Our Registry and Network

Lay language

Since informed consent documents need to be accessible to their audience, and since the lay population is not generally well versed in technical and scientific terminology, complex scientific concepts should be translated into simple concepts that the typical participant can read and understand.

Please feel free to use these terms in place of medical/scientific jargon wherever you feel they might be appropriate.

These terms are, of course, not the only acceptable plain language alternatives for these terms/words and are offered purely as a guide.  The list is also not comprehensive and further terms will be added in the future.

Unit conversions

  • Less than 5 mL = less than a teaspoon
  • 5 mL = 1 teaspoon
  • 5 mL to 15 mL = less than a tablespoon or a few teaspoons
  • 15 mL = 1 tablespoon
  • 125 mL = half a cup
  • 250 mL = A cup
  • Slightly over or less than 250 mL = About a cup

Lay language for participant information and consent forms


  • ACUTE: new, recent, short-term
  • ADVERSE EFFECT: side effect, bad reaction, unwanted response
  • ALLERGIC REACTION: immune reaction that may cause rash, hives, swelling or trouble breathing
  • ANAESTHETIC: a drug or agent used to decrease the feeling of pain, or eliminate the feeling of pain by putting you to sleep
  • ANTIBIOTIC: drug that kills bacteria
  • ANTIBODY: protein made in the body in response to foreign substance
  • ANTIMICROBIAL: drug that kills bacteria, viruses and other germs
  • ANTIRETROVIRAL: drug that works against the growth of viruses in the retrovirus family
  • ASSAY: lab test
  • ASSESS: to learn about, measure, evaluate, look at


  • BENIGN: not cancerous, non-malignant
  • BIOAVAILABILITY: the extent to which a drug or other substance becomes active after it is administered (orally or by injection)
  • BLOOD PROFILE: series of blood tests
  • BONE MASS: the amount of calcium and other minerals in bone


  • CARCINOGENIC: cancer-causing
  • CARCINOMA: a type of cancer
  • CATHETER: a tube for withdrawing or giving fluids
  • CHEMOTHERAPY: treatment of disease, usually cancer, by chemical agents
  • CHRONIC: continuing for a long time, ongoing
  • CLINICAL: pertaining to medical care
  • CLINICAL TRIAL: an experiment involving human subjects
  • CONGENITAL: present at birth
  • CONSOLIDATION PHASE: treatment phase intended to make a remission permanent (follows induction phase)
  • CONTROLLED TRIAL: research study in which the experimental treatment or procedure is compared to a standard (control) treatment or procedure
  • COOPERATIVE GROUP: association of multiple institutions to perform clinical trials
  • CULTURE: a test for infection that works by growing the organisms that cause the infection
  • CUMULATIVE: added together from the beginning
  • CUTANEOUS: relating to the skin


  • DIASTOLIC: lower number in a blood pressure reading
  • DOUBLE BLIND: study in which neither investigators nor subjects know what drug or treatment the subject is receiving
  • DYSFUNCTION: state of improper function


  • OEDEMA: excess fluid collecting in tissue
  • EMPIRIC: based on experience
  • EVALUATED, ASSESSED: examined for a medical condition
  • EXTERNAL: outside the body


  • HAEMATOCRIT: volume of red blood cells in the blood
  • HAEMATOMA: a bruise, bleeding under the skin
  • HERITABLE DISEASE: disease that can be transmitted to one’s children
  • HISTOPATHOLOGIC: pertaining to microscopic signs of disease in body tissues or cells


  • IMMUNITY: defence against, protection from
  • IMMUNOGLOBIN: an antibody protein
  • IMMUNOSUPPRESSIVE: drug which works against the body’s immune (protective) response, often used in transplantation and diseases caused by immune system overactivity
  • IMMUNOTHERAPY: giving of drugs to modify the body’s immune (protective) system; for example to destroy cancer cells
  • IMPAIRED FUNCTION: abnormal function
  • INFECTIOUS DISEASE: disease that is transmitted from one person to the next
  • INFLAMMATION: swelling that is generally painful, red, and warm
  • INFUSION: slow injection of a substance into the body, usually into the blood by means of a catheter
  • INTRAVENOUS (IV): through the vein
  • INTUBATE: the placement of a tube into the airway
  • INVASIVE PROCEDURE: puncturing, opening, or cutting the skin


  • LOCAL ANAESTHESIA: creation of insensitivity to pain in a small, local area of the body, usually by injection of numbing drugs
  • LOCALISED: restricted to one area, limited to one area
  • LYMPHOMA: a cancer of the lymph nodes and related tissues


  • MALIGNANCY: a cancer or malignant tumour
  • METASTASIS: spread of cancer cells from one part of the body to another
  • MORBIDITY: illness, symptoms or complications
  • MORTALITY: death


  • NEOPLASIA/NEOPLASM: abnormal growth or tumour, which may be benign or malignant
  • NEUTROPAENIA: decrease in a particular kind of infection-fighting white blood cells
  • NONINVASIVE: not breaking, cutting, or entering the skin


  • ONCOLOGY: the study of tumours or cancer


  • PHASE I: first phase of study of a new drug in humans to determine action, safety, and proper dosing
  • PHASE II: second phase of study of a new drug in humans, intended to gather information about safety and effectiveness of the drug for certain uses
  • PHASE III: large-scale studies to confirm and expand information on safety and effectiveness of new drug for certain uses, and to study common side effects
  • PHASE IV: studies done after the drug is approved by a regulatory agency, especially to compare it to standard care or to try it for new uses
  • PLACEBO: a substance or treatment that contains no medicine and/or has no clearly established mechanism of effect
  • PLACEBO EFFECT: improvement seen when research participants or patients are given a placebo, even though it contains no active drug/treatment
  • PLATELETS: small cells in the blood that help with clotting
  • PROPHYLAXIS: a drug or treatment given to prevent disease or infection
  • PROSPECTIVE STUDY: study following patients forward in time
  • PROTOCOL: plan of study


  • RANDOM: by chance (like the flip of a coin)
  • RANDOMISATION: chance selection
  • RBC: red blood cell
  • RECONSTITUTION: putting back together the original parts or elements
  • REFRACTORY: not responding to treatment
  • REGENERATION: re-growth of a structure or of lost tissue
  • RELAPSE: the return of a disease
  • REMISSION: disappearance of evidence of cancer or other disease
  • REPLICABLE: possible to duplicate or repeat
  • RETROSPECTIVE STUDY: study looking back over past experience


  • SEDATIVE: a drug to calm or make less anxious
  • STAGING: an evaluation (often a series of tests) done in order to establish the extent of the disease
  • STANDARD OF CARE: a treatment plan that the majority of the medical community would accept as appropriate
  • SUBCUTANEOUS: under the skin
  • SYNDROME: a condition characterised by a set of symptoms


  • T-LYMPHOCYTES or T-CELLS: type of white blood cells
  • TOPICAL: on the surface
  • TOPICAL ANAESTHETIC: applied to a certain area of the skin and reducing pain only in the area to which applied
  • TOXICITY: side effects or undesirable effects of a drug or treatment


  • VENEPUNCTURE: the taking of blood for testing


  • WBC: white blood cell