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Jargon buster

A comprehensive list of the terms and words you will come across in relation to brain tumours.


Malignant transformation

When cells become cancerous (malignant). This may occur in healthy cells, or cells in a low grade('benign') tumour.


Multi-Disciplinary Team. A team of healthcare professionals with different specialisations who, once you are diagnosed, work together and oversee your treatment and care.

Medical oncologist

Medical oncologists diagnose and treat people with tumours, mainly using chemotherapy and sometimes immunotherapy, and also undertake clinical research that has practical uses.

Medical oncologists can advise on all aspects of treatment, including radiotherapy, but only clinical oncologists can prescribe radiotherapy.

They often work together with clinical oncologists.

Medulla oblongata

The lowest part of the brain stem that carries messages between the brain and the spinal cord. It is partly responsible for heart rate and lung functioning, and controls reflexes such as swallowing, coughing and the gag reflex.


Collective term for three thin layers of tissue (membranes) that separate the brain from the skull. Their function is to protect the brain. They are called the dura mater (outermost), the arachnoid (middle) and pia mater (innermost).


The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. These are known as secondary tumours. A secondary brain tumour is one which has spread to the brain from the original site e.g. lung, breast etc.


Part of the brainstem just above the pons. It helps to relay information for sight and hearing.

Monoclonal antibody (MAB)

Identical copy of an antibody taken from the body and multiplied in the laboratory. Antibodies are part of the immune system, which work to remove or kill harmful substances in the body. Monoclonal antibodies (MABs) are a type of biological therapy which can be made to target some types of tumour cell.


Therapy that uses one type of treatment, such as radiation therapy or surgery alone, to treat a certain disease or condition. In drug therapy, monotherapy refers to the use of a single drug to treat a disease or condition.

Moon face

The rounded appearance of the face due to fat deposits on the sides of the face. This can be caused by steroids (corticosteroids) that are often given to prevent swelling after surgery or other brain tumour treatment.

Motor cortex

The area of the brain in the cerebral cortex that controls voluntary movement.

Motor skills

Any action that involves using your muscles intentionally (voluntarily). Motor skills - fine: Small, precise movements, such as those involved in feeding, dressing, writing, playing computer games etc. Motor skills - gross: Larger movements with your arms, legs, feet or entire body e.g. walking, balancing.

MRI scan

The use of magnetic fields to build up a three-dimensional image of the inside of your head by taking pictures from various angles. MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

Multi-Disciplinary Team

Abbreviated to MDT. A team of healthcare professionals with different specialisations who, once you are diagnosed, work together and oversee your treatment and care.


A change in the structure of a gene. In most cases, such changes are neutral or they are repaired by the body. However, occasionally the repair may not be perfect causing a mistake to be copied during cell division. These acquired mutations can be involved in the development of cancer. Mutations can be caused by other factors, including environmental 'insults', such as radiation and certain chemicals. Mutations are sometimes attributed to random chance events.

Myelin sheath

A protective sleeve around nerve cells that acts as an insulator and allows faster and more efficient transmission of signals down the nerves. It is formed by oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system and Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system.