Medical Glossary

Acid fast: refers to organisms whose cell wall holds onto the dye, or stain, used to test for their presence in a specimen like sputum, or phlegm; a positive test result from the acid-fast stain indicates the patient has TB. see TB

Body mass index (BMI): Is a measure of the relationship between weight and height. And the most common way to determine whether people are underweight, overweight or have a normal weight. A BMI under 18.5 is considered underweight, BMI between 18.5 and 25 is “normal weight,” and BMI between 25 and 30 is “overweight.” Anyone with BMI over 30 is considered very overweight (obese).

CCT: Certificate of completion of training. Confirms that a doctor has completed an approved training programme in the UK and is eligible for entry onto the GP register or the specialist register. The Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist Registration (CESR) provides an alternative route to the specialist register for those doctors who have not followed a traditional training programme, but who may have gained the same skills as CCT holders.

Cells: The smallest units of a structure in the body; the building blocks for all parts of the body.

Certificate of completion of training: Confirms that a doctor has completed an approved training programme in the UK and is eligible for entry onto the GP register or the specialist register. Abbreviated to CCT.

Cervical Cytology: The study of cells taken from the cervix using a microscope; also called the Pap test.

Cervical Biopsy: A minor surgical procedure to remove a small piece of cervical tissue that is then examined under a microscope in a laboratory.

Cervix: The lower, narrow end of the uterus at the top of the vagina.

Chemicals of major public health concern: WHO has listed these as its 10 chemicals of public health concern - Air pollution, Arsenic, Asbestos, Benzene, Cadmium, Dioxin and dioxin-like substances, Inadequate or excess fluoride, Lead, Mercury, and Highly hazardous pesticides (see here and here for more --- opens new windows)

Cheyne-Stokes breathing: An abnormal pattern of breathing characterized by progressively deeper, and sometimes faster, breathing followed by a gradual decrease that results in a temporary stop in breathing called an apnea. The pattern repeats, with each cycle usually taking 30 seconds to 2 minutes. It is an oscillation of ventilation between apnea and hyperpnea with a crescendo-diminuendo pattern, and is associated with changing serum partial pressures of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Colposcopy: Viewing of the cervix, vulva, or vagina under magnification with an instrument called a colposcope.

Co-Testing: Use of both the Pap test and HPV test to screen for cervical cancer in women aged 30–65 years.

HCPC: The Health and Care Professions Council. A regulatory body that maintains a register of a number of healthcare professions.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): A virus that attacks certain cells of the body’s immune system and causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Human Papillomavirus (HPV): The name for a group of related viruses, some of which cause genital warts and some of which are linked to cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, mouth, and throat.

Hysterectomy: Removal of the uterus.

Immune System: The body’s natural defense system against foreign substances and invading organisms, such as bacteria that cause disease.

Multibacillary: the presence of, or containing a lot of bacilli. see Leprosy

NHS: The National Health Service (NHS) is the name used for each of the public health services in the United Kingdom – the National Health Service in England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales, and Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland – as well as a term to describe them collectively.

NMC: The Nursing and Midwifery Council in the UK. A regulatory body that maintains a register of nurses, midwives and health visitors.

Objective structured clinical examination (OSCE): A type of examination used in medicine and other health professions to test a broad range of clinical skills and other skills such as communication. The examination takes place via a series of stations usually lasting 5-10 minutes, and the student progresses from station to station with a different examiner each time. Actors may be used in place of real patients.

Pap Test: A test in which cells are taken from the cervix and vagina and examined under a microscope.

Paucibacillary: the presence of, or containing just a few bacilli. see TB (especially in children) and Leprosy

Pharmacy assistants: In the UK, they work as part of a pharmacy team under the direction of a registered pharmacist. Pharmacy assistants help pharmacists order, prepare and dispense medicines. They use their customer service skills in a pharmacy to help pharmacists.

Pharmacy technicians: In the UK, they manage the supply of medicines in a community pharmacy and assist pharmacists with advisory services. In hospitals, they do more specialised work such as manufacturing or preparing complex medicines.

Primary care: Primary health care is the first point of contact for health care for most people. It is mainly provided by primary care physicians (i.e. general practitioners/GPs or family physicians), but community nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists are also primary health care providers. In some localities, such care may be by a clinical officer (as in parts of Africa), or an Ayurvedic or other traditional medicine professional (as in parts of Asia).

Speculum: An instrument used to hold open the walls of the vagina.

Uterus: A muscular organ located in the female pelvis that contains and nourishes the developing fetus during pregnancy. Also referred to as womb. See Womb below

Vagina: A tube-like structure surrounded by muscles leading from the uterus to the outside of the body.

Vulva: The external female genital area.

Womb: another word for uterus. See Uterus above