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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:

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

A diagnostic technique based on analysis of the absorption and transmission of high-frequency radio waves by the water molecules in tissues placed in a strong magnetic field.  MRI can be used for the non-invasive diagnosis and treatment planning of a wide range of diseases, including cancer: it has the advantage that it does not use potentially harmful ionizing radiation, such as X-rays.


Designed or adequate to maintain a patient in a stable condition: serving to maintain a gradual process of healing or to prevent a relapse.

  1. Describing a tumour that invades and destroys the tissue in which it originates and can spread to other sites in the body via the bloodstream and lymphatic system.  If untreated, such tumours cause progressive deterioration and death.  
  2. Describing any disorder that becomes life-threatening if untreated.

A cerebral tumour that occurs during childhood.  It is derived from cells that have the apparent potential to mature into neurones.


A slow-growing encapsulated tumor arising from the meninge.

Meta-iodobenzyl-guanidine scan (MIBG scan)

An imaging test that uses a radioactive substance (called a tracer) and a special scanner to find or confirm the presence of pheochromocytoma and neuroblastoma, which are tumors of specific types of nervous tissue.


The distant spread of malignant tumour from its site of origin.


To spread by metastasis (of a malignant tumour).


One of the two basic classes of glia (the non-nervous cells of the central nervous system), having a mainly scavenging function.

Monoclonal antibody

An antibody produced artificially from a cell clone and therefore consisting of a single type of immunoglobulin. 


A variety of white blood cell, 16-20μm in diameter, that has a kidney-shaped nucleus and grayish-blue cytoplasm (when treated with Romanowsky stains).  Its function is the ingestion of foreign particles, such as bacteria and tissue debris.


Diseased or abnormal; pathological.


The state of being diseased.


A potent analgesic and narcotic drug used mainly to relieve severe and persistent pain. 


The earliest identifiable cell that gives rise to a granulocyte, having a large nucleus and scanty cytoplasm.  It is normally found in the blood-forming tissue of the bone marrow, but may appear in the blood in a variety of diseases, most notably in acute meyloblastic leukaemia. 


Like, derived from, or relating to bone marrow.


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.