What Is Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)?
Urology Of Greater Atlanta
What Does PSA Stand For?
Prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, is a protein produced by normal, as well as malignant, prostate cells. This protein is produced naturally to keep semen in liquid form so that sperm can swim.
A simple blood test can measure how much PSA is present in a man’s bloodstream. When a man has prostate cancer, his PSA level increases.
However, the levels of PSA can rise due to many other reasons. If your PSA blood test is high then you should follow it up with your doctor.
What Causes PSA Levels to Rise?
In addition to prostate cancer, a number of benign (not cancerous) conditions can cause a man’s PSA level to rise. The most frequent benign prostate conditions that cause an elevation in PSA level are prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) (enlargement of the prostate). There is no evidence that these conditions lead to prostate cancer, but it is possible for a man to have one or both of these conditions and to develop prostate cancer as well.
Other factors that raise the test results are prostate biopsies, prostate surgery, or a urinary tract infection.
How is a PSA Test Done?
The PSA test is the most common prostate cancer screening tool. It measures the level of PSA in a man’s blood. A blood sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis. The results are usually reported as nanograms of PSA per milliliter (ng/mL) of blood. The PSA test is usually the first step in any prostate cancer diagnosis. However, the PSA screening by itself cannot tell you if cancer is present.
Another common screening test, usually done in addition to a PSA test, is a digital rectal exam (DRE).
In this test, your doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum to reach the prostate gland. By feeling or pressing on the prostate, the doctor may be able to judge whether it has abnormal lumps or hard areas.
These screening methods however do not give sufficient information for your doctor to diagnose prostate cancer. If you have abnormal results in these tests, it may lead your doctor to recommend a prostate biopsy.
During this procedure, samples of tissue are removed for laboratory examination. A diagnosis of cancer is based on the biopsy results.
What is Normal PSA by Age?
There is no specific normal or abnormal level of PSA in the blood, and levels may vary over time in the same man. In the past, most doctors considered PSA levels of 4.0 ng/mL and lower as normal. Therefore, if a man had a PSA level above 4.0 ng/mL, doctors would often recommend a prostate biopsy to determine whether prostate cancer was present.
However, more recent studies have shown that some men with PSA levels below 4.0 ng/mL have prostate cancer and that many men with higher levels do not have prostate cancer.
Generally, the higher a man’s PSA level, the more likely it is that he has prostate cancer. Moreover, a continuous rise in a man’s PSA level over time may also be a sign of prostate cancer. If you receive a prostate cancer diagnosis, your cancer care team will start a process called staging. The information will then help your doctors to know how best to treat the cancer.
For more Information
If you’re due for a prostate cancer screening or have concerns about your prostate health, call Urology of Greater Atlanta or make an appointment online today.