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There may be words or terms that you are not familiar with that you have come across on this website, or heard being used by doctors or other health care professionals.

Here is a list that may be helpful to understanding what they mean. Simply click on a word to learn more…


The part of the body between the chest and hips, which contains the stomach, liver, bowel, bladder and kidneys.

Abdominoperineal (AP) resection

An operation for rectal cancer, which involves removing the rectum and anus and creating a permanent colostomy.


A benign tumor of glandular origin.  Adenomas can grow from many organs in the body including the colon, adrenal glands, pituitary gland, thyroid and prostate.  Although these growths are non-cancerous, over time they may progress to become malignant, at which point they are called adenocarcinomas.

Adjuvant therapy

A treatment given with or shortly after another treatment to enhance its effectiveness.

Advanced cancer

Cancer that has spread deeply into the surrounding tissues or away from the original site (metastasised), and is less likely to be cured.


Deficiency in the number or quality of red blood cells in the body.


A drug that is used to stop a person feeling pain during a medical procedure.  A local anaesthetic numbs part of the body; a general anaesthetic, used in many major surgeries, causes temporary loss of consciousness.

Anterior resection

A surgical procedure to remove cancer in the rectum.


The opening at the end of the digestive system, from which bowel motions are passed.

Barium enema

An examination of the bowel using a white contrast liquid.  It is inserted into the rectum and x-rays are taken.


Not cancerous.  Benign cells do not spread like cancer cells.


The removal of a small sample of tissue from the body, for examination under a microscope.  Used to help diagnose a disease.


The part of the digestive system that extends from the stomach to the anus including the large and small bowel.

Bowel cancer

A cancer that starts on the inside wall of the bowel, usually affecting the colon or rectum (large bowel).  Also known as colorectal cancer.

Bowel motion (bowel movement)

Waste that remains after food has been digested and nutrients have been taken into the body.  Bowel motions are passed from the body out of the anus.  Also called faeces or stools.

Bowel preparation

The process of cleaning out the bowel (removing faeces) before a test or scan to allow the doctor to see the bowel more clearly.


A disease of the body’s cells, where gene damage causes cells to multiply without control. They may grow into a tumour and spread into surrounding tissue, and/or move to new sites and form other tumours.


The ‘building blocks’ of the body.  A human is made up of millions of cells, which are adapted for different functions.


The use of cytotoxic drugs to treat cancer by killing cancer cells or slowing their growth.


A surgical procedure in which cancerous areas of the colon are cut out and the healthy parts of the colon are sewn back together.


The main part of the large bowel, where water is removed from solid waste.  The colons four parts are the ascending (right) colon, transverse colon, descending (left) colon and sigmoid colon.


An examination of the large bowel with a camera on a flexible tube (endoscope) that passed though the anus by a doctor.  Bowel preparation and anaesthetic are required.


An opening into the colon from the outside of the body.  A colostomy provides a new path for waste material (bowel motions) to leave the body.

Colostomy bag

A bag that collects waste from a stoma.

Colorectal cancer

A cancer that starts on the inside wall of the bowel, usually affecting the colon or rectum (large bowel).  Also known as bowel cancer.

Crohn’s disease

A benign type of inflammatory bowel disease that may increase a person’s risk of developing bowel cancer.

CT scan

A computerised tomography scan.  This scan uses x-rays to build a picture of the inside of the body.


A cure in cancer means that there is no evidence of cancer being present and a person’s illness has gone completely. The length of time for cancer to be considered cured varies, but at least five years remission is a minimum.


Describes the discovery of an abnormality or disease in the body. ‘Early detection’ is the discovery of an abnormality at an early stage when it is more likely to be cured.