P

p53

A tumor suppressor gene that, when working normally, helps to stop cells becoming cancerous. The p53 gene has been found to be damaged in most human cancers. See Gene, Tumor Suppressor Genes.

Pacemaker

A small electronic device that can be implanted in the chest to help the heart beat regularly. If you have a pacemaker, you cannot have an MRI scan as these scans are magnetic and can interfere with how your pacemaker works. See MRI Scan.

Pain Clinic

Clinic that specializes in treating chronic pain (pain that goes on for a long time and is unlikely to be cured altogether). Usually run by an anesthetist, sometimes with a doctor who specializes in palliative care. See Palliative Care.

Pain Killers
(Analgesia, Analgesics)

Drugs to control pain.

Palliation

Treatment which is given to control symptoms rather than cure disease - for example, palliative radiotherapy can be given to reduce pain.

Palliative Care

Care given to control symptoms such as sickness and pain.

Palliative Treatment

Treatment given to control symptoms such as pain and sickness, rather than to cure.

Pancoast Tumor

Name for a lung cancer that is found in a particular part of the lung. A pancoast tumor is found at the very top of the lung. It can cause particular symptoms because of where it is. It is quite common to get pain, numbness or pins and needles in the shoulder and arm because the tumor is pressing on the group of nerves at the top of the arm (called the brachial plexus). See Symptoms.

Pancreas

Organ of the digestive system that makes insulin and some of the enzymes needed for digesting food.

Paracetamol

A mild painkiller that can be bought over the counter from chemists. Paracetamol can also help bring down your temperature if you have a fever. You should never take more than eight tablets in 24 hours and should not take paracetamol without talking to your doctor if you have any liver problems.

Parenteral Nutrition
(Liquid Nutrition)

This is complete liquid food that is given through a drip into a vein. It can be used when someone is having very intensive treatment and is losing a lot of weight. It can be helpful when you are having difficulty eating because of a very sore mouth, bad diarrhea or sickness.

Partial Response

To a researcher, this means the cancer shrinking to at least half the original size for at least four weeks. There must not be any sign of growth of the cancer anywhere else in the body. See Clinical Trials.

Passive Smoking

Means breathing in other people's cigarette, pipe or cigar smoke when you don't smoke yourself. Passive smoking can cause lung cancer in people who don't smoke. Often affects people who work in very smoky atmospheres such as pubs and clubs. But they are still much less likely to get lung cancer than people who do smoke.

Pathological Fracture

Broken bone which has happened because the bone is weakened by disease (for example, secondary cancer).

Peau D'Orange

Used to describe a particular type of dimpling of the skin of the breast which can be a warning sign of breast cancer. This phrase is used because the dimples can make the skin look a bit like the skin of an orange.

Pelvic Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy treatment given to the pelvis.

Pelvis

Area of the body circled by the hip bones.

Penile Implant

Surgical treatment for impotence. Rod put inside the penis to stiffen it in men who cannot get an erection.

Permanent Colostomy

Opening of the bowel onto the surface of the abdomen (tummy). A bag is worn to collect the waste matter from digestion that would normally be passed from the body as a bowel motion. This operation cannot be reversed. Often the rectum is removed and the anus is closed up by the surgeon. See Anus, Rectum, Stoma, Temporary Colostomy.

Pharynx

Area at the back of the mouth and nose that connects them to the esophagus (gullet).

Phase One Trial

Early trial into a new treatment to find out the side effects and some idea of the dose to give. Likely to include patients with different types of cancer. See Clinical Trials.

Phase Three Trial

Trial to compare a new treatment with other treatments that are already being used. Looks at the safety and side effects of the treatment as well as how well it works. See Clinical Trials.

Phase Two Trial

Trial that looks at whether a new treatment works. Usually for a particular type of cancer. See Clinical Trials.

Phlegm
(Sputum)

Pronounced 'Flem'. Mucus that is coughed up from the lungs. See Mucus.

Phosphorus
(P32, Radioactive Phosphorus)

A radioactive form of phosphorus is used as internal radiotherapy to treat cancers and other diseases of the bone marrow. See Internal Radiotherapy.

Physiotherapist

Person who is trained to treat disease by physical methods such as manipulating joints and muscles, massage and heat treatment rather than by using drugs.

Pineal Germinoma
(Pineal Tumor)

Type of brain tumor affecting the pineal gland. Occurs more often in children and teenagers than in adults. Extremely rare.

Pituitary Down Regulators
(Goserelin, Lhrh Analogues, Lhrh Regulators, Zoladex)

Drugs which act on the pituitary gland in the brain. The pituitary normally signals to the testicles to make testosterone (the male sex hormone) and the ovaries to make estrogen (the female sex hormone). These drugs stop that signal and so stop sex hormone production. Drug called Goserelin (also called Zoladex) is a pituitary down regulator used in the treatment of prostate and breast cancer. See Hormone.

Pituitary Gland

Gland in the brain which produces many different Hormones. These hormones control a lot of body processes - for example, growth, metabolism, production of sex hormones.

Pituitary Tumor
(Pituitary Adenoma)

Type of brain tumor affecting the pituitary gland. Most are benign. One in ten brain tumors are pituitary tumors.

