate minerals used in the insulation, construction and textile industries

Asbestosis A non-cancerous condition due to asbestos exposure, this results in severe fibrosis and break down of lung tissue

Ascites fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity

Aspiration fluid or discharge in a wound removed by using some form of drainage device(needle, syringe etc.)


Benign a non cancerous tumour that will not spread through the body

Biopsy sample of tissue removed to test for the presence of cancer cells

Bronchoscopy a flexible lighted tube put down the trachea and into the bronchi to detect masses in the airways, at this point tissue can be removed to test for abnormal cells


Carcinogenic a cancer causing substance

Carcinoma malignant tissue

Chemotherapy treatment using certain drugs to destroy cancer cells

Chronic bronchitis increased mucus secretions caused by viral infections due to prolonged exposure to bronchial irritants

Complementary therapy treatments or therapies used in addition to the standard treatment

Computed tomography(CT scan) multiple x-ray images combined to form two dimensional cross-sectional images

Cordotomy operation in the spinal cord

Cytoreductive therapy for reducing the number of cells in a malignancy


Diaphragm the muscle that separates the heart and lungs in the chest cavity from the abdomen

Dyspnea shortness of breath


Edema excessive accumulation of fluid causing swelling in organs and body tissue

Emphysema chronic disease of the lungs in which alveoli (air sacs) have been destroyed by disease

Epidural on or around the spinal cord

F, G, H

Fibrosis thickening and scarring of connective tissue tissue

Gene therapy normal genes used to replace defective genes

Hemoptysis blood being coughed up that has been secreted into the respiratory tract due to bleeding

Hypertension high blood pressure

I, J, K

Imaging methods used to take pictures inside the body (CT scans, x-rays, MRI scans)

Immunotherapy stimulation of the bodies own immune system to treat diseases such as cancer

Infusion fluid introduced into a vein

Intraperitoneally chemotherapy treatments or medicines administered directly into the abdominal cavity

Intrapleurally chemotherapy treatments or medicines administered directly into the chest cavity

Intravenous into or within a vein

Invasive cancer cancer that has spread from its original point into other organs and tissues


Laparoscopy procedure for inspecting the abdominal cavity using a laparoscope

Latency period time from exposure to asbestos or other foreign substances to development and onset of disease

Lymph nodes rounded mass of lymphoid tissue that occur all along the lymphatic vessels (neck, groin, armpits etc.) they filter bacteria and foreign materials out and expose them to lymphocytes that engulf them and in most destroy them. sometimes cancer cells are trapped in lymph nodes and can cause secondary tumours which have to be removed by the removal of the lymph node

M, N

Malignant cancerous growth or tumour that will damage tissue /organs if not diagnosed and treated

Mediastinoscopy a procedure to examine or remove samples of the lymph nodes found in the space between the lungs in the base of the neck

Mediastinum space in the chest cavity behind the sternum and between the two pleural sacs containing the lungs

Membrane a layer of tissue covering a surface, lining a cavity or dividing a space or organ

Mesothelioma a terminal cancer of the cell membranes surrounding the lungs, abdomen and heart, that is caused by the exposure and ingestion of asbestos particles

Mesothelium a thin membrane of cells covering several internal organs and cavities that secretes fluid in order to lubricate and aid movement

Metastasize when cancerous cells invade healthy organs or tissue from other unrelated diseased parts of the body by way of the blood stream or lymphatics

MRI magnetic resonance imaging, a scan using magnetic fields, radio waves and a computer to form images of areas of the body


Oncologist specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer

P, Q

Palliative treatment treatments and therapies that relieves pain, but does not expect to cure the cancer, only improve the quality of life for the patient

Paracentesis surgical procedure to puncture the abdominal cavity to release peritoneal fluid

Pericardium membrane sac containing the heart Pericardial effusion fluid or blood in the pericardial sac Peritoneal mesothelioma cancer of the lining of the abdomen

Peritoneum membrane that surrounds abdominal cavity and some abdominal organs which lubricates the area

PET scan positron emission tomography - after an injection of a very low dose of radioactive form of substance(glucose) the computer scans and computes the rate the tumour uses the sugar, this determines the size of the tumour

Pleura membrane that surrounds the lungs and chest cavity

Pleura effusion fluid accumulation in the lungs

Pleura mesothelioma cancer of the membrane that lines the chest cavity and lungs

Pleura tap small amount of fluid withdrawn for examination

Pluerectomy operation to remove part of the abdomen or chest lining

Pneumoconiosis fibrosis and scarring of the lungs due to the exposure and breathing in of irritants such as asbestos

Pneumonectomy operation to remove all the infected lung

Prognosis a forecast or probable course of the disease being diagnosed


Radiotherapy treatment using high energy rays such as x-rays to shrink or kill the cancer cells

Resection removal of part or all of organ or tissue


Sputum - combination of saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract

Staging the process to gauge the spread of the cancer and how far


Thoracocentesis a procedure to remove fluid from the chest cavity using a hollow needle for diagnosis or to relieve pain

Thoracotomy a procedure to open the chest cavity by making an incision

Tumour abnormal growth of tissue that can be benign or malignant

Ultrasound exposing part of the body to high frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body