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

Jargon Buster

  • Prognosis

    The likely course and expected outcome of a medical condition.

  • Progression-free survival

    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

  • Psychosis

    A severe mental health problem that disrupts perception, thinking, emotion and behaviour. It might include hallucinations or delusions.

  • Puberty

    A period in a human’s development when the body matures sexually, causing various physical, psychological and behavioural changes. There is no set age when it starts. For girls, it is usually between 8 – 14 years; for boys, 9-14 years.

  • Quality of life

    A term used to describe the physical and emotional wellbeing of people in their daily lives

  • Radiation

    A stream of high energy particles or electromagnetic waves that can be used to destroy tumour cells.

  • Randomised clinical trial

    A clinical trial in which patients are randomly allocated to the different treatments under investigation.

  • Referral

    When a doctor directs a patient to another doctor e.g. a GP directs a patient to a specialist

  • Rehabilitation

    Treatments designed to aid the recovery from illness, injury or disease to as normal a condition as possible.

  • Resection

    The surgical removal of an organ or structure, such as a tumour. Partial resection: Removal of part of a tumour Total resection: Removal of all of a tumour

  • Respite care

    A break from caring, while the person you care for is looked after by someone else. This can be a volunteer, a paid carer, a family member or a friend.

  • Retina

    The layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye

  • Screen/ screening test

    A test to look for particular changes in a person’s or tumour’s DNA.

  • Sedative

    A drug that calms a patient, reducing anxiety and making you sleepy. It can be given before certain medical procedures to make them less stressful.

  • Seizure

    A sudden burst of uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain, that temporarily disrupts the normal working of the brain. It can cause a range of symptoms from minor physical signs, such as an arm or leg twitching; strange sensations or thought disturbances: to a physical convulsion and loss of consciousness.

  • SEN

    Special Educational Needs that affect a child’s ability to learn. These could include: reading & writing; ability to understand things; concentration levels; physical needs or impairments; or the behaviour or ability to socialise. If your child needs more support than the school can provide through SEN, they may need an education, health and care (EHC) plan. You can ask your local authority for an assessment.


    Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator. The person who is responsible for and co-ordinates additional support that some pupils will need in school. All mainstream schools must have a SENCO.

  • Shunt

    A tube that is inserted to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid from the brain to another part of the body, where it can easily be eliminated. This is to prevent a build-up of pressure on the brain, as caused by hydrocephalus. During an operation, one end of the tube will be inserted into the area of the brain where the fluid is collecting, and the other end will usually run through to the abdomen. From here it can be absorbed into the blood stream and eliminated from the body in the usual way, as urine when you go the toilet. The shunt usually has a valve to control the flow of fluid and make sure it doesn’t drain too quickly. You may be able to feel the valve under your scalp.

  • Somatic cell

    Any cell in the body that is not a reproductive/germ cell i.e. any cell other than sperm or eggs.

  • Somnolence syndrome

    Period of excessive drowsiness, impaired concentration and fatigue that can follow 4 -6 weeks after radiotherapy, particularly to the head.

  • Specials

    Unlicensed medicines, which have been specially manufactured or imported, for the treatment of an individual patient after being ordered by specified healthcare professionals.

  • Squint

    Inability for both eyes to look in the same direction. Also known as strabismus.

  • SRS

    Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is stereotactic radiotherapy treatment that is given in one session. Despite its name, SRS doesn’t involve actual surgery.

  • Stem cell

    An unspecialised, primitive cell that is able to grow into any one of the body’s different cell types. They play a part in the body’s ability to renew and repair itself.

  • Stereotactic radiosurgery

    Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is stereotactic radiotherapy treatment thatis given in one session. Despite its name, SRS doesn’t involve actual surgery.

  • Steroid card

    A card to carry in your wallet or purse that contains details of your steroid type and dosage. This is important information if you need to have medical treatment, such as in an emergency. If you are given a steroid card, make sure you carry it with you at all times. Your doctor may advise you to carry it for up to a year after completion of your steroid treatment.

