Jargon buster

A comprehensive list of the terms and words you will come across in relation to brain tumours.

B

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.