This page provides definitions of some of the terms relevant to lymphoma and commonly used by healthcare professionals. Terms are listed in alphabetical order and you can navigate the list through the links on top of the page. The pronunciation of some words is added in brackets.

Pile of books



Abdomen The middle part of the front of your body, between your chest and pelvis (the bones around your hip area), often called the tummy

Acute Describes an illness or symptom that develops and progresses quickly but goes away quickly

Adjuvant therapy An additional treatment given to boost the effectiveness of the main therapy

Advanced stage Widespread lymphoma – usually stage 3 (lymphoma on both sides of your diaphragm) or stage 4 (lymphoma that has spread to body organs outside your lymphatic system). The lymphatic system is all over the body, so it isn’t unusual to find that lymphoma is advanced when it is diagnosed 

Aetiology ("EE-tee-oh-luh-jee") The study of the cause of disease (sometimes used to mean the cause of a particular condition)

AIDS Short for ‘acquired immune deficiency syndrome’, the illness caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

AIDS-defining cancer If you have HIV and develop certain cancers, you are also diagnosed with AIDS

Alert card A card with important information on for anyone treating you in an emergency. If you have an alert card for any reason, you should always carry it with you

Alkylating agents Substances that interfere with the metabolism and growth of cells. They are used as chemotherapy drugs to treat some cancers; examples are chlorambucil and cyclophosphamide

Allogeneic ("ALLO-jen-AY-ik") Describes a transplant of donated tissue from someone else, sometimes known as an ‘allograft’ or ‘donor transplant’

Alopecia Hair loss; can occur as a result of some treatments for lymphoma

Anaemia Shortage of haemoglobin (contained in red blood cells), which carries oxygen around the body in the bloodstream

Anaesthetic A drug given to numb a part of your body (local anaesthetic) or to put your whole body into a sleep-like state (general anaesthetic)

Analgesic Something (such as a drug) that takes away or reduces pain

Anorexia Loss of appetite, especially as a result of disease. This is different to anorexia nervosa, which is a psychological eating disorder

Anthracyclines Chemotherapy drugs that interfere with the DNA structure of cells, preventing them from dividing. They are used to combat rapidly dividing cells such as cancer cells; examples are doxorubicin (Adriamycin®) and mitoxantrone

Antibody A protein made by white blood cells that recognises and sticks to things that don’t belong in your body, such as viruses, bacteria or some cancer cells

Antibody–drug conjugate A treatment using a monoclonal antibody joined to a chemotherapy drug that can deliver the chemotherapy directly to the target lymphoma cell

Antiemetic ("AN-tee-em-ET-ik") Medicine that can help to reduce nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting (being sick)

Antigen The part of a ‘foreign’ substance that has entered the body that is recognised by the immune system. This then triggers a defensive response in the form of an antibody; the foreign substance is usually a protein

Antimetabolites A group of chemotherapy drugs that join with the cell’s DNA and stop it from dividing; examples include methotrexate, fluorouracil, fludarabine and gemcitabine

Apheresis A procedure in which something is separated out, usually out of the blood; a special piece of equipment separates out one particular part of the blood (for example plasma, the liquid part of the blood, or cells such as stem cells) and returns the rest of the blood to the body

Apoptosis Process of cell death or ‘programmed cell death’, which is a normal body process to make way for new cells; it can also be triggered by chemotherapy drugs and irradiation

Aspirate Sample of cells taken by suction using a needle

Autologous ("aw-TAW-luh-GUS") Describes a transplant using a person’s own tissue (such as of bone marrow or stem cells)

Back to top


B cells / B lymphocytes A type of white blood cell (an immune cell) that fights infection by producing antibodies

B symptoms Three significant symptoms of lymphoma – fevers, night sweats and unexplained weight loss – that can occur in people with lymphoma

Bacteria Small (microscopic) organisms, some of which can cause disease; often referred to as 'germs'

Benign Not cancerous (although benign lumps or conditions can still cause problems because of their size or position)

Biological therapies Anti-cancer treatments that are based on substances that the body makes naturally and affect how the cancer cell works; examples are interferon and monoclonal antibodies

Biopsy A sample of tissue that is taken to see if abnormal cells are present and to confirm a diagnosis; for people with lymphoma the most common biopsy is a lymph node biopsy (examination of the cells and their ‘architecture’ or arrangement under the microscope indicates what type of lymphoma it is)

