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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:

Central venous catheter

See Hickman Catheter -

A fine cannula inserted into a vein in the neck to allow administration of drugs and repeated blood samples.

Cerebral tumour (Brain 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.

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)

The clear watery fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. 

Cerebrospinal fluid test

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) collection is a test to look at the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.


The prevention or treatment of disease by the use of chemical substances. 


A rare form of cancer originating in the outermost of the membranes (chorion) surrounding the fetus. 


One of the threadlike structures in a cell nucleus that carry the genetic information in the form of genes.


Describing a disease of long duration involving very slow changes.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

Lymphocytic leukaemia that is marked by an abnormal increase in the number of mature lymphocytes and especially B cells, that is characterised by slow onset and progression of symptoms which include anaemia, pallor, fatigue, appetite loss, granulocytopenia, thrombocytopenia, hypogammaglobulinemia, and enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and that occurs especially in older adults.

Chronic myeloid leukaemia

Myelogenous leukaemia that is marked by an abnormal increase in mature and immature granulocytes (as neutrophils, eosinophils, and myelocytes) especially in bone marrow and blood, that is characterised by fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, spleen and liver enlargement, anaemia, thrombocytopenia, and ultimately a dangerous increase in blast cells and especially myeloblasts and lymphoblasts, that occurs especially in adults, and that is associated with the presence of the Philadelphia chromosome.

Computerised tomography (CT)

A development of diagnostic radiology for the examination of the soft tissues of the body.

Conventional therapy

Treatments that are widely accepted and practiced by the mainstream medical community.

Corticosteroid (Corticoid)

Any steroid hormone synthesised by the adrenal cortex.


A brain tumour derived from remnants of Rathke’s pouch, an embryologic structure from which the pituitary gland is partly formed.  The patient may show raised intracranial pressure and diabetes insipidus due to reduced secretion of the hormone vaso-pressin.  An X-ray of the skull typically shows calcification within the tumour and loss of the normal skull structure around the pituitary gland.


The use of cold in the treatment of disorders.


The jelly-like substance that surrounds the nucleus of a cell.

Cytotoxic drug

A drug that damages or destroys cells and is used to treat various types of cancer either with or without the use of radiotherapy.


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.