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On your advanced prostate cancer journey, it can be helpful to have a key for your roadmap to help navigate some of the medical terms you may encounter along the way. The My Prostate Cancer Roadmap Glossary provides definitions for terms that you may come across on your journey within this site, or perhaps ones you have heard from your healthcare provider or other sources.
A treatment option for prostate cancer that involves careful monitoring for signs that the disease has advanced and includes: periodic prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests, digital rectal examination (DRE) tests and other test such as routine biopsies, but not medical treatment.
Glands located near the kidneys that produce male hormones, including five to 10 percent of a man’s testosterone. In prostate cancer treatment, antiandrogens are used to block testosterone produced by the adrenal glands.
Category of sex hormones which stimulate activity of secondary male sex organs and encourage development of male sex characteristics.
Androgen receptors (AR)
A protein molecule that carries androgen’s “messages” — or instructions — to prostate cells. ARs are over-expressed in advanced prostate cancer contributing to prostate cancer growth even if androgen has been blocked.
Compounds that block the biologic effects of androgens, such as testosterone, produced by the adrenal glands.
Brachytherapy (internal radiation)
Placement of tiny radioactive “seeds” inside the prostate to attack the cancer; used for early stage prostate cancer that is relatively slow-growing.
Occurs when the level of a man’s testosterone drops by 90 to 95 percent due to surgical or chemical (drug) therapy.
Treatment with drugs that kill cancer cells. Side effects of chemotherapy, which kills fast-growing cancer cells but can also harm rapidly dividing normal cells, may include but are not limited to: hair loss, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and an increased risk of infection, bruising and bleeding. Most side effects generally stop when chemotherapy is stopped.
Digital rectal examination (DRE)
Insertion of a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum by a physician to check for hard or lumpy areas in the prostate through the rectal wall.
External beam radiation
Prostate cancer treatment in which radiation is focused on the prostate gland from a source outside the body.
Describes how closely the cancer cells look like normal cells after examination under a microscope, with cancer being less aggressive the closer it appears to normal. Gleason score is rated on a scale from 2–10; cancers with lower Gleason scores (2–4) tend be less aggressive and cancers with higher scores (7–10) tend to be more aggressive. A Gleason score report may consist of two numbers (eg, 3, 4). The first number is the grade assigned to the cancer type that is most numerous in the tissue sample. The second number is grade assigned to the cancer type that is the second-most numerous. To determine the total Gleason score, these two numbers are added together.
Therapy used to reduce levels of male hormones, or androgens (including testosterone), that feed prostate cancer growth. Hormone therapy can include surgery (orchiectomy) that removes the testicles which produce the majority of testosterone, or drugs such as antiandrogens that are given in conjunction with other medicines.
Androgen deprivation therapy
This is another term for hormone therapy, in which the goal is to reduce levels of androgens in the body.
Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists/antagonists
A type of hormone therapy that prevents the pituitary gland from releasing LHRH, which regulates the production of testosterone by the testicles.
Surgical removal of the testicles to stop the body’s production of testosterone, a hormone that can feed prostate cancer growth. Orchiectomy is not frequently used compared to treatment with drugs, but its effect on testosterone levels is used as a benchmark for the drop that should be achieved with the use of LHRH agonists.
Treatment to boost or restore the ability of the immune system to fight cancer, infections and other diseases.
Pelvic lymph node dissection
Removal and evaluation of lymph nodes near the prostate gland to determine if the prostate cancer has spread. Lymph nodes are small glands that fight infections but can also serve as vehicles for transporting cancer cells throughout the body.
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test
Measures the level of PSA, a protein produced by prostate gland cells, in the blood. Used as a screening tool, as prostate cancer or benign (not cancerous) conditions can also increase a PSA level.
Use of high-energy rays or particles to kill cancer cells. The two main types of radiation therapy are external beam radiation and brachytherapy (internal radiation).
Surgery to remove the entire prostate gland plus some surrounding tissue to remove the cancer.
An assessment of how likely it is that prostate cancer will come back, depending on a combination of factors that include prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level, Gleason score, and staging of the tumor. Recurrence risk is an important consideration when determining treatment options.
Insertion of needles through the rectum into the prostate to remove small tissue samples that are evaluated by a pathologist for cancer.
Insertion of a probe that acts as an ultrasound into the rectum to check the prostate for abnormal areas.