Biosimilar A drug designed to be almost identical to a drug that is already being used (the ‘reference drug’). Biosimilars must be shown to be as safe and effective, but no better than, the reference drug in clinical trials before they are approved for use

Blast cell An immature blood cell, which does not normally appear in the healthy bloodstream

Blind or blinding When people taking part in a clinical trial don’t know what treatment they are receiving; sometimes, your doctor doesn’t know either – this is called a ‘double-blind’ trial. This is done because knowing what treatment you are on could influence your or your doctor’s expectations of the treatment and affect the results of the trial

Blood–brain barrier A barrier of cells and blood vessels that only lets certain substances reach the brain, protecting it from harmful chemicals and infections

Blood cells The three main types of cells or cell fragments present in the blood are red cells, white cells and platelets

Blood count A sample of blood is taken and the numbers of different cells or proteins present in the blood sample are checked using a microscope and compared with the ‘normal range’ of cell and protein numbers found in healthy blood

Bone marrow The spongy tissue in the centre of some of the large bones of the body where blood cells are made

Broviac® line A type of central line (thin flexible tube) sometimes used in children

Back to top


Cancer cells Abnormal cells that divide rapidly and do not die when they should

Cancer drugs fund (CDF) Money currently being made available in England that pays for selected cancer drugs that could otherwise not be given to people on the NHS

Candida ("CAN-dih-dah") A fungus that can cause an infection in the lining of the mouth (oral thrush), especially in people who have a weakened immune system

Cannula ("CAN-ewe-lah") A soft flexible tube which is inserted into the body, usually into a vein, and through which fluids and medicines can be passed into the body without the need for repeated injections

CAR T-cell therapy Treatment that uses your own, genetically modified T cells to recognise and kill lymphoma cells

Carcinogenic ("CAR-si-nuh-jen-ik") Something that can make cells become cancerous

Cardiovascular To do with the heart and blood vessels

Catheter A flexible, hollow tube that can be inserted into an organ so that fluids or gases can be removed from, or given into, the body

CD20 A protein ‘marker’ found on the surface of mature B cells and on the surface of certain lymphoma cells, which is why it is targeted by specialised anti-lymphoma treatments called monoclonal antibodies

Cell ("sell")The microscopic building block of the body; all our organs are made up of cells and although they have the same basic structure, they are specially adapted to form each part of the body

Cell signal blockers Cells receive signals that keep them alive and make them divide. These signals are sent along one or more pathways. Cell signal blockers are newer drugs that block either the signal or a key part of the pathway. This can make cells die or stop them from growing

Cell surface markers Proteins found on the surface of cells that can be used to identify particular cell types; they are labelled using letters and numbers (for example CD4, CD20, in which the ‘CD’ stands for ‘cluster of differentiation’)

Central line A thin flexible tube, which is inserted into a large vein in the chest; some types can be left in place for some months, which allows all treatments to be given and all blood tests to be taken through the one line

Central nervous system (CNS) The brain and spinal cord

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) The fluid which bathes the tissues of the central nervous system

Chemotherapy ("KEE-moh-ther-uh-pee") A form of anti-cancer treatment that uses drugs to damage and kill rapidly dividing cells at various stages of their cycle of development

Chemo-immunotherapy Chemotherapy (for example, CHOP) with immunotherapy (for example, rituximab). The initial of the immunotherapy drug is usually added to the abbreviation for the chemotherapy regimen, such as R-CHOP

Chromosome A small ‘package’ found in the centre (nucleus) of every cell in the body that contains a set of genes (DNA codes); they occur in pairs, one from the mother and one from the father, and human beings normally possess 46 chromosomes, arranged in 23 pairs

Chronic A condition, either mild or severe, that lasts for a long time

Classification The grouping of similar types of cancer together according to how they look under the microscope and after doing specialised tests

Clinical nurse specialist (CNS) Your CNS will usually be the first person you should contact about any worries or concerns. A nurse who has specialised in looking after people with lymphoma who can help you understand more about the disease and its treatment

Clinical trial A research study testing new treatments and finding out which work best and for which people, for example by investigating the effects of a new treatment or aspect of care. Not all research studies involves treatment; some might focus on improving tests or quality of life after treatment

