Medical terms


An anaesthetic helps make people more comfortable during a medical procedure. A general anaesthetic puts a person to sleep for a while. A local anaesthetic will numb a part of the body so the person cannot feel anything.


Benign means not cancerous. Benign tumours usually grow slowly. They do not spread to other parts of the body.


A biopsy is a small sample of cells taken from the body. Doctors look at the sample to see if there are cancer cells there.

Blood count

A blood count is a blood test which measures the levels of the different types of blood cells in the blood. The three main types of blood cell are:

  • red blood cells, which carry oxygen
  • platelets, which help the blood to clot
  • white blood cells, which fight and prevent infection.

Central line

A central line is a long, thin, flexible tube. It is inserted into a vein in a person’s chest to give chemotherapy and other drugs. A Hickman line is a type of central line.


Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. It can be given alone or with other treatments.


When someone consents to treatment, it means they agree to having it.


A diagnosis is a description of the illness a person has.


Fertility is the ability to have children.

Intravenous (IV)

This means being given into a vein. A person may have fluids or drugs given into a vein.

Lymphatic system

The lymphatic system helps to protect us from infection and disease. It is made up of fine tubes called lymphatic vessels that connect to groups of lymph nodes throughout the body.


Malignant means cancerous. Malignant tumours may spread to different parts of the body.


A metastasis is a cancer that has spread from where it started to another part of the body. A metastasis is sometimes called a secondary cancer.


Oncology is the medical specialty that deals with cancer.


Paediatrics is the medical specialty that deals with children.

Palliative care

Palliative care is treatment to help manage symptoms (for example, pain) when the cancer cannot be cured.

PICC line

A PICC line is a long, thin, flexible tube. It is put into a vein to give chemotherapy or other treatments. It usually stays in until treatment finishes.


This is a long, thin, tube that is put in under the skin to give chemotherapy and other drugs. The tube is connected to a small box under the skin.

Primary cancer

A primary cancer is where a cancer starts.


A prognosis is what is likely to happen with someone’s disease in the future.


A prosthesis is an artificial body part. It can be used if that part of the body has been removed.


Radiotherapy uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells.


Surgery is an operation, often to remove something (such as cancer) from the body.


Terminal is when no more treatment can be given to control the cancer. It can mean the end of life is near.


A tumour is a growth or lump. It may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).