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Glossary - Prostate Health

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adenocarcinoma - a cancer that develops in glandular tissue, such as the prostate gland.

adjuvant treatment - treatment that is added to other therapies to increase effectiveness.

angiogenesis - the formation of new blood vessels.

angiogenesis inhibitors - drugs that signal the process of angiogenesis to stop.

antigen - a protein marker on the surface of cells that identifies the cell.

anus - opening at the end of the digestive tract where bowel contents leave the body.


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benign prostatic hyperplasia (also called BPH or benign prostatic hypertrophy) - an enlargement of the prostate. It is not cancer, but its symptoms are often similar to those of prostate cancer.

benign tumor - an abnormal growth that is not cancer and does not spread to other areas of the body.

biopsy - a procedure in which tissue samples are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope; to determine if cancer or other abnormal cells are present.


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CAM (Complementary & Alternative Medicine) - nonconventional approaches to healing, beyond tradition medicine. Complementary medicine is any form of therapy used in combination with other alternative treatments or standard/conventional medicine. Alternative medicine is used alone without recommended standard treatment.

cancer - general term for a large group of diseases (more than 100) all characterized by uncontrolled growth, invasion, and spread of abnormal cells to other parts of the body.

capsule - the layer of cells around an organ such as the prostate.

carcinoma - cancer that begins in the tissues that line or cover an organ.

chemotherapy - treatment with drugs to destroy cancer cells.

clinical trials - research studies to test new drugs or procedures or to compare current standard treatments (medications, procedures) with others that may be equal or better.

computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.

cryosurgery or cryoprostatectomy - freezing of the prostate through the use of liquid nitrogen probes guided by transrectal ultrasound of the prostate.

cystoscopy (also called cystourethroscopy) - an examination in which a scope, a flexible tube and viewing device, is inserted through the urethra to examine the bladder and urinary tract for structural abnormalities or obstructions, such as tumors or stones.


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diagnosis - identifying a disease by its signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings.

digital rectal exam (DRE) - procedure in which the physician inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to examine the rectum and the prostate gland for signs of cancer.


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erectile dysfunction (also called impotence) - the inability to achieve an erection and/or dissatisfaction with the size, rigidity, and/or duration of erections.

external urethral sphincter muscle - a voluntary and involuntary ring-like band of muscle fibers that you voluntarily contract when you want to stop urinating.

expectant management or therapy - "watchful waiting" or close monitoring of prostate cancer by a physician instead of immediate treatment.


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false negative report - a negative result when in reality it is positive in nature.

false positive report - a positive result when in reality it is negative in nature.

familial - a clustering of disease in a family with no specific inheritance pattern, but more cases than chance alone would predict.


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genetics - the study of how traits and disease are inherited from one generation to the next.

grading - a diagnostic process done in the lab with cells taken from the prostate to measure how aggressive the tumor is. The cancer cells are viewed under a microscope and graded based on how closely they look like normal cells.


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hormone therapy - the use of hormones, medications, or surgery to suppress (block) or mimic hormones and alter the growth of hormone sensitive cancer.


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impotence (also called erectile dysfunction) - the inability to achieve an erection and/or dissatisfaction with the size, rigidity, and/or duration of erections.

investigational new drug - a drug allowed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used in clinical trials, but not approved for sale to the general public.


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Kegel exercises - repeatedly tightening and releasing the pelvic muscle, in order to prevent urine leakage.


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laparoscopic lymphadenectomy - the removal of lymph nodes with a laparoscope.

lymph nodes - small glands located in many areas of the body that help defend the body against harmful foreign particles. Many cancers, including prostate cancer, commonly spread to nearby lymph nodes before reaching distant parts of the body.

lymphadenectomy - a procedure in which lymph nodes are taken from the body for purposes of diagnosing or staging cancer.

lymphangiogram - an X-ray that uses a special dye to determine whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.


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magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

malignant tumor - a mass of cancer cells that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant areas of the body.

metastasis - the spread of cancer cells to distant areas of the body by way of the lymph system or bloodstream.


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nerve sparing technique - a surgical technique during a radial prostatectomy where one or both of the neurovascular bundles controlling erections are spared.


