Hunter Cancer Centre
Part of Ramsay Health Care

Commonly Used Terms


A condition in which the number of red blood cells is below normal, resulting in tiredness, weakness or shortness of breath.


A group of medications which help prevent and control nausea and vomiting.


The removal and examination of a small piece of tissue from the body to determine a precise diagnosis.

Bone marrow

The soft, sponge-like tissue in the centre of large bones that produces stem cells.


A term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control. Cancer cells can invade nearby tissues and can spread through the bloodstream to other parts of the body.


A cancer treatment that uses chemicals to kill cells.

Full Blood count

A test that measures the number and types of blood cells that are circulating in the blood.


A doctor who specialises in treating blood diseases.


A molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen.

Immune system

The group of cells and tissue that defend the body against infection and disease.

Intravenous (iv)

A method of giving liquid substances directly into the vein.

Malignant cells

Damaged cells that become cancer.

Metastatic or metastases

The spread of cancers cells from one body part or organ to another organ.


Felling unwell in the stomach. Sensation often felt before vomiting.


A condition in which the number of Neutrophils is below normal, resulting in increased risk of infection.


A type of white blood cell that kills harmful bacteria.


Swelling caused by a build up of fluid.


A doctor who specialises in treating cancer.


Small blood cell fragments in the blood that help stop us from bleeding and produce a clot.


The use of high energy X-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours.

Red Blood cells

Blood cells that carry oxygen to the rest of the body.


The return of the original disease.


Disappearance of the signs and symptoms of cancer within the body.


A process that classifies the severity or size and the extent of cancer within your body.

Stem cells

Blood cells that can give rise to more than one blood cell type and live in the bone marrow. Stem cells have the ability to reproduce themselves or grow into a mature blood cell. Mature cells include platelets, red cells and white cells.


A group of medications that assist chemotherapy to work and help manage nausea. Must be taken with food even it it's only a cracker. They may also affect your mood or cause insomnia whilst taking them if taken later in the day.


An abnormal mass that results from excessive growth of cells. This may be benign or malignant.

White Blood cells

Blood cells that help the body to fight infections.

Low blood counts – what does it mean?

Blood cells in the body are normal cells that are affected by the chemotherapy. Before each visit to hospital for treatment, a blood test will need to be collected to measure the levels of these cells.

There are 3 main types of cells that are measured:

  1. red blood cells
  2. white blood cells
  3. platelets

Below is a description of the function of each blood cell and its normal count.

red cells known as erythrocytes

responsible for carrying oxygen to all cells

These red cells are measured by your haemoglobin or Hb. Normal Hb ranges from 115-165 (female) to 130-180 (male).

A low Hb is known as anaemia and can usually be corrected by a blood transfusion.

Signs of anaemia

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue/exhaustion
  • Pale

White cells known as leucocytes

responsible for fighting infection

These cells are responsible for fighting infection. The main white blood cell is the neutrophil. Neutrophils are the most important white blood cell in detecting and fighting infection.

Neutropenia means that your neutrophil count is less that one (this is low).

This makes you more likely to get an infection.

Sign of infection

  • Feeling unwell with or without temperature of 38 degrees
  • Burning/smelly urine
  • Diarrhoea
  • Green sputum, cough or cold


responsible to stop bleeding

Normal platelet count is 150-400, but many people can go much lower than this without any ill effects.

Signs of a low platelet count include

  • Petechiae – many little spots on the skin surface
  • Bruising
  • Bleeding from gums, mouth, nose etc for no apparent reasons
  • Blood in urine/bowel motion A transfusion of platelets can be
    given to help.