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

Jargon Buster

  • 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.

  • Germ cell

    The cells in the body that develop into sperm or eggs (reproductive cells). They contain half the number of chromosomes of a somatic cell (body cell) i.e. 23 chromosomes, so that when the egg and sperm unite, the resulting cell has 46 chromosomes (23 pairs)

  • Glaucoma

    A condition where a person’s eye-sight is affected by a build-up of pressure within the eye. The pressure can be caused by a build-up of fluid, inflammation or something pressing against the nerve connecting the eye from the brain (optic nerve)

  • Gliadel® wafer

    Small wafers or discs the size of a 5p coin containing the chemotherapy drug called carmustine. They are implanted in the brain and dissolve gradually releasing the drug. They are only licensed for people with high grade gliomas, or with glioblastomas that have returned after treatment. At least 90% of the tumour must also have been removed before they can be used.

  • Glial cell

    A type of brain cell that supports and protects the nerve cells (neurons) in the brain, by providing them with oxygen and nutrients, and by removing dead cells. There are three main types of glial cells – astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and ependymal cells. Glioma is a brain tumour that grows from any type of glial cell.

  • Glioma

    A glioma is a tumour that grows from a type of cell in the brain called a glial cell.

    There are different types of glial cells – the main types being astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and ependymal cells – giving rise to astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas and ependymomas, respectively.

    Gliomas are the most common type of brain tumour.

  • Grade

    Brain tumours are graded by the World Health Organisation (WHO) from 1 – 4, according to how they behave i.e. how fast they grow and how likely they are to spread within the brain.

    Tumours graded 1 and 2 are slow-growing, and are sometimes referred to as ‘benign’ or low grade. The word ‘benign’ is used less nowadays as it is not thought to be helpful in describing the tumour, as these low grade tumours are still serious.

    Tumours graded 3 and 4 are fast-growing, more aggressive tumours, sometimes referred to as ‘malignant’ or ‘cancerous’, meaning they are more likely to get bigger more quickly and sometimes spread to other parts of the brain or spinal cord.

  • Grey matter

    Particular types of cells that are found in the outer layer of the cerebral hemispheres (the cerebral cortex) and also in the cerebellum and spinal cord. They are involved in muscle control, sensory perception (such as seeing and hearing), memory, emotions, speech, decision-making and self-control

  • HDU

    High Dependency Unit. An area of a hospital that is usually located close to the Intensive Care Unit, where patients can be cared for more intensively than on a normal ward, but not to the extent of intensive care.

  • Hemiplegia

    Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body

  • Heterogeneity

    Tumours often show heterogeneity. This means that different cells in the tumour have different characteristics, which means that they will respond to treatments differently. As a result, a particular treatment may kill some of the tumour cells, but not others, which will continue to grow.

  • Hickman® 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 is a type of central line, can be left in place for some time, and is commonly used in children.”

  • Hippocampus

    A structure in the brain involved in forming, storing and processing memory. It is located in the lateral ventricle (one of the spaces in the brain).

  • HNA

    A Holistic Needs Assessment (HNA) is a chance for you and your healthcare team to look at your needs and concerns about the support you might need following diagnosis and treatment.

  • Holistic Needs Assessment

    A Holistic Needs Assessment (HNA) is a chance for you and your healthcare team to lookat your needs and concerns about the support you might need following diagnosis and treatment.

  • Hormone

    A natural chemical that is produced by the body and released into the blood stream. Hormones have various functions, including controlling metabolism (the breakdown of substances within the cell to release energy), growth and development, sleep, and mood.

  • Human Tissue Act 2004

    The law that regulates the removal, storage, use and disposal of human tissue e.g. samples of brain tumours. It requires the consent of the person from whom the tissue came (medical diagnosis and treatment excluded), and an HTA licence if the sample is to be stored for research. The Act covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is a separate act that covers Scotland – the Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006.

  • Hydrocephalus

    A build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain. It often causes increased pressure on the brain, leading to symptoms, such as headache, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision and (in infants) an increase in head size.

  • Hypertension

    High blood pressure

  • Hypothalamus

    Located at the base of the brain just above the brain stem, it works with the pituitary gland to control the body’s hormones and, therefore, helps with functions, such as body temperature, growth, salt and water balance, sleep, weight and appetite.

  • ICU

    Intensive Care Unit. An area in a hospital where seriously ill patients are cared for and very closely monitored.

  • Immune system

    The system in the body that defends us against foreign organisms or substances, e.g. bacteria and viruses, and against our own cells that have become abnormal. It fights infections and diseases. It includes the white blood cells, the lymph glands and the spleen.

  • Immunotherapy

    Treatment that stimulates the body’s immune system to fight diseases, such as brain tumours. Can involve the use of monoclonal antibodies.

  • Incision

    A surgical cut through skin or other tissue.

  • Infratentorial

    The area of the brain below the membrane known as the tentorium. The infratentorial region includes the cerebellum.

  • Intracranial

    Within the skull

  • Intracranial hypertension

    Abnormally high pressure inside the skull.

  • Intrathecal

    Giving drugs by injection into the spinal fluid

  • Intravenous

    A way of giving medicines or nutrients straight into the bloodstream through a needle/tube into a vein.

  • Irradiation

    To treat with radiation (high energy particles), such as X-rays.

  • Lesion

    An area of abnormal tissue.

  • Lethargy

    Abnormal drowsiness/sleepiness and inactivity.

  • Listeria

    A type of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Symptoms include diarrhoea, nausea and fever.

  • Lymph

    The fluid in the lymphatic system – a network of glands, particularly in the armpits, neck and groin – that drains away waste fluid and products, such as damaged cells. It also contains cells that fight infection.

  • Malignant transformation

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

  • MDT

    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.

  • Meninges

    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).

  • Metastasis

    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.

  • Midbrain

    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.

  • Monotherapy

    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.

  • Mutation

    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.