Improving Brain Tumour Care surveys share your experiences and help create change

Jargon Buster

  • Chromosome

    Found in the nucleus (centre) of each cell in the body, they are the part of the cell which carries your genes.

  • Claustrophobia

    Fear of being in small, confined spaces.

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

    A specialist nurse who is the main point of contact between you and the rest of your health team. They can offer specialist advice, information and support to you (and your family) about your diagnosis and treatment. They can also refer you to other services, if you need them e.g. fatigue management, seizure management, psychological issues, benefits. NICE guidelines state that all patients with brain tumours “should have a clearly identified key worker” to work with the patients, their relatives and carers, throughout their care. This is likely to be the Clinical Nurse Specialist.

  • Clinical oncologist

    Clinical oncologists are doctors who use non-surgical ways of treating tumours. This includes radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy.

    Clinical oncologists train in all types of tumour, but specialise in one or two types as a consultant – for example, brain tumours. If they specialise in brain tumours, they may use the job title of neuro-oncologist.

    They often work together with medical oncologists.

  • Clinical trial

    An experiment that involves patients in a new way of managing a condition. This might include investigating a new treatment, a new way of giving an existing treatment, or a new approach to diagnosing an illness or assessing an outcome after treatment. Trials are vital to establish whether a new approach is safe and effective, and whether it is better than the old approach.

  • CNS

    This abbreviation can refer to one of two meanings: 1) the central nervous system i.e. the brain and the spinal cord. 2) Clinical Nurse Specialist

  • Cognition

    Cognition means the conscious mental processes that our brain is responsible for – our thinking abilities. These include not only thinking, but also understanding, learning, concentration, problem-solving, planning and decision-making.

  • Compassionate use

    A treatment option that allows doctors in the European Union (EU) to prescribe to patients, a promising medicine which has not yet been authorised (licensed) for their condition. It can only be used, if there are no other satisfactory authorised therapies, and the patient cannot enter a clinical trial. Each country has their own rules about how this can be used. In the UK this is known as the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS)

  • Complementary therapy

    A therapy which is taken alongside conventional treatments given by your medical team. A lot of complementary therapies are used to relieve symptoms of therapy or side-effects of the tumour. Always let your health team know if you are considering a complementary therapy, as some may affect or interfere with the effectiveness of your usual treatment.

  • Contrast medium

    A substance that is put into the body to increase the contrast (give a clearer picture) of internal structures, e.g. a brain tumour, during scans. It is usually given in the form of a drink or an injection.

  • Corpus callosum

    A bundle of nerves that connects the two cerebral hemispheres (halves) of the brain, allowing communication between them.

  • Cortical dysplasia

    Cells in the brain that have developed abnormally. They tend to ‘fire’ (send messages) more frequently, causing disorganised, uncontrolled activity in the brain, leading to seizures.

  • Corticosteroid

    A medication that is used in brain tumour treatment to help reduce swelling caused by the tumour itself or by its treatment. (They are NOT anabolic steroids, that athletes sometimes use to bulk up their muscles.) Steroids are substances that are made naturally in the body, but they can also be made artificially in the laboratory.

  • Cranial nerves

    The 12 paired nerves that have their origin in the brain and exit the brain through natural openings in the skull, as opposed to the spinal nerves which go down the spinal column. They are mainly concerned with functions in the head and neck, and include the optic nerves (vision) and the olfactory nerves (smell).

  • Craniotomy

    Surgical removal of part of the skull to expose the brain during an operation.

  • CSF

    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.

  • CT scan

    The use of x-rays to build up a three-dimensional image of the inside of your head by taking pictures from various angles. CT stands for Computerised Tomography. It is sometimes called a CAT scan.

  • Cyberknife ®

    The trade name for a machine which delivers beams of high dose radiation to a tumour from many different positions around the patient. This allows it to target the tumour very accurately. This is known as stereotactic radiosurgery or stereotactic radiotherapy. Despite the word ‘knife’ appearing in the name, no actual knife is used.

  • Cyst

    An abnormal sac-like structure containing fluid or semi-solid material. Most cysts are non-cancerous, but they can cause problems by pressing on the brain tissue or by blocking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid around the brain.

  • Cytotoxic

    Any substance or process which kills cells. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are forms of cytotoxic therapy. They kill tumour cells, but may also damage healthy cells.

  • Debulking

    The surgical removal of part of a tumour, that cannot be fully removed. This makes it easier to treat the rest of the tumour that is left. It is sometimes called partial resection.

  • Dendritic cells

    Dendritic cells are a type of immune cell that function to help the body’s immune system recognise and attack tumour cells.

  • Depression

    A psychological/ emotional condition that involves the body, mood, thoughts and affects the way a person eats and sleeps for more than a few weeks. It is characterised by feelings of sadness, loneliness, despair, low self-esteem, withdrawal from social contact, loss of appetite and insomnia. Bipolar depression: Experiencing mood swings alternating between elation (mania) and depression. The mood swings can last for weeks at a time and cause significant work and relationship problems.

  • Dietitian

    A professional who specialises in diet and nutrition. A dietitian can help tumour patients manage side-effects caused by the tumour or by treatment. They can also help them maintain a healthy weight by helping them to eat healthily. There may be a dietitian as part of your health team. If not, ask to be referred to a dietitian within the NHS, or consult a registered dietitian.

