Strictly speaking, radiation means giving off any energy particles or waves and includes heat and light. But usually used to mean radioactivity. This means gamma rays, alpha or beta particles from a radioactive source. The radioactivity comes from the breakdown of atoms. The source can be natural or made in a nuclear reactor. Uncontrolled radiation can be dangerous and cause cancer. Controlled exposure to radiation can be used in medicine for diagnosis (eg X-rays) or to treat cancer (radiotherapy).

Radical Mastectomy

Operation to remove the breast, lymph glands under the arm, and the muscles of the chest wall. Very rarely done now.

Radical Radiotherapy

An intensive course of radiotherapy that is given to try to cure a cancer. See Radiotherapy.


Something which gives off high energy rays or particles. See Radiation.

Radioactive Beads

Type of radiotherapy using small beads made of isotopes of gold or iodine that give off radiation. The beads can be placed inside the body where there is a cancer. This gives a high dose of radiotherapy to the cancer, but at a low dose to healthy parts of the body.

Radioactive Drink

Type of internal radiotherapy. The radiation is given in liquid form as a drink (eg radioactive iodine) to treat cancer of the thyroid. See Internal Radiotherapy.

Radioactive Dye

Dye which gives off radiation. Used in very small amounts during some types of scan.

Radioactive Injection

Injection into a vein of a tiny amount of a radioactive substance. This is usually done for a scan, for example a bone scan. But it can also be a treatment such as P32. See Bone Scan, Phosphorus.

Radioactive Isotope

See Isotope.

Radioactive Liquid
(Radioactive Liquids)

Liquid that gives off radiation.

Radioactive Material
(Radioactive Substance)

Any substance which gives off radiation. See Radiation.

Radioactive Source

Where radiation is given off. With external radiotherapy the radiotherapy machine is the source. With internal radiotherapy the implant, wires, or whatever is being used is the source. See External Radiotherapy, Internal Radiotherapy.


Person trained to operate radiotherapy machines and take x-rays.


Radioactive atoms used in tiny amounts as a tracer in a bone scan. See Bone Scan.


Doctor who specialises in treating patients with radiotherapy.

(Radiotherapy Treatment, Radium Treatment)

Cancer treatment using high energy waves similar to X-rays. Used to be called radium treatment because all radiotherapy used to be given using radium.

Radiotherapy Department

Department in a hospital where radiotherapy treatment is planned and given.

Radiotherapy Field

Area covered by a radiotherapy beam. Usually several 'beams' are used for external radiotherapy, and so there are several fields.

Radiotherapy Implant
(Radioactive Implant)

Radioactive substance that is put inside the body to give radiotherapy directly to a cancer. Can be in many different forms eg wires, beads. For example, irridium wires can be put into the breast or tongue to treat breast cancer or mouth cancer. See Implant, Iridium.

Radiotherapy Limit

There is a maximum amount of radiotherapy that can be given to any part of the body, or person. Each body organ has its own radiotherapy limit. Some organs are more sensitive to radiotherapy than others. See Radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy Machine

Machine used to give external radiotherapy treatment for cancer (and some other illnesses and conditions). See Radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy Nurse

Nurse who works in the radiotherapy department and can advise patients on managing radiotherapy treatment and side effects. See Radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy Planning

Process of designing an individual's course of radiotherapy treatment.

Radiotherapy Side Effects

Unwanted effects on the body of radiotherapy. Radiotherapy side effects only occur in the area that is being treated. Although you can sometimes get skin reddening on the other side of the body, where the rays pass through. Radiotherapy can cause hair loss, sickness, diarrhoea, sore skin, and sore mouth depending on where in the body you are being treated. A long course of radiotherapy often causes tiredness. Radiotherapy side effects are a little unusual in that they don't start as soon as you start the treatment. They take a while to build up and then do not disappear until a little while after you have finished the course of treatment. This can be a number of weeks depending on how much radiotherapy you have had. See Radiotherapy.


The first substance discovered to give off radiation. Used to treat cancer.

Radium Treatment

Old name for radiotherapy. Used because all radiotherapy used to be given using radium.

