Useful Terms for Understanding Prostate Cancer

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.


A hormone, such as testosterone, that promotes the development and maintenance of male sex characteristics.

Anti-Androgen Therapy

A prostate cancer treatment that reduces or blocks the activity of a male sex hormone.

Archived Tumor Sample

A tumor sample that has been routinely preserved and stored. Tumor tissue is commonly preserved for storage by being treated with a preservative called formalin and then embedded in paraffin (wax).

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

The benign (noncancerous) enlargement of the prostate gland, which can interfere with the flow of urine. Almost all men with normal hormonal function (those who produce the male hormone testosterone) will develop some enlargement of the prostate as they age.

Biochemical Recurrence (Also PSA Recurrence)

A rise in PSA levels following the surgical removal or radiation of the prostate, indicating that the prostate cancer may have recurred, or returned.


A procedure where tumor tissue is removed from the body for laboratory examination to determine whether or not cancer is present. A biopsy can be performed using a needle to extract a small piece of tissue or as a surgical procedure to remove a larger piece of tissue.


A hollow, muscular and elastic organ that collects urine excreted by the kidneys. Urine enters the bladder via the ureters and exits via the urethra.


A form of radiation therapy for prostate cancer. During the procedure, radioactive material sealed in seeds, needles, or catheters is placed directly into or near a tumor. The material remains in place permanently and becomes inactive after about 10 months. This technique allows for delivery of a high dose of radiation to the prostate with limited damage to surrounding healthy tissues. Also called internal radiation, implant radiation, or interstitial radiation therapy.


A condition in which abnormal cells divide without control or fail to die as part of a normal cell's lifecycle. Cancer cells can also invade nearby tissues and can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.


Treatment with cytotoxic drugs that destroy cancer cells (fast-growing 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.

Clinical Trial

A research study to test drugs, procedures or testing technologies to determine whether these are effective and/or safe.


A localized treatment option for men with prostate cancer. Cryotherapy involves the freezing and thawing of the prostate to destroy prostate cancer cells without affecting the structures surrounding the prostate gland, such as the bladder and rectum.


Identification of a condition, such as prostate cancer, by its signs and symptoms and the results of laboratory tests or other examinations.

Digital Rectal Exam (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.

Distant Recurrence

The spread of cancer to parts of the body other than the place where the cancer first occurred. In prostate cancer, the cancer can spread to locations such as the bones, lungs, and liver.

Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

The inability to have an erection of the penis adequate for sexual intercourse, also known as impotence. Although prostate cancer is not a cause of impotence, some treatments for the disease can result in impotence.

External-Beam Radiation

A form of radiation therapy in which the radiation is delivered by a machine pointed at the area to be radiated. May also be known as EBR, XBR, or external beam radiation therapy (EBRT, XBRT).


The functional and physical units of inheritance that are passed from parents to their children. The genes found in normal prostate tissue can change their “expression,” or activity, which can give rise to the growth and spread of prostate cancer.

Gene Expression

The level of activity of a gene or group of genes.

Gene Expression Profile

A picture of the activity or expression of multiple genes from a single specimen.


The study of genes and heredity. Heredity is the passing of genetic information and traits, such as eye color or an increased chance of getting a certain disease, from parents to offspring.


The complete genetic material of a living thing.


The study of complex sets of genes, how they are expressed in cells (what their level of activity is), and the role they play in biology.

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 a 2 to a 10, but a score of 5 or lower is rare, while a 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.

Hormonal Treatment (Hormone Therapy)

The use of hormone medications to treat cancer patients by removing, blocking, or adding to the effects of a hormone on an organ or part of the body. Hormone therapy may also include surgical removal of the testicles to prevent male hormones from further stimulating the growth of prostate cancer.

Human Genome Project

An international research and technology-development effort aimed at mapping and sequencing the entire genome of human beings.

Impotence (Also Erectile Dysfunction)

The inability to have an erection of the penis adequate for sexual intercourse. Although prostate cancer is not a cause of impotence, some treatments for the disease can result in impotence.


The inability to control the flow of urine from the bladder. Incontinence may be complete or partial, and can result from prostate surgery or radiation therapy for prostate cancer.

Laparoscopic Surgery

The use of tiny incisions and special instruments, including a laparoscope, to surgically remove the prostate, thus limiting the trauma and reducing the expected time to recovery after surgery.

Localized Prostate Cancer

Cancer that is confined to the prostate and has not spread to other parts of the body.


Tending to be severe and become progressively worse; a malignant tumor is one that has the ability to invade and destroy nearby tissue and/or spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.

