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AbdomenThe lower part of the body between the chest and hips, which contains major organs involved with digestion, bowel motions, and reproduction, including the stomach, liver, bowel, kidneys and bladder.
AdenomaA benign tumour (not a cancer) that starts in gland tissue or has a gland-like appearance.
Advanced cancerCancer that has spread from the original cancer (metastasised) to other organs.
AnaemiaA reduced amount of the substance (haemoglobin) in red blood cells that carries oxygen in the blood. Anaemia can cause tiredness and fatigue, breathlessness and paleness.
AnaestheticA drug given to stop a person feeling pain. A ‘local’ anaesthetic numbs part of the body; a ‘general’ anaesthetic causes temporary loss of consciousness.
AnalgesicA drug that relieves pain.
AnastomosisThe joining together of two tubes, such as two cut ends of the bowel.
AnusThe entrance to the back passage, through which bowel motions are passed.
Barium EnemaBarium sulphate is passed into the lower bowel through the anus. X-rays are then taken and the barium clearly outlines the bowel, showing up any abnormalities.
BenignNot cancerous. Benign cells do not spread like cancer cells.
BiopsyThe removal of a small sample of tissue from the body for examination under a microscope to help in diagnosing a disease.
BloatingFull, uncomfortable feeling in abdomen. Can be caused by gas, eating in excess or constipation.
Bowel preparationAn enema and/or oral medication to clean out the bowel.
BowelThe part of the digestive system that extends from the stomach to the anus including the large and small bowel. Also known as the large and small intestine.
Bowel cancerA cancer that starts on the inside wall of the bowel, usually affecting the colon or rectum (large bowel).
Bowel motionsWaste 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'.
CancerA 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.
CellsThe ‘building blocks’ of the body. A human is made of millions of cells, which are adapted for different functions.
ChemotherapyThe use of drugs to treat cancer by killing cancer cells or making them sensitive to radiation.
Chest X-rayAn x-ray of the chest to check for lung or heart disease before surgery. Chest x-rays can also show if bowel cancer has spread to the lungs.
ColitisInflammation of the colon and rectum. The symptoms are usually diarrhoea and pain in the lower abdomen. In ulcerative colitis, ulcers also form in the area.
ColonThe main part of the large bowel. It removes water and other substances from undigested food passed from the small bowel, and moves the bowel motions toward the rectum.
ColonoscopyA test to examine the bowel. A long, slim, flexible tube, with a light attached, is inserted through the anus, and examines the bowel.
Colorectal cancerSee bowel cancer.
ColostomyAn opening into the colon from the outside of the body. A colostomy provides a new path for waste material to leave the body after the colon has been removed.
ConstipationDifficulty passing a bowel motion regularly or often.
Crohn's diseaseA chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the small and large intestines, but can also involve other parts of the digestive system.
CT ScanThe technique for constructing pictures from cross-sections of the body, by x-raying the part of the body to be examined from many angles
CureA 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.
DetectionDescribes 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.
DiarrhoeaPassing frequent, watery bowel motions or stools.
Digestive TractThe organs that are responsible for getting food into and out of the body and for making use of food to keep the body healthy. These include the stomach, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, small bowel, colon and rectum.
Digital Rectal Examination (DRE)A way to diagnose prostate abnormalities: the doctor places a gloved finger into your rectum and feels the prostate through the rectum wall.
DuodenumThe first part of the small bowel. It receives bile from the gall bladder and pancreatic juice from the pancreas.
DysplasiaA change in the size, shape and arrangement of normal cells. Dysplastic cells are abnormal but are not cancerous. They may progress into cancer.
Endorectal ultrasoundWhen a cancer is found in the rectum by other tests, a tranducer is inserted into the rectum to see how large the cancer is, and whether it has spread.
EndoscopeAn instrument for examining the inside of the body. It is a long hollow tube with a light and camera attached. It can project magnified pictures of internal organs, and instruments can be inserted through the tube, if needed.
EnemaWhere fluid is passed into the bowel via the anus (or stoma) in order to cause a bowel action.
Faecal occult blood test (FOB Test)A screening test for finding blood in bowel motions.
FaecesSee bowel motions.
Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP)A hereditary condition that causes hundreds of small growths (polyps) in the bowel of the person affected. If left untreated, FAP always turns into bowel cancer.
Gastrointestinal TractThe gut. It starts at the stomach and includes the large intestine and small intestine (also called the large bowel and small bowel). See Bowel.
