The following words are often associated with the care of a child with a brain or spinal tumour.

Term Description

Anaesthetic – The administration of medications, both gaseous and intravenous to provide unconsciousness during surgery.

Anticonvulsants – Medications to treat seizures.

Ataxia – Inability to coordinate movements and maintain posture; a tendency to lose balance.

Audiogram – The assessment of a child’s ability to hear.

Benign – Slow growing, non-malignant tumour that does not spread to other parts of the body. These benign lesions do not tend to recur. If incompletely removed, tumours may recur but will not spread. These tumours may still cause ongoing cognitive concerns for young people due to the damage to the normal tissue and follow up should be continued.

Biopsy – The removal of a small portion of a tumour to allow a pathologist to examine it under the microscope and provide a diagnosis of tumour type.

Blood Count – The number of cells of different types contained in a sample of blood.

Bone Marrow Aspiration (BMA) – A Haematologist will use a thin needle to remove marrow from the centre of the bone. This is rarely performed in children with a brain or spinal cord tumour.

Bone Scan – Following the injection of a small amount of radioactive dye into a vein a gamma camera and a computer are able to take pictures of the bone to check for disease within the bones.

Central Line (Hickman Line or Port-O-Cath ) – A long plastic tube that is inserted, under anaesthetic, into a large vein near the heart. Central lines are used to take blood samples and to give blood or platelet transfusions and medications.

Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) – A clear fluid that is produced in the ventricles within the brain. It functions as a cushion to prevent injury and it also provides nutrients. The fluid circulates around the brain and spinal cord and obstruction may cause hydrocephalus. This fluid may also show cancer cells with a malignant tumour.

Cerebellum – Coordinates muscle movements for balance and complex actions.

Cerebrum – The largest part of the brain. It consists of two cerebral hemispheres. The right hemisphere, which controls the muscles of the left side of the body and the left hemisphere which controls the right side of the body and is also involved in emotion and language.

Chemotherapy – Treatment using one or more cancer drugs. Depending on the type of tumour, the drug or drugs will vary in the amount and frequency with which they are given. They may be given through an intravenous tube, by mouth or other route. They are prescribed by paediatric oncology physician.

Clinical Trials or Studies – Clinical Studies are the final steps of the long process of developing new treatments for patients. The studies have evolved from laboratory tests to phase 1 studies. (Those treatments that are considered best are tested to see if giving the treatment is safe.) In a phase 2 study safe treatments from phase 1 are tested to see if they will shrink a tumour and prolong life. In a phase 3 study these safe and seemingly effective treatments from phase 2 are tested in a much larger number of patients and usually compared to what is considered the best treatment currently available.

Central Nervous System (CNS) – This refers to the brain, spinal cord and cranial nerves.

CT Scan – A CT Scan is a series of X-rays taken of a part of the body by using a computer.

Cyst – A cyst is a cavity usually filled with a fluid, sometimes associated with benign or malignant tumours.

Debulking of a tumour – An operation in which the skull is entered by removing a small piece of bone to gain access to the brain. The tumour is removed and the small piece of bone is replaced. Gross total resection is a term to indicate the complete macroscopic removal of a tumour.

Dexamethasone – A drug used to decrease swelling around tumours.

Diabetes Insipidus – Diabetes Insipidus is a hormonal imbalance resulting in the kidneys inability to conserve water. This may lead to pronounced thirst and frequent urination.

Diplopia – Double vision.

ECHO – An ultrasound (a technique using sound waves) of the heart muscle and heart function.

ECG (Electrocardiogram) – A test to record the electrical activity of the heart.

Epilepsy – This is a physical condition characterised by sudden brief changes in how the brain works. It is a symptom of a neurological disorder—a disorder that affects the brain and shows itself in the form of seizures.

Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) – A test to asses kidney function.

Hemiparesis – Muscle weakness on one side of the body. This may be temporary or permanent.

Hemiplegia – Complete paralysis on one side of the body. This may improve with time.

