Home Glossary of Terms


The following preliminary Glossary of Terms are words and phrases the prostate cancer patient will see and hear when learning about the disease, diagnosis and treatments. A more full list can be found in Dr. Peter Scardino’s book described in the ‘Reference Information’ – Books section of the site.

Active Monitoring: A strategy for managing disease in which the patient is regularly examined but not treated until the disease shows signs of worsening.

Acute Prostatitis: An inflammation or infection in the prostate of sudden onset.

Acute Urinary Retention: A sudden inability to urinate.

Alternative Medicine: Approaches outside mainstream medical therapy that are promoted as viable treatment options but are unproven and could be harmful.

Androgen: A hormone that stimulates activity of male sex organs or promotes development of male sex characteristics. Tge orubcuoak abdrigeb us testosterone.

Androgen Deprivation Therapy: A treatment for prostate cancer in which surgery or, more commonly, drugs, prevent the body from making or using adrogens.

Androstenedione (Andro): A sterioidal hormone that the body can convert to testosterone. It is naturally produced in the testicles, adrenal glands, and ovaries, and has recently been declared a controlled substance by the FDA.

Antiandrogens: Medications used to block the effects of male hormones. A form of androgen deprivation therapy.

Apoptosis: Programmed cell death, the natural process by which cells self-destruct to make room for deprivation therapy.

Artificial Sphincter: A surgically implanted device that replaces the urinary sphincter to treat incontinence.

Benign: Not malignant, not cancerous, lacks the capacity to spread beyond the organ of origin.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH): Non-cancerous overgrowth of cells within the prostate. As the prostate enlarges, it may block the urinary stream.

Biopsy: The process of removing tissue from a patient to check for cancer. Also, a sample of tissue removed as part of this process. A ‘positive’ result means cancer has been detected.

Bladder: A muscular organ that stores and periodically empties (“voids”) urine.

Bone Scan: A medical test that uses trace amounts of radioscopes to detect the spread of cancer to the bones.

Brachytherapy (seed implants): A form of radiation therapy in which the radioactive material is implanted near ore inn direct contact with the tissue being treated.

Cancer: Any disease in which abnormal cells grow in an uncontrolled manner and have the potential to invade nearby tissue and spread to distant sites (metastasize).

Capsule: The soft, fibrous outer layer or “skin” of the prostate.

Castration: Blocking the production of testosterone by surgical removal of the testicles (see orchiectomy) or with drugs.

Cavernous (Erectile) Nerves: The erectile nerves that run along the left and right side of the prostate to the penis and control erections. Surgery or radiation therapy to treat prostate cancer can damage these nerves.

Chemotherapy: Cancer treatment involving one or a combination (“cocktail”) of drugs.

Chronic Prostatitis/Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CP-CPPS): The most common type of prostatitis, defined by symptoms that persist for three months or more with no evidence of bacterial infection of the prostate.

Cold Spot: In radiation therapy, an area that received a lower-than-intended radiation dose, inadequately treating cancer cells.

Comorbidity: A disease or medical condition in addition to the condition under consideration. For example, a urologist discussing a man’s prostate would consider his heart disease a comomorbidity.

Complementary Medicine: Supportive measures used in addition to conventional medical treatments to alleviate stress, reduce symptoms, and promote a feeling of well being, e.g. acupuncture, massage.

Cryotherapy (Cryoblation, Cryosurgery): A treatment in which prostate tissue is destroyed by freezing.

Dehydroepiandro Sterone (DHEA): A steroidal hormone alleged to reverse many effects of aging although its effectiveness and safety are doubtful.

Digital Rectal Exam (DRE): A screening test in which the physician inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to detect abnormalities in the prostate.

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT): A male hormone derived from testosterone that is required for development of the prostate and other secondary male characteristics (including male pattern baldness).

Dysorgasmia: Pain in the penis, scrotum, or perineum during orgasm.

Ejaculation: The sudden release of semen through the penis during sexual climax. (The semen is the “ejaculate.”)

Emission: The discharge of sperm and seminal fluid into the urethra during sexual climax.

Endorectal MRI (with Spectroscopy): A technique used to visualize the prostate and surrounding tissues using magnetic resonance imaging. A coil placed in the rectum permits greater detail and clarity. Spectroscopy detects chemical signals that distinguish cancer from normal tissue.

