Glossary of Prostate Cancer Terms

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2017 | Last updated: February 2020

Prostate cancer and its care can be very overwhelming at times. Understanding medical terminology can assist you in your prostate cancer journey. Some of the most frequently used terms and their definitions are below. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of all important prostate cancer terms but is a good place to start for anyone seeking basic information.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia:

Enlargement of the prostate gland unrelated to prostate cancer. Also called BPH. BPH can have similar symptoms to prostate cancer, but is not cancerous, and often occurs because of the prostate’s natural tendency to get bigger with age.


Unregulated or abnormal cell growth. Cancerous cells build up to form a tumor, which can then spread to other parts of the body.


Someone who provides support and care to an individual struggling with a debilitating condition. Caregivers can provide many different types of support, from driving another individual to their doctor’s appointments, helping with chores, and much more. Caregivers can also be prone to depression and burnout if they do not have adequate support from others.

Castrate-sensitive prostate cancer:

Prostate cancer that does respond to hormone therapy or removal of the testicles (or Orchiectomy).

Castrate-resistant prostate cancer:

Prostate cancer that still grows even after hormone therapy or removal of the testicles. Also called hormone resistant or ADT-resistant prostate cancer.


Two or more conditions occurring at the same time. For example, if an individual has diabetes and prostate cancer, both conditions are considered comorbidities in that individual. Comorbidities can result from independent factors or can develop as a result of one another or a common factor.

Gleason score:

Used to assess the aggressiveness or predicted path of an individual’s prostate cancer. Lower Gleason scores represent less aggressive cancers while higher scores are more aggressive. An individual’s Gleason score can be between 2 and 10, and is the result of the two most common cancer cell types present, with the most common of the two cell types listed first. An example Gleason score could be 3+4=7 or 4+3=7, with the second score being slightly more aggressive than the first since the primary tumor cell type is a 4 rather than a 3.


A term used to describe aggressive cancers with high potential of invading other areas of the body.


When a malignant cancer spreads beyond its initial site to invade other parts of the body. The cancer may spread beyond the prostate into nearby structures, lymph nodes, or spread to distant organs or the bones.


Abnormal growths of tissue that are also referred to as tumors. Neoplasms can be cancerous or non-cancerous (benign).


A physician who is specially trained to diagnose and treat cancer.


The surgical removal of the testicles. Can be performed on one or both testicles. Often used as a method of hormone therapy since it essentially stops testosterone production. If both testicles are removed it’s called surgical castration.

Palliative care:

Medical care that focuses on making a struggling individual comfortable. Relies on a team approach of many physicians, counselors, health aides, and more, to provide support to both the individual and their family. Palliative care does not need to be related to in-home care or end-of-life care; it can be provided to an individual during any phase of their treatment, but these are common examples of when it is utilized (similar to Hospice care).

Perineural invasion:

When cancer spreads in the space around a nerve or multiple nerves.

Primary cancer/recurrent cancer/second cancer:

Primary cancer is the location in the body where a specific cancer starts and is represented in the name of the cancer. Prostate cancer is a cancer that starts in the prostate gland. When the primary cancer is treated and then returns, it is called recurrent cancer. When an entirely different cancer unrelated to the primary cancer develops, this is called a second cancer.

Primary therapy/adjuvant therapy:

Primary therapy is the main treatment used for a condition, while an adjuvant therapy is added onto the primary treatment to either provide further support, address other symptoms, increase the effectiveness of the primary treatment, or prevent the cancer from coming back.

Prostate gland:

Gland located between the bladder and the base of the penis that secretes a fluid that will eventually become a part of semen. The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system and functions to produce fluid to nourish and protect sperm cells.

Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test:

A common initial screening method for prostate cancer. Measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen in the blood. Typically, higher PSA levels are seen in individuals with prostate cancer.

PSA level:

Number of nanograms of PSA per milliliter (ng/ml) of blood
PSA density: The PSA level in comparison to the size of the prostate. It is calculated by dividing the PSA level by the size of the prostate (as measured by transrectal ultrasound-TRUS)
PSA velocity: Measure of how much PSA levels change within a given period of time
PSA Doubling time: The amount of time it takes for the PSA level to double

Prostatic Intraepithelial Neoplasia (PIN), Proliferative Inflammatory Atrophy (PIA), and Atypical Small Acinar Proliferation (ASAP):

Three common conditions found during a prostate biopsy. None of these are cancerous, but many believe that these are either pre-cancerous conditions, or are related to an increased risk of developing prostate cancer in the future.

Survivorship care plan:

Typically created after an individual undergoes treatment for a condition, like cancer, that can lead to the need to tailor the lifestyle to prevent the condition from returning or progressing further. Aspects of a survivorship care plan include a schedule of follow-up appointments and tests, signs and symptoms of progression or recurrence to watch for, potential late-developing side effects of treatment, and other lifestyle recommendations such as exercise plans, special diets to adhere to, and more.

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