Search this site:

Federal Consumer Information Center Understanding Treatment Choices Federal Consumer Information Center: Understanding Treatment Choices for Prostate Cancer
  Return to Savvy Consumer Information Center - Home Page   


I  J K L M N O P Q
R S T U V W X Y  Z


ABCD rating: A staging system for prostate cancer. A and B refer to localized disease, C to regional disease, and D to cancer that has spread throughout the body.

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, aggressively: Rapidly growing when said of a tumor; an active intervention when said of a treatment such as surgery.

Ampullae: The enlarged lower sections of the two vas deferens.

Androgens: Male hormones, including testosterone.

Anesthetics: Drugs or gases that produce a loss of feeling or awareness. A local anesthetic causes loss of feeling in a part of the body. A general anesthetic puts a person to sleep.

Antiandrogen: A drug that blocks that activity of male hormones circulating in the blood.

Anus: The opening at the lower end of the rectum through which solid waste leaves the body.

Asymptomatic: Producing no symptoms.


Baseline level (PSA): The average of several PSA readings from blood samples taken from an asymptomatic man who is screened for prostate cancer.

Benign: Not cancerous.

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

Biochemical relapse: The appearance of increased numbers of biochemical marker molecules such as PSA. May indicate cancer recurrence.

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.

Bone scan: A computer or floor image showing abnormal areas of bone. A small amount of radioactive material (radionuclide), injected into the bloodstream, collects in the bones, especially areas of abnormality. The radioactivity it emits is detected by a machine called a scanner.

Bowel: The long tube-shaped organ in the abdomen that completes the process of digestion. There is both a small and large bowel. Also called the intestine.

Brachytherapy: See Internal radiation therapy


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

Capsule: The tough outer covering of the prostate gland.

Cardiopulmonary: Related to the heart and lungs.

Cardiovascular problems: Health complications that involve the heart and blood vessels throughout the body.

Castration: Eliminating the supply of the male hormone, testosterone, either by surgery to remove the testicles or by hormonal drugs.

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

Catheterization: The insertion of a tub, through the penis into the bladder to allow urine to escape.

Chemotherapy: Treatment with anticancer drugs.

Clinical relapse: The appearance of symptoms of cancer's recurrence

Clinical stage, staging: Exams and tests to learn the extent of the Cancer within the body, especially whether the disease has spread from the original site to other parts of the body.

Clinical trials: Research studies that involve people. Each study is designed to answer scientific questions and to find better ways to prevent or treat cancer.

Clinically localized cancer (prostate): Cancer that is judged, on the basis of physical examination and other clinical evidence, to be contained within the prostate capsule.

Computed tomography (CT) scan: A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body; the pictures are created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. Also called computed axial tomography (CAT) scan.

Conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT): Radiation treatment that uses sophisticated computer software to conform or shape the distribution of radiation beams to the 3-dimensional shape of the diseased prostate, sparing damage to normal tissue in the vicinity of treatment.

Cryo probe: An instrument filled with liquid nitrogen used to kill prostate cancer cells by freezing and thawing them quickly, so the cancer cells rupture.

Cryosurgery: A procedure that uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill abnormal cells.

Cystitis: Inflammation of the bladder, often marked by painful urination.


DFMO: Difluoromethylornithine, an inhibitor of an enzyme, ornithine decarboxylase (ODC). ODC is essential for the synthesis of polyamines, a class of compounds that play central roles in the growth of cancerous tissues.

Diagnosis: Identifying a disease first by its signs and symptoms and then confirming by a pathologic examination of biopsy tissue samples or other tests.

Differentiated (well-, moderately, or poorly): A description of how healthy and normal a cell or tissue looks under the microscope. Well-differentiated cells appear mature, similar to one another, and orderly. Poorly differentiated cells are irregular and misshapen. See Grade.

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

Disease-specific survival rate: A measure of the proportion of people who die from the specific disease being studied, excluding deaths From other causes.

DNA: The protein that carries genetic information Every cell contains a strand of DNA.

DNA repeats: Multiple identical stretches of genetic material.


Early hormonal therapy: See Neoadjuvant hormonal therapy.

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

Environmental carcinogens: Chemicals that can cause cancer in a person who is exposed to a significant level of contamination.

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

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

Estrogen: A female hormone. Estrogens are sometimes used in the treatment of prostate cancer to block the release and activity of testosterone.

External beam radiation therapy: Radiation treatment delivered from a machine. See Radiation therapy.


Fecal incontinence: The loss of normal control of the bowels. This leads to stool leaking from the rectum (the last part of the large intestine) at unexpected times.

Fiberoptic probe: A flexible, lighted tube that a doctor can use to examine areas inside the body.


General anesthetic: See Anesthetics.

Genes: The basic biological units of heredity found in all cells in the body.

Genetic: Pertaining to genes and their heredity.