CMV Short for ‘cytomegalovirus’, a virus that is more likely to cause infections in people whose immune system is weakened by lymphoma or a treatment for lymphoma

CNS lymphoma Lymphoma that is in your brain, spinal cord or eyes (your central nervous system, or CNS)

CNS prophylaxis Treatment to prevent lymphoma spreading to your brain, spinal cord or eyes (your central nervous system, or CNS)

Combination chemotherapy Treatment with more than one chemotherapy drug

Combined modality therapy (CMT) Using both chemotherapy and radiotherapy in a single course of anti-lymphoma treatment

Complete response There is no evidence of lymphoma using current tests

CT scan Short for ‘computed tomography’, a scan performed in an X-ray department that provides a layered picture of the inside of the body; can be used to detect disease of a tissue or organ

Cure Treating a disease or condition to the point where it has gone and will not come back in the future

Cutaneous ("queue-TAY-nee-us") To do with the skin

Cycle A block of chemotherapy that is followed by a rest period to allow the healthy normal cells to recover

Cyto- To do with cells

Cytogenetics The study and testing of the chromosomes in cells that are involved in disease; helps to identify different types of lymphoma, reach an accurate diagnosis and aid treatment planning

Cytokine release syndrome An immune reaction to some types of immunotherapy that causes a rapid release of chemicals called cytokines into your bloodstream

Cytotoxic drugs ("sigh-toe-TOX-ik") Drugs that are toxic (poisonous) to cells, so are given to destroy or control cancer cells

Back to top


Day-care unit A part of the hospital for people who need a specialist procedure but who do not need to stay in hospital overnight

Day patient or outpatient A patient who attends hospital (for example, for treatment) but doesn’t stay overnight

Diagnosis Finding out what condition you have

Diaphragm ("DYE-a-fram") The dome-shaped muscle that separates the tummy (abdomen) from the chest (thoracic) cavity

Disease-free survival The percentage of people who are alive and free of lymphoma after a certain number of years 

Disease progression or progression Continued growth of the lymphoma. This is usually defined as growth of more than a fifth (more than 20%) while you are having treatment 

DNA Stands for ‘deoxyribonucleic acid’, a complex molecule that holds genetic information as a chemical code and which forms part of the chromosome in the nucleus of all the cells of the body

Double-hit lymphoma The lymphoma cells have two major lymphoma-related changes in their genes. Usually classed as a type of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL)

Back to top


Early stage Lymphoma that is localised to one area or a few areas that are close together, usually stage 1 or 2

Echocardiography ("ek-oh-CAR-dee-oh-gra-fee") The use of sound waves (ultrasound) to study the strength of the heart by showing the structure and movement of the heart chambers and heart valves

Efficacy A drug's ability to produce a beneficial effect

Electrocardiography (ECG) A method of recording the electrical activity of the heart muscle

Eligibility criteria Strict list of characteristics that outline who can and cannot enter a clinical trial. Inclusion criteria set out who can join the trial; exclusion criteria set out who can’t join the trial

Endoscopy A procedure in which a very small camera on a flexible tube is passed into an internal organ to assist in diagnosis and treatment (for example, in gastroscopy an endoscope is passed through the mouth into the stomach)

Epidemiology The study of how often disease occurs in different groups of people and why

Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) A commonly occurring virus that causes glandular fever; has been discovered to be associated with some lymphomas, particularly Burkitt lymphoma

Erythrocytes Red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body

Erythropoietin A hormone (chemical messenger) produced mainly in the kidneys that stimulates the formation of red blood cells; can be manufactured (as EPO) and is given to some people as a treatment for anaemia, especially if they have kidney failure

Excision biopsy ("ex-SIH-zhun") An operation to remove a lump completely; in people with lymphoma this usually means the removal of a whole lymph node

Extranodal disease Lymphoma that is occurring outside the lymphatic system

Back to top


False negative A negative result in a test when that person does in fact have the condition

False positive A positive result in a test when that person does not have the condition

Familial A familial condition runs in a family, showing up in several family members, but it is not associated with a particular identified gene or genetic defect (as in inherited conditions)

Fatigue Extreme tiredness and lack of energy, a common side effect of cancer and of cancer treatments

