We are aware that this site contains a lot of medical terminology. We have tried to explain some terms here to help. If there is anything missing please let us know so we can add it for other patients using the website.
This is the part of your tummy that lies between your chest and your pelvis. It contains the small and large bowel and important organs such as the stomach, liver and kidneys.
Anaemia is a condition where there are low levels of red blood cells in the blood.
Specially trained doctors with a range of roles includi the preoperative preparation of surgical patient, the resuscitation and stabilisation of patients in the Emergency Department, actute pain management, intensive care medicine and the provision of sedation and anaesthesia for patients undergoing surgical procedures.
A group of medications used to help prevent blood clots.
Bowel Cancer Surgery Terminology
Bowel Cancer surgery is the operation we do to remove bowel cancer. There are different kinds of operations:
a colectomy means we remove all of the colon
a hemicolectomy means we remove half of the colon: in a right hemicolectomy we remove part of the right colon in a left hemicolectomy we take away part of the left colon.
a anterior resection is when we remove part of the rectum instead of the colon.
an ‘Abdomino-Perineal Excision of the Rectum’ or ‘APER’ for short is when we have to remove part of the rectum by making a cut in the tummy and also in the perineum (part of the area around the back passage).
Cancer is a disease where cells in the body grow uncontrollably. It can invade the surrounding structures or even spread to distant organs (this spread is called metastasis). CT scans can find out if the cancer has spread to organs like the liver or lungs.
Cardiopulmonary Exercise Test
An assessment undertaken to assess a patients level of fitness, often undertaken on a stationary exercise bike.
Catheter in Bladder
A catheter is a tube we put into your bladder and your urine then passes from your bladder down the tube into a special bag. We then measure the amount of urine in the bag (we use the term ‘urine output’ or ‘catheter output’ on the ward rounds). The amount of urine you make is one of the ways we can tell how well you are recovering from your operation.
In chemotherapy we give you drugs to slow down the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells. There are many kinds of drugs. The amount of the drug you have to take and the side effects they give you depend on the specific drug you need.
Chest infections / Chest Physiotherapy
Sometimes after surgery you can get an infection in your lungs. If this happens it is usually because you are in pain and do not breath as deeply as you would normally do. The physiotherapists will teach you how to breathe more deeply so you use all parts of your lungs.
A medical specialty that deals with conditions related to the the colon (gut) and rectum.
We use the term ‘complication’ to mean any drawback of a disease or treatment. Complications after an operation are things like getting an infection in your urine or in your operation wound. Many complications are uncommon and we can easily treat them. However some complications can cause major problems and may affect your recovery. Your consultant will explain if there is a chance of getting complications after your operation.
This is the form you sign to say you are willing to go ahead with the treatment we suggest. Before you sign the form you must be sure you understand the treatment and what it means. If you feel you do not understand the risks or the benefits of the treatment please tell your consultant. He / She can explain the procedure again, discuss alternatives and answer your questions.
This stands for Computer Tomoraphy. It uses x-rays to create pictures of 'slices' of the body. It then uses all the information it has gathered to ‘write’ and create images of the internal organs (the word ‘graphein’ means ‘write’ in Greek). We use CT scans to see if cancer has spread to organs like the liver and lungs.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
‘Deep Vein Thrombosis’ is a blood clot in a deep vein. It can happen in the legs and pelvis after surgery for cancer of the colon or rectum. We do various things to try to stop this happening. For example you may wear special stockings and we will give you injections to thin your blood.
- the Outpatient department is where you see your doctor.
- the Endoscopy department is where we do your endoscopy.
- the Radiology department is where we do your x rays, CT scans and MR scans.
- the Pathology department is where we look at the samples of cells, tissue or blood we take from your body. We might do this by using a microscope (called histology) or by chemical analysis (called biochemistry). We also look at blood to get it ready for transfusing in the haematology department.
- the Microbiology department is where we look at samples like urine or phlegm to see if they contain any germs (infection).
- the Oncology department is where you would go to have radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
A dietician is an expert on diet and health. She will give you advice about the best things to eat to help with your nutrition before, during and after your surgery.
Drain in Abdomen
Sometime we leave a small tube in your abdomen when your operation is over. This tube comes out onto the surface of your body and it drains any extra fluid from inside your abdomen. We monitor the type and amount of the fluid that comes out through the drain. We take the drain out within a few days.
A drip is the fastest way to get fluid into your body. We put a small piece of tube into one of your veins and pass fluid through this tube into your vein. You may have a drip connected straight after your operation.
This is short hand for ‘Electro-Cardio-Gram’. An ECG is a tracing of the electrical activity of your heart over a certain length of time. The tracing gives us some important clues about the state of your heart.
Endoscopy means ‘looking inside’. We look inside the bowels by using a scope that bends easily (it is flexible). The scope we use is called an endoscope. It has a light and a camera. There are different types of endoscopy:
- a colonoscopy is when we pass the scope into the whole colon
- a flexible sigmoidoscopy is when we pass the scope into the left colon
- a gastroscopy is when we pass the scope into the stomach.
A specialist catherter/injection in the back to provide pain relief.
Enhanced Recovery After Surgery, which is a process of active patient and multi-disciplinary involvement to help a patients recovery.
A small device used to help exercise the lungs.
The liver is a solid organ on the right side of your body that processes the food you absorb from your gut. The absorbed food comes from the gut to your liver through the blood stream. Cancer cells from the bowel can spread to the liver through this blood flow.
These are your breathing organs. Before you have surgery we test your lungs to see how well they function. These tests help us to decide how fit you are to have the operation.