Medical Oncologist

A medical expert who treats cancer throughout the body using chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and other drugs.

Metastatic Prostate Cancer

Cancer that has spread beyond the prostate to other parts of the body such as the lungs, liver, lymph nodes, bones or other tissues.

Nerve-Sparing Surgery

A technique for the surgical removal of the prostate without removing or cutting the neurovascular bundles controlling erections. This procedure is designed to spare the patient the side effects related to sexual dysfunction (impotence).

Newly Diagnosed

A term used to describe prostate cancer that has recently been identified.

Oncotype DX® Test

The Oncotype DX® tests are diagnostic tests, validated in clinical studies, that analyze certain genes within a patient’s tumor to provide individualized information on the aggressiveness of certain cancers, the likelihood of disease recurrence, or response to certain types of cancer therapy. For more information about the Oncotype DX® tests, please call: 855-677-6782 (855 6 PROSTATE).

Oncotype DX® Prostate Cancer Test

A biopsy-based genomic test that, when combined with other measures, can be used to predict the aggressiveness of a man’s prostate cancer, helping him and his doctor decide what treatment is right for him.


Surgery to remove one or both of the testicles in order to stop the production of testosterone.

Palliative Therapy

Treatment designed to reduce or relieve symptoms without curing the disease.


Physician who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

Pathology Report

A report ordered by authorized healthcare professionals that describes what was found in tissue removed from the patient’s body. The report is generated after the tumor and surrounding tissue are checked by a pathologist. It usually includes information on the tumor’s grade and stage.


The likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery or recurrence.

Prostate Cancer

Cancer of the prostate gland. Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in American men, after skin cancer, and is the second leading cause of cancer death in men.

Prostate Gland

A muscular, walnut-sized gland that is part of the male reproductive system. The prostate is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It surrounds part of the urethra, the tube that transports urine and sperm out of the body. It also secretes seminal fluid, which combines with sperm produced in the testicles to form semen.


An operation to remove part or all of the prostate.

PSA (Prostate-specific antigen)

A protein exclusively produced 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.

PSA Recurrence (Also see Biochemical Recurrence)

A rise in PSA levels following the surgical removal or radiation of the prostate, indicating that the prostate cancer may have recurred, or returned.

Proton Beam Therapy

A type of radiation therapy that uses protons to kill tumor cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissue.

Radiation Oncologist

A medical expert who treats cancer using localized radiation therapy.

Radiation Therapy

The use of radiation to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used before or after surgery, and is sometimes used in combination with chemotherapy. Radiation is used for local control of the cancer at the site of the tumor.

Radical Prostatectomy

The surgical removal of the entire prostate and some of the tissue around it.


The last several inches of the large intestine that ends at the anus.


The return of cancer after treatment. This can be either local (at the site of the original tumor), or distant (beyond the original site).

Robotic surgery

A form of laparoscopic surgery that uses a robotic machine to assist the surgeon (known as da Vinci® surgery). The surgeon controls the robotic system at a video console in the operating room.


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.

Side Effect

A problem that occurs when treatment affects tissues or organs other than the ones being treated. Side effects of prostate cancer treatment may include urinary, bowel and sexual problems.


A hormone primarily produced by the testis (testicles) that promotes the development and maintenance of male sex characteristics.

Transrectal Biopsy

A procedure in which a sample of tissue is removed from the prostate using a thin needle that is inserted through the rectum and into the prostate. Transrectal ultrasound is used to guide the needle. The sample is examined under a microscope to see if it contains cancer.

Transrectal Ultrasound (TRUS)

A procedure in which a probe that sends out high-energy sound waves is inserted a short distance into the rectum. This probe produces harmless high-frequency sound waves that bounce off the surface of the prostate, providing images (sonograms) that help the doctor detect any abnormal growths or lesions. Also called endorectal ultrasound.

Treatment Monitoring

An ongoing and frequent assessment by the medical team, during the time of treatment, to monitor how the patient is tolerating the treatment and how the cancer is responding.


Tissue growth where the cells that make up the tissue have multiplied uncontrollably. A tumor can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Tumor Stage

This is a number that refers to the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread. Tumor stage, expressed as the tumor T score, is one of many factors that, when used in combination, can indicate how aggressive a patient’s cancer is.


The tube that transports urine and semen out of the body through the tip of the penis.


Oversees your healthcare team during diagnosis and treatment, conducts active surveillance, performs surgery and manages hormonal therapy regimens. Some may also manage chemotherapy.

Watchful Waiting

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.