Fertility The ability to have children

Fibrosis ("fye-BROH-sis") Thickening and scarring of tissues (such as lymph nodes, the lungs); can happen after an infection, surgery or radiotherapy

Fine-needle aspiration Sometimes shortened to ‘FNA’, a procedure in which a small amount of fluid and cells are removed from a lump or lymph node using a thin needle; the cells are then examined under a microscope

First-line therapy The first choice of therapy selected to treat an illness when it first appears or if it comes back

Flow cytometry A laboratory technique used to look at lymphoma cells to help make an accurate diagnosis and plan the most effective treatment

Follicle A very small sac or gland; in follicular lymphoma the term relates to the appearance of groups or clusters of lymphoma cells seen under the microscope when a biopsy sample is examined

Fungus A type of organism (something that is living) that can cause disease

Back to top


G-CSF Stands for ‘granulocyte colony-stimulating factor’, a growth factor that stimulates the bone marrow to make more white blood cells

Gene A stretch of DNA with enough genetic information in it to form a protein

Genetic Caused by the genes

GM-CSF Stands for ‘granulocyte and macrophage colony-stimulating factor’, a growth factor that stimulates the bone marrow to make more white blood cells and platelets

Grade A way of expressing how fast a lymphoma is growing: low-grade lymphomas are slower growing; high-grade lymphomas are faster growing

Graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) A condition that can happen after an allogeneic stem cell or bone marrow transplant where T cells from the graft (the donated stem cells or bone marrow) attack some of the normal cells of the host (the person who received the transplant)

Graft-versus-lymphoma effect A similar effect to GvHD but this time a beneficial effect that the donor bone marrow or stem cells have on the host’s lymphoma cells, turning on them and killing them; it is not fully understood how this happens

Gray A measure of how much radiation is being absorbed by the body; radiotherapy is ‘prescribed’ in numbers of Gray (shortened to ‘Gy’)

Groshong® line ("GROW-shong") A type of central line (thin flexible tube)

Growth factors Naturally occurring proteins that control the development of blood cells and their release into the bloodstream; sometimes used during lymphoma treatments to increase the numbers of particular types of white blood cell and the numbers of stem cells circulating in the bloodstream (for example, G-CSF, GM-CSF)

Back to top


Haematologist ("hee-mah-TOH-lo-jist") A doctor specialising in diseases of the blood and blood cells, including leukaemias and lymphomas

Haematopoiesis  ("HEE-mah-toh-po-esis")The process of blood cell forming, which takes place in the bone marrow

Haemoglobin An iron-containing protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body

Helicobacter pylori A bacterium that causes inflammation and ulcers in the stomach and which is associated with a particular lymphoma in the stomach (gastric MALT lymphoma)

Helper T cells T cells that stimulate B cells to make more antibodies as part of the body’s immune response

Hickman® line A type of central line (thin flexible tube)

High-dose therapy A treatment regimen in which large doses of anti-cancer treatments are given with the aim of eradicating all the tumour cells; because this will also damage the normal blood-producing cells in the bone marrow it has to be followed by a transplant of either stem cells (a peripheral blood stem cell transplant, PBSCT) or bone marrow cells (a bone marrow transplant, BMT)

Histo To do with tissue or cells

Histochemistry The study of the chemistry of tissues and cells using specialised stains and chemical reactions

Histology The study of the microscopic appearance and structure of tissues and cells

Histopathologist A doctor who specialises in changes in tissue appearance caused by diseases

Histopathology The study of the microscopic appearances of diseased tissues

HIV Short for ‘human immunodeficiency virus’, which is a virus that attacks the immune system and can cause acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)

Hormone A chemical messenger produced by a gland and carried by the bloodstream to another part of the body to affect how that part works

Hyperviscosity When blood is thicker than usual, often due to high levels of abnormal antibodies in the blood; common in people who have Waldenström’s macroglobulinaemia

Hypothyroidism Also known as an 'underactive thyroid', the condition caused by a lack of thyroid hormone (thyroxine); can occur as a late side effect of radiotherapy to the neck

Back to top


Immune system A system in the body that fights infections and causes allergic reactions; consists of white blood cells, the spleen and the lymph nodes

Immunisation The process of making someone immune to something or building up their immune response to it so that they can resist the infection in the future; one way of immunising a person is to introduce an antigen (such as a germ) into the body, which is what happens in vaccination

