Prostate Cancer

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Definitions

Advanced prostate cancer
Advanced prostate cancer is cancer that has spread beyond the prostate gland to the lymph nodes, bones or other organs of the body.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
BPH is not cancer. It is an enlargement of the prostate gland that may impede the flow of urine. BPH does not lead to prostate cancer, nor does it increase your chances of developing prostate cancer.

DEXA scan
A DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan measures bone mineral density to check for possible bone loss.

Gleason score
The Gleason score is a grading system used to evaluate prostate cancer cells taken during a biopsy. It is one way your doctors determine how aggressive your cancer is. The score can range from 2 to 10. The higher the score, the more aggressive the cancer is.

Grade
The grade is a way doctors rate how aggressive your cancer is. A pathologist looks at your cancer under a microscope and grades it, usually by using the Gleason score.

Hormone therapy
Hormone therapy is any type of treatment for prostate cancer that lowers a man’s testosterone or makes it ineffective. Hormone therapy can involve having surgery on the testicles or receiving medication by injection or in pill form.

Generally, though not always, hormone therapy is used to treat advanced prostate cancer. It works because usually prostate cancer grows best in the presence of testosterone and similar substances (all called androgens). It shrinks or grows more slowly without androgens.

However, hormone therapy, sometimes also called androgen ablation, rarely cures prostate cancer, and eventually the cancer will grow even without androgens. When this happens, the prostate cancer is labeled “hormone refractory.”

Laparoscope
The small video camera inserted into the patient during laparoscopic surgery.

Localized prostate cancer
Localized prostate cancer is cancer that has not spread beyond the prostate gland.

Low-grade cancer
A low-grade cancer is a less-aggressive cancer that is likely to be slow-growing.

Malignant
A malignant tumor is cancer. A benign tumor is a growth that is not cancerous.

Osteopenia
Osteopenia is low bone density. If not treated, it may result in osteoporosis. Osteopenia and osteoporosis can result from hormone therapy to treat prostate cancer.

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test
A PSA test is a blood test that is used (along with a digital rectal exam) to diagnose prostate cancer. The test is also used to determine if treatment for prostate cancer has been effective. The test measures the level of prostate specific antigen in your blood. High or rising PSA levels may indicate prostate cancer.

Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy is a procedure in which radiation is directed at a cancerous area, such as the prostate gland, in order to destroy the cancer. Generally, this radiation can be administered in one of two ways for prostate cancer:

  • External beam radiation therapy. Special X-ray machines aim radiation beams at the prostate from outside the body.
  • Brachytherapy. In this procedure, special “seeds” containing radiation are implanted directly into the prostate gland.

Radical prostatectomy
Radical prostatectomy is surgery to remove the entire prostate gland along with the seminal vesicles. This operation is used to treat prostate cancer.

Seminal vesicles
The seminal vesicles are attached to the prostate gland and are removed during a radical prostatectomy. They are glands at the base of the bladder that provide nutrients to the semen.

Simple prostatectomy
A simple prostatectomy is surgery to remove just the inside part of the prostate gland. It is usually used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Stage, staging
The stage of your cancer is an indication of how far it has spread—in contrast to the grade, which is an indication of how aggressive the cancer is. Staging will be done as part of your diagnosis to determine how extensive your cancer is within the prostate and whether or not it has spread beyond the prostate gland to the lymph nodes or other organs.