Glossary of cancer-related treatment terms




A type of radiation therapy in which radioactive material sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters is placed directly into or near a tumour. Also called implant radiation therapy, internal radiation therapy, and radiation brachytherapy.

Breast cancer4:

Cancer that forms in tissues of the breast. The most common type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma, which begins in the lining of the milk ducts (thin tubes that carry milk from the lobules of the breast to the nipple). Another type of breast cancer is lobular carcinoma, which begins in the lobules (milk glands) of the breast. Invasive breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread from where it began in the breast ducts or lobules to surrounding tissue.

Cobalt/Caesium radiotherapy3:

Cobalt/Caesium radiotherapy refers to the use of a radiation machine to beam gamma rays from the radioisotope cobalt-60 or caesium-137 to treat cancer.

Colorectal cancer4:

Cancer that develops in the colon (the longest part of the large intestine), or the rectum (the last several inches of the large intestine before the anus) or the recto sigmoid section between the colon and rectum.


An operation to remove all or part of the colon. When only part of the colon is removed, it is called a partial colectomy. This can be performed as an open surgical procedure or with the aid of a laparoscope.

Data linkage6:

Also referred to as “data integration” or “record matching”. A method for combining information from different administrative and/or survey sources at the unit level (relating to a single person, organisation or area) to provide new datasets for statistical and research purposes. This approach leverages more information from the combination of individual datasets than is available from the individual datasets separately.

Excision of lymph node of axilla4:

A surgical procedure to remove lymph nodes found in the armpit region. Also known as axillary lymph node dissection.

Excision of lesion4:

A surgical procedure to remove an area of abnormal tissue. A lesion may be benign (not cancer), in-situ (with microscopic cancer characteristics but without progression beyond its cell layer of origin) or malignant (cancer).

Linear accelerator (LINAC)5

Radiation treatment delivered by single or dual photon energy linear accelerator machine. A LINAC uses electricity to form a stream of fast-moving subatomic particles creating high-energy radiation to treat cancer.


A surgical procedure to remove a whole lobe (section) of an organ (such as the lungs, liver, brain, or thyroid gland).

Lung cancer4:

Cancer that forms in tissues or air passages of the lung, usually in the cells lining these air passages. The two main types are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. These types are distinguished based on how the cells look under a microscope.


Surgery to remove all or part of the breast. There are different types of mastectomy that differ in the amount of tissue and lymph nodes removed.


An operation to remove part of the colon.

Indigenous status2:

A measure of whether a person identifies as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin. This is in accord with the first two of the three components of the Commonwealth definition below:

An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and is accepted as such by the community in which he or she lives.
METeOR identifier: 291036.


A form of cancer that begins in melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin). It may begin in a mole (skin melanoma), but can also begin in other pigmented tissues, such as in the eye or in the intestines.

Megavoltage radiotherapy7:

Megavoltage (or deep) radiotherapy is used to treat tumours that are deep within the body.

Orthovoltage radiotherapy7:

Orthovoltage radiotherapy utilises low-energy radiation to treat cancer and other conditions that occur either on, or a short distance below the surface of the skin.


Surgery to remove all or part of the pleura (a thin layer of tissue that covers the interior wall of the chest cavity).

Prostate cancer4:

Cancer that forms in tissues of the prostate (a gland in the male reproductive system found below the bladder and in front of the rectum). Prostate cancer usually occurs in older men.


An operation to remove all or part of the rectum.


An operation to remove all or part of the colon and rectum.

Radioactive sealed sources radiotherapy7:

Radioactive sealed source radiotherapy (or brachytherapy) involves the use of radioactive isotopes that are sealed in tiny pellets or seeds. This radiation source is placed in close proximity to the tumour site and is delivered by needles or catheters.

Radioisotope delivery3:

Radioisotope therapy delivers radiation in a form of a capsule, liquid or catheter containing radioisotopes to treat cancer cells.

Radical prostatectomy4:

Surgery to remove the entire prostate and some of the tissue around it. Nearby lymph nodes may also be removed.

