Prostate Glossary of Definitions

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Published: 2009/02/18 - Updated: 2023/02/27
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Synopsis: Definitions and terminology used to describe male prostate problems and prostate surgery methods. The prostate is a sex gland found in males. 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 glandular, with ducts opening into the prostatic portion of the urethra. It comprises three lobes, a center lobe with one on each side.


Prostate Gland

The prostate gland, or just the prostate, is a part of the male reproductive system, which includes the penis, prostate, seminal vesicles, and testicles. The prostate gland is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is about the size of a walnut and surrounds the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder). It produces fluid that makes up a part of semen. It has an average weight of about 11 grams in adults, usually between 7 and 16 grams. The part of the urethra passing through it is called the prostatic urethra, which joins with the two ejaculatory ducts. The prostate is covered in a surface called the prostatic capsule or prostatic fascia. The prostate gland is found only in some mammals and differs between species anatomically, chemically, and physiologically.

Main Digest

When a man reaches the age of 40, he should make an effort to have a formal prostate exam. Prostate diseases mainly affect men 50 and older due to changes in prostate size as we age. A PSA test measures the amount of PSA in the blood. Elevated PSA levels may indicate prostate cancer, a non-cancerous condition such as prostatitis, or an enlarged prostate.

Definitions and Terminology Describing Male Prostate Problems and Surgery

Cancer that develops in an organ's lining or inner surface.
Adjuvant treatment
Treatment that is added to other therapies to increase effectiveness.
The formation of new blood vessels.
Angiogenesis inhibitors
A chemical that signals angiogenesis to stop.
A protein marker on the surface of cells that identifies the cell.
Opening at the end of the digestive tract where bowel contents leave the body.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (Also called BPH or benign prostatic hypertrophy.)
An prostate enlargement caused by disease or inflammation. It is not cancer, but its symptoms are often similar to prostate cancer.
Benign tumor
An abnormal growth that is not cancer and does not spread to other body areas.
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.
CAM (Complementary & Alternative Medicine)
Non-conventional approaches to healing, beyond traditional medicine. Complementary medicine is any therapy combined with other alternative or standard/conventional medicine. Alternative medicine is used alone without recommended standard treatment.
General term for a large group of diseases (more than 100), all characterized by uncontrolled growth, invasion, and spread of abnormal cells to other body parts.
The layer of cells around an organ such as the prostate.
Cancer begins in the tissues that line or cover an organ.
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 combines x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices) of the body, both horizontally and vertically. A CT scan shows detailed images of any body part, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.
Cryosurgery or cryoprostatectomy
Freezing of the prostate through liquid nitrogen probes guided by trans-rectal prostate ultrasound.
Cystoscopy (Also called cystourethroscopy.)
An examination in which a scope, a flexible tube, and a viewing device are inserted through the urethra to examine the bladder and urinary tract for structural abnormalities or obstructions, such as tumors or stones.
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.
Erectile dysfunction (Also called impotence.)
The inability to achieve an erection and dissatisfaction with the size, rigidity, and 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.
False negative report
False positive report
A positive result when in reality it is negative.
A clustering of disease in a family with no specific inheritance pattern but more cases than chance alone would predict.
Fine needle aspiration
A thin, hollow needle is used to withdraw tissue from the body. For suspected prostate cancer, it may be used with trans-rectal prostate ultrasound.
The study of how traits and diseases are inherited from one generation to the next.
A diagnostic process done in the lab with cells taken from the prostate to measure how aggressive the tumor is. The cancer cells are measured by how closely they look like normal cells.
Hormone therapy
The use of hormones, medications, or surgery to suppress (block) or mimic hormones and alter the growth of hormone-sensitive cancer.
Impotence (Also called erectile dysfunction.)
The inability to achieve an erection and dissatisfaction with the size, rigidity, and duration of erections.
Investigational new drug
A drug allowed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used in clinical trials but not approved for sale to the general public.
Kegel exercises
Repeatedly tightening and releasing the pelvic muscle to prevent urine leakage.
Laparoscopic lymphadenectomy
The removal of pelvic lymph nodes with a laparoscope.
Lymph nodes
Small glands in many areas of the body help defend the body against harmful foreign particles.
A procedure in which lymph nodes are taken from the body for diagnosing or staging cancer.
An x-ray that uses a special dye to determine whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radio frequencies, 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.
The spread of cancer cells to distant body areas through the lymph system or bloodstream.
Nerve sparing technique
A surgical technique during a radial prostatectomy where one or both of the neurovascular bundles controlling erections are spared.
Orchiectomy (Also called castration.)
The surgical removal of the testicles.
Overflow incontinence
Leakage of urine occurs when the quantity of urine exceeds the bladder's capacity to hold it.
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
Lymph nodes near the prostate are removed to determine if cancer has spread.
A prediction of the course of the disease; the prospects for the patient.
Pain in the prostate gland.
A sex gland in men. 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 glandular, with ducts opening into the prostatic portion of the urethra. It comprises three lobes, a center lobe with one on each side.
Prostate acid phosphatase (PAP)
An enzyme produced by the prostate that is elevated in some patients when prostate cancer has spread beyond the prostate.
Surgical procedure for partial or complete prostate removal.
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. See our Prostate Specific Antigen Level Chart.
Any condition of the prostate that causes interference with the flow of urine from the bladder.
An inflamed condition of the prostate gland that may be accompanied by discomfort, pain, frequent urination, infrequent urination, and, sometimes, fever.
Radiation therapy
The use of x-rays to kill cancer cells.
Radical prostatectomy
Surgery to remove the prostate and 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.
The large intestine's lower end leads to the anus.
Occurring by chance; a family history with only one affected individual at an older age of onset (not genetic).
An evaluation of the extent of disease that provides the basis for making treatment recommendations.
Stress incontinence
The most common type of incontinence involves the leakage of urine during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting heavy objects, or other body movements that put pressure on the bladder.
Male sex hormone is produced mostly by the testicles, although the adrenal glands make a small amount.
Trans-rectal ultrasound of the prostate
A test using sound wave echoes to create an image of an organ or gland to visually inspect for abnormal conditions, such as gland enlargement, nodules, penetration of tumor through the capsule of the gland, and invasion of seminal vesicles. It may also be used to guide needle biopsies of the prostate gland and guide the nitrogen probes in cryosurgery.
Transurethral surgery
Surgery in which no external incision is needed. For transurethral prostate surgery, the surgeon reaches the prostate by inserting an instrument through the urethra. See below for different types of transurethral surgery.
Transurethral hyperthermia
An investigative procedure that uses heat, usually by microwaves, to shrink the prostate.
Transurethral incision of the prostate (TUIP)
A procedure that widens the urethra by making small cuts in the bladder neck, where the urethra joins the bladder and the prostate gland.
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.
Ultrasound (Also called sonography.)
A diagnostic imaging technique that 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 with diabetes, stroke, dementia, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis. Still, it may indicate other diseases or conditions that warrant medical attention.
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, burning when urinating, and blood in the urine.
Urine flow study
A test in which the patient urinates into a device that measures how quickly the urine is flowing. A reduced flow may suggest benign prostatic hyperplasia(BPH).
The branch of medicine concerned with the urinary tract in both genders and the genital tract or reproductive system in the male.
Refers to the urinary and reproductive systems.



Male anatomy picture showing location of the prostate gland.
Male anatomy picture showing location of the prostate gland.



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