Immunocompromised/immunosuppressed A condition of reduced ability to resist infection or combat foreign material gaining access to the body; can be caused by a disease or by a treatment

Immunoglobulins Sometimes shortened to ‘Ig’, the chemical name for antibodies

Immunophenotyping A specialised laboratory technique used to study the proteins that are present on the surface of lymphoma cells. It helps the doctor to tell the difference between different lymphomas and make an accurate diagnosis

Immunosuppression A condition of reduced immunity caused by a treatment. It can allow infections to occur

Immunosuppressive A drug that lowers the body’s ability to fight infection

Immunotherapy ("i-myoon-oh-ther-uh-pee") A treatment that stimulates the body’s own immune system to fight a cancer or lymphoma

Indolent Lymphoma that is growing slowly

Infection Bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi that don’t normally live in the body (germs) invade your body and can make you ill. If your immune system is not working well, infections can come from the bacteria that normally live on your body, for example on your skin or in your bowel 

Infusion Having a fluid (other than blood) given into a vein

Inpatient A patient who stays in hospital overnight

Intramuscular Into muscle

Intrathecal Into the fluid around the spinal cord

Intravenous Into a vein

Irradiated blood Blood (or platelets) that has been treated with X-rays before transfusion to destroy any white cells; done to prevent transfusion-associated graft-versus-host disease

Irradiation Treatment with X-rays or other types of radiation

Back to top


Kinase A protein that adds a chemical called phosphate to other molecules. Kinases help control important cellular functions, such as cell division, growth and survival

Back to top


Laparascope A very small camera at the end of a long, thin, flexible tube that can be entered into the body

Late effects Health problems due to treatment that develop months or years after treatment has ended

Leukaemia ("loo-KEE-mee-uh") Cancer of the white blood cells

Live vaccine A vaccine that contains a live, weakened version of the microbe (germ) that causes an infection

Lumbar puncture A technique where some cerebrospinal fluid is removed from the fluid-filled space around the nerves in the spine using a needle

Lymph A fluid that circulates in the body’s lymph vessels, partially made up of fluid drained from the tissues; it carries salts and large numbers of lymphocytes

Lymphadenopathy (“lim-fa-den-OH-pa-thee”) Swelling (enlargement) of lymph nodes

Lymphatic system A system of tubes (lymph vessels), glands (lymph nodes), the thymus and the spleen that helps fight infection and filters waste fluids and cells from the tissues

Lymph nodes Small oval swellings, usually up to 2cm in length, grouped togehter in certain places in the lymphatic system, for example in the neck, armpit and groin. They help the body fight infections and drain away waste fluids from the tissues. They are sometimes known as lymph glands

Lymph vessels Tubes that carry lymph fluid and connect with the lymph nodes

Lymphocytes ("LIM-foh-sites") Specialised white blood cells that are part of the body’s immune system; there are three main types – B cells, T cells and the much less common natural killer (NK) cells

Lymphoid tissue ("LIM-FOYD") Tissue involved in the production of lymph and lymphocytes; consists of bone marrow and thymus gland (the ‘primary’ lymphoid organs) and the lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils and some tissue in the gut called Peyer’s patches (the ‘secondary’ lymphoid organs)

Lymphoma ("lim-FOH-ma") A cancer of lymphoid tissue

Back to top


Macrophage A type of white blood cell involved in the immune system that eats (ingests or engulfs) foreign organisms and sends out chemical messages to recruit and stimulate other cells of the immune system to strengthen the immune response

Maintenance therapy Treatment to keep lymphoma in remission after successful treatment 

Malignant Cancerous, something that grows uncontrollably and can travel to other parts of the body

MALT Stands for ‘mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue’ and is lymphoid tissue found in lining membranes (known as mucous membranes or mucosa) throughout the body, including the gut, the lungs and the salivary glands

Mediastinum The central part of the chest that contains the heart, the windpipe (trachea), the gullet (oesophagus), important large blood vessels and the lymph nodes around the heart

Medical alert card A card containing information about your condition or treatment. If you are given a medical alert card, you should carry it with you at all times

Metabolism How fast the cells in your body work

Metastasis The spread of cancer cells from the site where they developed to other areas of the body

