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Prostate Cancer 101

Glossary

A-G

Active Surveillance

A treatment approach for men with low-risk prostate cancer that involves regular doctor visits and close monitoring of their disease. A PSA blood test, digital rectal exam (DRE) and prostate biopsy are performed at physician-specified intervals. Signs of disease progression will usually trigger intervention with another therapy.

Adenocarcinoma

A type of cancer that originates in glandular epithelial tissue; the majority of prostate cancers are adenocarcinomas.

Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT)

A type of hormonal therapy that reduces levels or inhibits the activity of androgens (hormones that stimulate prostate cancer growth).

Anemia

A condition characterized by an abnormally low level of red blood cells; common symptoms include fatigue and shortness of breath.

Antiandrogen

A type of medication that blocks the actions of androgens (hormones that stimulate prostate cancer growth) on prostate cancer cells.

Bilateral Orchiectomy

The surgical removal of both testicles.

Biopsy

The removal and examination of a sample of tissue, cells, or fluids. During a prostate biopsy, a physician uses ultrasound to guide a small needle that collects cells or tissue samples of the prostate. Usually 10 to 18 biopsies are taken to sample various areas of the prostate.

Bone-Targeted Therapy

A type of therapy that is specifically used to treat prostate cancer that has spread to the bone.

Brachytherapy

A type of radiation therapy that involves injection of radiation-containing “seeds” into the prostate. This technique allows for delivery of a high dose of radiation to the prostate with limited damage to surrounding healthy tissues.

Chemotherapy

In cancer treatment, the use of drugs whose main effect is either to kill or slow the growth of rapidly multiplying cells. Chemotherapy may be used in addition to surgery, and is sometimes used in combination with other therapies such as radiation therapy or hormonal therapy.

Corticosteroids

A large class of medications used to treat a variety of diseases and conditions; the corticosteroids used as secondary hormonal therapy for prostate cancer block the synthesis of androgens (hormones that stimulate prostate cancer growth).

Cryosurgery

A technique that involves freezing and thereby killing cancer cells by injecting cold argon gas via a thin needle into prostate tumors.

CT (Computerized Tomography) Scan

A series of X-ray images to produce cross-sectional images of the body.

Diethylstilbesttrol (DES)

A form of the female hormone estrogen that blocks the activity of male hormone receptors on prostate cancer cells.

Digital Rectal Examination (DRE)

A screening test used to detect prostate cancer in its early stages. During the examination, the doctor feels a patient’s prostate gland to examine the size and texture of the prostate by inserting a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum.

Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

The persistent inability of have an erection that is adequate for sexual intercourse.

External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT)

A type of radiation therapy in which the radiation comes from a source outside the body, similar to an x-ray machine.

Extracapsular Extension

Referring to a cancer that has extended beyond the prostatic capsule.

Fecal Incontinence

The inability to control defecation.

Genomics

The study of expression of genes, how they interact in cells, and the role they play in health and disease.

Gleason Score

A rating system that identifies the aggressiveness of prostate cancer based on how the cancer cells look under a microscope. Gleason scores range from 2 to 10, but a score of 5 or lower is rare, while 6 is the most common. In men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer, a Gleason score of less than 6 indicates a less aggressive cancer that is less likely to spread, while a score greater than 7 indicates a more aggressive cancer that is more likely to spread.

H-J

Hormonal Therapy

A medical treatment aimed at blocking the action of, or removing the hormones that stimulate prostate cancer growth.

Immunotherapy

A vaccine used to treat prostate cancer by stimulating the immune system.

Indolent

Slow growing.

Infusion Reaction

A type of allergic reaction that occurs in response to IV infusion of a medication.

K-Q

Ketoconazole

An antifungal medication that blocks synthesis of androgens (hormones that stimulate prostate cancer growth).

Laparoscopically

Referring to the use of a laparoscope, a thin instrument that is inserted into a body cavity through tiny incisions to inspect internal structures.

