Glossary of Terms
The following is a list of some medical terms that may not be familiar to you.
adrenal glands: two small triangle shaped glands located on the top of each kidney that secrete various hormones, including androgens.
age-specific PSA reference range: a PSA range that is designed to compare the results of men in the same age group. If a man’s PSA levels are high compared to others in his age group, then there is a higher chance that prostate cancer could be present.
androgen: any substance that produces male physical characteristics (facial hair, deep voice). The main androgen hormone is testosterone.
anesthesia: absences of sensation, especially pain.
antiandrogen: drugs that fight prostate cancer by blocking the action of testosterone.
anus: the opening at the lower end of the rectum through which stool is eliminated.
benign: a non-cancerous, non-spreading tumor that is generally not life threatening.
benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate caused by an overgrowth of the cells.
biopsy: a small sample of tissue that is taken and examined under a microscope for the presence of cancer.
brachytherapy: a procedure in which tiny "seeds" made up of radioactive material are placed directly into the prostate.
cancer: a term for diseases in which abnormal cells grow and divide without control and possibly spread to other parts of the body.
capsule: a layer of cells covering an organ such as the prostate.
castration: treatment that suppresses testosterone production. Castration can be achieved surgically (orchiectomy) or medically (using an LHRH-analog).
catheter: a tube that is temporarily inserted through the urethra into the bladder to withdraw urine or to empty the bladder.
cell: the basic structural and functional units of the body.
chemotherapy: treatment with anti-cancer drugs that primarily attack cancer cells.
clinical trials: formal studies conducted on patients with cancer or other diseases, usually to evaluate a new or investigational treatment. Each study is designed to answer specific questions and to find better ways to treat patients.
combined androgen blockade (CAB): hormonal therapy that involves combining an antiandrogen drug with an LHRH analog or orchiectomy. Also called maximum androgen blockade (MAB) or total androgen blockade (TAB).
conformal proton beam radiation: similar to 3-dimensional conformal radiation therapy except that it uses protons to produce the radiation.
cryosurgery: see cryotherapy.
cryotherapy: repeated freezing and thawing of the tumor cells which result in cell death as cells rupture and begin to thaw.
digital rectal examination (DRE): an examination performed by a physician in which a gloved, lubricated finger is inserted into the rectum to check to feel for lumps, enlargements, or areas of hardness that might indicate the presence of cancer.
duct: a tube-like structure that carries secretions from one organ to another.
ejaculation: to eject sperm and seminal fluid from the penis.
erection: enlargement of the penis due to increased blood flow; this most often occurs during physical stimulation.
external beam radiation therapy: radiation therapy provided by machines that aim special radiation beams at the prostate to destroy cancer cells.
hormonal-responsive: cancer that responds to treatment with hormones or orchiectomy.
hormonal therapy: in prostate cancer, treatment that interferes with the production of male hormones or block the action of male hormones that promote prostate tumor growth.
impotence: inability to have an erection.
intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): a form of external beam radiation therapy that uses computed tomography to create a 3-D picture of the prostate and surrounding organs so radiation rays can be delivered only to the prostate gland. IMRT precisely delivers many thin radiation beams to the prostate gland. It allows for a high dose of radiation to be administered to the prostate while minimizing effects on nearby organs.
interstitial radiation therapy: treatment with high-energy radiation from tiny radioactive seeds inserted into the prostate; see brachytherapy.
investigational therapy: therapies that are in the process of being evaluated for use to treat a disease or condition.
lesion: general term for any visible, local abnormality of tissue (e.g., injury, wound, boil, sore, rash).