Minimal residual disease (MRD) Tiny amounts of lymphoma remaining after treatment. If you are MRD positive, the remaining disease can grow and cause a relapse (return of cancer). If you are MRD negative, you have a higher chance of a long-lasting remission

Monoclonal antibody Identical antibodies

MRI Short for ‘magnetic resonance imaging’, a method of body scanning using a magnetic field to give very detailed images of the inside of the body

Mucosa ("myoo-KOH-sah") The tissue that lines most of the body’s hollow organs, such as the gut, the air passages and the ducts of glands that open into these hollow organs (such as the salivary glands)

Mucositis ("myoo-koh-SITE-is") Inflammation of the inside (lining) of the mouth

MUGA Short for ‘multigated acquisition’, this is a type of scan that assesses how well the heart is pumping; sometimes done before starting certain chemotherapy drugs

Multidisciplinary team Group of health professionals who plan and manage your care and treatment

Myelodysplastic syndromes ("MY-loh-dis-PLAS-tik") Sometimes called ‘myelodysplasia’, a group of diseases in which the normal function of the bone marrow is disrupted and the bone marrow makes blood cells that don't work as they should, instead of healthy blood cells

Myeloma A cancer of plasma cells (a type of B cell) found in the bone marrow

Myeloproliferative disorders Diseases in which the bone marrow makes too many of one or more types of blood cell

Back to top


National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) An independent body that gives guidance to the NHS and recommends whether treatments should be funded

Needle aspiration biopsy Also sometimes known as ‘fine-needle aspiration biopsy’ or FNAB, a technique in which a thin needle is inserted into a lump in the body (such as in the neck) to remove some cells to be examined under a microscope

Neuro To do with nerves or the nervous system

Neuropathy Any disease that affects the nerves (neurones)

Neutropenia ("nyoo-troh-PEE-nee-ya") Low levels of neutrophils (a kind of white blood cell) in the blood; can result in the body allowing infections to develop

Neutropenic sepsis A severe infection in people with neutropenia due to disease or to lymphoma treatments; sometimes called ‘febrile neutropenia’ if the temperature is high

Neutrophils ("nyoo-tro-FILS") Small, short-lived white blood cells that are particularly important in fighting off bacterial infections

Back to top


Oncologist ("on-COL-oh-jist") A doctor who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of people with cancer; may be either a medical oncologist who gives drug treatments for cancer or a clinical oncologist (also known as a radiotherapist) who mainly gives radiotherapy

Oral By mouth, for example, treatment taken as a tablet or capsule

Overall survival The percentage of people who are still alive after a certain number of years, with or without lymphoma. Overall survival (OS) is often measured 5 years and 10 years after treatment has ended 

Back to top


Paediatric ("peed-ee-AH-tric") To do with children

Palliative Treatment or care designed to help relieve the symptoms of a condition (such as pain) rather than to cure it

Paraprotein An unhealthy (abnormal) protein found in the blood or the urine

Parenteral Drugs or nutrients given by any other method than by mouth or into the bowel; instead, they might be given by intramuscular injection or by intravenous injection or infusion

Partial response Lymphoma that has decreased by at least a half but there is still lymphoma present

Pathologist A doctor who studies diseased tissues under a microscope

Performance status A way of expressing how well and active you are; ranges from 0 (fully active) to 4 (bedridden) in the World Health Organisation performance status scale

Peripheral blood stem cell transplant A type of therapy that first uses high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy to destroy cancer cells, followed by transplantation of stem cells to replace the damaged bone marrow (this damage being a side effect of the high doses of chemotherapy)

Peripheral neuropathy ("per-ih-fural nyoor-O-pah-thee", O as in "on") A condition of the peripheral nervous system (the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord), which usually begins in the hands or feet with symptoms of numbness, tingling, burning and/or weakness; can be caused by some lymphomas (such as Waldenström’s macroglobulinaemia) and by some anti-cancer drugs

PET Short for ‘positron-emission tomography’, a scan that uses a radioactive form of sugar to look at how active cells are; for some types of lymphoma, the cells are very active so show up clearly on a PET scan

PET/CT scan A scan in which PET and CT scans are combined

PICC line Short for ‘peripherally inserted central catheter’, a central line (thin flexible tube) that is put in at a point further away from the chest than most other central lines (such as in the upper arm)

