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Glossary - Care of the Terminally Ill Child

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Acupuncture points - anatomic points on the body used in acupuncture.

Advance directives - documents that a person can complete to ensure that healthcare choices are respected.

Alternative therapy - use of an unproven therapy instead of standard (proven) therapy.

Anticipatory grief - the deep emotional distress that occurs when someone has a prolonged illness and death is expected often by the patient as well as the family. Anticipatory grief can be just as painful and stressful as the actual death of the person.

Autopsy - an examination of the organs and/or tissues of the body after death. An autopsy is often used to determine the cause of death, but may also be done to research the fatal disease for future diagnosis, treatment, and prevention strategies.


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Bereavement - the state of being bereaved; to be in a sad or lonely state due to a loss or death.

Biofeedback - a form of mind control over the body that allows a person to reduce sensations of pain.


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Chaplain - a member of the health care team who provides spiritual counseling, support, and pastoral care. The hospital chaplain can also act as a liaison to local clergy.

Chemotherapy - a medication that can help fight cancer.

Child life specialist - a hospital staff member who has special training in the growth and development of children. A child life specialist can help your child with play activities, relaxation and pain management skills, and help meet the educational and emotional needs of the entire family.

Complementary therapy - therapies used in addition to standard therapy.

Computed tomography scan (also called CT or CAT scan) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.


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Depression - an emotional state characterized by extreme feelings of sadness, lack of self-worth, dejection, and emptiness.

Developmental age - a broad term used to describe the maturity of thought process development. A child may be older or younger in their thinking and processing information than others at a similar age.

Do not resuscitate (DNR) order - a formal request by a person or a person's family to not make extreme measures to save his/her life. A DNR order is usually reserved for a person near death or with a terminal illness that, even if resuscitated, would not have a high quality of life or a long period before death would occur despite resuscitative efforts. DNR orders can specify how much intervention is desired prior to death (for example, do not use cardiac drugs, oxygen, chest compressions).


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Gastric tube (GT) - a tube that is inserted through the skin into the stomach to allow a place to give calories, nutrition, and medicines for someone who cannot or will not take these things by mouth.

Grief - the process that occurs as a result of a loss. Similar to bereavement, the loss may be a death of a loved one or of an ideal (divorce, job, home). Grief is the emotional and objective reactions to a loss of any type.

Guided imagery - envisioning a certain goal to help cope with health problems.


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Hospice - literal meaning "a place of shelter." Today it refers to supportive care and symptom management of a terminally ill patient.


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Incontinence - the inability to control bowel and/or urine elimination.


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Mourning - the period of time following a loss. Similar to grief and bereavement, a loss may be of a loved one, death, or loss of an ideal (divorce, job, home). Mourning may be short or very long and may relate to cultural and religious customs.


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Nasogastric tube (NG tube) - a tube placed in through the nose that extends to the stomach for delivery of medications and/or nutrition for digestion.


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Oncologist - a physician with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Oncology - the branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Oncology clinical nurse specialist - a registered nurse with a master's degree in oncology nursing who specializes in the care of cancer patients.


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Pain specialist - oncologists, neurologists, anesthesiologists, neurosurgeons, and other physicians, nurses, or pharmacists who are experts in pain. A team of health care professionals may also be available to address issues of pain control.

Palliative treatment - treatment that relieves symptoms, such as pain, but is not expected to cure the disease. The main purpose is to improve the patient's quality of life.

Patient's rights - a list of rights to ensure that the quality of care, respect, and decision-making processes will be honored by the company, individual, or institution that is providing the care.

Pediatric oncologist - a physician who specializes in cancers of children.

Prognosis - a prediction of the course of disease; the outlook for the cure of the patient.


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Radiation oncologist - a physician who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.

Radiation therapist - a professional specially trained to operate equipment that delivers radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy - treatment with high-energy rays (such as X-rays) to kill or shrink cancer cells. The radiation may come from outside the body (external radiation) or from radioactive materials placed directly in the tumor (internal or implant radiation).

Radiologist - a physician with special training in diagnosing diseases by interpreting X-rays and other types of imaging studies, for example, CT scans and magnetic resonance imaging.

Right to refuse treatment - options for treatment are offered that may extend the child's life but not provide a cure; the family has the right to refuse this type of treatment.


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Social worker - a member of the healthcare team who provides counseling services and support. A social worker helps individuals and their families deal with various problems that arise from coping with a difficulty, illness, or hospitalization. A social worker can provide information and referral to various agencies who can assist with many issues such as counseling, housing, legal, and financial aid.


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Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) - children undergoing treatment for cancer sometimes need TPN to help meet their nutritional needs. TPN is a special mixture of glucose, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals that are given through an intravenous line (IV) into the veins. Many people call this "intravenous feedings."


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X-ray - a diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.


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