The following terms will help you understand what your doctor tells you about your prostate cancer, and your possible treatment.
Acute Urgent, as in a disease that happens suddenly.
Adenocarcinoma Cancerous cells in the lining of the prostate gland; prostate cancer.
Adjuvant Therapy Adjuvant therapy is a treatment method used in addition to the primary therapy to improve the chances of curing cancer. It is often given when it is not known for certain whether or not any cancer cells may still remain in the body. Examples of adjuvant therapy include the use of chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery.
Adrenal glands Gland located near the kidneys that produces a small amount of Testosterone.
Analgesic A drug that relieves pain.
Androgen Any hormone that produces male physical characteristics (facial hair, deep voice). The main androgen hormone is testosterone.
Androgen Any hormone that produces male physical characteristics (facial hair, deep voice). The main androgen hormone is testosterone.
Anemia A condition in which the blood becomes low in red blood cells, or in hemoglobin.
Anesthesia A drug inhaled or injected into the patient to induce loss of feeling or sensation. There are two types of anesthesia, general and local. With general anesthesia, the whole body is put to sleep by an anesthetic agent injected into a vein or inhaled through a mask. With local anesthesia, a small area is made insensitive to pain, usually through the injection of an anesthetic agent.
Anesthetic A drug that causes a loss of sensation or a feeling of numbness; usually used during surgical procedures.
Anesthetist A doctor who uses drugs or gases to put you to sleep during surgery so you will not feel any pain.
Antiandrogren drug A drug that blocks the activity of an androgen hormone anticancer drug: A drug that attacks cancer cells.
Antibiotic A drug that fights bacterial infections.
Antibody A special type of protein made by the body's immune system. It disarms or destroys a specific foreign agent (called an antigen) when it appears in the body.
Anus The opening at the lower end of the rectum through which solid body waste is eliminated.
Aspiration Withdrawing fluid by suction either with a tube and a suction machine or with a needle and syringe.
Bacteria Microscopic organisms that can cause disease
Benign A term for a tumor that does not normally threaten a person’s life (that is, a tumor that is not cancerous and does not spread to other parts of the body).
Bilateral This term refers to both sides of the body. Pain in both the right and left knees is called bilateral knee pain.
Bilateral extracapsular extension The spread of a tumor outside the tissue surrounding the prostate, on both sides
Biological Response Modifiers Drugs used in cancer treatment that affect the patient’s own immune or defense system, e.g., Interferon, Interleukins, and Growth Factors.
Biopsy Removal of a histologic sample of tissue of microscopic evaluation by a pathologist.
Bladder The hollow organ that stores urine.
Brachytherapy Another name for various types of interstitial radiation therapy; sometimes called “seeds.”
Cancer A tumor with abnormal cells that grow and divide without control. Cancer cells can spread through the blood and lymph to other parts of the body and pose a serious threat to a person’s life.
Capsule The layer of cells around an organ such as the prostate.
Carcinogen A cancer-causing substance.
Carcinoma The most common type of cancer. It may develop in cells that line the lung, intestines, bladder, breast, uterus, kidney, and prostate or in skin cells.
Carcinoma in Situ An early stage of cancer in which tumor cells have not yet invaded surrounding tissues.
Cell A cell is the basic structure of living tissues. All plants and animals are made up of one or more cells. An amoeba for example, is made up of one cell. Human beings are made up of trillions of cells.
Chemotherapy Treatment with powerful drugs that attack cancer cells but may also harm certain types of healthy cells.
Chronic A term used to describe a disease that lasts for over three months or gets worse very slowly.
Clinical Trials Research studies to test new treatments, or approaches, which might provide better results than current methods. Strict rules are followed to make sure patients are well informed about the purpose, risks and benefits of any study before they agree to join a clinical trial.
Combination Therapy The use of two or more types of treatment on one cancer patient (e.g., surgery and radiation therapy).
Combined androgen blockade or CAB A type of hormone therapy that involves combining an antiandrogen drug with an LHRH analog or with orchiectomy. Also called total androgen blockade (TAB) or maximal androgen blockade (MAB).
Core needle biopsy A means of harvesting small tissue samples to be examined for the presence of cancer cells.
Cryosurgery A surgical procedure that uses extreme cold to destroy abnormal tissue.
CT Scan An abbreviation for computerized (axial) tomography, a CT scan is a type of x-ray that uses a computer to produce a "3-D" picture of the exact size and location of a tumor.
Culture A lab test used to find and identify the type of infection. Bacteria in blood samples or other body samples are made to grow in special nutrients so that they can be studied.
Cystoscopy A diagnostic procedure in which an endoscope is introduced into the bladder via the urethra to check for abnormalities. It is also used to remove cells for a biopsy.
