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...

  • › Abdomen

    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.

  • › Adenoma

    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.

  • › Anaemia

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

  • › Anaesthetic

    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.

  • › Anus

    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.

  • › Benign

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

  • › Biopsy

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

  • › Bowel

    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.

  • › Cancer

    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. 

  • › Cells

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

  • › Chemotherapy

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

  • › Colectomy

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

  • › Colon

    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.

  • › Colonoscopy

    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.

  • › Colostomy

    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.

  • › Cure

    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. 

  • › Detection

    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. 

  • › Digestive system

    The organs responsible for getting food into and out of the body and for making use of food to keep the body healthy. The digestive system includes the stomach, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, small bowel, colon and rectum.

  • › Digital rectal examination

    A type of physical examinations where a doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel for any abnormalities.

  • › Endorectal ultrasound

    A type of ultrasound scan.  A soundwave-generating device called a probe is inserted into the rectum, and a picture of the rectum appears on a screen.

  • › Enema

    Where fluid is passed into the bowel via the anus (or stoma) in order to wash out the bowel.

  • › Faecal occult blood test (FOB Test)

    A screening test that checks bowel motions for microscopic traces of blood.

  • › Faeces

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

  • › Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)

    A hereditary condition that causes hundreds of small polyps to grow in the large bowel.  The polyps will become cancerous if not treated.

  • › Guaiac Test

    An earlier version of Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOB Test).  Restrictive and less user-friendly than newer versions such as the ‘immunochemical’ FOB Test. A person should not consume red meat, specific fruit and vegetables (for example, raw broccoli), vitamin C supplements, aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs for three days prior to taking their first test sample and throughout the testing period. mso--ap P -SA'>tumour and spread into surrounding tissue, and/or move to new sites and form other tumours. 

  • › Haemorrhoids

    Enlarged blood vessels on or just inside the anus, usually caused by long periods of constipation (also called 'piles') which may bleed.

  • › Hereditary

    Passing from one person to another (parent to offspring) through the genes.

  • › Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)

    Also called ‘Lynch syndrome’.  A condition in some families where the tendency to develop bowel cancer (and some other cancers) is inherited.  About 1% of bowel cancers are due to HNPCC.

  • › Inflammatory bowel disease

    Describes two chronic benign conditions that cause inflammation of the bowel — ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.  Both disorders inflame the lining of the digestive tract and both can cause severe bouts of watery diarrhoea and abdominal pain. 

  • › Ileostomy

    Similar to a colostomy, but the operation brings part of the small bowel to an opening in the abdomen so waste material may leave the body.

  • › Intestine

    Another name for the bowel.

  • › Large bowel

    The lower part of the digestive system which consists of the colon and rectum.  Also called the large intestine.

  • › Left hemicolectomy

    A type of colectomy where the tissues is removed from the left side of the colon.

  • › Liver

    The organ that sits in the top right part of the abdomen behind the ribs.  It has many important functions, including removing toxic substances from the body, making bile, storing fat and making various hormones.

  • › Lymph nodes

    Also called lymph glands.  Small, bean-shaped structures that form part of the lymphatic system.  The lymph nodes collect and destroy bacteria and viruses, and other harmful agents, such as cancer cells.

  • › Malignant

    Cancerous.  Malignant cells can spread (metastasise) and eventually cause death if cannot be treated.

  • › Metastasis

    A cancer that has spread from another part of the body.  Also known as secondary cancer.

  • › MRI scan

    A magnetic resonance imaging scan.  A scan that uses magnetism and radio waves to take detailed cross-sectional pictures of the body.

  • › Occult

    “Occult” means “hidden”, as in hidden blood in the bowel motion. The word is used in tests such as faecal occult blood test (FOB Test). Occult is not an actual cancer but can indicate a bleeding bowel cancer or polyp. 

  • › Palliative treatment

    Medical treatment for people with advanced cancer to help them manage pain and other physical and emotional symptoms of cancer.

  • › Polyp

    A wart-like growth projecting from a surface in the body, such as the large bowel.  Most polyps are benign, but they can become malignant.

  • › Polypectomy

    Surgical removal of a polyp.

  • › Pre-cancerous

    A condition that may become a cancer if it is not treated. 

  • › Primary cancer

    The original cancer.  Cells from the primary cancer may break away and be carried to other parts of the body by the lymphatic and blood systems, where secondary cancers may form.

  • › Prognosis

    The likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery or reoccurrence.

  • › Radiotherapy

    The use of radiation, usually x-rays of gamma rays, to kill cancer cells or injure them so they cannot grow and multiply.

  • › Rectal examination

    A simple test where the doctor inserts a gloved finger into the bottom (anus) to feel for anything unusual in the lower part of the bowel.

  • › Rectum

    The last 12-15cm of the large bowel, which stores stools (bowel motions) until a bowel movement occurs.

  • › Remission

    When the symptoms of the cancer reduce or disappear.  A partial remission is when there as been a significant improvement in the cancer.  A complete remission is when there is no evidence of active cancer.  This does not necessarily mean that the cancer is cured.

  • › Remission

    When the symptoms of the cancer reduce or disappear.  A partial remission is when there as been a significant improvement in the cancer.  A complete remission is when there is no evidence of active cancer.  This does not necessarily mean that the cancer is cured.

  • › Right hemicolectomy

    A type of colectomy where tissue is removed from the right side of the colon.

  • › Risk factors

    Things that cause people to have a greater chance of developing an illness.

  • › Screening

    Examining and/or testing a large number of people who have no symptoms of a particular disease, to identify anyone who may have that disease. This enables the disease to be treated at an early stage, when cure is more likely. Examples include FOB Tests (faecal occult blood tests) used to detect invisible traces of blood often released from bowel cancers (polyps or adenomas); and Pap Tests which detect precancerous changes of the cervix. 

  • › Sigmoid colon

    The section of the colon after the descending colon and before the rectum and anus.

  • › Sigmoidoscopy

    An examination of the rectum and lower colon.  In this procedure a doctor uses a straight, narrow, lighted tube (sigmoidoscope) which is inserted gently through the anus, and gives a view of the lining of the bowel.

  • › Small bowel

    The upper part of the bowel.  It mainly absorbs nutrients from food that has been broken down.  Also called the small intestine.

  • › Stoma

    An artificial opening of the bowel, which is brought to the surface of the abdomen. Also called an ostomy.

  • › Stomal therapy nurse

    A registered nurse who specialises in caring for people who have stomas.

  • › Stools

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

  • › Tissue

    A collection of similar cells.

  • › Transverse colon

    The section of the colon between the ascending and descending colon.

  • › Tumour

    A new or abnormal growth of tissue on, or in, the body.

  • › Ulcerative Colitis

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

  • › Ultrasound scan

    A non-invasive scan that uses soundwaves to build up a picture of internal parts of the body. Ultrasound can be used to measure the size and position of a tumour. 

  • › Virtual colonoscopy

    The medical imaging procedure that uses a CT or MRI scanner to create images of the colon and rectum and display them on a screen.

  • › X-Ray

    A type of high-energy radiation.  In low doses, x-rays are used to diagnose diseases by making pictures of the inside of the body. In high doses, x-rays are used to treat cancer.