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

Gleason grade: A number from 1 to 5 indicating how different a sample of prostate tissue looks when compared to normal prostate tissue.

Gleason grading system: A method widely used to characterize prostate tumors. Low Gleason grades and scores indicate slow-growing cancer. High grades and scores indicate a cancer likely to grow aggressively and spread outside the capsule.

Gleason score: A number from 2 to 10, obtained by adding the Gleason grades from the two most abnormal areas in the prostate tissue being examined.

Grade: A measure of how closely a cancer resembles normal tissue, that is, how well it is differentiated. Tumor grade suggests the tumor's likely rate of growth. (See Gleason score, ABCD rating.)


Hormonal-type drugs, therapy: Treatment that prevents certain cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to keep growing. For prostate cancer, the supply of male hormones can be blocked either with hormonal drugs or by surgery to remove the testicles.

Hormone-responsive: Cancer that responds to hormone treatment.

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

4-HPR: A vitamin A analog that may block hormone-responsive tumors.


Image, imaging techniques: Methods for obtaining pictures of organs and tissues inside the body. Common imaging techniques include x-ray, ultrasound, CT scans, MRI, and bone scans.

Immune system: The complex set of cells and organs that defends the body against infection and disease.

Impotence (sexual): Inability to achieve an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse.

Incidence (rate): The number of cases diagnosed per 100,000 persons in the population.

Incision: A cut made in the body during surgery.

Incontinence (urinary): Loss of urinary control.

Indolent: Slow-growing.

Internal radiation therapy: The use of tiny radioactive seeds, or implants placed directly into or next to the prostate gland, to kill cancerous cells. This is also known as interstitial implantation or brachytherapy.

Interstitial implantation: See Internal radiation therapy.

Invasive (procedure): "Invading" the body's barriers, typically by cutting or puncturing the skin or by inserting instruments into the body.


Laparoscopy: A surgical procedure in which a thin lighted tube is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen, allowing the doctor to see inside the abdomen. Pelvic lymph node dissection can be performed via laparoscopy.

Latent: Present but inactive, producing no symptoms.

Localized prostate cancer: Cancer that is confined to the prostate gland (identified as Stage I and Stage II).

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 defense system. Lymph nodes are located throughout the body along the channels of the lymphatic system. Lymph nodes are also 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, that carry lymph, an almost colorless fluid, and the infectionfighting cells it contains.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A procedure in which a magnet linked to a computer is used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body.

Malignant: Cancerous.

Maximum androgen blockade: Treatment to totally block the production of male hormones. Androgen suppression is achieved by surgical removal of the testicles, by taking female sex hormones, or by taking other hormone-type drugs.

Medical castration: The use of drugs to cut off supplies of male hormones.

Metastasis, metastases, metastasized: The spread of cancer tells from one part of the body to another by way of the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. The cells in a metastatic tumor arc the same kind of tells as those in the original (primary) tumor.

Metastatic prostate cancer: Cancer that has spread (Stage IV) to the lymph nodes of the pelvis or to more distant parts of the body.

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


Neoadjuvant hormonal therapy: Drug therapy administered prior to surgery or radiation, in hopes of shrinking the tumor to make it easier to remove or destroy. Also known as early hormonal therapy.

Nerve-sparing surgery: A surgical technique that carefully avoids cutting or stretching two bundles of nerves and blood vessels that run closely along the surface of the prostate gland and that are needed for an erection.

Nonpalpable: Cannot be felt (palpated).


Observation: See Watchful waiting.

Oncologist: A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer.

Orchiectomy: Surgery to remove the testicles.

Orgasm: Sexual climax.


Palliative treatment: Therapy that relieves symptoms such as pain or blockage of urine flow, but is not expected to cure the cancer. Its main purpose is to improve the patient's quality of life.

Palpable: Can be felt (palpated).

Pathologic staging: Microscopic evaluation of tissues removed at biopsy or surgery

Pathologically localized prostate cancer: Cancer that is diagnosed by micropscopically examining a prostate gland removed at surgery.

Pathologist: A doctor who specializes in identifying diseases through the cell and tissue changes the diseases produce.

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

PCPT (Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial): 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 prostate cancer.

Pelvic lymph node dissection: Removal of lymph nodes near the prostate to determine if cancer has spread.

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

Penis: The external male organ of urination and reproduction.

Perineal prostatectomy: See Radical prostatectomy.

Perineum: The space between the scrotum and the anus

PIVOT (Prostate Cancer Intervention versus Observation Trial): A 15-year study to see if men with localized prostate cancer who are assigned to watchful waiting do as well as men treated with surgery.

Placebo: An inactive look-alike drug (or other intervention). Placebos may be used in trials evaluating the effectiveness of a new drug or other treatment.