Cytology The microscopic study of cells that have been shed or scraped from the cervix, uterus, lungs, bladder, or skin. An example of this procedure is the Pap test, used to detect cervical cancer.
Diagnosis Identification of a disease from signs, symptoms, laboratory tests, radiological results, and physical findings.
Digital rectal examination or DRE An examination in which a gloved finger is inserted into the rectum to check for abnormalities.
Dosimetrist A dosimetrist is a person who helps plan and calculate the proper radiation dose for treatment.
Dosimetry The science of determining the treatment plan to deliver the prescribed dose of radiation.
Edema Swelling of body tissue due to an abnormal build-up of fluid.
Ejaculate To eject sperm and seminal fluid from the penis.
Endoscope A narrow, flexible tube, often with a light and lens at one end. It is used to examine visually the lungs, bladder, colon, cervix, stomach, and esophagus. Sometimes an endoscope is used to remove cells for microscopic study.
Erectile dysfunction Impotence; the inability to have an erection.
Estrogen A female sex hormone.
External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) Radiation therapy that uses rays from a machine directed at parts of the body
External Radiation Therapy External radiation therapy is one of the two types of radiation therapy. A machine that focuses on the cancer site is used to deliver the radiation to the body. (See also Internal Radiation Therapy.)
Gleason grading system The most commonly used prostate cancer grading system. It involves assigning a score (called a Gleason grade) to cancerous prostate tissue, ranging from 1 to 5, based on how much the arrangement of the cancer cells mimics the way normal prostate cells form glands. Two grades are assigned to the most common patterns of cells that appear; these two grades (they can be the same or different) are then added together to determine the Gleason score (a number from 1 to 10).
High-dose rate brachytherapy A type of radiation therapy in which radioactive seeds are temporarily placed directly inside the prostate. The seeds contain more radioactive material than in standard brachytherapy, and can be removed in less than a day. This procedure may not require hospitalization.
Hormonal Therapy Use of hormones (sometimes combined with other types of therapy) to treat breast, uterine, or prostate cancer.
Hormone Replacement Therapy The use of synthetic estrogen and progesterone after menopause to replace the natural hormones produced by women in their fertile years.
Hormone therapy In prostate cancer, treatment that interferes with the production or activity of male hormones that promote prostate tumor growth
Hormones Chemical substances that regulate such specific body functions as metabolism, growth, and reproduction.
Implant An implant is a small container of radioactive material that is placed in, or near, a cancerous tumor. It is referred to as internal radiation therapy or implant therapy.
Impotence Inability to have an erection.
Incontinence Loss of urinary control.
Infection Invasion of the body tissues by microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.
Internal Radiation Therapy Internal radiation therapy is one of the two types of radiation therapy. With this type, a radioactive substance is placed inside the body very close to, or right inside, the cancerous tumor, or in the place of a previously removed cancer. (See also external radiation therapy.)
Interstitial Radiation Therapy An interstitial implant is a radioactive source that is placed directly into a tumor in an organ such as the prostate or tongue. Another name used for this therapy is brachytherapy.
Intravenous When fluids or drugs are put directly into a vein the term used is intravenous. ("Venous" means vein.) Anticancer drugs are often given by IV injection.
Irradiation Another term for radiation therapy.
LHRH analogs Man-made compounds that are similar to, but more potent than, natural LHRH.
Linear Accelerator A linear accelerator is a machine that creates and uses high-energy X-rays to deliver external radiation to a cancer tumor.
Localized Cancer A cancerous growth that has not spread to other parts of the body.
Lymph A nearly clear fluid collected from tissues around the body and returned to the blood by the lymphatic system.
Lymph nodes Small bean-shaped structures scattered along the vessels of the lymphatic system. The nodes filter out bacteria and cancer cells that may travel through the system.
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.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging A diagnostic technique that uses a magnetic field to produce on a computer the image of an internal organ.
Malignancy A tumor consisting of cancer cells. Cells from a malignant growth can break away and start secondary tumors elsewhere in the body.
Malignant A term for a tumor that can threaten a person’s life—that is, a tumor that is cancerous. Malignant has the same meaning as cancerous.
Medical Oncologist A doctor who specializes in chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer.
Metastasis. The spread of cancer from its original site to distant areas via blood and lymph.
Mitosis Cell division.
Needle Aspiration A type of biopsy in which a fine needle is inserted into the tumor. Small amounts of fluid or cells are removed and tested for cancer.
Needle Core Biopsy A type of biopsy in which a small cutting needle is used to remove a core of tissue for examination under a microscope for the presence of cancer.
Nephrectomy Surgical removal of a kidney.
