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Jargon Buster

  • Acupuncture

    A complementary medicine that treats illnesses by inserting fine needles into the skin at particular points of the body. It is thought to help with the management of various symptoms, such as stress and pain.

  • AED

    Anti-Epileptic Drug. A drug that can help to control epileptic seizures. There are many different AEDs, but only some are suitable for brain tumour-related epilepsy.

  • Agnosia

    Being unable to recognise objects, people, words and sounds.

  • Alternative therapy

    Any therapy that is: – not part of conventional treatment – not approved by a public health body – and not offered by your medical team. They are different from Complementary therapies.

  • Amnesia

    Memory loss. Anterograde amnesia: Being unable to form new memories after an event that caused damage to the brain (such as a tumour pressing on the brain). However, the person is able to recall everything that has happened before that event. Retrograde amnesia: Loss of memory for events, or information learned, before an event that caused damage to the brain (such as a tumour pressing on the brain).

  • Anaemia

    A condition of an abnormally low number of red blood cells in the blood. It causes pale skin, shortness of breath and lack of energy.

  • Anaesthetic

    A medication that causes the loss of sensation by blocking the nerves to the brain. General anaesthetic: A type of medication that is used to send you to sleep during surgery. This means you are unaware of the surgery, and you don’t move or feel pain. Local anaesthetic: A type of medication used to numb areas of the body, without making you lose consciousness (without sending you to sleep). You may be able to feel some pressure and movement, but not pain.

  • Anaplastic

    A characteristic of high grade (‘malignant’) tumours, where their cells’ structure or arrangement is abnormal.

  • Angiogenesis

    The process of developing new blood vessels. Angiogenesis inhibitor: A drug that interferes with the development of new blood vessels.

  • Anti-convulsant

    Something which can help to prevent or control seizures, such as anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs).

  • Anti-epileptic

    Something which can help to prevent or control seizures, such as anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs).

  • Antibiotic

    Medicine used to prevent or treat infectious diseases caused by bacteria. They do not have an effect on infections caused by a virus.

  • Antibody

    A substance produced by the immune system of your body. It is released into the blood to identify and destroy potentially harmful substances, such as bacteria and viruses.

  • Anxiety

    A feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, about an anticipated ‘danger’. It can be mild or severe. Signs include muscle tension, restlessness, rapid breathing, diarrhoea, confusion, problems concentrating. Feelings of anxiety at certain times are completely normal, but if it is affecting your daily life or causing you distress, see your GP.

  • Aphasia

    Difficulty with using language correctly. It can affect understanding language, speaking or both. The person may use the wrong word or jumble their sentences. It can also affect reading and writing. Global aphasia: A condition where the person has difficulty speaking and understanding words. The person is also not able to read or write.

  • Apraxia

    Having difficulty, or being unable, to control or co-ordinate movements, even thought your muscles are normal. Milder forms of apraxia are known as dyspraxia. It can cause problems with balance, kicking or throwing a ball, and ‘fine motor skills’, such as writing or doing up buttons.

  • Astrocyte

    A type of brain cell involved in delivering nutrients to the brain’s nerve cells (‘neurons’). An astrocyte is a type of ‘glial cell’.

  • Ataxia

    Loss of control of muscle functions, which may cause unsteady walking or difficulties with movement or speech.

  • Avastin®

    The trade name of bevacizumab – a type of chemotherapy drug most commonly used to treat other cancers. There has been some interest in whether it is effective in brain tumours.

  • BBB

    The blood-brain barrier. A membrane of cells which helps to protect the brain from harmful substances in the blood, such as bacteria or viruses that could cause infections. This membrane is one of the reasons why it is difficult to develop chemotherapy drugs which can reach the brain.

  • Benign

    This term is sometimes used for low grade, slower growing tumours, which rarely spread. The term ‘benign’ is less used nowadays as it can be misleading. ‘Benign’ tumours can still be serious, causing damage to the brain by pressing on the brain itself or by blocking the flow of the cerebro-spinal fluid. This can lead to a build-up of pressure on the brain. Please see the Grading of tumours page

  • Bilateral

    Relating to something which is on or affecting both sides of the body

  • Biobanking

    The process of collecting and storing body fluids or tissue, e.g. a sample of your tumour. This can then be used in research to help with the understanding of the disease.

  • Biological therapy

    A therapy that harnesses the body’s natural abilities to help stop or slow the growth of tumour cells. They work in different ways including: boosting the immune system, changing the ways tumour cells signal to each other to grow, or by stopping tumour cells grow new blood vessels which allows them to spread. Examples would include immunotherapies, monoclonal antibodies, gene therapy and vaccines.

  • Biomarker

    A biomarker is a biological marker. It is a gene, a molecule or some other biological substance in your blood or cells. It can be measured and used to: – diagnose your tumour – work out how severe a disease is likely to be – the likely response you may have to certain treatments.

  • Biopsy

    Removal of a sample of cells or tissues, via an operation. The sample is then taken for close examination under a microscope in the laboratory. It is used to help diagnose the exact type and grade of your tumour.

