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The Cancer Pathway

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The Cancer Pathway Map was created by the University Hospitals of Northamptonshire in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support.

We would like to give special thanks to the members of our patient feedback group for sharing their views and experiences with us to help develop this service.



Adjuvant Treatment: is treatment given after your main cancer treatment. For example, your main treatment may be an operation to remove the cancer. You may then have chemotherapy as an adjuvant therapy to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.

Alopecia: is hair loss. It can happen to the hair on your head, eyebrows, eyelashes, and other areas of the body. Hair loss can be a side effect of some cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. Your healthcare team will talk to you about how to reduce the chance of this happening. They can also help you get a wig if you want one.

Anaemia: is when you have reduced number of red blood cells. This can make you feel tired and breathless.

Anaesthetic: Drugs that put a person to sleep (general anaesthetic) or that numb a part of the body (local anaesthetic) while they have an operation or procedure.

Ascites: Ascites is a build-up of fluid in the lining of the abdomen. It can be caused by several types of cancer (Source: Macmillan cancer support).

Benign Tumour: is a lump in the body that is not cancer. Benign tumours usually grow slowly and do not spread to other parts of the body.

Biopsy: A small sample of tissue taken from the body to make a diagnosis.

Blood count: is a routine blood test to measure the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in your blood. It is also called a full blood count (FBC).

Diagnosis: is the description of the illness a person has.

Drip: is a way of giving fluids or drugs such as chemotherapy into a vein. It is also called an intravenous (IV) infusion.

Fatigue: is when you feel extremely tired most, or all, of the time. Cancer and some of its treatments can cause fatigue.

FNA: (Fine needle aspiration) is a test that uses a thin needle to take a small sample of cells from your body to be examined.

Grade: is a way for doctors to describe the growth of a cancer.

Histology: is the study of cells. Doctors look at cells under a microscope to see if they are normal or not. If there are cancer cells, they look to see what type of cancer it is.

Local therapy: is a treatment, for example radiotherapy and surgery, which only affects a particular area of your body.

Lymph: A clear fluid that’s part of the body’s defence against infection. It’s carried around the body in a network of lymphatic vessels

Lymph nodes (lymph glands): are part of the lymphatic system. They are small and bean shaped. They filter germs (bacteria) and disease from the lymph fluid.

Lymphedema: a chronic condition that causes swelling when the lymphatic system is not able to drain fluid properly.

Malignant tumour: describes a tumour or growth that is cancerous. If a tumour is malignant it grows uncontrollably and can travel to other parts of the body

Medical oncologist: A doctor who uses chemotherapy for the treatment and management of cancer.

Metastasis: is when the cancer has spread from one part of the body to another. Cancer that has spread is sometimes called metastatic disease or secondary cancer.

MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging scan): is a scan that uses magnetism to build up a detailed picture of areas of your body.

Multidisciplinary team (MDT): is a group of health and social care professionals who work together to manage your treatment and care.

Negative result: means something could not be found. For example, a negative lymph node biopsy means that cancer cells were not found in the lymph nodes.

Neo-adjuvant Treatment: is treatment given before the main treatment. For example, you might have chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumour and make surgery easier or more effective.

Oedema: is the build-up of fluid in the body. It causes swelling.

Oncology: is the medical speciality that deals with cancer

Palliative care: is treatment that is given to help improve quality of life when the cancer cannot be cured.

Palliative treatment: aims to meet the physical, spiritual, psychological and social needs of a person with cancer.

Pathology: is the study and diagnosis of disease.

PET scan (positron emission tomography scan): is a test that measures the activity of cells in different parts of the body. It can be used to find out more about cancer and see if it has spread to other parts of the body.

PICC line: is a long, thin, flexible tube. It is put into a vein just above the bend in your elbow. It is used to give chemotherapy or other treatments. It usually stays in until treatment finishes.

Platelet: is a type of cell found in your blood. Platelets help your blood to clot to help stop bleeding. Chemotherapy can reduce the number of platelets in your blood for a time, making you more likely to have bleeding and bruising.

Portacath: is a long thin tube that is put under the skin to give chemotherapy and other drugs. The tube is connected to a small box under the skin. Positive result means something has been found. For example, a positive lymph node biopsy means that cancer cells were found in the lymph nodes.

Primary cancer: is a cancer that starts in one area of the body. Most cancers are primary cancers.

Primary care: Primary care services provide the first point of contact in the healthcare system, acting as the ‘front door’ of the NHS. Primary care includes general practice, community pharmacy, dental, and optometry (eye health) services.

Prognosis: is the likely outcome of a disease. The prognosis gives an idea of how long a person might live.Progression (or progressed) means that the cancer is still growing, or has continued to spread

Prosthesis: is an artificial body part. A prosthesis is used if that part of the body has been removed. It helps with mobility and appearance.

Pump: is something that may be used to give you chemotherapy or fluids. The pump makes sure that the right amounts are given over the right amount of time. Some pumps are small and can be taken home, so that you do not have to stay in hospital.

Radiology: is the use of imaging such as x-rays and scans to help diagnose cancer

Radiotherapy: use of high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells

Recurrence: is when the cancer has come back. If it comes back in the same area of the body, it is called local recurrence. If it has spread to other parts of the body, it is called distant recurrence.

Remission: is when treatment is controlling the cancer or has made it temporarily disappear, but it may not have been cured.

Secondary cancer (or secondary's): are where the primary cancer has spread to another part of the body. See metastasis.

Stage: is a way for doctors to describe a cancer. It means the extent of the cancer. This usually means how big it is and whether it has spread from where it first started.

Surgery: is an operation, often to remove something (such as cancer) from the body.

Systemic therapy: is a treatment that treats the whole body.

Targeted therapy (or biological therapy): is a treatment that interferes with cell processes that cause cancer to grow.

Terminal: is when no more treatment can be given to control the cancer. It may mean that someone should prepare for the end of life.

Therapy: is another word for treatment.

Tissue: is the way your cells line up next to each other to form part of your body. For example, breast cells lines up next to each other to make breast tissue.

Treatment cycle: is the time between one round of treatment until the next one starts.

Tumour: is a group of cells that are growing in an abnormal way. Tumours can be made up of cells that are not cancerous (benign)or cancerous (malignant).

Tumour markers: are proteins produced by some types of cancer. They are found in the blood. They can sometimes help doctors to diagnose the cancer, or see how well the treatments are working.

Ultrasound: scan is a scan that uses sound waves to create a picture of the inside of your body.

X-Ray scan: is a way to take pictures of the inside of your body. It can show breaks or problems with your bones and joints. It can also show changes to other body tissues and organs, such as the lungs or breasts.

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