Nerve-sparing radical retropubic prostatectomy A prostatectomy technique that allows the surgeon to see the nerves on either side of the prostate so that they can be left alone during the surgery. Preserving these nerves may allow some men to have a better chance of achieving erections after the prostatectomy (see prostatectomy).
Oncologist An oncologist is a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer.
Oncology The study and treatment of cancer.
Orchiectomy The surgical removal of the testicles, the major source of male hormones.
Ostomy A surgical procedure that creates an opening (called a stoma) in the intestine via the abdominal wall. Intestinal contents are discharged into a bag attached to the skin.
Palliative Care Emotional support and counseling as well as relief from pain and other physical discomforts for people who are critically ill. This type of care may be provided either by a team associated with a hospice program or by a family doctor.
Palliative therapy A therapy that is intended to provide relief but is unlikely to cure a disease.
Pathologist A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis of disease by studying cells and tissues with a microscope, trained in laboratory medicine and who examines biopsies and assesses the results of other laboratory tests.
Pathology The study of changes to body tissues and fluids caused by disease.
Percent free PSA ratio A blood test that can help a physician make a diagnosis of prostate cancer when other results are confusing by comparing the amount of PSA in the blood by itself and the amount that is bound or attached to other blood proteins.
Perineal prostatectomy An operation to remove the prostate gland through a cut made in the perineum.
Perineum The area between the scrotum and the anus.
Pituitary gland A gland located at the base of the brain. It produces hormones that stimulate the testicles (and other glands) to release hormones and produce sperm.
Prognosis A prediction made as to the potential outcome of a disease.
Prostate A chestnut-shaped gland that surrounds the urethra in males and secretes chemicals into the semen (fluid that contains sperm).
Prostate-specific antigen A blood protein that often increases in cases of prostate cancer and other prostate diseases.
Prostatectomy The surgical removal of the prostate gland.
Protocol Standardized procedures established for treating different diseases.
PSA density (PSAD) The number determined by dividing the PSA value by the prostate volume.
PSA test A blood test that measures a patient’s level of prostate specific antigen. An elevated PSA may be an indicator of prostate cancer.
PSA velocity (PSAV) Measurement of how quickly PSA rises over time.
Radiation Oncologist A doctor who has had special training in using radiation to treat human disease.
Radiation Therapy The use of gamma rays or high energy x-rays to damage or destroy cancer cells. The Registered Therapy Radiographer (R.T.) is the specialist who gives the radiation therapy prescribed by your doctor.
Radioactive Implant Wires, seeds or needles containing radioactive chemicals that deliver a known amount of radiation. These implants are inserted into a tumor or previous tumor site for a specified period of time.
Rectum The last 5 or 6 inches of the intestine leading to the outside of the body.
Recurrence The return of a cancerous growth or condition after treatment.
Retropubic prostatectomy An operation to remove the prostate gland through a cut made in the lower abdomen.
Scrotum The external sac, or pouch, containing the testicles.
Seminal vesicles Pouches inside the body above the prostate that store seminal fluid to supply nutrition and fluid to the semen.
Side Effects An unwanted or undesirable symptom caused by certain drugs or treatments.
Staging The classification of tumors according to the extent of their development. Used to determine treatment methods and to predict the course of the disease.
Strontium 89 A radioactive material sometimes used in brachytherapy (seeds); it may help to relieve the bone pain that can be associated with bone metastasis.
Testicles Two egg-shaped glands that produce sperm and sex hormones.
Testosterone A male sex hormone produced chiefly by the testicles. Testosterone stimulates a man’s sexual activity and the growth of other sex organs, including the prostate.
Tissue A group of cells organized to perform a specialized function
Transrectal ultrasound Using sound waves produced by a device inserted into the rectum to produce a picture of the prostate.
Transurethral resection of the prostate or TURP The use of a special instrument inserted through the urethra in the penis to remove noncancerous prostate tissue.
Tumor An excessive growth of cells resulting from uncontrolled and disorderly cell replacement.
Ultrasound Imaging A diagnostic technique that uses sound waves to detect abnormal bodily structures. Sound waves are bounced off internal organs; a computer picks up their echoes, processes the information, and forms a detailed picture of the area.
Unilateral extracapsular extension A term sometimes used in TNM staging; it refers to the tumor spreading to outside of the prostate capsule on only one side.
Ureter The tube that carries urine from each kidney to the bladder.
Urethra The tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body; in males, its also the channel through which semen is ejaculated.
Urologist A doctor who specializes in diseases of the male sex organs and in diseases of the urinary organs in both men and women.
Watchful waiting When a prostate cancer is simply watched by the doctor using regular digital rectal examinations and blood tests