We hope you find this glossary helpful. If there is a term that you feel is missing, then please scroll to the bottom of this page and let us know.


Active monitoring – also known as “watchful waiting” or “watch and wait”. For patients whose cancer is growing very slowly and does not require treatment, their clinicians monitor them at regular intervals. Some patients may stay on active monitoring for many years without the need for therapy.

Acute – an illness or experience that develops quickly, can be intense but generally lasts a short time.

Allogeneic – “allo” means other. In allogeneic stem cell transplantation, a patient receives healthy stem cells from a donor, i.e. the stem cells have come from another person. This procedure is often performed after chemo- or radiotherapy, to help replenish the blood forming cells (stem cells).

Anaemia – a low level of haemoglobin in blood – an important protein in red blood cells involved in transporting oxygen around your body. Low levels of iron is the most common cause of anaemia, though it is often a symptom in lymphoma where there can be a lower number of red blood cells in your bone marrow.

Antibody – a protein made by plasma cells (mature B-cells) that sets off an immune response to a something that doesn’t belong in your body such as a virus or some cancer cells, thereby attacking and killing the foreign substance. See also “antigen”.

Antibody treatment – in lymphoma you may hear of monoclonal antibody or bispecific antibody treatments. In these cases, scientists have developed antibodies in a laboratory environment, that will find and attach to specific antigens found on the surface of lymphoma cancer cells. These are types of immune therapies, as they use the immune system to attack the cancer cells.

Antigen – a protein found on the surface of viruses or other pathogens. When a pathogen infects the body, white blood cells recognise the antigens as foreign and attack them by producing antibodies. See also “antibody”.

Antigen escape – a biological process where the body is no longer able to recognise antigens as foreign, and therefore do not raise an immune response to attack and kill the foreign or cancer cells. It is thought to be one reason why some patients stop responding to immune therapies and relapse. Learn more about this mechanism here.

Autologous – “auto” means self. In autologous stem cell transplantation, patients receive their own stem cells – they are their own donor. The procedure involves healthy stem cells being collected and frozen before they receive chemo- or radiotherapy, then returned to the body after treatment, to replace the damaged stem cells.


B cells – a type of white blood cell, or lymphocyte, that fights infection in your body by producing antibodies.

B symptoms – key symptoms that a lymphoma patient may experience, including fever, drenching night sweats, and unexplained weight loss.

Bacteria – tiny organisms that are visible only under a microscope. There are bad bacteria that can cause infection or disease, or good bacteria that help to keep you healthy (such as in your gut).

Biomarker or marker – a molecule, protein or gene which can be used to predict biological processes. For example, a biomarker may be able to predict which people may get a certain disease, or what kind of response a person might have to a therapy. This is an active are of research in FL, as we have yet to find reliable biomarkers in FL.

Biopsy – when a clinician removes a small piece of a patient’s body, a sample of tissue that will be sent to a laboratory for analysis. Biopsies from a suspected tumour are usually taken to confirm diagnosis, but may also be taken after treatment if the cancer has returned.

Bispecific antibody (BsAb or BiSAb or BiTe) – an antibody that can bind 2 things. In lymphoma, it is a type of therapy whereby the antibody can bind both the cancer B-cells and the body’s T-cells, activating the T-cells to attack and kill the B-cells.

Bone marrow aspirate – a sample of bone marrow cells that are removed from a patient by suction using a needle.

BR – a combination of therapies used in FL: Bendamustine (chemotherapy drug) and Rituximab (monoclonal antibody treatment).


Cancer – an abnormal growth where cells multiple quickly and without control.

Carcinogenic – something that causes cancer.

Cardiovascular – to do with the heart and blood vessels in your body.

CAR T-cell therapy – (CAR: Chimeric Antigen Receptor) a treatment where T-cells are removed from your body, genetically altered in the lab to recognise and kill cancer cells, then put back into your body to fight the lymphoma B-cells.

CD – Cluster of Differentiation; for example CD19, CD20 or CD3. These are proteins found on the surface of cells, which are used to identify specific types of cells. The presence or absence of these markers may be an indication of healthy or abnormal cells.

Chemotherapy – a type of therapy which is toxic to and kills cells, as it damages the cells’ ability to multiply.

CHOP – a combination of therapies: Cyclophosphomide (chemotherapy), Doxorubicin (chemotherapy), Vincristine (chemotherapy) and Prednisolone (steroid).

Combination chemotherapy – an approach where 2 or more chemotherapies are used together, e.g. CHOP.

Complete Blood Count – also referred to as “Blood Count”. This is a blood test that is used to check a person’s overall health and can indicate certain conditions such as anaemia, infection, or lymphoma. The blood test measures red blood cells (carry oxygen round your body), white blood cells (fight infection), haemoglobin (protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells), haematocrit (the percentage of the blood volume that is red blood cells) and platelets (help blood to clot).

CT scan – Computed Tomography scan; performed to detect disease/ tumours in the body, as it creates a layered picture of the inside of the body.

CVP – a combination of therapies: Cyclophosphomide (chemotherapy), Vincristine (chemotherapy) and Prednisolone (steroid).

