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Children's Palliative Care Foundation
Children's Palliative Care Foundation

About Childhood Cancer

About Childhood Cancer

Diagnosis & Treatment Glossary

Here are some of the common terms used in the diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancer.


Please select an alphabet to view a list of terms starting with that letter:


A variety of white blood cell distinguished by the presence in its cytoplasm of coarse granules that stain purple-black with Romanowsky stains.  The function of basophils is poorly understood, but they are capable of ingesting foreign particles and contain histamine and heparin.

  1. Describing a tumour that does not invade and destroy the tissue in which it originates or spread to distant sites in the body, i.e. a tumour that is not cancerous. 
  2. Describing any disorder or condition that does not produce harmful effects.

The removal of a small piece of living tissue from an organ or part of the body for microscopic examination.  Biopsy is an important means of diagnosing cancer from examination of a fragment of tumour. 

Blood test

Any test designed to discover abnormalities in a sample of a person’s blood, such as the presence of alcohol, drugs, or bacteria, or to determine the blood group.

Bone marrow

The tissue contained within the internal cavities of the bones.  At birth, these cavities are filled entirely with blood-forming myeloid tissue (red marrow) but in later life the marrow in the limb bones is replaced by fat (yellow marrow).  Samples of bone marrow may be obtained for examination by aspiration through a stout needle or by trephine biopsy.

Bone marrow aspiration

Removal of a small amount of bone marrow fluid and cells through a needle put into a bone.   The bone marrow fluid and cells are checked for problems with any of the blood cells made in the bone marrow.

Bone marrow biopsy

Removal of bone with the marrow inside to look at under a microscope.

Bone marrow transplantation

Involves harvesting healthy stem cells to replenish the bone marrow of the patient.  The new stem cells take over the production of the blood cells.

Bone tumour

A type of cancer that originates from bone.

Brain tumour (Cerebral tumour)

See cerebral tumour -

An abnormal multiplication of brain cells.  This forms a swelling that compresses or destroys the healthy brain cells and – because of the rigid nature of the skull – increases the pressure on the brain tissue.  Malignant tumours grow rapidly, spreading through the otherwise normal brain tissue and causing progressive neurological disability.  Benign tumours grow slowly and compress the brain tissue.  Both benign and malignant tumours commonly cause fits.


Oxford Concise English-Chinese Medical Dictionary (Second Edition 2000), Oxford University Press
Churchill’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary (Fourth Edition 2004), Longman
Online Merriam Webster dictionary at www.merriam-webster.com



Special thanks should be given to Mrs. Rosita Lie, Dr. Alan K.S. Chiang, Dr. Ha Shau-yin, Dr. Vincent Lee, Dr. Li Chi-keung, Dr. Li Chi-kong, Dr. Rever Li Chak-ho and Dr. Yuen Hui-leung for editorial review.