LHRH analog: see luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analog.
luteinizing hormone (LH): a substance produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates the secretion of sex hormones in both men and women.
luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH): a hormone secreted by a part of the brain that triggers the release of LH.
luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analog (LHRH analog): Drugs that treat prostate cancer by keeping the testes from producing testosterone.
lymph: a nearly clear fluid collected from tissues around the body and returned to the blood by the lymphatic system. Lymph drains waste from cells.
lymphadenectomy: surgical removal of lymph nodes.
lymphatic system: vessels that carry lymph are part of this system. Other parts include lymph nodes and several organs that produce and store infection-fighting cells. A network of vessels, nodes, ducts and organs that help maintain the body’s fluid environment and protect the body by producing lymph.
lymph nodes: small bean-shaped structures scattered along the vessels of the lymphatic system. The lymph nodes filter out or remove waste, bacteria, and cancer cells that may travel through the lymphatic system.
malignant: A cancerous tumor that can grow and spread, and may be life threatening.
margins: edges or borders.
medical oncologist: a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer using chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and biological therapy.
metastatic: cancer that has spread from its primary site to nearby or distant areas of the body through the lymphatic system or blood.
nerve-sparing radical retropubic prostatectomy: surgical removal of the prostate, through an incision in the lower abdomen, in which the nerves on either side of the prostate are spared, if possible.
nonsteroidal antiandrogen: antiandrogens that do not have a steroid component.
orchiectomy: the surgical removal of the testes, the major source of male hormones.
palliative therapy: therapy that is given to reduce the severity of advanced prostate cancer and provide symptom relief.
palpable: able to be felt by a doctor during a digital rectal examination.
pathologist: a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis of disease by studying cells and tissues with a microscope.
percent free-PSA ratio: compares the amount of PSA in the blood by itself (unbound): and the amount that is attached to other blood proteins (bound).
perineum: the area between the scrotum and the anus.
pituitary gland: a gland located at the base of the brain. It produces a variety of hormones that stimulate the testes and other organs to release hormones.
prognosis: a prediction made about the potential outcome of a disease.
prostatectomy: the surgical removal of the prostate gland.
prostate-specific antigen (PSA): a blood substance that often increases in patients with prostate cancer and other prostate diseases.
prostatitis: inflammation of the prostate.
PSA density (PSAD): determined by dividing the PSA level by the size or volume of the prostate.
PSA doubling time (PSA-DT): refers to the time during which PSA measured in blood doubles.
PSA velocity: measures how quickly the PSA level rises over a period of time.
radiation therapy: treatment for prostate cancer that uses radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
radical perineal prostatectomy: surgical procedure in which the prostate is removed through an incision in the perineum.
radical prostatectomy: an operation to remove the entire prostate gland, seminal vesicles, and some of the tissue around it.
radical retropubic prostatectomy: surgical procedure in which the prostate is removed through an incision in the lower abdomen.
rectum: the last 5 or 6 inches of the large intestine leading to the outside of the body.
scrotum: the external sac, or pouch, of skin containing the testicles.
semen: the fluid that is ejaculated during sexual climax; it contains the sperm and fluids from other glands, including the prostate.
seminal vesicles: pouches located above the prostate that store semen.
sperm: mature male sex cell.
stage: the size and extent to which the cancer may have grown and spread.
testes: male reproductive glands that produce the sperm and testosterone.
testosterone: a male sex hormone produced primarily by the testes, responsible for the sexual characteristics of men.
3-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT): the use of high-tech computers and a body mold to more accurately deliver radiation to the prostate.
tissue: a collection of cells specialized to perform a particular function.
transrectal ultrasonography (TRUS): a procedure in which a special probe is inserted rectally and uses sound waves to produce a picture of the prostate and the surrounding organs.
transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP): a surgical procedure to remove the excess tissue from the prostate with a special instrument that is inserted through the urethra.
tumor: an abnormal mass of cells that result from uncontrolled and disorderly cell division and growth. Tumors may be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign).
ureter: the tube that carries urine from each kidney to the urinary bladder.
urethra: the tube that carries urine from the urinary bladder and semen from the sex glands.
urinary bladder: the hollow organ that stores urine.
urinary incontinence: inability to control the flow of urine from the bladder.
urologist: a doctor who specializes in diseases of the urinary and sex organs in males and the urinary organs in females.
watchful waiting: also called expectant management or surveillance; the decision not to treat prostate cancer with surgery, radiation, hormonal therapy, or any other treatment options. Instead, the physician monitors the patient’s prostate cancer by checking PSA levels and looking for signs and symptoms of cancer growth.