Cytokine release syndrome (CRS) – an immune reaction to some types of immune therapies, where cytokines (chemicals in your bloodstream) are released very quickly in your body and cause severe inflammation.

Cytotoxic – used to describe drugs or therapies that are toxic to cells, which kill cells.


Diagnosis – when a doctor uses information from tests and reporting of symptoms to conclude what condition of disease the patient has.

Diaphragm – the dome-shaped muscle in between your tummy (abdomen) and chest, which helps move your lungs in and out and enables breathing.

Disease grade – refers to how fast your lymphoma is growing, on a scale of 1 – 4. Low-grade lymphomas grow slowly, and high-grade lymphomas grow faster.

Disease stage – refers to how many and which areas of your body are affected by lymphoma, on a scale of I – IV. As B cells normally circulate, FL is considered a “blood cancer”, so commonly is in advanced stage, in contrast to “solid” tumours where stage often defines therapy. 


Early relapse – when your lymphoma returns within 24 months of start of therapy. 

Epigenetics – an area of biology where we examine and measure the things that affect our genetics.


Follicular Lymphoma (FL) – the second most common type of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, the most common type of slow-growing lymphoma.

Follicle – a very small sac or gland.


Genetic testing – when a person’s DNA is analysed to look for any abnormalities. Where the underlying biology of a condition is well understood, scientists and clinicians are sometimes able to predict how well a patient will respond to a certain treatment, or how likely they are to relapse. This area of biology is still not very well understood in FL and is one of the core objectives of the FLF, in order to be able to use genetic testing in the future to help with disease management.


Haemoglobin – an important protein that contains iron in red blood cells, which carries oxygen around the body.

Haematologist – a doctor or clinician who specialises in diseases and conditions of blood and blood cells, including blood cancers (lymphoma, leukemia).

Haematopoiesis – comes from the words “haem” meaning blood, and “poiesis” meaning create. The process in your bone marrow that makes new blood cells.

High-grade – advanced stage, usually more aggressive form of disease.

High dose treatment – when large doses of anti-cancer therapy are given to a patient, with the aim to kill all the cancer cells.

High-Resolution CT scan (HRCT) – a more advanced technology to traditional CT scan, where the X-ray beam takes very detailed pictures of your body, in order to produce an improved resolution image.


Immune system – the system in your body which fights infection and foreign substances, and is responsible for allergic reactions. It includes your white blood cells, spleen and lymph nodes.

Immune-suppressing medications – also referred to as “immunosuppressive”. Medicines that some of the functionality of your immune system, which makes it harder to fight infection. Chemotherapies are an example of a medicine that suppresses the immune system, though often this term refers to drugs that specifically target one or more of the components of the immune system, e.g.T-cells.

Immune therapy – also referred to as “immunotherapy”, a type of treatment that uses your body’s immune system to fight cancer cells.

Immunocompromised – a condition where your body is less able to fight infection, which can happen due to disease or as a side-effect to treatment such as chemotherapy.

Immunomodulatory – that modulates or has an effect on the immune system.

Indolent – referring to a lymphoma that is slow-growing.

Infusion – when a fluid other than blood (e.g. a therapy) is given to a patient into a vein.

Inpatient – a patient that stays in the hospital overnight, during treatment or to monitor any side effects.

Intravenous (IV) – into a vein.


Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) – a marker of damage to cells or tissues in the body. The level of LDH in your body can help doctors to tell how advanced a lymphoma might be, with high levels often found in fast-growing lymphoma.

Leukaemia – a type of blood cancer, different to lymphoma. Leukaemia (from the Greek meaning “white blood”) develops in the bone marrow and involves the blood, whereas lymphoma develops in the lymphatic system (lymph nodes and lymph tissues), though can also involve blood and bone marrow. Leukaemia is more common in children and younger people, whereas lymphoma is more common in older people.

Lines of treatment – when referring to 1st, 2nd, 3rd line treatment (or more).

Low-grade – slow growing, usually with few symptoms.

Lymph nodes or glands – small bean-shaped structures that are grouped together throughout your body, as part of the lymphatic system, making up part of your immune system. Lymph nodes help to fight infections and can become enlarged or inflamed as a reaction to infection or cancer.

Lymphatic system – part of your immune system, it is a network of vessels (tubes), glands (or nodes), the thymus and the spleen. Put together the lymphatic system helps to fight infection and filter waste fluids and cells away from tissues.

Lymphocyte – a white blood cell. Some examples include B cells, T cells and NK cells.

Lymphoma – a cancer of the lymphocytes, which affects both lymphatic and immune systems.


Malignant – cancerous, that grows without control and can travel to other parts of your body.

Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) – also known as Measurable Residual Disease, refers to the tiny number of cancer cells remaining in the body, after treatment is finished. If you are MRD positive, it means that the cancer could grow and return (relapse). If you are MRD negative, it means it is more likely that you will have a longer remission. In FL, it is important to know that MRD testing is still being developed and being tested in clinical trials, therefore it is not a standard test for FL patients.

Molecular – relating to or consisting of molecules – the smallest particle of a substance, e.g. DNA.

