Our glossary explains some of the medical and legal terms used in palliative care. Glossary words are underlined in the Topics and Asked and Answered sections, with definitions appearing when you hover on a word.


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Severe weight loss and muscle wasting caused by the body’s inability to use nutrients from food.


A treatment that uses medications to damage cancer cells, to stop them from growing and dividing. Common side effects may include nausea, vomiting, tiredness, pain and hair loss.

Chest compressions

Repeated, rhythmic pressure on the chest of someone whose heart has stopped beating. The repeated pressure helps keep blood circulating in the body.


Clusters of rapid breathing that start with shallow breaths that become deeper and deeper, and then fade off, becoming shallower and shallower. Each cluster is separated by a pause in breathing.


A wall or other structure designed to hold urns containing cremated remains.


A condition of the digestive system resulting in bowel movements that are less frequent than normal. Stool is hard, dry and difficult to pass. Normal frequency varies greatly among people, but a person should have a bowel movement at least every three days.

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