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List of terms beginning with Pa


PALS stands for Patient Advice and Liaison Service. There is one in every Health Care Trust. Staff give help and information to patients and their families. The service aims to resolve problems with health related issues and NHS health care services as quickly and fully as possible. You can contact your local service by phoning NHS 111 (dial 111).


A pacemaker is a small electronic device implanted in the chest to help the heart beat regularly. If you have a pacemaker, you cannot have an MRI scan because these scans are magnetic and interfere with how your pacemaker works.

Paget's disease

There are several different medical conditions called Paget's disease. One affects the skin around the nipple of the breast and looks a little like eczema. It is mostly (but not always) a sign that there is a breast cancer in the area underneath. Another type of Paget's disease is a benign (not cancerous) condition that affects the bones and gives a slightly increased risk of developing a primary bone cancer. Another type is changes in the skin of the area around the anus and genitals. It appears as an eczema like rash and in some people develops into a cancer over many years.

Paget's disease of the bone

Paget's disease of the bone is a non cancerous (benign) condition. The normal cycle of bone renewal and repair is disturbed and the bones become weakened and misshapen. Usually only a few bones are affected, most commonly the pelvic bones, upper leg bone (femur), and the lower bones of the spine. The symptoms include bone pain and sometimes swelling and pain in the joints (arthritis).

Pain clinic

A pain clinic specialises in treating chronic pain (pain that goes on for a long time and is unlikely to be cured altogether). A pain clinic is usually run by an anaesthetist, sometimes with a doctor who specialises in palliative care.


Painkillers are drugs that control pain and are also known as analgesia or analgesics.


Palliation is treatment given to control symptoms rather than cure disease. For example, palliative radiotherapy can be given to reduce pain.

Palliative care

Palliative care is the active total care of patients whose illness cannot be cured. It includes control of pain, of other symptoms and of psychological, social and spiritual problems.

Palliative treatment

Treatment that is given to control symptoms such as pain and sickness, rather than to cure cancer, is known as palliative treatment.


Palpitations is being aware of your heart beating strongly. This can be a sign of anxiety or a symptom of illness.

Pancoast tumour

A pancoast tumour is lung cancer at the very top of the lung. It can cause pain, numbness or pins and needles in the shoulder and arm because the tumour presses on the group of nerves at the top of the arm (called the brachial plexus).


The pancreas is the organ of the digestive system that makes insulin and some of the enzymes needed to digest food.


A pancreatectomy is an operation to remove the pancreas.

Pancreatic duct

The pancreatic duct carries the pancreatic digestive juices from the pancreas to the small bowel.


Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. Chronic (long term) pancreatitis can be a cause of cancer of the pancreas.


Pancreatoduodenectomy is also called a Whipple's operation. It is the most common operation for cancer of the pancreas. Half the pancreas is removed along with the duodenum, part of the stomach, the gallbladder and the bile duct.


Examination of the voice box (larynx), back of the throat (hypopharynx) and food pipe (oesophagus) with a long rigid tube (panendoscope). You have this done under anaesthetic. The panendoscope has a camera and light inside it, so your doctor can see the inside of your nose and throat very clearly.


Panmyelosis means there is scar tissue inside the bone marrow instead of normal tissue. The bone marrow can't then make enough red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets.

Papillary bladder cancer

Papillary bladder cancers are growths on the surface of the bladder lining. They are usually easy to remove, but can sometimes grow back.


Paracentesis (sometimes called abdominal paracentesis) is a medical procedure to remove a build up of fluid from the abdomen. The doctor or nurse puts a needle into the abdomen. The needle is attached to a tube and a collecting bag. Fluid from the abdomen (ascites) can then drain away into the bag.


Paracetamol is a mild painkiller that can be bought over the counter from chemists. Paracetamol can also help bring down your temperature if you have a fever.

Paraneoplastic syndrome

Paraneoplastic syndrome is a group of symptoms caused by substances released by a tumour. Or symptoms that are caused by substances the body makes as a reaction to a tumour.

Parathyroid glands

The parathyroid glands are 4 small glands on the thyroid gland in the base of the neck. They make parathyroid hormone, which controls the amount of calcium in the blood.

Parathyroid hormone

Parathyroid hormone is a hormone made by the parathyroid glands. It controls the amount of calcium in the blood.

Parenteral nutrition

Parenteral nutrition (or liquid nutrition) is a liquid, complete food given through a drip into a vein. It can be used when someone is having very intensive treatment and losing a lot of weight. It can be helpful when you are having difficulty eating due to a very sore mouth, bad diarrhoea or sickness.

Partial cystectomy

Partial cystectomy is an operation to remove part of the bladder.

Partial laryngectomy

Partial laryngectomy is surgery to remove part of the voice box (larynx). One vocal cord will be left and you will still be able to speak.

Partial prothrombin time

Partial prothrombin time (PTT) along with prothrombin time (PT) is measured by a blood test to see if the blood is clotting correctly, and to check for bleeding disorders. High PTT results can be due to taking blood thinners such as heparin, or may be caused by diseases such as cancer of the liver.

Partial response

To a researcher, partial response means the cancer shrinking by at least a third. There must not be any sign of growth of the cancer anywhere else in the body.

Passive smoking

Passive smoking is breathing in other people's cigarette, pipe or cigar smoke when you don't smoke yourself. Passive smoking can cause lung cancer and other illnesses in people who don't smoke.


Pathological means related to disease or caused by disease – for example, a pathological fracture caused by disease weakening a bone or personality changes caused by a brain tumour. In terms of behaviour, pathological can mean extreme, compulsive or unacceptable behaviour – for example, "he had a pathological fear of blood tests" or "she is a pathological liar".

Pathological fracture

Pathological fracture is a broken bone due to the bone being weakened by disease. For example, secondary cancer.


A pathologist is an expert who examines and identifies cells. The pathologist can tell where a cell comes from in the body and whether it is normal or a cancer cell. If it is a cancer cell, the pathologist can often tell what type of body cell the cancer developed from.

Patient Advice and Liaison Service

There is a Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) in every Health Care Trust. Staff give help and information to patients and their families. The service aims to resolve problems with health related issues and NHS health care services as quickly and fully as possible. You can contact your local service by phoning NHS Direct on 0845 4647.

Updated: 29 June 2016