Glossary of terms


ASP – Ashford and St Peters Hospital

Bolus – A tissue equivalent material such as wax which may be placed on your skin during treatment.

Brachytherapy – A form of radiotherapy whereby a source of radiation is placed close to or into the area to be treated.

Catheter – A tube inserted into the bladder to aid bladder emptying.

Chemotherapy – Treatment of cancer using cytotoxic drugs.

Clinical Trial – Research exercise to test a theory directly in the clinical environment.

CNS – Clinical Nurse Specialist

Computer Plan – An individual radiotherapy treatment plan produced by special computer software using either CT or MRI scans.

Concurrent – At the same time.

Conformal Radiotherapy – This is a radiotherapy treatment technique where the beam of radiation is shaped to follow the outline of the organ or region requiring treatment, thereby minimising the dose to adjacent healthy tissue using MLC’s.

Consent (Informed) –  Your agreement to have the treatment after discussion with the doctor where you will have been advised of your options and any effects and had an opportunity to ask questions.

Consultant Oncologist – A senior doctor who has taken specialist qualifications in oncology.

Couch – The bed on which you lie for your planning, scans and treatment.

CT / Computed Tomography Scan – A type of scan used to take images of inside your body.

Cytotoxic – Toxic to cells.                                 

Dental Alginate A gel like substance used to create a mould of your body part in order to create the necessary shell, similar to a tooth mould at the dentist.

Department Assistant – Health care assistants trained to work in the radiotherapy department.

Dietician – A health care professional qualified to advise on all aspects of nutrition.

DNA – Deoxyribonucleic Acid

Dose – The amount of radiation prescribed.

Dose Distribution – The way the dose of radiation acts within the area to be treated.

DRR – Digitally Reconstructed Radiograph       

Eclipse® – A brand name for a treatment planning system.

Electrons – A type of radiation used for superficial tumours.

Electron Boost – The use of electrons to deliver additional dose to a more specified area such as a scar or original tumour bed.

EPI – Electronic Portal Image

ESH – East Surrey hospital

External Beam Radiotherapy – Where the source of the radiation is external to the target such as with a linear accelerator.

FBC Full blood count – a blood test, which measures the amount of all the different components, which make up blood.

Fiducial Marker (small gold seeds 3mm) – Inserted into the prostate to help with localisation.  For prostate radiotherapy only.

Field – The delivery of radiation to a defined area. A number of fields may be used to get an accurate dose distribution and form a treatment plan.

Fraction – The name given to each individual treatment.      

FPH – Frimley Park Hospital


HCPC – Health Care Professions Council          

IGRT – Image Guided Radiotherapy

Immobilisation – Equipment used to ensure you or a specific part of your body does not move during treatment, and to facilitate daily reproducibility of your position.

IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy) – It is the use of precision radiotherapy to focus a high dose of radiation to the tumour whilst sparing the surrounding tissues.

In-patient – A patient who is staying in the hospital for more than one day.

Ionising Radiation – A type of radiation causing cell damage.       

Kilo Voltage Radiotherapy – Radiotherapy delivered using a lower energy such as superficial treatment.          

LA/Linear Accelerator – The machine used to deliver radiotherapy.

Laser – Fixed lasers are used in both the treatment and pre-treatment rooms to ensure your positioning is accurate.

LFT – A type of blood test to check liver function.

Localisation – Defining the exact area to be treated.

Lymph Nodes – Nodes forming part of a system of vessels involved in the immune system within the body through which spread of cancer may occur.


Malignant – The ability of a cancer to develop metastases.

Mask – Close fitting mould over the head and neck made of thermoplastic material.

Mega Voltage Radiotherapy – Radiotherapy delivered at high energy using a linear accelerator.

Metal Markers – Small metal ball bearings or strips that are placed on the skin to show positions on a scan or x-ray images.

Metastases – Spread of cancer to other parts of the body from the site of the original tumour.

MLC (Multi – Leaf Collimator) – Part of the linear accelerator which helps create the shape of the field and form shielding.

