Please find below the glossary of terms used throughout the ‘Lungs’ (or ‘Thoracic’) section of the website.
Either of the two major branches of the trachea that lead to the lungs. The trachea divides to form the right and left main bronchi (pleural of bronchus) that travel to each of the lungs.
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
A group of lung diseases that cause obstruction of the airways. This results in a decreased ability to move air in and out of the lungs. Diseases classified under the heading of COPD include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and bronchiectasis. Even with treatment, COPD is not completely reversible and usually worsens over time. Symptoms of COPD include difficulty breathing, a chronic cough, and wheezing.
A chronic lung disease caused by damage to the alveoli, the tiny air sacs in the lung where exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place. With emphysema, damage to the alveoli results in air becoming trapped, causing them to expand and rupture.
Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD)
The term gastro-oesophageal reflux describes the movement (or reflux) of stomach contents back up into the oesophagus, the muscular tube that extends from the neck to the abdomen and connects the back of the throat to the stomach. Because the stomach manufactures acid as an aid to digestion, this phenomenon is often referred to as acid reflux or heartburn.
Occurs when the upper part of the stomach pushes through an opening in the diaphragm, and up into the chest. There are two categories of hiatal hernias, sliding or paraesophageal. With paraesophageal hernias, the gastro-oesophageal junction remains where it belongs, but part of the stomach is squeezed up into the chest beside the oesophagus. These hernias remain in the chest at all times. With this type of hernia, complications can occur.
A disorder characterized by excessive sweating. Although sweating is a normal bodily function that helps regulate body temperature in hot weather and during exercise, patients with hyperhidrosis often sweat excessively even at in mild weather and at rest. Focal Hyperhidrosis is characterized by excessive sweating that is not generalized but located in specific body regions. The excessive sweating can occur in the hands (palmar hyperhidrosis), the armpits (axillary hyperhidrosis), the face (cranio-facial hyperhidrosis) or the feet (plantar hyperhidrosis). Focal Hyperhidrosis occurs in up to 3% of the population. While there may be a genetic component involved in the susceptibility to this disorder, nobody understands the exact cause. We do however know that sweating is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system.
A type of lung cancer surgery in which one lobe of a lung is removed as a treatment for lung cancer. The right lung has 3 lobes, and the left lung has 2 lobes. A lobectomy is also performed occasionally for other conditions, such as tuberculosis, severe COPD or trauma that interrupts major blood vessels near the lungs.
Arises when a series of mutations in normal lung cells cause them to become abnormal and grow out of control. These changes can take place anywhere from the bronchus (the windpipe), down to the small air sacs in the periphery of the lungs where oxygen exchange takes place.
Small, bean-shaped glands that are located along the lymphatic system (a system of vessels similar to arteries and veins that lymph fluid travels through). Lymph nodes are located throughout the body, and they filter bacteria, cancer cells, and other foreign material that travel through the lymphatic system. Lymph nodes are well-known as the "swollen glands" people may note in their neck when they are fighting a cold or sore throat. With lung cancer, cancer cells can spread through the lymphatic system and become trapped in lymph nodes. Determining which, if any, lymph nodes contain cancer cells help doctors determine the stage of a cancer - that is, how far the cancer has spread. Subsequently, they can choose the best treatment.
A cancer of the lymphatic system.
An autoimmune neuromuscular disorder. Usually, the body's immune system makes antibodies to attack germs that invade the body. "Autoimmune" means that a person's immune system malfunctions and it creates antibodies that attack the person's own cells. In myasthenia gravis, the antibodies interfere with the transmission of nerve signals to the muscles. In other words, the muscles don't receive the signal from the nerves to move. Sometimes removing the thymus gland can improve the condition.
Removal of the oesophagus.
The oesophagus is a muscular tube that extends from the neck to the abdomen and connects the back of the throat to the stomach. Its inner lining, or mucosa, normally consists of flat cells (known as squamous cells) that are similar to those of the skin.
An abnormal build-up of fluid in the cavity between the membrane that surrounds the lungs and the membrane that surrounds the chest wall.
A pneumonectomy involves the removal of the left or right entire lung. It can result in a significant loss of lung function. Despite this, many individuals with good lung function prior to surgery, tolerate living with one lung quite well. A pneumonectomy is considered if a tumour is too large to be removed by the other methods available, or if the tumour is located in a more central location in the lung.
The leakage of air into the space between the lung and the lung lining (the pleural cavity), resulting in a collapsed lung. A pneumothorax can happen spontaneously, or occur as the result of trauma or certain medical procedures.
A surgical procedure that removes part of the bronchus.
A traditional open-surgery approach that uses an incision to divide the breast-bone to resect or remove large mediastinal masses or tumours. A sternotomy allows access to the entire chest cavity including the heart, great vessels and lungs, and may be necessary for larger tumours and masses.
A thoracic surgeon is a medical doctor who performs operations on the heart, lungs, oesophagus, and other organs in the chest. This also includes surgeons who can be called cardiothoracic surgeons, cardiovascular surgeons, general thoracic surgeons, and congenital heart surgeons.
A procedure in which a thin tube is attached to a camera and inserted into the chest cavity through small incisions in the skin.
A traditional open-surgery approach that uses an incision to divide the ribs to resect or remove large mediastinal masses or tumours. Similar to a sternotomy, this procedure allows access to the entire chest cavity and enables the thoracic surgeon to safely and effectively remove the tumours or masses.
The large air tube that leads from the larynx (voice box) to the bronchi (the large airways at the top of the lungs). The trachea is made up of rings of cartilage and is roughly 4 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. It is commonly referred to as the ‘windpipe’.
Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS)
A surgical procedure that uses instruments and a camera to operate inside the chest cavity. With lung cancer, video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) allows surgeons to operate on the lungs through a space between the ribs. 2 to 4 incisions are made, and the tumour is removed with the use of special instruments. VATS is a relatively new procedure that is done primarily at large academic cancer centres. It is hoped that it may work as well as conventional lung cancer surgery since it is a less invasive surgical procedure. Conventional lung cancer surgery requires surgeons to cut through large muscles and spread the ribs to operate on the lungs.
Wedge Resection (Segmental Resection)
A wedge resection removes the portion of your lung that includes the tumour, and some surrounding tissue. It is most commonly done when a tumour is caught very early, or if surgery that is more extensive would interfere too much with your breathing. The chance that your cancer will return after this type of surgery is somewhat higher than with the other types of surgery.