What You Need to Know about Cancer of the ProstateNationalCancerInstitute logo


abdomen (AB-do-men): The part of the body that contains the pancreas, stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder, and other organs.

adrenal glands (a-DREE-nal): A pair of small glands, one located on top of each kidney. The adrenal glands produce hormones that help control heart rate, blood pressure, the way the body uses food, and other vital functions.

antiandrogens (an-tee-AN-dro-jens): Drugs used to block the production or interfere with the action of male sex hormones.

anus (AY-nus): The opening of the rectum to the outside of the body.

benign (beh-NINE): Not cancerous; does not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body.

benign prostatic hyperplasia (hye-per-PLAY-zha): A benign (noncancerous) condition in which an overgrowth of prostate tissue pushes against the urethra and the bladder, blocking the flow of urine. Also called benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH.

biological therapy (by-o-LAHJ-i-kul): Treatment to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune system to fight infection and disease. Also used to lessen side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments. Also called immunotherapy or biological response modifier (BRM) therapy.

biopsy (BY-ahp-see): The removal of cells or tissues for examination under a microscope. When only a sample of tissue is removed, the procedure is called an incisional biopsy or core biopsy. When the whole tumor is removed, the procedure is called an excisional biopsy. When a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle, the procedure is called a needle biopsy or fine-needle aspiration.

bladder: The organ that stores urine.

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

chemotherapy (kee-mo-THER-a-pee): Treatment with anticancer drugs.

clinical trial: A research study that evaluates the effectiveness of new interventions in people. Each study is designed to evaluate new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of cancer.

cryosurgery (KRYE-o-SIR-jer-ee): Treatment performed with an instrument that freezes and destroys abnormal tissues. This procedure is a form of cryotherapy.

cystoscopy (sist-AHS-ko-pee): Examination of the bladder using a thin, lighted instrument (called a cystoscope) inserted into the urethra. Tissue samples can be removed and examined under a microscope to determine if disease is present.

digital rectal examination: DRE. An examination in which a doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for abnormalities.

dry orgasm: Sexual climax without the release of semen.

ejaculation: The release of semen through the penis during orgasm.

estrogens (ES-tro-jins): A family of hormones that promote the development and maintenance of female sex characteristics.

external radiation (ray-dee-AY-shun): Radiation therapy that uses a machine to aim high-energy rays at the cancer. Also called external-beam radiation.

genitourinary system (GEN-ih-toe-YOO-rin-air-ee): The parts of the body that play a role in reproduction, in getting rid of waste products in the form of urine, or in both.

grade: The grade of a tumor is determined by how abnormal the cancer cells appear when examined under a microscope, the probable growth rate of the tumor, and its tendency to spread. The systems used to grade tumors vary with each type of cancer.

hormone therapy: Treatment of cancer by removing, blocking, or adding hormones. Also called endocrine therapy.

hormones: Chemicals produced by glands in the body and circulated in the bloodstream. Hormones control the actions of certain cells or organs.

imaging: Tests that produce pictures of areas inside the body.

impotent (IM-po-tent): Inability to have an erection adequate for sexual intercourse.

incision (in-SIH-zhun): A cut made in the body during surgery.

incontinence (in-KAHN-tih-nens): Inability to control the flow of urine from the bladder.

internal radiation (ray-dee-AY-shun): Radiation therapy that is given internally. This is done by placing radioactive material that is sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters directly into or near the tumor. Also called implant radiation or brachytherapy.

intravenous pyelogram (in-tra-VEE-nus PYE-el-o-gram): IVP. A series of x-rays of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder. The x-rays are taken after a dye is injected into a blood vessel. The dye is concentrated in the urine, which outlines the kidneys, ureters, and bladder on the x-rays.

local therapy: Treatment that affects cells in the tumor and the area close to it.

luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone agonist (LOO-tin-eye-zing. . .AG-o-nist): LH-RH agonist. A substance that closely resembles luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LH-RH), which controls the secretion of sex hormones. However, LH-RH agonists affect the body differently than does LH-RH. LH-RH agonists eventually cause a decrease in the secretion of sex hormones.