  • Blinding

    Relating to clinical trials, where the patients and/or the researchers do not know which patients are receiving the active treatment/medication and which are not. Trials can be single blind, where the patients do not know, but the researchers do; or double-blind, where neither the patients not the researchers know. These techniques help to avoid bias in the results, such as caused by the placebo effect.

  • Blood cell count

    This is a test to see how many of a particular type of blood cell you have in a particular amount of your blood. (There are different types of blood cells – the main ones being red, white and platelets). The blood cell count is used to diagnose various conditions/illnesses.

  • Blood-brain barrier

    A membrane of cells which helps to protect the brain from harmful substances in the blood, such as bacteria or viruses that could cause infections. This membrane is one of the reasons why it is difficult to develop chemotherapy drugs which can reach the brain.

  • Bone flap

    A part of the skull temporarily removed during surgery, so the surgeon can access the brain, such as during a craniotomy.

  • Bone marrow

    The soft, pulpy tissue inside your bones, particularly the long bones of the legs and the breast bone (sternum). It produces red blood cells and many white blood cells.

  • Brain stem

    The brain stem connects the cerebrum (the main part of the brain) with the spinal cord. It controls many of the functions that we usually do not have to think about, including breathing, swallowing, blood pressure and digestion. The two main parts of the brain stem are the pons and the medulla oblongata.

  • Burr hole

    A small hole drilled into the skull. This is done so that the neurosurgeon can remove a small piece of the tumour to be sent to the laboratory for examination and diagnosis. This procedure is known as a biopsy.

  • Cancer Drugs Fund

    A fund of government money set aside to pay for cancer drugs that haven’t been approved by NICE – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

  • Candida

    A type of yeast that is normally present in small amounts in the mouth (and other areas of the body). It is usually controlled by the bacteria in your mouth and causes no harm. If something, such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, disrupts the balance it can grow unchecked and become a fungal infection, such as oral thrush.

  • Cannabinoids

    The name for the complex chemicals found in cannabis that are responsible for the effect cannabis has on the body and are considered important for medical reasons. Two cannabinoids are of particular interest: THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

  • Cannula

    A tube that is inserted into the body (often a vein), so that medication or fluids can be given, or blood can be taken.

  • Cataracts

    A clouding of the lens in the eye, which causes blurred and misty vision

  • Catheter

    A tube that is inserted into the body, so that medication can be given, or fluids can be taken.

  • CBT

    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: a talking therapy that helps you manage problems by changing the way you think and behave.

  • CDF

    Cancer Drugs Fund: a fund of government money set aside to pay for cancer drugs that haven’t been approved by NICE – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

  • Central line

    A tube that is passed through a vein, often in the arm or chest, to end up in a large vein near the heart. The other end is left outside the body and is used to deliver chemotherapy drugs straight into the blood. It can also be used to take blood samples. It can be left in place for some time.

    There are different types of central line e.g. Hickman® line.

  • Central nervous system

    The brain and the spinal cord.

  • Cerebellum

    Also known as the hindbrain, it is the second largest structure of the brain. It sits at the very back of the skull and plays a key role in balance and co-ordination (which you may hear referred to as ‘motor control’ functions).

  • Cerebral cortex

    The outer layer of the main part of the brain (the cerebrum). It is made of folded grey matter and gives the cerebrum its ‘wrinkly’ appearance. It is divided into four lobes – frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital. It controls conscious and voluntary processes, such as movement, the five senses and higher mental functions e.g. speech, thought, reason, emotion and memory.

  • Cerebral hemisphere

    The left or right half of the main part of the brain (the cerebrum). Each hemisphere has an outer layer known as the cerebral cortex (or grey matter), and underlying regions of white matter. The left hemisphere controls and processes signals from the right half of the body; and the right hemisphere controls and processes signals from the left half of the body.

  • Cerebrospinal fluid

    A watery fluid that flows around the ventricles (spaces) and surfaces of the brain, and also the surface of the spinal cord, to protect and nourish them. Abbreviated to CSF. It is continuously produced by the choroid plexus, and absorbed into the venous system. If more is produced than absorbed, or the flow of the fluid gets blocked, it causes a build-up of pressure, known as hydrocephalus.

  • Cerebrum

    The largest and main part of the brain. It is made up of the two cerebral hemispheres, their cerebral cortex (outer layer of grey matter) and underlying regions of white matter. The cerebrum, as a whole, controls conscious and voluntary processes, such as movement, the five senses and higher mental functions e.g. speech, thought, reason, emotion and memory.

  • Cheer Champions

    Volunteers who help to make as much noise as possible to support The Brain Tumour Charity’s fundraisers by cheering, shouting and whistling on the side lines as they take part in their challenge! Cheer champions are invaluable in raising awareness andmaking the most exciting atmosphere for our runners, walkers and trekkers.

  • Choroid plexus

    The region in each ventricle (cavity) in the brain that produces the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to cushion and protect the brain. The choroid plexus is made up of a network of ependymal cells.

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