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Defining Terms: Glossary

Taking control is easier when you know the details. Learn some common medical terms that will help you navigate your advanced prostate cancer journey. You will see these terms throughout the site and you may have already heard them from your health care team, so get familiar with them.  

Active Surveillance

May be a treatment option for some men with certain types of prostate cancer only. 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 tests, such as routine biopsies. If signs of disease progression are present, active treatment might be started. 

Adrenal Glands

Glands that sit on top of the kidneys that produce steroids and hormones, including five to 10 percent of a man’s testosterone.

Advanced prostate cancer

Cancer that has moved beyond the prostate region to the lymph nodes, bone or other parts of the body.

Androgen

Category of sex hormones that promote the development and maintenance of male sex characteristics.

Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT)

Treatment to suppress or block the production or action of male hormones. 

Antiandrogens

Drugs that block the action of androgens. 

Brachytherapy (internal radiation)

Placement of tiny radioactive “seeds” inside the prostate to attack the cancer.

Castrate level

Occurs when the level of a man’s testosterone drops due to surgical or chemical (drug) therapy.

Chemotherapy

Type of drug(s) that kill cancer cells.

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.

Gleason score

A scale from 2-10 that describes how closely the cancer cells resemble normal, healthy cells. In general, cancers with lower Gleason scores (2-4) tend to be less aggressive while cancers with higher Gleason scores (7-10) tend to be more aggressive. Cancers with intermediate Gleason scores (5-6) fall somewhere in the middle.

Immunotherapy

Treatment to boost or restore the ability of the immune system to fight cancer, infections and other diseases.

Investigational Treatment

Treatment that is still being evaluated through clinical trials and not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Metastatic Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer (mCRPC)

mCRPC is cancer that has spread to parts of the body other than the prostate, and it is able to progress and spread even though drugs or other treatments to lower the amount of male sex hormones are being used to manage the cancer.

Orchiectomy

Surgical removal of the testicles to stop or decrease the body's production of testosterone, a hormone that can help feed prostate cancer growth. 

Pelvic lymph node dissection

Surgery to remove lymph nodes in the pelvis for examination under a microscope to see if they contain cancer. Lymph nodes are small structures that work as filters for harmful substances, but can also collect fluid, waste material and substances that are in the body tissues.

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 (non-cancerous) conditions can also increase a PSA level.

Radiation therapy

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).

Radical prostatectomy

Surgery to remove the entire prostate gland plus some surrounding tissue to remove the cancer.

Recurrence risk

The risk of the return of cancer after treatment and after a period of time during which the cancer cannot be detected. 

Salvage Therapy

Treatment that is given after the cancer has not responded to other treatments.

Transrectal biopsy

The most common way of performing a prostate biopsy, a transrectal biopsy is performed by passing the needle through the wall of the rectum to collect tissue samples from the prostate. 

Transrectal ultrasound

Your doctor will insert a thin ultrasound probe into your rectum to create images of your prostate. Sound waves guide the prostate biopsy needle into place and help your doctor target suspicious areas.