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Glossary

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List of terms beginning with Ma

Macmillan nurse

Nurse who specialises in giving advice about coping with symptoms (for example, pain or sickness) in people with cancer. They may be based in hospital, hospices or visit people in their own homes.

Macrophages

A type of white blood cell. Part of the immune system. Macrophages are found in the lymph nodes where they help to fight infection. They surround and kill infectious or abnormal cells, including cancer cells.

Maffucci's syndrome

Maffucci's syndrome is a rare, genetic change that some people are born with. People with this gene change develop many benign (non cancerous) tumours in the soft tissues of the body. They also have abnormally shaped bones and blood vessels. The tumours start in the lining of the blood vessels (haemangiomas) or cartilage (chondromas).

Magic bullet

A popular name for targeted treatment using biological therapies.

Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography

A magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography scan (MRCP) uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to produce pictures of the liver, bile ducts, gallbladder, pancreas and pancreatic duct.

Magnetic resonance imaging

A scan using magnetism to build up a picture of the organs inside the body. These scans are painless, but very noisy. Also called MRI.

Malignant

Malignant means cancerous. It is the opposite of benign.

Malignant fibrous histiocytoma

Malignant fibrous histiocytomas (MFHs) are cancers that start in fibrous tissue cells called histiocytes. MFH is one type of a group of tumours called spindle cell sarcomas.

Malignant melanoma

A particular type of cancer that usually starts in the skin. It develops from the cells that produce the skin pigment, melanin. It may develop from an existing mole or may appear as a new mole. Very rarely, melanoma can occur in other parts of the body, such as the eye or in an internal body organ. If melanoma is found early, before any cells have spread, it has a very high cure rate.

Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours

Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours (MPNST) are cancers that start in cells that surround the nerves. This group of tumours includes neurofibrosarcoma and malignant schwannomas.

Malignant rhabdoid tumour

Malignant rhabdoid tumor is called MRT for short. It is a rare tumour that most often occurs in children. These tumours mainly start in the kidney or in the brain or spinal cord. But they can occur in other parts of the body. They tend to grow quickly.

Mammogram

An X-ray examination of the breast.

Mammography

Using X-rays to examine the breast.

Marie Curie nurse

A nurse who looks after cancer patients in their own homes. They can be contacted through the GP or district nurse.

Marker

A chemical substance produced by a cancer and used to monitor the progress of the disease. These chemicals are usually measured by a blood test.

Marketing authorisation for drugs

When the drug licensing authority gives a pharmaceutical company the go ahead to market a drug, the drug has marketing authorisation. The drug is then said to be licensed, approved or registered. The drug then has to be launched in the UK before doctors can prescribe it for patients.

Mask

A clear plastic mask of the head made to hold the head and neck still. It is worn during radiotherapy treatment. It may also be called a mould or shell.

Massage

Rubbing or kneading the body to stimulate the circulation and relax tension in the muscles. Massage can produce a general feeling of relaxation and well being. It may reduce symptoms of cancer or the side effects of treatment.

Mastectomy

An operation to remove the breast.

Mastectomy bras

Bras designed for women who have had a breast removed. Each cup has a pocket inside it to hold an artificial breast (prosthesis).

Mastectomy exercises

Exercises designed to be done after surgery to remove a breast. They aim to prevent stiffness in the arm and shoulder.

Mastectomy swimwear

Swimsuits or bikinis designed for women who have had breast surgery. Each cup has a pocket inside it to hold a false breast (prosthesis).

Mature

Fully developed. Mature cells have specialised features that allow them to function properly. They are known as fully differentiated. For example, mature liver cells have specialised features that allow them to remove waste products from the body.

Maximum dose

The highest dose of a drug or radiotherapy that can be safely given.

Updated: 29 June 2016