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Prostate Cancer Glossary  

Prostate Cancer Centre glossary of terms


A cancer that develops in the glandular lining of an organ. More than 95% of prostate cancers are adenocarcinomas.

Adrenal glands
glands located above the kidneys (one above each kidney). They produce several kinds of hormones, including a small amount of sex hormones.

Male sex hormones produced by the testicles and, in small amounts, by the adrenal glands.

A drug that blocks the action of male sex hormones.

The opening at the lower end of the rectum through which solid waste is eliminated.


Not cancerous: does not spread to other parts of the body.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia
A noncancerous condition in which an overgrowth of prostate tissue may push against the urethra and the bladder, blocking the flow of urine. Also called benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH.

Biological therapy
Treatment with substances called biological response modifiers that can stimulate the immune system to fight disease more effectively. Also called immunotherapy.

The removal of a sample of tissue for examination under a microscope to check for cancer cells.

The hollow organ that stores urine.

Bone scan
Pictures of the bones that can show areas of rapid growth that may be a sign of cancer. To create these pictures, a radioactive substance is injected into the bloodstream. The substance collects in any areas of rapid growth. A scanner can pinpoint these areas.

The implantation of radioactive seeds or pellets which emit low energy radiation in order to kill surrounding tissue


A general term for more than 100 diseases in which abnormal cells multiply without control. Center cells can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatics to other parts of the body.

Cancer that begins in the lining or covering of an organ.

Treatment with anti-cancer drugs.

Clinical trials
Studies conducted with cancer patients, usually to evaluate a promising new treatment. Each study is designed to answer questions to find better ways to treat patients.

CT or CAT scan
A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body produced by a computer linked to a x-ray machine. Also called computed tomography scan or computed axial tomography scan.

A lighted instrument used to look at the inside of the bladder.


The use of the differences between prostate cancer cells when seen under the microscope as a method to grade the severity of the disease

Digital rectal examination
The use by a physician of a lubricated and gloved finger inserted into the rectum to feel for abnormalities of the prostate and rectum

Doubling time
The time that it takes a particular focus of cancer to double in size

The use of hormonal or other forms of management to reduce the volume of prostate cancer in and/or around the prostate prior to attempted curative treatment

The use of hormonal or other forms of management in the attempt to lower the clinical stage of prostate cancer prior to attempted curative treatment (e.g., from stage T3a to stage T2b); this technique is highly controversial.

Urination which is problematic or painful.


An antiandrogen used in the palliative hormonal treatment of advanced prostate cancer and sometimes in the adjuvant and neoadjuvant hormonal treatment of earlier stage of prostate cancer.

The need to urinate often.


Genitorurinary system
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.


A chemical substance that is formed in one part of the body, travels through the blood, and affects that function of cells elsewhere in the body.

Hormone therapy
Treatment that prevents cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow. Hormone therapy for prostate cancer keeps the cancer cells from getting male hormones. Treatment may involve removing the testicles or giving female hormones or other drugs to prevent the production of male hormones or to block their effect on cancer cells.


Inability to have an erection.

A cut made during surgery.

Inability to control the flow of urine from the bladder.

Intravenous pyelogram
X-rays of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder taken after a dye is injected into a vein. Also called IVP.


Kegel exercises
A set of exercises designed to improve the strength of the muscles used in urinating


Local therapy
Treatment that affects a tumor and the tissue near it.

Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonist:
A substance that closely resembles LHRH, which controls the production of sec hormones. However, LHRH agonists affect the body differently than dose LHRH. LHRH agonists keep the testicles from producing hormones.

The almost colorless fluid that travels through the lymphatic system and carries cells that help fight infection.

Lymph nodes
Small, bean-shaped organs located along the channel of the lymphatic system. The lymph nodes store special cells that can trap bacteria or cancer cells traveling through the body in lymph. Also called lymph glands.

Lymphatic system
The tissues and organs that produce, store, and carry cells that fight infection and disease. This system includes the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes, and channels that carry lymph.


A procedure in which a magnet linked to a computer is used to create pictures of areas inside the body. Also called magnetic resonance imaging.

Cancerous; can spread to other parts of the body.

The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. Cells in the metastatic (secondary) tumor are like those in the original (primary) tumor.


Added before; for example, neoadjuvant hormone therapy is hormone therapy given prior to another form of treatment such as a radical prostatectomy

Nerve sparing
A term used to describe a type of prostatectomy in which the surgeon saves the nerves that affect sexual and related functions

The need to urinate frequently at night


A female sex hormone.

A doctor who specializes in treating cancer. Some oncologists specialize in a particular type of cancer treatment. For example, a radiation oncologist treats cancer with radiation.

Surgery to remove the testicles.


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

Referring to the area of the body located below the waist and surrounded by the hip and pubic bones.

Perineal prostatectomy
Surgery to remove the prostate through an incision made between the scrotum and the anus.

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

A male sex gland; it produces a fluid that forms part of semen.

An operation to remove part or the entire prostate.

Prostate-specific antigen
A protein whose level in the blood goes up in some men who have prostate cancer or benign prostatic hyperplasia. Also called PSA.

Prostatic acid phosphatase
An enzyme produced by the prostate. Its level in the blood goes up in some men who have prostate cancer. Also called PAP.

Hormone injection used to shrink the prostate administered monthly or 3 monthly.


Quality of life
An evaluation of health status relative to the patient's age, expectations, and physical and mental capabilities


Radiation therapy
Treatment with high-energy rays from x-rays or other sources to damage cancer cells. The radiation may come from a machine (external radiation therapy) or from radioactive materials placed inside the body as close as possible to the cancer (internal radiation therapy or radioactive seed implant).

Radical prostatectomy
Surgery to remove the entire prostate. The two types of radical prostatectomy are retropubic prostatectomy and perineal prostatectomy.

Rectal exam
A procedure in which a doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum and feels the prostate through the wall of the rectum to check the prostate for hard or lumpy areas.

The last 5 or 6 inches of the large intestine leading to the outside of the body.

Disappearance of the signs and symptoms of cancer. When this happens, the disease is said to be "in remission." Remission can be temporary or permanent.

Retropubic prostatectomy
Surgical removal of the prostate through an incision in the abdomen.


The external pouch of the skin that contains the testicles.

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

Doing exams or tests to learn the extent of a cancer, especially whether it has spread from its original site to other parts of the body.

Systemic therapy
Treatment that affects cancer cells throughout the body.


A male sex hormone.

Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP)
The use of an instrument inserted through the penis to remove tissue from the prostate. Also called TUR or TURP.

An abnormal mass of tissue.


A technique that uses sound waves that cannot be heard by humans to produce pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures created by a computer that analyses the echoes produced by the waves as they bounce off tissues.

The tube that carries urine or semen to the outside of the body.

A doctor who specializes in disease of the urinary organs in females and the urinary and sex organs in males.

V - Z

Watchful waiting
Active observation and regular monitoring of a patient without actual treatment.

Hormone injection used to shrink the prostate administered monthly or 3 monthly.

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