  • Steroids

    Substances that are made naturally in the body that affect various functions of the body. They can also be made artificially in the laboratory. There are different types of steroids. The ones used in brain tumour treatment are called corticosteroids. They help to reduce swelling caused by the tumour or its treatment. They are NOT anabolic steroids, that athletes sometimes use to bulk up their muscles.

  • Stroke

    A brain attack. When blood circulation is cut off from a specific part of the brain. The damage a stroke can cause depends on where in the brain it happens

  • support bubble

    A support bubble provides more support for single parents and adults living alone by enabling them to spend time with another household. The adult and any dependent children living with them will be able to form a support bubble with another household and act as if they live together. This means they can spend time together inside each other’s homes and do not need to stay 2 metres apart.

    It’s important to remember that support bubbles should be exclusive. This means you should not switch the household you are in a bubble with or connect with multiple households.

  • Supratentorial

    The area of the brain above the membrane known as the tentorium. The supratentorial region includes the cerebrum.

  • Synapse

    The junction between two nerve cells (neurons). It is a minute gap across which nerve impulses pass with the aid of a chemical substance called a neurotransmitter.

  • Syndrome

    A collection of signs and symptoms that appear together and form a disease or medical condition.

  • Temporal lobe

    The part of each cerebral hemisphere of the brain located at the middle, lower half of the brain. It is involved in many ‘higher’ functions, such as intellect and behaviour. It also plays a large role in hearing and processing the meaning of speech.

  • Tentorium

    A supportive membrane that sits above the cerebellum and below the cerebral cortex

  • Terminal illness

    A disease that cannot be cured and that is reasonably expected to result in death within a short period of time.

  • Thrombocytopenia

    A condition where there are not enough platelets in the blood. This causes bleeding into the tissues, bruising and slow blood clotting after injury.

  • Thrombosis

    The formation of a blood clot. The clot itself is called a thrombus.

  • Tissue bank

    A facility (usually within a hospital where samples of human body tissue or fluid are stored

  • Tissue banking

    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.

  • Toxicity

    How harmful or poisonous a substance is.

  • Transfusion

    Receiving someone else’s blood through the veins in order to replace blood, or components of the blood, lost during illness or trauma.

  • Treatment mask

    A mask that is made specifically to fit your head, that is attached to the treatment table and holds your head in position during radiotherapy treatment. This is important, as you need to stay very still during the treatment, so that the radiotherapy is directed to the correct part of the brain i.e. the tumour. The mask may be made of plastic or Plaster of Paris, and is moulded to the shape of your head.

  • Treatment plan

    The plan and schedule of treatment(s) based on what is considered to be the best treatment option(s) for you. This will depend on many factors, including your tumour type, location and your wishes. Your treatment plan should be a joint decision between you and your health team (MDT).

  • Tumour progression

    When a tumour starts to grow more quickly, or starts to spread and invade other cells.

  • Type-2 diabetes

    A condition whereby a person does not produce enough insulin or their cells are resistant to it. Insulin is a hormone that regulates how much sugar from the blood can be used by the cells. This condition is occurs more often in people over 40. People with diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke.

  • Unlicensed medicine

    Medicines which are not licensed to be used in the UK or which are used outside the terms specified in their license. Doctors might prescribe unlicensed medicine if they deem that it is in the best interest of the patient

  • Ventilator

    A machine which forces air in and out of a person’s lungs. The machine is used when a person is physically unable to breath on their own

  • Ventricle

    A cavity or space. In the brain, they produce, and so are filled with, the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). They are also concerned with CSF circulation. There are four ventricles in the brain, which are all connected. (Two lateral ventricles, the third ventricle and the fourth ventricle).

  • Vestibular nerve

    The nerve which connects the inner ear to the brain. It is involved in hearing, balance and body position.

  • Visual cortex

    An area at the back of the brain which helps us make sense of visual information.