Radon Gas
(Radioactive Gas)

A naturally occuring radioactive gas. Radon is given off by the Earth. The amount of it around depends on where you live. Areas with a lot of granite in the ground tend to have higher than average levels of radon. In the UK these are Derbyshire, Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Northamptonshire. Radon is one of the causes of lung cancer and may contribute to causing other cancers as well.

Randomised Controlled Trial

Trial where the patients have been put into two groups by chance. One group is given the best current treatment or a placebo and their results are compared with the patients having the new treatment. See Best Current Treatment, Placebo.

Randomised Trial
Trial where the patients are divided into groups by chance. See Clinical Trials.

Reconstructive Surgery

Operation to rebuild a part of the body that has been removed or damaged (for example, breast reconstruction).

Rectal Examination

Medical examination where the doctor puts a finger into the back passage to see if he can feel anything wrong. Used to examine the prostate.


The back passage. The end of the bowel where faeces is stored before it is passed out of the body through the anus. See Anus, Faeces.

(Recurred, Recurrent)

Cancer that has come back again after treatment.


The skin going red.

Red Blood Cells
(Red Blood Cell, Red Cells)

Cells found in the blood which carry oxygen from the lungs around the body. If a person doesn't have enough red blood cells, they have anemia.

Red Spidery Marks

These are a long term side effect of radiotherapy. Extra blood vessels can grow in the skin where radiotherapy treatment has been given in the past. See Long Term Side Effects, Radiotherapy.


Type of complementary therapy. Reflexologists use pressure points on the feet, similar to acupuncture points to detect blockages of energy in the body. They seek to correct the blockages by massaging the feet. See Complementary Therapy.

Regional Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy that is given to one part of the body only. For example, for secondary bowel cancer in the liver, chemotherapy can be given to the liver through the hepatic artery. See Hepatic Artery Infusional Chemotherapy.


An illness that has seemed to be getting better, or to have been cured, comes back or gets worse again.

Relaxation Tapes

Cassette tapes that help you to learn to relax. Usually have a recording of someone talking through relaxation exercises and soothing music.

Relaxation Techniques
(Relaxation Exercises)

Different ways of relaxing (eg relaxing the muscles in turn, deep breathing).


If a cancer is in remission, there is no sign of it on scans or when the doctor examines you. Doctors use the word 'remission' instead of cure when talking about cancer because they cannot be sure that there are no cancer cells at all in the body. So the cancer could come back in the future, although there is no sign of it at the time.


Looking into something in a systematic and logical way to find out new facts about it. Cancer research looks into new treatments, but can also find out many other things about cancers for example, who is at risk of particular types of cancer, how to prevent cancer and how to lessen side effects of treatment.

Research Ethics Committee

Group of people who look at plans for trials to see whether they have been properly though out and prepared. They are responsible for checking that the best interests of the patients have been considered. The committee usually includes doctors, nurses, lawyers and members of the public.


Word used in surgery to meaning to cut away. So if something is resected, it is removed during an operation.

Resistance To Infection

How resistant you are to infections shows how well your immune system is working. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy can lower your white blood cell count and so lower your immunity. Until your white blood cell count recovers, you will have less resistance to infection. See Chemotherapy, Immunity, Immune System, White Blood Cells.

Respiratory System

The body system for breathing. Includes the nose, windpipe (trachea), airways and lungs. See Airways, Alveoli, Bronchi, Bronchioles.

Rhythm Method

Natural form of trying to prevent pregnancy by avoiding sex in the middle of a woman's menstrual cycle, when becoming pregnant is most likely. Not thought safe when avoiding pregnancy is very important - for example, during cancer treatment or after having particular cancers such as breast cancer.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

A type of arthritis that is an auto-immune disease. This means the body thinks some of its own cells are foreign and attacks them. In rheumatoid arthritis, this happens in the joints causing them to swell and become painful.


(Rubella Vaccine, German Measles, German Measles Vaccine)
Infectious disease. You should not have a vaccination against rubella if you are having chemotherapy as the vaccine is live. See Vaccination.

Copyright © (1998 - 2003) by Larry's Dream, Inc.

(Song *The Locket* Composed by: Bruce DeBoer
Bruce DeBoer's Original Compositions
Used With Permission Copyright 1998 All Rights Reserved)