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

Jargon Buster

  • National Institute of Health and Care Excellence

    The organisation in the UK that provides guidance on the use of medicines for specific diseases and conditions. Abbreviated to NICE. Its guidance is officially England-only, but agreements are in place with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • Nausea

    Feeling sick and likely to vomit.

  • Necrosis

    Death of cells through injury or disease, especially in a localised area of tissue or organ. It can be caused by a lack of blood flow to the cells.

  • Neoplasm

    A new and abnormal growth of tissue in the body – another name for a tumour.

  • Neuro-obs

    Neurological observations. These include checking how alert you are; testing your reflexes; checking that the pupils in your eye react to light; checking your pulse, blood pressure, the amount of oxygen in your blood and how many breaths you take each minute.

  • Neuro-oncology

    The study of brain and spinal cord tumours.

  • Neurobiology

    The branch of science that deals with structure of the brain and nervous system, the way it works and its diseases.

  • Neurology

    The branch of medicine that deals with the structure (anatomy), functions and disorders of the nerves and the nervous system.

  • Neuron

    Nerve cell that receives and sends electrical signals over long distances within the body

  • Neuropsychologist

    Healthcare professionals thatspecialise in the physical effects of brain disease or injury on mental abilities.

  • Neuroscience

    Any science which deals with the brain and nervous system. Examples of a neuroscience include neurobiology, neurochemistry and experimental psychology.

    It is sometimes used interchangeably with neurobiology, but usually looks more at understanding how the human brain works to produce behaviour and other brain functions, such as learning.

  • Neurotransmitter

    A chemical substance which transmits (carries) signals across the junction (synapse) from one nerve to another. Examples include: serotonin, which helps carry messages between different areas of the brain, and plays a part in mood, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation and some social behaviour.

  • Neutropenia

    An abnormally low number of neutrophils in the blood. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell and are part of the immune system. They attack bacteria and other foreign substances when they invade your body. A low level means you are more prone to infections.

  • Neutrophils

    A type of white blood cell – they are part of the immune system. They attack bacteria and other foreign substances when they invade your body

  • NICE

    National Institute of Health and Care Excellence. The organisation that provides guidance on the use of medicines for specific diseases and conditions. Its guidance is officially England-only, but agreements are in place with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • Noradrenaline

    A type of neurotransmitter that raises the blood pressure and heart rate.

  • Nystagmus

    Rapid, involuntary, jerky movements of the eyes.

  • Occipital lobe

    The part of each cerebral hemisphere of the brain located towards the very rear of the skull. Its main role is the control of vision.

  • Oedema

    An excess build-up of fluid in the tissues or cavities in the body, causing swelling and other symptoms. Cerebral oedema: build-up of fluid in the cells in the brain or in the spaces outside the cells. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, blurred vision and, in severe cases, seizures, coma or death.

  • Off-label access

    The use of medicines outside the terms of their licence (i.e. ‘off-label’), if it is judged to be in the best interest of the patient. For example, it could be used with a different dose or route of administration, or for a different disease.

  • Oligodendrocyte

    A type of brain cell which produces a protective sheath around the brain’s nerve cells (‘neurons’), known as the myelin sheath. An oligodendrocyte is a type of glial cell.

  • Oncologist

    Doctor who specialises in treating people who have cancer

  • Optic disc

    A circular area at the back of the inside of the eye connecting to the optic nerve.

  • Optic nerve

    The nerve connecting the eye to the brain.

  • Oral candidiasis

    Another name for oral thrush – a fungal/yeast infection of the mouth.

  • Oral mucositis

    Inflammation of the inside of the mouth, that can cause soreness and mouth ulcers. It is a common side-effect of treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

  • Oral thrush

    A fungal/yeast infection of the mouth. Also known as oral candidiasis, it can occur when treatments, such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, upset the normal balance of bacteria and yeast within the mouth, allowing the yeast to grow.

  • Orally

    Taken through the mouth.

  • Osteoporosis

    A disease of decreased bone strength. The bones become more fragile and likely to break due to loss of tissue. It is usually caused by hormonal changes or lack of calcium or Vitamin D.

  • Overall survival

    Overall survival means how long someone will live, which is differentprogression-free survival (PFS).

  • Paediatrician

    Doctor who specialises in children’s illnesses.

  • Papilloedema

    Swelling of the optic disc at the back of the eye. It can be seen by opticians during normal eye examinations. It can be caused by raised intracranial pressure and can be a symptom of a brain tumour.

  • Parietal lobe

    The part of each cerebral hemisphere of the brain directly behind the frontal lobe at the top of the brain. It consists of two areas: the sensory cortex, which receives information from our senses, such as touch, pain and pressure; and the motor cortex, which helps control how we move our limbs and body in the space we are in (spatial awareness).

  • Perception

    Awareness and understanding of our environment.

  • Peripheral nervous system

    The part of the nervous system that includes the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. They connect the central nervous system to other parts of the body. Abbreviated to PNS.

  • Peripheral vision

    Parts of our vision that is outside our centre of gaze, outside our point of focus.

  • Petechiae

    Small red dots or spots due to bleeding under the skin.

  • PFS

    Progression-free survival (PFS) means the length of time that a tumour doesn’t grow significantly.

    It is not the same as overall survival, which means how long someone will live. A more accurate description of PFS would be PFD – progression-free duration

  • Pharmacoresistance

    Resistance to pharmaceutical drugs. For example, pharmacoresistant epilepsy does not respond to anti-epileptic drugs.

  • picc line

    Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter. 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 and can be left in place for some time.

  • Pituitary gland

    Found at the base of the brain, it is the ‘master’ gland of the body’s endocrine system. Working with the hypothalamus, it controls other hormone-producing glands in the body to regulate different body functions, such as heart rate, body temperature as well as growth and development.

  • Placebo

    A medicine or procedure that has no actual biological or chemical therapeutic effect. It is generally used as a control in testing new drugs, but sometimes for the psychological benefit to the patient through their believing they are receiving treatment . This is known as the placebo effect.

  • Placebo effect

    When giving an inactive substance (such as sugar, distilled water, or saline solution) improves a patient’s condition simply because the person has the expectation that it will be helpful.

  • Platelet

    A type of blood cell that helps to stop bleeding when there has been an injury to the body, such as a cut. Platelets do this by helping the blood to clot.

  • Polymer 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.
    Also known as Gliadel® wafers.

  • Pons

    Part of the brainstem, it connects the medulla oblongata and the midbrain. It relays signals from the cerebrum to the cerebellum. It is involved with sleep, breathing, bladder control, hearing, facial and eye movements, posture and other functions.

  • Portacath

    A way of taking blood or delivering medicines straight into the blood, without having to insert a needle each time.

    Similar to a central line, except that the tube does not exit the body via the arm or chest. Instead, a small chamber (port) is implanted under the skin in the chest. The chemotherapy drugs are then injected into the port using a special needle.
    The advantage is that you can’t see the portacath
    and there are not have tubes coming out of the body, which have to be kept dry.

  • Posterior fossa

    A small space at the back of the skull containing the cerebellum, brain stem and fourth ventricle.

  • Primary brain tumour

    A tumour which begins in the brain (rather than spreading from somewhere else in the body)

  • Primitive cell

    An unspecialised immature cell from early in our development as an embryo. They include stem cells.