Search this site:

Federal Consumer Information Center Understanding Prostate Federal Consumer Information Center - Understanding Prostate Changes: A Health Guide for All Men
  Return to Savvy Consumer Information Center - Home Page   
Prostate Cancer Resources


 J K L M N O P Q
R S T U V W X Y  Z


Abdomen: The part of the body that contains the stomach, intestines, and other organs. The prostate is located in the lower part of the abdomen, also known as the pelvis.

Aggressive: Rapidly growing and likely to spread (said of a tumor).

Alpha adrenergic blockers: Drugs used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Alpha blockers work by relaxing the muscular portion of the prostate and the bladder neck.

Anesthetic: Drug or gas that produces a loss of feeling or awareness, A local anesthetic causes loss of feeling in a part of the body, but the patient remains awake. A general anesthetic puts a person to sleep.

Anus: The opening at the lower end of the rectum through which solid wastes leave the body.

Asymptomatic: Producing no symptoms.


Benign: Not cancerous.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): Enlargement of the prostate. BPH is not cancer, but it can cause some of the same symptoms.

Biopsy: The removal of a sample of tissue, which is then examined under a microscope to check for cancerous changes.

Bladder: The organ where urine is stored.

Bladder neck: Area where the bladder opens into the urethra. Acting on signals from the brain, the bladder-neck muscles either can tighten to hold urine in the bladder or can relax to allow urine out.


Cancer: A term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control. Cancer cells have the potential to invade nearby tissues and to spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.

Capsule: The outer covering of the prostate gland.

Catheter: A tube inserted into the body. One type of catheter can be inserted into the bladder through the penis to allow urine to drain out.

Catheterization: The insertion of a catheter.

Clinical study: A research study that involves people. Each study is designed to answer medical questions and to find better ways to prevent or treat disease.

Clinically localized: Prostate cancer that is judged, on the basis of physical examination and other clinical evidence, to be contained within the prostate capsule. In contrast, pathologically localized prostate cancer is diagnosed by microscopically examining a prostate gland removed at surgery.

Cystoscopy: A procedure in which the doctor inserts a lighted instrument through the urethra to look inside the bladder.


Diagnosis: The identification of a disease by its signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings.

Digital rectal examination (DRE): A procedure in which the doctor inserts a finger into the rectum to examine the rectum and prostate.

DNA: The chemical compound in a cell that carry genetic information.


Ejaculation: The release of semen through the penis during sexual climax. In dry ejaculation, semen spurts backward into the bladder rather than out through the penis.

Enzyme: A natural substance that affects the rate at which chemical changes take place in the body.

Erection: Swelling and hardening of the penis in response to sexual excitement.


Finasteride: A generic drug that shrinks the prostate by blocking an enzyme that converts testosterone into a more potent form.


Gene: A unit of inheritance; a working subunit of DNA. Each gene typically codes for a protein.

Gland: An organ that produces and releases one or more substances for use by various parts of the body.


Hereditary: Inherited; having to do with information that is passed from parents to children through DNA in the genes.

Hormones: Body chemicals that are secreted by glands, circulate in the bloodstream, and produce specific effects on target organs and tissues.

Hormone-responsive (tumors): Cancer cells with molecules on their surface called receptors. These cells change their growth speed when the receptors interact with hormones.

Hyperplasia: Excessive growth of tissue. Impotence: See Sexual impotence.


Incontinence: Loss of urinary control.

Indolent: Slow-growing.

Intervention: Any treatment or activity designed to bring about a change.

Invasive: Said of techniques that "invade" the body's barriers by cutting or puncturing the skin or by inserting instruments into the body.


Kidneys: The pair of organs where urine is formed.


Latent: Producing no symptoms.

Lymph: An almost colorless fluid that travels through the lymphatic system and carries cells and substances that help fight infection and disease.

Lymph nodes: Small, bean-shaped organs that are part of the body's immune system. Lymph nodes are located throughout the body along the channels of the lymphatic system. Lymph nodes also are called lymph glands.

Lymphatic system: The tissues and organs (including bone marrow, spleen, and lymph nodes) that produce and store cells and substances that fight infection and disease. These organs are connected by a body-wide system of channels, similar to blood vessels, which carry lymph.


Metastasize: To spread throughout the body (said of cancer cells).

Microscopic: Something so small that it can be seen only when magnified by a microscope.

Molecule: The smallest possible unit of any particular substance.


Observation: See Watchful waiting.

Open prostatectomy: Surgery to remove all or part of the prostate by making an incision in the patient's lower abdomen or perineum. Open prostatectomy can be either a partial or radical procedure. See Radical prostatectomy and Partial prostatectomy.

Orgasm: Sexual climax.


Partial prostatectomy: Open surgery to remove part of the prostate gland, leaving the posterior portion intact. Partial prostatectomy is usually performed through an incision in the lower abdomen (retropubic prostatectomy).

Pathologist: A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

Pattern biopsy: A biopsy taking samples of tissue from half a dozen or more carefully spaced sections of the prostate gland.

Pelvis: The lower part of the abdomen, located between the hip bones.

Penis: The external male organ of urination and reproduction.

Perineum: The space between the scrotum and the anus.

Placebo: An inactive look-alike drug used in prevention trials to evaluate the effectiveness of a new treatment.