lymph nodes: Small organs located throughout the body along the channels of the lymphatic system. The lymph nodes store special cells that fight infection and other diseases. Clusters of lymph nodes are found in the underarms, groin, neck, chest, and abdomen. Also called lymph glands.

lymphatic system (lim-FAT-ik): The tissues and organs that produce, store, and carry white blood cells that fight infection and other diseases. This system includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes and a network of thin tubes that carry lymph and white blood cells. These tubes branch, like blood vessels, into all the tissues of the body.

malignant (ma-LIG-nant): Cancerous; a growth with a tendency to invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

medical oncologist (on-KOL-o-jist): A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer using chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and biological therapy. A medical oncologist often serves as the person’s main caretaker and coordinates treatment provided by other specialists.

metastasis (meh-TAS-ta-sis): The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. Cells in the metastatic (secondary) tumor are the same type as those in the original (primary) tumor.

orchiectomy (or-kee-EK-toe-mee): Surgery to remove one or both testicles.

pathologist (pa-THOL-o-jist): A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

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

prognosis (prog-NO-sis): The likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery.

prostate gland (PROS-tate): A gland in the male reproductive system just below the bladder. It surrounds part of the urethra, the canal that empties the bladder. It produces a fluid that forms part of semen.

prostate-specific antigen: PSA. A substance that may be found in an increased amount in the blood of men who have prostate cancer or benign prostatic hyperplasia.

prostatectomy (pros-ta-TEK-toe-mee): An operation to remove part or all of the prostate. Radical (or total) prostatectomy is the removal of the entire prostate and some of the tissue around it.

prostatic acid phosphatase (FOS-fa-tays): PAP. An enzyme produced by the prostate. It may be found in increased amount in men who have prostate cancer.

radiation oncologist (ray-dee-AY-shun on-KOL-o-jist): A doctor who specializes in using radiation to treat cancer.

radiation therapy (ray-dee-AY-shun): Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses high-energy radiation from x-rays, neutrons, and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy) or from materials (radioisotopes) that produce radiation that are placed in or near the tumor or in the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy, implant radiation, or brachytherapy). Systemic radiation therapy involves giving a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that circulates throughout the body.

rectum: The last 8 to 10 inches of the large intestine.

recur: To occur again. Recurrence is the return of cancer, at the same site as the original (primary) tumor or in another location, after it had disappeared.

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

risk factor: Anything that increases the chance of developing a disease.

scrotum (SKRO-tum): The external pouch of skin that contains the testicles.

semen: The fluid that is released through the penis during orgasm. Semen is made up of sperm from the testicles and fluid from the prostate and other sex glands.

staging: Doing 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.

surgery: A procedure to remove or repair a part of the body or to find out if disease is present.

systemic therapy (sis-TEM-ik): Treatment that uses substances that travel through the bloodstream, reaching and affecting cells all over the body.

testicles (TES-tih-kuls): The two egg-shaped glands found inside the scrotum. They produce sperm and male hormones.

testosterone (tes-TOS-ter-own): A hormone that promotes the development and maintenance of male sex characteristics.

transurethral prostatic resection (TRANZ-yoo-REE-thral ree-SEK-shun): Surgical procedure to remove tissue from the prostate using an instrument inserted through urethral. Also called TURP.

tumor (TOO-mer): An abnormal mass of tissue that results from excessive cell division. Tumors perform no useful body function. They may be either benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

ultrasonography(UL-tra-son-OG-ra-fee): A study in which sound waves (called ultrasound) are bounced off tissues and the echoes are converted into a picture (sonogram).

urethra (yoo-REE-thra): The tube through which urine leaves the body. It empties urine from the bladder.

urologist (yoo-RAHL-o-jist): A doctor who specializes in diseases of the urinary organs in females and the urinary and sex organs in males.

vasectomy (vas-EK-toe-mee): An operation to cut or tie off the two tubes that carry sperm out of the testicles.

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