Remoteness area of residence1:

A classification of the remoteness of a location using the Australian Statistical Geography Standard Remoteness Classification (2011), based on the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA) which measures the remoteness of a point based on the physical road distance to the nearest urban centre.


Surgery to remove tissue or part or all of an organ.

Segmental resection4:

Surgery to remove part of an organ. It may also be used to remove a tumour and normal tissue around it. In lung cancer surgery, segmental resection refers to removing a section of a lobe of the lung. Also called segmentectomy.

Sentinel lymph node biopsy4:

Removal and examination of the sentinel node(s) (the first lymph node(s) to which cancer cells are likely to spread from a primary tumour). To identify the sentinel lymph node(s), the surgeon injects a radioactive substance, blue dye, or both near the tumour. The surgeon then uses a probe to find the sentinel lymph node(s) containing the radioactive substance or looks for the lymph node(s) stained with dye. The surgeon then removes the sentinel node(s) to check for the presence of cancer cells.

Separation (hospital separation)2:

A hospital ‘separation’ is used to refer to an episode of admitted patient care which can be a total hospital stay (from admission to discharge, transfer for detail) or a portion of a hospital stay beginning or ending in a type of care (for example from acute care to rehabilitation). This may also be referred to as a ‘hospitalisation’.

Simple mastectomy4:

Surgery to remove the whole breast. Some of the lymph nodes under the arm may also be removed. Also called total mastectomy.

Socioeconomic status1:

Socioeconomic status of usual area of residence is based on the ABS Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) 2006. For each index, every geographic area in Australia is given a SEIFA number which shows how disadvantaged that area is compared with other areas in Australia. While SEIFA represents an average of all people living in an area, SEIFA does not represent the individual situation of each person. Larger areas are more likely to have greater diversity of people and households.

The ‘1-Lowest’ group represents areas that fall within the 20% of residential areas with the most disadvantaged population, and the ‘5-Highest’ group represents the areas that fall within the 20% of residential areas with the least disadvantaged population.

Stereotactic radiotherapy7:

Refers to the delivery of high energy radiation to well-defined tumours.  Stereotactic radiotherapy is a more precise procedure compared to standard radiotherapy as it involves the use of detailed imaging, and computerised three-dimensional treatment planning. This precision enables normal neighbouring cells to be spared from the radiation.

Superficial radiotherapy7:

Superficial radiotherapy involves the use of low-energy radiation (e.g. X-rays, radium rays or radiation from other radioactive substances) to treat cancer and other conditions that occur either on or a short distance below the surface of the skin.

Supportive treatments (for systemic therapy)4

Agents used to prevent or treat as early as possible the side effects caused by treatment. The most common type of supportive treatments aim to prevent or treat nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, known as (antiemetic agents).

Systemic therapy4

Treatment using substances that travel through the bloodstream, reaching and affecting cells all over the body.

Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) 4:

Surgery to remove tissue from the prostate using an instrument inserted through the urethra. Also called TURP.

Whole lung resection4

Surgery to remove a whole lung.

Wedge excision/resection4:

Surgery to remove a triangle-shaped slice of tissue. It may be used to remove a tumour and a small amount of normal tissue around it



  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006. Information Paper: An Introduction to Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA). ABS cat. no. 2039.0. Canberra: ABS.

  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Hospitals: Glossary. Accessed September 2017;

  3. Department of Health. Medicare Benefits Schedule Data. Canberra: Department of Health; 2016. Accessed January 2017;

  4. National Cancer Institute: Dictionary of cancer terms. Accessed September 2017; .

  5. National Cancer Institute. Radiation Therapy for Cancer. Bethesda: NCI; 2017. Accessed January 2017;

  6. National Statistical Service. Australian Government. Accessed September 2017;

  7. Radiation Oncology Tripartite Committee. Planning for the Best: Tripartite National Strategic Plan for Radiation Oncology 2012-2022, version 1 Mount Druitt: 2012.

  8. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Health: Proctectomy. Accessed January 2022;,as%20well%20as%20other%20factors.

  9. Cancer Council NSW. Surgery for cancer in the colon. Accessed January 2022;