Monoclonal antibody – an antibody that can bind to one specific region of an antigen. These are powerful tools developed in a laboratory that can be used as a therapy in cancer – e.g. Rituximab, is a type of monoclonal antibody used in FL, which binds to CD19 (a marker for the cancer B-cells in FL).


Needle biopsy – a small sample of cells removed from your body, using a needle, for analysis in the laboratory. These types of biopsies tend to be less invasive, and so easier to carry out, although are not preferred when confirming diagnosis, as they are only a tiny portion of the whole tissue.

Neurotoxicity – relating to side effects sometimes experienced from cancer medicines, which affect the nervous system.

NK cells – known as Natural Killer cells, a type of white blood cell that has granules (small particles) with enzymes (a protein that creates a chemical reaction) that kill invading cells such as from an infection or cancer.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) – a group of around 60-80 types of lymphoma (blood cancer), of which FL is the 2nd most common. NHL is the 5th most common type of cancer in the world.

Novel agents – new medicines which are unique in some way, either using a new technology, or perhaps a technology applied in a new way.


Oncologist – a doctor specialised in treating cancer.

Oncology – the study of cancer.

Outpatient – where a patient visits a clinic or hospital for treatment, but does not need to stay overnight.


Pathologist – a doctor who is expert at looking at diseased cells and tissues under a microscope.

PET scan (Positron Emission Tomography) – a scan that uses radioactivity to produce detailed 3-dimensional images of the inside of the body, where doctors can see how well certain parts of your body are working.

PET-CT scan – where a PET scan is combined with a CT scan, to create even more detailed images of how the inside of the body both looks and is working.

PICC line (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) – a type of long thin flexible tube that is inserted through a vein, often in the arm, when using an intravenous medication (such as chemotherapy) during a long period.

Plasma cells – matured B-cells (white blood cells) that make large amounts of a specific antibody.

Platelets – small cell fragments that help with clotting. Lymphoma patients sometimes have low platelet counts, making it easier to bleed and bruise. Platelets are also called thrombocytes. See also thrombocytopenia.

Prognosis – where a doctor predicts how your disease is likely to progress, or the likely outcome from a treatment. Several factors are taken into account, including age, general health, laboratory tests and clinical examinations.

Prophylaxis – a treatment given to protect against a certain illness or reaction.


Radiotherapy – a type of treatment that uses radiation (electromagnetic energy waves) from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons, or other sources, to kill cancer cells.

R-CHOP – a treatment combination with Rituximab and CHOP (see above).

R-CVP – a treatment combination with Rituximab and CVP (see above).

Refractory – when your disease is resistant and does not respond to treatment.

Relapse – when your disease returns after a period of time post-treatment.

Remission – when your disease is controlled and does not show any symptoms or signs of cancer after treatment for a period of time.


Salvage therapy – a treatment that is given to a patient after they have not responded to other therapies.

Spleen – an organ in your abdomen, sitting behind your stomach on the left-hand side, which is part of the lymphatic and immune system. The spleen is involved in fighting infection and filters your blood, removing foreign particles and old blood cells.

Standard Uptake Value (SUV) – used when talking about PET scans. PET scans look at how much radioactive sugar an area of the body uses. The SUV is a unit of measurement for the intensity of the uptake. Certain organs in the body, for example the liver, naturally have a higher SUV. High SUV in an abnormal area raises the concern for cancer, but inflammation can also have high SUV. In lymphoma, higher SUV is concerning for a faster growing type of lymphoma.

Stem cell – a cell that has the potential to develop into many difference types of cells in the body. A blood stem cell (haematopoietic stem cell) for example has the potential to develop into any of the white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets.

Stem cell transplantation – where healthy stem cells are given to a patient as a treatment option, often after chemo or radio-therapy. See also “allogeneic” and “autologous”.

Steroid – a type of anti-inflammatory medicine, which in lymphoma may be used together with other therapies to help make them work more effectively.

Subcutaneous – under the skin.

Systemic – affecting the whole body, and not just specific sections of the body.


T cells – a type of white blood cell that help to fight infection and cancer cells.

Targeted agent or treatment – a type of therapy that aim for and bind to specific molecules that cancer cells need to survive and grow.

Thrombocytopenia – low platelet count, as a result of disease or certain treatments. Lymphoma can cause thrombocytopenia as the cancer cells overgrow and crowd out your healthy blood cells and platelets. A low platelet count means it can be easier to bleed or bruise.

Transformation – when a slow-growing (low-grade) lymphoma develops into a fast-growing (high-grade lymphoma, which happens in around 20% of FL patients.

Transfusion – giving blood or blood products (such as plasma of platelets) to a patient via a vein.

Transplantation – the process of taking an organ or living tissue from one body and giving it to another body. In FL, this term is often used when referring to stem cell transplantation. See also “allogeneic” and “autologous”.

Tumour – an abnormal growth of tissue in your body. It can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).


Watch and wait – see above under “active monitoring”.

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We hope you found our glossary helpful. If there are any terms that still aren’t clear, or any terms you would like us to include, please let us know.