Glossary of Terms

Clinicians use many complex terms on a regular basis and they become second nature to us. Attending a clinic or reading about your disease can become bewildering. The following is a short glossary of some of the most commonly used terms in sarcoma surgery.

Adjuvant therapy
Additional treatment usually given after surgery, (as opposed to neo-adjuvant therapy which is given before), where all obvious disease has been removed but where there remains a statistical risk of recurrence.

A disease which is non-progressive, when referring to a lump it means non-cancerous or non-sarcomatous.

A sample of tissue. This can be taken using a fine needle or at operation when a small sample is excised. A biopsy is analysed by the histology department.

The treatment of a tumour with drugs that destroy cancer cells. The most commonly used drugs in sarcoma chemotherapy are doxorubicin and ifosfamide.

CT scan
A CT scan is a powerful method of x-raying the body resulting in a 3D image. CT stands for computed tomography.

In sarcoma terms this suggests underneath a layer in the body called fascia, (see below).

Further away from the centre of the body, towards the extremities. Opposite of Proximal

A layer of tissue similar to a corset. It usually separates muscles from the fatty layer below the skin. It is often well formed in limbs.

The science of studying tissue usually under magnification and after special preparations including stains. The histology of sarcoma samples is highly complex and can require many days assessment.

A subspecialty of histology which relies on stains attached to antibodies which then bind to specific cell types. It is often used to help delineate specific tumour types and characteristics. These tests often take up to 10 days to be readable.

A tumour is malignant if its growth is not self-limited. A malignant tumour often has the ability to spread either directly or in the blood or lymphatic systems.

A tumour resection is classified as marginal if there is only a small amount of tissue between the tumour and the edge of the specimen. a marginal resection may imply that there is a high chance of some tumour cells remaining in the body. This type of resection is sometimes unavoidable where the tumour is very close to vital structures such as large vessels or nerves.

Tissue which develops from mesoderm, one of the three germ layers found in embryos. Many body organs or tissues and systems derived from mesoderm, they include; bones; cartilage; the heart; blood vessels; mussels; fact; the reproductive system; the spleen; the urinary system including kidneys etc.

From the Greek meaning “next placement” this term refers to spread of tumour cells away from the original site. Sarcomas generally metastasise via the blood vessels although some do so via the lymphatic system. Metastases are also known as secondaries.

Multidisciplinary team. This describes the group of people who specialise in a certain disease. In the case sarcoma it includes radiologists, histologists, surgeons, oncologists and specialist nurses.

Neo-adjuvannt therapy
Therapy given before the main treatment,( as opposed to adjuvant therapy which is given after). It is often given to reduce the size of the tumour and so facilitate surgery.

Neuro-vascular bundle
A group of important structures including arteries, veins and nerves.

Palliative treatment is aimed at maximising the comfort of a patient when attempts at eradicating the disease by either surgery or chemotherapy have been exhausted.

PET scan
Positron Emission Tomography is a nuclear medicine imaging technique which is able to produce a three-dimensional image of functioning processes in the body. It is an extremely new form of imaging for which there are specific indications.

The original site of a tumour.

Close to the centre of the body, (as opposed to distal).

Relating to the lungs.

Absence of disease activity.

A tumour of mesenchymal tissue, (see above).

The process of identifying how advanced a tumour is. In sarcoma it generally means undergoing a CT scan of the chest and abdomen.

The opposite to deep and means close to the surface, usually above the fascia.

USS (Ultra Sound Scan)
The simplest of all of the investigations used in sarcoma treatment. This is similar to a scan that a pregnant lady undergoes.

Wide local excision
The goal of all sarcoma surgery; refers to excising the tumour surrounded by an un-breached layer of normal tissue. It is not always possible especially if the tumour is close to vital structures. In this case a marginal excision may be planned.

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