GenesThe tiny factors that control the way the body’s cells grow and behave. Each person has a set of many thousands of genes inherited from both parents. Genes are found in every cell of the body.
Guaiac TestAn earlier version of Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOB Test). Restrictive and less user-friendly than newer versions of the FOB Test such as the Faecal Immunochemical Tests (FIT). 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.
HaemorrhoidsEnlarged blood vessels on or just inside the anus, usually caused by long periods of constipation (also called 'piles').
Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC)A condition in some families where the tendency to develop bowel (and some other) cancers is inherited. About 1% of all bowel cancer is due to HNPCC.
IleostomySimilar 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.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)Describes two chronic disorders — 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.
LaparoscopySurgery or examination using instruments which are passed into the body through small cuts in the skin.
LaparotomyAn operation in which a long cut is made in the abdomen.
Large BowelThe lower part of the digestive system, which consists of the colon and rectum. Also called the large intestine.
LaxativeSomething to stop constipation.
Liver function testA blood test to measure chemicals that are normally found or made in the liver. The test may be abnormal if cancer has spread to the liver.
Lymph NodesSmall, bean-shaped structures which form part of the lymphatic system. The lymph nodes filter the lymph to remove bacteria and other harmful agents, such as cancer cells. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system. It is a network of small lymph nodes connected by very thin lymph vessels, which branch into every part of the body.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)A diagnostic test that uses a combination of magnetism and radio waves to build up detailed cross-section pictures (or images) of part of a person’s body. The test involves lying on a couch inside a metal cylinder (which forms a very large magnet) that is open at both ends. It may take up to one hour to complete, but is completely painless.
MalignantCancerous. Malignant cells can spread (metastasis) and can eventually cause death if not treated.
MetastasesAlso known as ‘secondaries’. Tumours or masses of cells that develop when cancer cells break away from the original (primary) cancer and are carried by the lymphatic and blood systems to other parts of the body.
Occult“Occult” means “hidden”, as in hidden blood in the faecal matter (bowel motion). The word is used in tests such as faecal occult blood test (FOBT). Occult is not an actual cancer but can indicate a bleeding bowel cancer or polyp.
PolypA lump in the bowel. Polyps are usually benign but can become cancerous.
To view an image of a polyp click here
PolypectomyRemoval of a polyp.
To view an image of a polyp click here
PolyposisThe condition of having large numbers of polyps in the large bowel.
Pre-cancerousA condition that may become a cancer if it is not treated.
Primary CancerThe original cancer. At some stage, cells from the primary cancer may break away and be carried to other parts of the body, where secondary cancers may form.
PrognosisAn assessment of the course and likely outcome of a person’s disease.
RadiationEnergy in the form of waves or particles, including gamma rays, x-rays and ultraviolet rays. This energy can injure or destroy cells by damaging their genetic material. This ability is ‘used for good' in radiotherapy (also known as radiation therapy).
RectumThe last 12 to 15 centimetres of the large bowel, which opens to the outside at the anus. Faeces collect in the rectum before they are passed as a bowel motion.
Risk factorA substance or condition that increases an individual's chances of getting a particular type of cancer.
ScanPictures of structures inside the body, used to diagnose, stage and monitor disease.
ScreeningExamining 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 minute traces of blood often released from bowel cancers (polyps or adenomas); and Pap tests which detect precancerous changes of the cervix.
Secondary TumourSee metastases.
Side EffectsMany drugs (medicines) or treatments may affect the patient in ways other than and in addition to those intended. These are side effects. Some side effects are not a problem, but some are unpleasant, for example, chemotherapy may cause hair loss, radiotherapy and chemotherapy may cause nausea.
SigmoidoscopyExamination of the rectum and sigmoid colon using a straight, narrow, lighted tube (sigmoidoscope). It is inserted gently through the anus, and gives a view of the lining of the bowel.
Small BowelThe bowel is the tube that extends from the stomach to the anus. The small bowel is the first part of the bowel where most of the digestion and absorption of food and liquid takes place.
StomaAn ‘exit' for bowel motions if the bowel can't be joined properly after surgery. The surgeon makes a small hole in your abdomen, brings one end of the bowel out through the hole and sews it to the skin. This makes a stoma or ‘ostomy'.
Stomal Therapy NurseA registered nurse who specialises in caring for people who have stomas.
SuppositoryA small plug of medicine inserted into the rectum or vagina.
TissueA collection of similar cells.
TumourA new or abnormal growth of tissue in or on the body.
Ulcerative ColitisSee colitis.
UltrasoundThe use of 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.
X-RayA 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.