Placebo An inactive or ‘dummy’ treatment designed to resemble the drug being tested in a clinical trial. Usually, one group of people taking part in the trial have standard treatment plus the test drug. Another group of people have standard treatment plus the placebo. Placebos are used to rule out any psychological effects of taking a treatment. You will not be given a placebo on its own if you need active treatment for your lymphoma  

Plasma The fluid part of the blood that holds the blood cells; contains proteins, salts and blood-clotting compounds

Plasma cell A cell that is formed from a B lymphocyte that produces antibodies

Plasmapheresis ("plas-MAH-fur-ee-sis") Sometimes called ‘plasma exchange’, a procedure where the liquid part of the blood (plasma) is separated from the blood cells using a special machine and the cells are returned to the circulation; used to remove protein from the blood of a person with too much of that protein in their blood, for example in Waldenström’s macroglobulinaemia

Platelets ("PLATE-lets") Small round cells in the blood that help in the process of blood-clotting when you cut yourself

Portacath A type of central line sometimes used in children that has a port or chamber at the end which stays under the skin; when the central line is used, a needle is put into the chamber

Principal treatment centre (PTC) Specialist centre treating children and young people with cancer

Progenitor cell Sometimes called a ‘precursor cell’, an immature cell which can develop into a number of different cell types

Prognosis The likely course of an illness for an individual patient, taking many factors into account such as the type of tumour and the individual's age and general health

Progression-free interval The time between treatment and the lymphoma starting to increase again. Sometimes called the ‘event-free interval’

Progression-free survival The time someone lives without their lymphoma starting to increase again

Prophylaxis Treatment designed to prevent something

Protein Found in all living things, proteins have many roles, including helping to control how our cells work and fighting infections

Protocol The plan for a research trial that includes information on the research question being asked by the trial, the eligibility criteria, investigations required and follow-up requirements

Back to top


Radiographer A person who takes radiographs (X-rays) and performs other scans (a diagnostic radiographer) or gives radiotherapy (a therapeutic radiographer)

Radioimmunotherapy A treatment using a monoclonal antibody with a particle of radiation attached to it in order to directly target the lymphoma cell, so giving radiotherapy to the lymphoma cells without affecting the healthy cells nearby

Radiologist A doctor who interprets radiographs (X-rays) and scans; may also perform biopsies using scans to ensure the right bit of tissue is taken to be examined

Radiotherapist A doctor who specialises in treating people using radiotherapy, also known as a ‘clinical oncologist’

Radiotherapy ("ray-dee-oh-ther-ap-ee") Treatment in which powerful, carefully focused beams of radiation (like X-rays) are used to damage and kill lymphoma and other cancer cells; sometimes called ‘external beam radiotherapy’

Randomisation A method that ensures that each participant in a clinical trial has the same chance of being put into the different treatment groups 

Red blood cells These cells carry oxygen around the body; also known as ‘erythrocytes’

Reed–Sternberg cell An abnormal cell with a characteristic appearance under the microscope of ‘owl eyes’; if present in a biopsy this would indicate a Hodgkin lymphoma

Refractory Resistant to treatment, meaning that the treatment no longer has an effect on the cancer cells

Regimen A particular course or plan of treatment that is designed to bring about an improvement in health or a condition (for example, medicine, diet or exercise)

Relapse ("ree-LAPSE") The return or recurrence of disease after previous treatment and apparent recovery

Remission ("ree-MI-shon") A period when there is no evidence of a disease using tests that are currently available (complete remission); a partial remission is when the amount of lymphoma in your body has reduced by at least half, but is not completely gone; and a ‘good partial remission’ is when three-quarters of the tumour has gone

Respiratory Relating to breathing or to the organs of breathing (the lungs and air passages)

Response When lymphoma shrinks or disappears after treatment. See also ‘complete response’ and ‘partial response’

Back to top


Scan A test that looks at the inside of the body, but is taken from outside of the body, such as a CT scan or ultrasound scan

Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) The body that gives guidance to the NHS in Scotland on whether treatments should be funded

Sedation Where a relaxing drug is given through a vein to enable a procedure to be done more easily and comfortably

Sedative A relaxing drug given into a vein to make a procedure easier or more comfortable to do

Sepsis A serious immune reaction to an infection that can lead to tissue damage and organ failure; sepsis can be fatal