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orchiectomy (also called castration) - the surgical removal of the testicles.

overflow incontinence - leakage of urine that occurs when the quantity of urine produced exceeds the bladder's capacity to hold it.


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palliative treatment - therapy that relieves symptoms, such as pain, but does not alter the course of the disease. Its primary purpose is to improve the quality of life.

pelvic node dissection - a procedure in which lymph nodes near the prostate are removed to determine if cancer has spread.

prognosis - a prediction of the course of the disease; the future prospects for the patient.

prostatalgia - pain in the prostate gland.

prostate - a gland in men that produces part of the fluid that makes up semen. It is about the size of a walnut and surrounds the neck of the bladder and urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. It is partly muscular and partly glandular, with ducts opening into the prostatic portion of the urethra. It is made up of three lobes, a center lobe with one lobe on each side.

prostate acid phosphatase (PAP) - an enzyme produced by the prostate that is elevated in some patients with prostate cancer.

prostatectomy - surgical procedure for the partial or complete removal of the prostate.

prostate-specific antigen (PSA) - an antigen made by the prostate gland and found in the blood; may indicate cancer in the prostate gland.

prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test - a blood test used to help detect prostate cancer by measuring a substance called prostate-specific antigen produced by the prostate.

prostatism - any condition of the prostate that causes interference with the flow of urine from the bladder.

prostatitis - an inflamed condition of the prostate gland that may be accompanied by discomfort, pain, frequent urination, infrequent urination, and, sometimes, fever.


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radiation therapy - the use of X-rays to kill cancer cells.

radical prostatectomy - surgery to remove the prostate along with the two seminal vesicle glands attached to the prostate.

radical retropubic prostatectomy - an operation to remove the entire prostate gland and seminal vesicles through the lower abdomen.

rectum - lower end of the large intestine, leading to the anus.


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sporadic - occurring by chance; a family history with only one affected individual at an older age of onset (not genetic).

staging - an evaluation of the extent of disease that provides the basis for making treatment recommendations.

stress incontinence - the most common type of incontinence that involves the leakage of urine during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy objects, or other body movements that put pressure on the bladder.


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testosterone - male sex hormone produced mostly by the testicles, although a small amount is made by the adrenal glands.

transrectal ultrasound of the prostate - a test using sound wave echoes to create an image of the prostate gland to visually inspect for abnormal conditions, such as gland enlargement, nodules, penetration of tumor through capsule of the gland, and/or invasion of seminal vesicles. It may also be used for guidance of needle biopsies of the prostate gland and guiding the nitrogen probes in cryosurgery.

transurethral surgery - surgery in which no external incision is needed. For prostate transurethral surgery, the surgeon reaches the prostate by inserting an instrument through the urethra at the tip of the penis. See below for different types of transurethral surgery.

transurethral hyperthermia - an investigative procedure that uses heat, usually provided by microwaves, to shrink the prostate.

transurethral incision of the prostate (TUIP) - a procedure that widens the urethra by making some small cuts in the bladder neck, where the urethra joins the bladder, and in the prostate gland itself.

transurethral laser incision of the prostate (TULIP) - the use of laser through the urethra that melts the tissue.

transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) - a surgical procedure by which portions of the prostate gland are removed through the penis.


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ultrasound (also called sonography) - a diagnostic imaging technique which uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function, and to assess blood flow through various vessels.

urge incontinence - the inability to hold urine long enough to reach a restroom. It is often found in people who have conditions such as diabetes, stroke, dementia, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis, but may be an indication of other diseases or conditions that would also warrant medical attention.

urinalysis - laboratory examination of urine for various cells and chemicals, such as red blood cells, white blood cells, infection, or excessive protein.

urinary incontinence - the loss of bladder control.

urinary tract infection (UTI) - an infection that occurs in the urinary tract; often caused by bacteria such as Escherichia coli. A urinary tract infection often causes frequent urination, pain, and burning when urinating, and blood in the urine.

urine flow study - a test in which the patient urinates into a special device that measures how quickly the urine is flowing. A reduced flow may suggest benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

urology - the branch of medicine concerned with the urinary tract in both genders, and with the genital tract or reproductive system in the male.

urogenital - refers to the urinary and reproductive systems.


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watchful waiting - close monitoring of prostate cancer by a physician instead of immediate treatment. Also called expectant management.


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