Hydrocephalus – This results when there is a blockage of the cerebrospinal fluid which constantly circulates around the brain and spinal cord and helps to cushion it. The brain normally maintains a delicate balance between the amount of cerebrospinal fluid that is produced and the amount that is absorbed. If there is a disruption in the system CSF may accumulate and cause intracranial pressure.

Immune System – This is the body’s natural defence system to fight infections which may be harmful to the body.

Intravenous – This is a method of giving drugs and sometimes nutrition straight into a vein via a tube.

Linear Accelerator – A machine used to deliver high energy radiation beams (radiotherapy) to a targeted tumour site.

Lumbar Puncture – This procedure withdraws spinal fluid from the lower back by the use of a very fine needle. The small amount of fluid obtained is allowed to drip out slowly and this fluid is sent to the laboratory for testing. Pressure within the system may also be tested at this time.

Malignant – This describes a tumour that tends to grow quickly and may spread to surrounding tissue.

MRI Scan – Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan that produces a picture of organs and tissue of the body through the use of a magnet and radio waves.

Nystagmus – The eye moves in a continuous beating or jerking movement over which the patient is unable to control. Nystagmus may signify problems in the area of the brain stem or cerebellum.

Oedema – An excessive amount of fluid. Brain tumours may affect the blood vessels in their vicinity allowing extra fluid to seep into normal tissue.

Palliative – Relieving symptoms and easing suffering when the option of curative treatment does not exist.

Papillodema – Swelling of the optic nerve usually caused by pressure. This can be seen during an eye examination and may be associated with the presence of a brain tumour.

Paralysis – The complete lack of function of specific muscle groups.

Paraplegia – Paralysis of legs only.

Peripheral Nerve System – This comprises the nerves of the body not including the brain and spinal cord.

Pituitary Gland – A gland situated at the base of the brain that controls the function of many other glands.

Posterior Fossa Syndrome (Cerebella Mutism) – Posterior Fossa Syndrome and Cerebella Mutism are often used interchangeably. This may occur in children after surgical resection of a posterior fossa tumour including medulloblastomas, ependymomas and astrocytoma’s. After surgery, patients may develop specific neurological deficits including the inability to speak, emotional mood swings, difficulty swallowing and hemiparesis. The signs and symptoms always develop within the first week of surgery and may take months to resolve.

Primary – The original site of the tumour.

Prognosis – The outlook or expected outcome of a disease or treatment.

Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs) – Pulmonary function tests are a group of tests that measure how well the lungs take in and release air and how well they move gases such as oxygen from the atmosphere into the body’s circulation.

Radiotherapy – This is the use of invisible high beam radiation waves to kill cancer cells.

Remission – Complete disappearance of the signs and symptoms of a tumour in response to treatment.

Resection – The surgical removal of a tumour.

Seizure – A sudden and intense fit with convulsions where a person may fall, breathe heavily and become incontinent OR an interruption of consciousness where the person becomes unresponsive and appears ‘blank’ or ‘staring’.

Stem Cell Harvest – The harvesting involves daily sub-cutaneous injections of G-CSF, an enzyme that triggers in the bone marrow a response to produce more cells. This triggered response is so constant and so frequent that the stem cells so produced are forced out into the blood stream and on the day they reach a certain count level they are removed from the patient by apheresis – spinning off the stem cells in a process that allows the remaining cells to be returned to the patient. These cells may then be frozen in liquid nitrogen in a laboratory and be returned to the patient as an autologous stem cell transplant following treatment.

Stem Cell Transplant – Autologous (Re-infusion)—Stem cells are transplanted into a person after chemotherapy or radiation therapy destroys the stem cells in the bone marrow. Autologous stem cell transplant: the person themselves provides the stem cells before they receive the high dose treatment.

Stereotaxis – A method used to accurately find specific areas within the brain, using a special frame, computer program and CT images.

Subtotal resection – Removal of the majority but not all of the tumour.

Ventricles – Small fluid filled cavities within the brain. The site of production of cerebrospinal fluid.

Ventriculo-Peritoneal (VP) Shunt – A plastic catheter with a reservoir, inserted into the ventricles of the brain and used to divert cerebrospinal fluid from the ventricles to the abdominal cavity. This may be used in order for excess fluid to drain away.