Prostate Cancer Glossary

Benign - Non-cancerous

Biopsy - The procedure that takes tissue samples from a site suspected for disease. The samples are studied with a microscope.

Biopsy slides - The tissue samples on the glass slides

Bone scan - A test that detects collections of cancerous cells in bones. Radioactive fluid is injected into the bloodstream, and is absorbed by the cancer in the bones. A picture is taken by film or computer screen so a doctor can tell where the cancer is growing.

Brachytherapy (bray-kee-therapy) - A treatment for prostate cancer where radioactive seeds are implanted in the prostate to kill cancer cells

Cancer - A word used for diseases when cells change and grow out of control. The cancerous cells take up room and resources that healthy cells would normally use. The cells can spread throughout the body through the lymphatic system and the bloodstream.

Cryotherapy - A treatment for cancer that freezes the tumor to kill cancerous cells

CT Scan - Computed Tomography Scan. Also called Computed Axial Tomography (CAT) scan. A computer combined with an X-ray machine takes pictures inside the body.

Cystoscopy - A procedure in which a thin, lighted camera is inserted into the anesthetized penis up to the bladder. It is used to detect abnormalities or growths in the urethra and bladder. It can aid in taking biopsies or performing surgeries to remove blockage.

DRE - Digital Rectal Exam. A screening test done to check for prostate cancer. The doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel the prostate through the rectal wall. This method enables the doctor to feel any nodules or thickenings in the prostate.

Dysuria - Painful urination

External Beam Radiation - A type of radiation treatment for prostate cancer that is applied outside of the body. A radiation beam is applied to the prostate region in order to kill cancer cells.

Gleason Score - A system developed to grade cancer cells into staging levels from least aggressive/least advanced to most aggressive/most advanced

Hormone therapy - A treatment used to delay the growth of prostate cancer cells and ease symptoms of advanced prostate cancer. It involves either blocking or removing the male hormone testosterone from the body via medication or surgery.

Laparoscopy - A minimally invasive surgical method by which the surgeon inserts a special scope with a tiny camera attached through small incisions (holes) in the body

Lymphatic system - The system of organs and tissues that produce, carry and store white blood cells for the body

Malignant - Cancerous

Metastasis - A group of cancer cells that has broken off the original site and moved elsewhere in the body

MRI - Magnetic Resonance Imaging. An evaluation using radio waves and a powerful magnet to show detailed images of the body. It can be used for soft tissues such as the spine and the brain. MRI creates better pictures than a CT scan or X-ray, because it can show both healthy and diseased tissues.

Orchiectomy - The surgical removal of one of both of the testicles

Palpable - When a tumor is large enough (no longer microscopic) for the doctor to feel it in a prostate with his/her finger during the Digital Rectal Exam

Pathology - Determining what kinds of cells are present to see if they are cancerous or non-cancerous

Prostate - A gland in men about the size of a walnut. It lies underneath the bladder and against the rectal wall. It provides most of the ejaculatory fluid in semen.

PSA - Prostate Specific Antigen. This is a protein released into the bloodstream from the prostate. A blood test measures the amount of PSA in the body.

Radiation therapy - A method of treatment where radioactive beams or materials are applied to a cancerous region in order to kill cancerous cells

Radical Prostatectomy - The surgical procedure that removes the entire prostate

Testosterone - The male hormone that stimulates prostate growth, as well as male characteristics and sexual function

Tumor - A collection of many benign or malignant cells

Ultrasound - A painless procedure to take live pictures of an area in the body. It bounces sound waves off the area to form a picture on a television monitor.

Urethra - The tube connected to the bladder, through which urine empties

Velocity - The rate of change from one PSA level to the next

X-Ray - A type of energy radiation. In low doses it can be used to see pictures of bones inside the body. In high doses, it can be used to treat cancer (see radiation therapy).


Central Scheduling: 612.672.7422

Provider Referrals: 612.672.7000

Administrative Offices: 612.884.0600

©2014 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.