  • Diffuse

    A tumour which does not have clear edges. Diffuse tumours spread into healthy tissue making it difficult to determine precisely where the tumour ends and where the healthy tissue starts

  • Drip

    Short for intravenous (IV) drip, it is a device for giving fluid drop-by-drop into a vein. This could be medication, such as chemotherapy; fluid replacement to correct dehydration; or a solution with minerals etc. for nourishment.

  • Dysarthria

    Slurred or slow speech caused by poor control of the muscles in the face/tongue. A person with dysarthria may also have problems controlling the pitch, loudness, rhythm, and voice qualities of their speech.

  • Dysphagia

    Difficulty swallowing due to problems with nerve or muscle control. If severe, it can make eating difficult and prevent the person from taking in enough calories.

  • Dysphasia

    Dysphasia is a condition caused by damage to the parts of the brain that are responsible for understanding and producing language. It also affects speaking and writing in the same way. This means you may have difficulty understanding words you hear or read, as well as in producing words (spoken or written).

    It is important to note that dysphasia does not affect intellect although, unfortunately, this is a common misperception.

  • Dyspraxia

    Difficulty organising and co-ordinating movement due to messages from the brain not being transmitted properly. The person may bump into things, have trouble tying shoelaces or with writing/typing, or have speech difficulties. It is also associated with problems of perception, language and thought.

  • Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS)

    A scheme designed to give patients access to promising medicines which have not yet been licensed. This means they have not been fully tested to see if they are safe, if they are effective or what side-effects they may cause. It is only for drugs that may provide a benefit to people with a life -threatening or seriously disabling condition, where there is no other treatment available to them. The scheme also allows doctors to prescribe a drug off-label. This means it can be given for a condition, an age or a dose that is it not licensed for. This scheme began in March 2015.

  • Efficacy

    Effectiveness (how well something works)

  • Electrolyte

    Minerals, such as sodium, potassium and calcium, that are needed in certain quantities and proportions within our cells for them, and our organs, to work properly. If a patient has prolonged vomiting or diarrhoea, electrolytes may be lost and need to be replaced.

  • Eligibility criteria

    A list of conditions you must meet in order to be considered suitable for entry onto a clinical trial. Examples of these conditions include: having a particular type of tumour, not having already had a particular type of treatment, being a certain age.

  • Embryo

    A baby in its earliest stages of development within the mother’s womb – often considered to be up to the eighth week of development. Organs have started to form but are not yet fully formed. Embryonal tumours develop from cells left over from when the person was an embryo.

  • Endocrine system

    A collection of glands within the body that produce hormones and release them into the bloodstream. They control metabolism (the breakdown of substances within the cell to release energy), growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, mood and other functions. The glands include the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland.

  • Entry criteria

    A list of conditions you must meet in order to be considered suitable for entry onto a clinical trial. Examples of these conditions include: having a particular type of tumour, not having already had a particular type of treatment, being a certain age.

  • Ependymal cell

    A type of brain cell which lines the ventricles (spaces) within the brain. Ependymal cells are involved in the production of the cerebrospinal fluid. It is a type of glial cell.

  • Executive function

    A process of the brain that involves management type tasks, such as planning, organising, problem-solving, decision-making and reasoning.

  • External ventricular drain (EVD)

    A temporary device used in neurosurgery to drain fluid from the brain. It is used to relieve raised intracranial pressure or hydrocephalus caused when the normal flow of the cerebrospinal fluid is blocked.

  • Fertility

    The ability of people to reproduce (have children) through normal sexual activity.

  • Focal

    When something is focused or concentrated on a particular point. This could refer to radiotherapy x-ray beams being aimed at the centre of a tumour; or to focal seizures in epilepsy, where only a small part of the brain is involved.

  • Forebrain

    Another name for the cerebral cortex.

  • Fraction

    One session of radiotherapy. To reduce side-effects and make sure the tumour cells are treated when they are most vulnerable, the total dose of radiotherapy is divided into several smaller doses called a fraction.

  • Fractionated stereotactic radiotherapy

    Fractionated stereotactic radiotherapy (FRST), is stereotactic radiotherapy treatment thatis given over multiple sessions.

  • Frontal lobe

    “The part of each cerebral hemisphere of the brain located behind the forehead. It controls our personality, emotions, memory and behaviour. It helps us to think through the consequences of our actions and understanding social norms. The frontal lobe also contains the Broca’s area, which is associated with language production.”

  • FSRT

    Fractionated stereotactic radiotherapy (FRST), is stereottactic radiotherapy treatment that is given over multiple sessions.

  • Gamma Knife ®

    “The trade name for a machine which delivers beams of low-dosage gamma radiation to a tumour from many different positions around the patient. This allows it to target the tumour very accurately, whilst giving minimal radiation to the surrounding healthy tissue. This is known as stereotactic radio surgery. Despite the word ‘knife’ appearing in the name, no actual knife is used.”

  • Gene

    A set of instructions, carried on the chromosomes within each cell, that is transferred from parent to offspring. The function of a gene can be to determine something about who you are e.g. whether you have long or short eyelashes, or it can help to control processes, such as when your cells should start and stop dividing.

  • Genetic condition

    A condition that is caused by an abnormality in the genes. This could either be inherited from our parents, or caused by an acquired change (mutation) in our own genes. Such mutations can occur randomly, due to a mistake being made when the gene is copied during cell division, or be due to some environmental factor.