Cancer glossary

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Cancer glossary

Palliation (palliative treatment)

Treatment to relieve cancer symptoms or treament-related side-effects such as pain.
Palliation is meant to increase comfort or quality-of-life, not to treat the cancer itself.


Treatment that uses substances or chemicals to stimulate the body’s immune system to help fight infection or cancer growth.
Some immunotherapies target specific cells of the immune system, while others affect the immune system in a genaral way.


The use of medical drugs to kill cancer cells and shrink cancer tumours.
Chemotherapy can be administered by mouth, injection, infusion, or on the skin.
Chemotherapy is also harmful to normal cells.

Radiotherapy (radiation therapy)

The use of high-energy radiation such as x-rays, gamma rays, or other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink cancer tumours.
Radiation can come from a machine or from radioactive material placed in the body near the cancer cells.
Radiotherapy is also harmful to normal cells.


Cancer of the blood and blood-forming organs (bone-marrow) characterised by the abnormal accumulation of white-blood cells called leukocytes.


Cancer of the lymphatic tissue (immune system) involving white-blood cells called lymphocytes.


Cancer that begins in the melanocytes (skin pigment cells) and spreads to other skin cells. Melanoma looks like a new or growing mole.


Cancers that affect bones or soft tissues of the body such as muscles, fat, cartilage, or blood vessels, and the lining of joints.


Cancer that affects the epidermis (lower layer of skin), or the lining tissue of internal organs.


Tumours composed of very immature cells such as those found in very young children.


When cancer symptoms and signs re-occur after a period of being in remission.


Decrease or disappearance of the signs of cancer after treatment, cancer cells may still be present in the body, though. After five years of complete remission (no symptoms or evidence of disease), cancer is considered successfully managed.


Cancer growth or tumour that is actively spreading


A small sample of a suspected cancererous tumour or lump is taken out and tested for cancer cells.


When cancer cells migrate from the initial location of growth to another location in the body, eg. from the lungs to the liver.


A mass of tissue that is not inflamed, arising from cells of existing tissues, and serving no useful purpose.


The uncontrolled growth of cells that, left untreated, would be fatal.


Asparaginase (ASPA) is an enzyme that is used as a medication.
L-asparaginase is used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is given by injection into a vein, muscle, or under the skin.
Asparaginase works by breaking down the amino acid known as asparagine, which deprives the leukemic cell of circulating asparagine, which leads to cell death.