Placebo

Dummy treatment used in some research trials. One group of patients will get the new treatment and another group will get the dummy treatment. The patients will not know which they are getting and so will not unconsciously affect the results. See Blind Trial, Clinical Trials, Double Blind Trial.

Placebo Controlled Trial

Trial where the control group (patients who are being compared to patients getting the new treatment) are being given a placebo (dummy treatment). See Clinical Trials, Randomized Controlled Trial.

Placebo Effect

Used to describe improvement in the condition of patients who think they are being treated, but are in fact getting a dummy treatment.

Plantar - Palmar Erythema

Side effect of continuous 5-FU treatment. The skin on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet goes red and peels. The redness and peeling clears up when the treatment is finished. See Continuous Chemotherapy, Fluorouracil (5-FU, 5-Fluorouracil).

Plasma

The liquid part of blood that the blood cells are suspended in. See Blood Cells.

Platelet
(Platelets)

Type of blood cell. Helps the blood to clot. Platelet levels can drop during a course of chemotherapy.

Platelet Transfusion
(Platelet Transfusions)

Giving extra platelets via a drip into a vein. Platelet transfusions are quite fast. They take about half an hour per bag. But you may need several bags at a time. Many people begin to get a reaction to platelet transfusions after they have had a few. This reaction causes a very high temperature and feeling shivery. Your doctor will prescribe 'cover' of steroids and antihistamine to try to prevent a reaction. See Drip, Platelets, Steroids.

Pleural Effusion

Abnormal collection of fluid between the sheets of skin (pleura) which cover the lungs. Causes difficulty breathing.

Pleural Membrane
(Pleura)

Sheet of skin covering the lung.

Pleural Tap

Procedure for draining fluid off the lungs (a pleural effusion). A needle is put into the space between the sheets of skin that cover the lungs and the fluid drained off into a bag. Usually done with a local anesthetic. See Local Anesthetic, Pleural Effusion.

Pneumonectomy

Operation to remove a whole lung.

Polio

(Polio Vaccine)
Infectious disease. You should not have a vaccination against polio if you are having chemotherapy as the vaccine is live. See Vaccination.

Polycythaemia Rubra Vera
(PCV)

Blood disease. Not a cancer. Too many blood cells are made, so often treated with cancer treatments such as radioactive phosphorus. See Phosphorus.

Positive Lymph Nodes

Used to mean lymph nodes that have been found to contain cancer cells. Means there is a greater chance that a cancer has spread and usually an indication for adjuvant treatment such as chemotherapy or hormone therapy. See Adjuvant Therapy, Chemotherapy, Hormone Therapy, Lymph Glands.

Post Menopausal

Women who have been through the 'change of life' or menopause. This means their periods have stopped.

Pre Menopausal

Women who have not yet been through the 'change of life' or menopause and so are still having periods.

Primary Brain Tumor

A cancer which started in the brain (rather than spreading to the brain from another part of the body). See also Brain Tumor.

Primary Cancer

(Primary Tumor)
Where the cancer started. The type of cell that has become cancerous will be the primary cancer - for example, if a biopsy from the liver or lung contains cancerous breast cells, then the primary cancer is breast cancer.

Primary Lung Cancer

Cancer that has started in the lung. See Primary Cancer.

Proctoscopy

(Proctoscope)
Examination of the rectum (back passage) using a proctoscope. The proctoscope is a tube which is put into the rectum through the anus. The tube is connected to an eyepiece which allows the doctor to see inside the rectum. And to take biopsies (samples of tissue) for examination under the microscope. A proctoscopy can only examine the rectum. To look further into the bowel, a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy must be done. See Colonoscopy, Sigmoidoscopy.

Progesterone

One of the two female sex hormones.

Progression

To a researcher, this means that a cancer has grown by at least a quarter in size, or that new areas of cancer have appeared.

Prophylactic Cranial Radiotherapy
(PCI)

Literally means preventative radiotherapy to the head. With some types of cancer that can spread to the brain, doctors like to give a short course of radiotherapy to the brain. The idea of this is that it kills off any microscopic spread that may already be there. See Microscopic Spread, Radiotherapy.

Prostate

A gland found in men surrounding the urethra (tube which carries urine from the bladder to the penis). The gland makes a thick white fluid which mixes with sperm to make semen.

Prostate Cancer

Cancer of the prostate gland.

Prostate Specific Antigen

Substance produced by prostate cells found in the blood. The level can be measured by a blood test. If the level is much higher than normal, there may be a cancer in the prostate and further tests will need to be done. It is not a test for cancer on its own. Can also be used as a Marker in men diagnosed with prostate cancer - the level goes up when the cancer is growing and falls when the treatment is working and the cancer shrinking.

Prosthesis

Fake body part. Can be internal (for example, silicon ball inserted in scrotum to replace testicle) or external (for example, false breast).

Protocol
(Trial Protocol)

Detailed plan of a research trial. See Clinical Trials.

Provera

See Medroxyprogesterone Acetate.

PSA

See Prostate Specific Antigen.

PSA Level

Level of Prostate Specific Antigen in the blood.


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(Song *Last Days Of Autumn* Composed by: Bruce DeBoer
Bruce DeBoer's Original Compositions
Used With Permission Copyright 1998 All Rights Reserved)