Lymph Node Metastasis
This is the name we use to describe tumour cells that have spread to lymph glands.
People in the hospital will ask you what medication you take. Medication means any medicine you take as tablets, liquids or by injection. You will find it helpful to bring the names of your medicines, and the dose you take, to all your hospital appointments. You will also be asked if you are allergic to anything. It is very important you tell us about any allergies you have.
This stands for ‘Multi Disciplinary Team’ meeting. It is a meeting when professionals from various specialties such as radiology, surgery, pathology and nursing come together to discuss the best way to treat your disease. After this meeting you will make the final decision about your treatment in discussion with your consultant.
We use this word to refer to all the different ways in which you are, or have been, unwell. This could include
poor health due to having surgery e.g. a fever or chest infection
illnesses or diseases you may already have e.g. asthma, diabetes, heart disease etc.
This is another name for number of deaths. When we talk about the ‘risk of mortality’ we are talking about the risk of dying. The risk of dying after surgery for bowel cancer is small. However it is still an important issue and your consultant, or his team, will discuss this with you.
In an MR scan we apply a harmless magnetic field to your body and this builds up a detailed picture of your body. This type of scan is useful for looking at the tumour itself and its growth into the surrounding area e.g. in cancer of the rectum.
This stands for ‘Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus’. Staphylococcus Aureus is a bug which is often found on our skin. Sometimes Staphylococcus Aureus causes problems but we can treat it with one of the Penicillin group of antibiotics. A small group of Staphylococcus Aureus bugs have become resistant to this powerful Penicillin group of antibiotics, which includes Methicillin. This is where we get the name ‘Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus’. MRSA infections are uncommon and we can treat them.
The occupational therapist checks that you will be able to manage at home when you leave the hospital. He/she will check daily activities like washing and dressing, making a drink, cooking etc. If you need help, he/she may arrange for you to have a special piece of equipment. For example, you may be given a bath seat so you can get into and out of the bath more easily.
This is a Consultant who has an overview of how your cancer is managed. If you need radiotherapy or chemotherapy your Oncologist will discuss these treatments with you. He or she will then arrange them and check they are working for you. The Oncologist is a good person to talk to about the possible outcome of your cancer treatment.
The Consultant Pathologist is trained to look at specimens of tissue under a microscope to see if they look normal or not.
Pathology (or Histology) Reports
The Consultant Pathologist looks at the piece of body tissue we have removed (the specimen) under the microscope. The report the pathologist gives us is called the histology report. By looking at a piece of tissue the pathologist can tell us if the specimen came from a cancer or not. This helps us to decide whether you have cancer or some other disease.
Patient controlled analgesia (PCAS)
A machine that allows self-administration of pain relief while in hospital.
Before, during and after surgery.
We will need to take samples of blood from your veins before and after your operation to check how you are doing. A phlebotomist has special skills in taking blood samples from your veins.
Physiotherapists are independent practitioners who can assess, diagnose and treat patients in all age groups with many different illnesses, injuries and conditions.
A holistic review of a patients health and well being undertaken prior to surgery.
In radiotherapy we use radiation in a controlled way to treat some cancers. For example, if you have surgery for rectal cancer we may give you radiotherapy if we think this will improve the chances of curing your cancer. Radiotherapy is different from radiology. In radiology, we use radiation (i.e. x-rays) for diagnosing illnesses rather than treating them.
This is a consultant who is an expert in using ‘radiology’. Radiology is a science where different techniques are used to get pictures (or images) of your body. We can do:
- Simple x-rays, such as chest x-rays.
- Barium enemas, which involve using a dye to outline the bowel as well as x-rays.
- CT scans which use special x-rays that give a 3-dimensional pictureA Consultant Radiologist looks at the pictures and interprets them. This helps us find out what your problem is.
We use clips to close the wound in your abdomen and usually these stay in for about 7 – 10 days before they are removed. We will arrange a time and person to remove the clips before you are discharged.
These tell us what stage your cancer has reached. We want to find out whether the cancer is just within the tumour, or if it has spread into some of the tissues near the tumour, or if the cancer has spread more widely in the body.
We decide the stage of the cancer in two ways. First we do various scans (e.g. CT scans or MR scans) before your operation. This is called pre-operative staging. Secondly when we remove a piece of large bowel during your operation we look at it under a microscope. This is called post-operative staging.
A stoma is where a piece of bowel is brought onto the tummy through a small opening. Waste material is passed through this stoma into a bag. If we connect the colon to the abdominal wall it is called a colostomy. If we connect the small bowel to the abdominal wall it is called an ileostomy. The stoma (opening) may be temporary or permanent.
‘TED’ stands for ‘Thrombo Embolic Deterrent’. These are special stockings that are worn on the legs. They put pressure on the legs and, by doing this, lower the chance of you getting a blood clot in one of your deep veins (such blood clots are called DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis). We ask you to wear the stockings because ‘Deep Vein Thrombosis’ can happen in the legs and pelvis after surgery.
This is an abnormal growth that may be ‘benign’ or ‘malignant’. A benign tumour is non cancerous and does not invade surrounding structures. A malignant tumour is cancerous and can invade and destroy the tissues around it. Cells from the tumour can spread to other organs (this spread is called a metastasis). The difference between the word tumour and cancer is that the word ‘tumour’ includes benign and malignant growths while cancer refers only to malignant growths.
We use a dressing to cover your surgical wound. This helps in the healing of the wound. We use different kinds of dressings depending on the stage of the wound healing.