Prostate cancer: A disease of cells growing out of control. Spurred by changes in the genes, the glandular cells of the prostate multiply abnormally.

Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial (PCPT): A study in which healthy men are taking either the drug finasteride or a placebo every day for 7 to 10 years to see if the drug helps to prevent latent cancers from developing into active cancers.

Prostate enlargement: See Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Prostate gland: A male sex gland. The prostate produces fluid that forms part of semen.

Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial : A large-scale NCI-sponsored study to determine if certain tests will reduce the number of deaths from prostate, lung, colorectal, and ovarian cancers.

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA): A protein produced by cells of the prostate gland. PSA circulates in the blood and can be measured with a simple blood test. PSA levels go up in the blood of some men who have prostate enlargement, inflammation, infection, or cancer.

Prostatitis: Inflammation of the prostate gland, sometimes due to infection.

Protein molecule: Natural substance essential to the body's structure and proper functioning.

PSA density: A measure relating a man's PSA level to the size of his prostate.

PSA test: A test that measures the PSA level in a sample of blood. PSA levels can be useful in detecting prostate cancer, in staging prostate cancer, and in monitoring response to treatment.

PSA velocity: A measure indicating how rapidly a marls PSA level rises. This measure is calculated after the collection of many PSA readings over a period of time.


Radical prostatectomy: Open surgery to remove the entire prostate gland along with nearby tissues such as the seminal vesicles. Radical prostatectomy can be performed through an incision either in the lower abdomen (retropubic prostatectomy) or in the space between the scrotum and the anus (perineal prostatectomy).

Rectum: The lower part of the large intestine. The rectum stores solid waste until it leaves the body through the anus.

Risk factor: Something that increases a person's chance of developing a disease.


Screening: Checking for signs of disease in a person who has no symptoms.

Scrotum: The pouch of skin that contains the testicles.

Semen: The thick, whitish fluid released through the penis during orgasm. Semen is made up of substances produced by the prostate, the seminal vesicles, and other male sex glands, and it contains sperm that come from the testicles.

Seminal vesicles: A pair of pouch-like glands, adjacent to the prostate, that contribute substances to semen.

Sexual impotence: Inability to achieve an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse.

Side effects: Unintentional results, often troublesome. The potential side effects of treatment for prostate cancer include incontinence and impotence.

Signs: Effects of disease that can be observed and/or measured. For example, very high PSA values may be a sign of prostate cancer. See Symptoms.

Sperm: Male reproductive cells, produced in the testicles.

Spinal block: An anesthetic injection that numbs the lower half of the body.

Stages: Different levels of disease, which indicate the extent of a cancer's growth.

Staging: Doing tests to establish the extent of a cancer, especially whether it has spread beyond its original site to other parts of the body.

Stent: A small, surgically inserted tube or metal coil, used to hold a passageway open.

Surveillance: See Watchful waiting.

Symptoms: Effects of disease as experienced by the patient. Pain, for example, is a symptom. See Signs.


Testicles: The pair of egg-shaped glands, contained in the pouchlike scrotum, that produce sperm and male hormones. The testicles are also called the testes.

Testosterone: A male sex hormone, produced primarily by the testicles. Testosterone plays an important role in a man's sexuality. It also fuels the growth of prostate cancer.

Transrectal Ultrasound (TRUS): The use of sound waves to image the prostate. The sound waves are emitted by an instrument inserted into the rectum. As the waves bounce off the prostate, they create a pattern that is converted by a computer into a picture.

Transurethral incision of the prostate (TUIP): Surgery for an enlarged prostate. Performed with instruments inserted through the urethra, TUIP relieves pressure on the urethra by making cuts into the enlarged prostate gland.

Transurethral needle ablation (TUNA): Surgery for an enlarged prostate. Performed with instruments inserted through the prostate, TUNA transmits bursts of radiofrequency (low-energy) radiation through fine needles.

Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP): Surgery for an enlarged prostate. Performed with instruments inserted through the penis, TURF cuts away excess prostate tissue.

Tumors: Abnormal growths of tissue. Tumors can be either malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous).


Ultrasound: An imaging technique that uses sound waves to produce pictures (sonograms) of body tissues. See Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS).

Ureters: The pair of tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

Urethra: In males, a tube extending from the bladder to the tip of the penis. It carries urine from the bladder and, during ejaculation, semen from the prostate gland, out through the penis.

Urinalysis: Examination of the urine for infectious agents, cells, or other substances that are signs of disease.

Urination: The act of discharging water and waste products from the bladder.

Urine: The fluid containing water and waste products that is secreted by the kidneys, stored in the bladder, and discharged through the urethra.

Urogram: An x-ray that makes use of an injected dye to show urine inside the bladder.

Urologist: A doctor who specializes in disorders of the urinary system and the male reproductive system.


Vas deferens: A pair of tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the prostate gland.

Vasectomy: Surgery to prevent a man from fathering children (sterilization), achieved by cutting the vas deferens.


Watchful waiting: Following the patient closely and postponing aggressive therapy unless symptoms or other signs of disease progress. Watchful waiting is a treatment option for both an enlarged prostate and early-stage prostate cancer.


X-rays: High-energy forms of radiation. X-rays form an image of body structures by passing through the body and striking a sheet of film.

Prostate Cancer Resources
  Return to Savvy Consumer Information Center - Home Page   
Search this site:

Get the Savvy Consumer Newsletter! (FREE)