Levator Muscles

Muscles on the sides of the pelvic cavity.

LHRH Agonist

A type of medication that suppresses testosterone levels.

LHRH Antagonist

A type of medication used to block the synthesis of hormones that stimulate prostate cancer growth.

Lobe

A region of the prostate; the prostate is subdivided into the anterior/posterior lobes and the lateral/medial lobes.

Loss of Fertility

The inability to produce gametes (sperm).

Lymph Nodes

Small organs of the immune system that collect fluid from nearby structures and filter bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells from the body.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A medical imaging technique that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to take images of organs and structures in the body.

Margins

The areas at the edge of a surgical specimen.

Medical Castration

A type of hormonal therapy that uses medications to reduce levels of androgens (hormones that stimulate prostate cancer growth) in the body. See LHRH agonist; LHRH antagonist.

Metastasized

Referring to cancer that has spread from its original site to one or more other places in the body, such as the lungs, liver, lymph nodes, bones or other tissues.

Needle Biopsy

A procedure that involves removing a sample of tissue using a hollow needle.

Neutropenia

A condition that is characterized by an abnormally low level of infection-fighting white blood cells called neutrophils; associated with an increased risk of infection.

Oncotype DX® Genomic Prostate Score

A genomic test that analyzes certain genes in your tumor tissue in order to understand how they interact and function. The activity of these genes can influence the behavior of your tumor, including how slowly or how rapidly your tumor is likely to grow and spread.

Orchiectomy

Surgical removal of one or both testes, in order to stop the production of testosterone.

Pathologic Analysis

Evaluation of the appearance of a tissue sample under a microscope.

Pathologist

A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope. In the case of prostate cancer, the pathologist examines prostate tissue samples to detect the cellular makeup of the tumor, whether the cancer is localized or has the potential to spread, and how quickly it is growing. Information from pathologists can help the surgeon and oncologist confirm a diagnosis.

Pelvic Wall

Muscles that line and support the pelvic cavity.

Perineum

The area between the scrotum and anus.

Proctitis

Inflammation of the rectum and anus.

Prostate

A small, walnut-sized organ that surrounds the urethra just in front of the bladder just above the rectum; supplies substances that facilitate fertilization and sperm transit and survival.

Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA)

A protein that is produced exclusively by the prostate. Increased levels of PSA may be found in the blood of men who have prostate cancer or other prostate diseases such as BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) or inflammation of the prostate.

Prostatic Capsule

The outer anatomical boundary of the prostate.

PSA Test

A blood test used to check levels of PSA in the body.

R-Z

Radiation Therapy

A type of treatment that involves directing high-energy radiation to the prostate.

Radical Prostatectomy

Surgical removal of the entire prostate gland, including the prostatic capsule and lymph nodes.

Resected

Surgically removed.

Secondary Hormonal Therapy

A type of hormonal therapy used after initial ADT; involves the use of medications that further diminish the effects of hormones on prostate cancer cells.

Seminal Vesicles

Glands that secrete many of the components of semen.

Sipuleucel-T

A vaccine used to treat prostate cancer; involves stimulating a patient’s immune system to attack cancer cells.

Small Cell Carcinoma

A type of cancer characterized by relatively small cells; a very small percentage of prostate cancers are small cell carcinomas.

Stage

A description of the size of a tumor and how far it has spread.

Surgery

Act of performing surgery may be called a surgical procedure, operation, or simply surgery. In this context, the verb operate means to perform surgery.

Surgical-Castration

Surgical removal of one or both testicles in order to stop the production of testosterone; also called orchiectomy.

Ultrasound

An imaging technique that involves the use of sound waves to visualize internal structures.

Urinary Incontinence

The inability to control the flow of urine from the bladder.

Watchful Waiting (WW)

A 'hands-off' approach for men who are elderly or who have other major illnesses and are not candidates for curative therapy. It may be appropriate for men who do not have a long life expectancy or who are likely to die of other diseases before dying of prostate cancer.