Side effect An unwanted effect of a medical treatment

Specialist nurse Your specialist nurse (sometimes called a clinical nurse specialist or CNS) will usually be the first person you should contact about any worries or concerns. A lymphoma nurse specialist has training in looking after people with lymphoma and can help you understand more about the disease and its treatment

Spleen Part of the immune system, an organ about the size of a clenched fist, which lies just under the rib cage on the left-hand side of the body, behind the stomach. It is involved in fighting infection and acts as a filter of the blood, removing foreign particles and destroying old blood cells

Splenectomy Removing the spleen by surgery

Splenomegaly ("slen-oh-meg-alee") Swelling (enlargement) of the spleen

Stable disease Lymphoma that has stayed the same (neither gone away nor progressed)

Stage A guide to how many and which areas of your body are affected by lymphoma. There are four stages used to describe most types of lymphoma, which are usually written with Roman numerals as stage I to stage IV

Staging The process of finding out what stage a lymphoma is at; involves examinations and tests

Stem cell harvest Also called stem cell collection, the process of collecting stem cells from the blood (for use in a stem cell transplant)

Stem cell transplant The process of giving previously harvested stem cells back to an individual (a 'self' autologous stem cell transplant) or of giving donated stem cells (a 'donor' allogeneic stem cell transplant)

Stem cells Immature cells which can develop into the different types of mature cells normally found in healthy blood

Steroids Naturally occurring hormones that are involved in many of the body’s natural functions; can also be manufactured and given as a treatment

Subcutaneous ("sub-queue-TAY-nee-us") Under the skin

Surgery Treatment that involves cutting into the body to change or remove something

Symptom Any change in the body or in how it functions that is felt by a person; helps doctors to diagnose diseases

Systemic Affecting the whole body (not just local or localised parts of the body)

Back to top


T cells / T lymphocytes Cells of the immune system that help to protect us from viruses and cancers by attacking them directly; they develop in the thymus gland

Thrombocytopenia ("throm-boh-SITE-oh-pee-nyah") A shortage of platelets in the blood; increases the likelihood of bruising and/or bleeding

Thymus A small flat gland situated at the top of the chest, immediately behind the breast bone; the organ where T cells develop

Topical Putting a treatment directly onto the surface of the skin

Total body irradiation Radiotherapy given to the whole body, not just a part of it; usually given to kill off any lymphoma cells left in the body before a stem cell transplant

Transformation The change of one type of tissue or tumour into another type of tissue or tumour, for example a low-grade lymphoma changing into a high-grade lymphoma

Transfusion Giving of blood or blood products (such as red cells or stem cells) into a vein

Transfusion-associated graft-versus-host disease (TA-GvHD) A rare but serious complication of blood or platelet transfusion where white cells in the transfused blood attack the cells of the person receiving the blood; can be prevented by irradiation of blood and platelets

Tumour A swelling or lump of tissue formed from a collection of cells; can be benign (not harmful) or malignant (progressing and harmful)

Tumour flare Sometimes called a ‘flare reaction’, this is a temporary increase in the lymphoma symptoms after starting treatment and is more common with certain drugs, such as lenalidomide, rituximab (rituximab flare)

Tumour lysis syndrome A rare but serious illness that can occur when dying tumour cells release chemical by-products into the circulation that disturb the metabolism; usually occurs after combination chemotherapy or sometimes after treatment with steroid drugs

Tumour markers A substance whose presence in the blood or urine indicates the possible presence of a tumour in the body

Back to top


Vaccination Increasing the body’s ability to resist an infection by giving (inoculating) a small dose of the germ or organism that causes that infection (the organism is usually first killed or modified to make it safe); some vaccinations (like live vaccines) are not safe for people with lymphoma

Varicella zoster The virus that causes chickenpox and shingles

Vinca alkaloid Chemothrapy drugs originally derived from a member of the periwinkle (Vinca) plant family; examples are vincristine and vinblastine

Virus A tiny organism that causes disease. Unlike bacteria, viruses are not made up of cells

Back to top


White blood cell A cell found in the blood and in many other tissues that helps our bodies to fight infections. There are several different types, including lymphocytes and neutrophils. 


X-ray A form of radiation that is used to take pictures of the inside of the body and for radiotherapy; also used to mean the picture that is taken (the radiograph)

Back to top