Pretreatment PSA levels: PSA readings from blood samples taken from a man who is clinically and/or pathologically diagnosed with prostate cancer, hot who has not yet received treatment.

Proctitis: Inflammation of the rectum, often marked by pain, diarrhea, and bleeding.

Prognosis: The probable outcome or course of a disease; the chances of complete recovery or recurrence.

Prostate enlargement: See Benign prostatic hyperplasia.

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

Prostatectomy: Surgery to remove the prostate. See Radical prostatectomy.

Prostatitis: Inflammation of the prostate gland.

Prosthesis, prostheses: Artificial replacement parts. It is possible to replace the testicles with prostheses.

PSA (Prostate-specific antigen): 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 or prostate cancer.

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

PSA level: Concentration of prostate-specific antigen circulating in a man's blood. PSA levels can be useful in detecting prostate cancer, in staging prostate cancer, and in monitoring response to treatment.

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 PSA level rises.


Radiation: Energy carried by waves or by streams of particles. Various forms of radiation, including x-rays, can be used in low doses to diagnose disease and in high doses to treat disease.

Radiation oncologist: A doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.

Radiation therapy: The use of high-energy rays, such as x-rays, to kill cancer cells. The rays can be either beamed from a machine (external) or emitted by radioactive seeds implanted it, the tumor (internal). See Internal radiation therapy and External beam radiation therapy

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

Radioactive: Giving off radiation.

Radioactive iodine: An isotope of iodine, which means that it is chemically similar to iodine hot unstable, giving off energy over several weeks as it decomposes.

Radioactive palladium: An isotope that is unstable and gives off energy over several weeks as it decomposes.

Radioactive seeds: Small, radioactive chemically unstable particles that are delivered precisely to cancer cells to kill them using the energy given off as the particles decompose.

Radionuclides: Radioactive chemicals. Radionuclides are used in making bone scans.

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

Recurrence, relapse: The reappearance of cancer after treatment has been completed.

Regional (pelvic) lymph nodes: For the prostate, lymph nodes in the pelvic area.

Regional prostate cancer: Cancer that has spread through the prostate capsule, perhaps into the seminal vesicles, but not yet into nearby lymph nodes or beyond (identified as Stage III).

Remission: Disappearance of the signs and symptoms of cancer. When this happens, the disease is said to be "in remission." Remission can be temporary or permanent.

Retropubic prostatectomy: See Radical prostatectomy.


Scrotum: The pouch of skin that contains the testicles.

Seeds: See Radioactive seeds.

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 contains sperm that come from the testicles.

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

Side effects: Unavoidable results that may accompany treatment. The potential side effects of prostate cancer treatment include incontinence and impotence.

Signs: Effects of disease that can be observed and/or measured. An elevated PSA level may be a sign of prostate cancer. See Symptoms.

Sperm: Male reproductive cells, produced in the testicles.

Sphincter: A band of muscle fibers that can relax or tighten to open or close a bodily opening or passage.

Stage: The extent of a cancer. Clinical and pathological evidence are used to determine stage.

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. (See TNM rating and ABCD rating.)

Stool incontinence: See Fecal incontinence.

Support group: An association of people whose shared experiences allow them to offer one another advice and encouragement.

Surgery: An operation.

Surgical margins: The outermost cut edges of tissue that has been surgically removed.

Surveillance: See Watchful waiting

Symptoms: Effects of disease as experienced by the patient and/or found by a health professional during a physical examination. Pain, for example, is a symptom. Sec Signs.


Testicles: The pair of egg shaped glands contained in the pouch-like 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.

TNM rating: A cancer staging system that evaluates Tumor size and extent of the primary tumor, cancer in the nearby Nodes, and Metastases.

TRUS (Transrectal Ultrasound): The use of sound waves to image the protate. 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. TRUS is used to detect abnormal prostate growth and to guide a biopsy of the abnormal prostate area.

Tumor: An abnormal growth of little. Tumors can be either benign (non- canerous) of malignant (cancerous).

TURP (Trausurethral Resection of the Prostate): Surgery for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Performed with instruments inserted through the penis, TURP cuts away excess prostate tissue.


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

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

Urethra (male): 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.

Urinary system: The bodily system that controls urination, which discharges fluids and waste products from the bladder.

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

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.

Vitamin A analog: A substance similar in chemical structure to Vitamin A.


Watchful waiting: Forgoing aggressive therapies unless symptoms or other signs of disease progress. Watchful waiting with frequent monitoring may be a treatment option for both benign prostatic hyperplasia and early-stage prostate cancer. Also known as observation or surveillance.

Well-differentiated: See Differentiated


X-ray: A high-energy form of radiation. X-rays form an image of body structures by traveling through the body and striking a sheet of film.

<< Resources Forward >>
  Return to Savvy Consumer Information Center - Home Page   
Search this site:

Get the Savvy Consumer Newsletter! (FREE)