Mould Room – Part of pre-treatment where you may have some immobilisation or shielding devices specifically made for you depending on your treatment.

MRI – Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

Multi-Disciplinary – The involvement of a variety of medical specialists and / or health care professionals.          

NHS 111 – NHS resource available by phone or on line.

NICE – National Institute for Clinical Excellence       

Oncology – Anything related to cancer.

Organs At Risk – Organs within the body, which may be in the treatment field when treating the cancer. Doses are carefully measured to ensure risks are minimised.       

Palliative Treatment – Treatment given with the intent of improving quality of life.

Patient Pathway – Example of a typical ‘journey’ within the Radiotherapy Department.

Permanent Marks/Tattoos – Pinprick of ink under the skin like a tattoo.

Pharmacy – Where prescriptions for medication can be dispensed.

Phlebotomy – Where blood is taken for tests.

Photons – Type of high energy radiation.

Planning Radiographer – A Therapy Radiographer specially trained in planning treatments and producing treatment plans.

Prescription – The total amount of radiation delivered over a defined amount of time and at a particular energy in defined amounts per fraction as specified by the Consultant Clinical Oncologist.

ProSoma® – A brand name for a virtual simulation package.         

Radiation Medical Physicist – Scientist specially trained in radiation physics.

Radical Treatment – Treatment given with the intent of curing the cancer.

Radioactive Particles/Seeds – Small pieces of radioactive material inserted into the tumour.

Radiographer – A specialist in the use of radiation for treatment or diagnostic purposes.

Radiologist – A doctor who has specialised in interpreting scans and images

Radiosensitiser – Something that increases the sensitivity of cells to radiation such as some chemotherapy agents.

Radiotherapy – The use of ionising radiation to treat disease.

Reference Points – Points from which any measurements or couch movements are done.

Review Clinic – Clinic when you will be seen by the Consultant Oncologist, registrar or a Radiographer either in the Radiotherapy department or at a level B clinic.

Review Radiographer – A radiographer who has had additional specialist training to support patients during their radiotherapy and to help manage side effects.

RSCH – Royal Surrey County Hospital


Specialist Registrar – Doctor working under a Consultant specialising in a particular area of medicine.

Side Effects – Additional effects that may arise due to the treatment.

Silicone Putty – A putty used in the Mould Room to create impressions of parts of the body.

Simulator – X-ray machine which looks and moves like a linear accelerator used to simulate the radiotherapy treatment.

SLCC – St Luke’s Cancer Centre

SoR – Society of Radiographers.

Staging – Definition of size and extent of tumour.

Superficial Radiotherapy – Radiotherapy to tumours near or on the skin surface

Tattoos – Permanent ink dots put on the skin using a needle.

TBS – To Be Seen.

Therapeutic Radiographer – Radiographer qualified to degree level and above to work with radiation to plan and deliver treatment.

Thermoplastic – Type of material used to create masks or casts which can be moulded to shape when warm.

Treatment Card – The paper record of your treatment.

Treatment Plan – Defined method of delivering the radiotherapy, often originating from a CT or MRI scan.

Treatment Unit – The machine, room and control area where your treatment takes place.

Tumour – Growth of cancerous cells.                 

U & E – Urea and erythrocytes, components found in blood, amounts of which are measured in a blood test.        

VacFix® – Plastic covered bean bag which once formed around you in the position required has the air vacuumed out to maintain the position.

Verification – Checking and confirming treatment position and plan.

Virtual Simulation – A computer package that allows a doctor to produce define the treatment area using CT data.

VMAT (Volumetric Arc Therapy) – Provides high dose conformance to the target, while reducing risk to critical structures.  Single or multiple radiation beams sweep in uninterrupted arcs around the patient, dramatically speeding up treatment delivery.

Wax Wax acts as a tissue substitute and can compensate for any gaps or irregularities in the body contour. It can also be used to improve the distribution of dose within the treatment area.

X-ray – Also known as plain radiograph. An x-ray provides images of inside the body, and shows up the skeleton very clearly.


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