Jargon buster

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

C

Cancer Drugs Fund

A fund of government money set aside to pay for cancer drugs that haven't been approved by NICE - the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Candida

A type of yeast that is normally present in small amounts in the mouth (and other areas of the body). It is usually controlled by the bacteria in your mouth and causes no harm. If something, such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, disrupts the balance it can grow unchecked and become a fungal infection, such as oral thrush.

Cannula

A tube that is inserted into the body (often a vein), so that medication or fluids can be given, or blood can be taken.

Cataracts

A clouding of the lens in the eye, which causes blurred and misty vision

Catheter

A tube that is inserted into the body, so that medication can be given, or fluids can be taken.

CBT

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: a talking therapy that helps you manage problems by changing the way you think and behave.

CDF

Cancer Drugs Fund: a fund of government money set aside to pay for cancer drugs that haven't been approved by NICE - the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Central 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 can be left in place for some time.

There are different types of central line e.g. Hickman® line.

Central nervous system

The brain and the spinal cord.

Cerebellum

Also known as the hindbrain, it is the second largest structure of the brain. It sits at the very back of the skull and plays a key role in balance and co-ordination (which you may hear referred to as 'motor control' functions).

Cerebral cortex

The outer layer of the main part of the brain (the cerebrum). It is made of folded grey matter and gives the cerebrum its 'wrinkly' appearance. It is divided into four lobes - frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital. It controls conscious and voluntary processes, such as movement, the five senses and higher mental functions e.g. speech, thought, reason, emotion and memory.

Cerebral hemisphere

The left or right half of the main part of the brain (the cerebrum). Each hemisphere has an outer layer known as the cerebral cortex (or grey matter), and underlying regions of white matter. The left hemisphere controls and processes signals from the right half of the body; and the right hemisphere controls and processes signals from the left half of the body.

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. Abbreviated to CSF. It is continuously produced by the choroid plexus, and absorbed into the venous system. If more is produced than absorbed, or the flow of the fluid gets blocked, it causes a build-up of pressure, known as hydrocephalus.

Cerebrum

The largest and main part of the brain. It is made up of the two cerebral hemispheres, their cerebral cortex (outer layer of grey matter) and underlying regions of white matter. The cerebrum, as a whole, controls conscious and voluntary processes, such as movement, the five senses and higher mental functions e.g. speech, thought, reason, emotion and memory.

Choroid plexus

The region in each ventricle (cavity) in the brain that produces the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to cushion and protect the brain. The choroid plexus is made up of a network of ependymal cells.

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

"The conscious mental processes that our brain is responsible for, including:

  • thinking/reasoning
  • solving problems
  • making decisions
  • understanding social situations ('social cognition')
  • communication
  • perception
  • remembering things"

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.

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