Erectile Dysfuntion (ED): A consistent inability to get or maintain an erection satisfactory for sexual intercourse.

Erection: A sudden inflow of blood to the penis that casuses enlargement and rigidity.

Estrogen: A female sex hormone.

Expressed Prostatic Fluid: Liquid removed from the prostate for diagnosis purposes during a digital rectal exam.

External Beam Therapy: A treatment for cancer that uses high-energy radiation from an energy source outside the body to kill cancer cells.

External Urinary Sphincter: The muscular structure that constricts the urethra below the prostate, retaining urine until the sphincter is relaxed. During ejaculation, the external sphincter relaxes while the internal sphincter constricts to allow release of semen through the urethra.

Extracapular Extension (ECE): Spread of prostate cancer outside the membranous covering (capsule) of the prostate.

Gleason Pattern: The degree of disorganization and cellular abnormalities of prostate glands expressed on a scale of 1 (nearly normal) to 5 markedly abnormal). Indicates aggressiveness of prostate cancer.

Gleason Sum (score): Used to describe the seriousness of prostate cancer; the sum of the most common Gleason pattern and the second most common Gleason pattern in a given cancer.

Grade: A description of a cancer based on how abnormal the cancer cells tend to appear under a microscope, ranked as low (nearly normal), intermediate, or high (markedly abnormal).

Gray (Gy): A unit designating a certain amount of radiation absorbed by the body during radiation therapy (formally known as rad).

Hematospermia: Blood in the semen.

Hematuria: Blood in the urine.

High-Grade PIN (prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia): Premalignant clusters of abnormal cells that have not invaded through the basement membrane of a gland. High-grade PIN is thought to be a precursor of cancer.

High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU): A treatment that destroys prostate cells using heat generated by high-frequency soundwaves.

Hormone: A signaling chemical produced in one organ that regulates the function of another.

Hormone Refractory: Prostate cancer that no longer responds to androgen deprivation therapy.

Hormone Therapy: See Androgen Deprivation Therapy.

Hot Spot: In radiation therapy, an area that receives a higher-than-intended radiation dose, causing damage.

Impotence: See Erectile Dysfunction.

Incidental Cancer: Small, insignificant cancer found when prostate tissue is removed to treat symptoms of BPH or as part of an operation for bladder cancer.

Indolent Cancer: A tiny cancer that poses no immediate threat to life or health.

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT): A form of external radiation in which the dose is highly targeted to the tumor, increasing effectiveness and decreasing side effects.

Internal Urinary Sphincter: Muscular structure of the bladder neck that etains urine in the bladder until it is voluntarily released.

Laprascopic Prostatectomy: Removal of the entire prostate and seminal vesicles through tiny incisions, using a laprascope.

Nerve Sparing: Radical prostatectomy in which the erectile (cavernous) nerves are spared.

Open Radical Prostatectomy: Removal of the prostate through an incision in the abdomen.

Partin Tables: Staging tables used to predict what the pathologist will find on examining the prostate after it is surgically removed.

Positive Surgical Margin: The presence of cancer at the edge of tissue removed during surgery. Suggests that some of the cancer likely remains in the body.

Prostate-specific Antigen: A protein, produced in the prostate, normally present in high levels in the semen. Elevated levels of PSA in the blood may indicate a problem in the prostate.

Prostatectomy: Surgical removal of the prostate.

PSA Nadir: The lowest level of PSA after treatment for prostate cancer.

Radical Prostatectomy: Surgery that completely removes the prostate and seminal vesicles.

Salvage Radiation: Radiation therapy to treat a cancer that has recurred after surgery or another initial treatment.

Seminal Vesicle: One of two glands, connected to the base (top) of the prostate behind the bladder, which secretes a component of seminal fluid.

Stage: Describes the size and location of a cancer and how large and extensive it is.

Transrectal Ultrasound (TRUS): Imaging technique in which the prostate is examined through an ultrasound probe inserted in the rectum.

Watchful Waiting: An approach to managing prostate cancer. Traditionally, watchful waiting meant to make no attempt to cure or regularly monitor the cancer. Today, the term is often used to mean deferral of treatment, though patients are actively, regularly monitored and treated when the cancer shows signs of worsening.