The prostate specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test. It can help find prostate cancer. PSA is a substance in semen. It is made by the prostate. It is normal for some PSA to leak from the prostate into the bloodstream. But more than a normal amount of PSA sometimes gets into the blood. The PSA test measures the amount of PSA in the blood. If the test shows higher than normal blood levels of PSA, other tests are needed to help find the cause.
Problems with the prostate may cause extra PSA to enter the blood. One is prostate cancer. But benign problems can also raise PSA levels. These include prostatitis (prostate infection) and BPH (benign prostatic enlargement). Having a prostatic massage or a prostate biopsy can also raise PSA in the blood.
A PSA test checks for prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that men have a chance to make an informed decision with their health care provider about whether or not to undergo prostate cancer screening. You and your doctor should discuss the pros and cons of thePSA test beginning around age 50, earlier if you’re at higher risk. A PSA test may also be done if a problem is found during a routine prostate exam. And it may be done if you have symptoms that suggest that you have a prostate problem. These symptoms can include having to urinate more often (especially at night) or feeling the urge to urinate more often. They can also include having to strain when urinating, blood in your urine, or pain.
If you and your doctor decide you should have a PSA test, a routine prostate exam may be done first. Then you’ll be sent to have your blood drawn for the PSA test. The test is done at a blood drawing station. This may be in the doctor’s office. Or it may be at a lab, clinic, or hospital. Blood is taken from your arm and sent to a lab to be evaluated.
The time it takes to get your test results varies. Ask your doctor when you can expect your results. When the results return, you and your doctor can discuss what they mean. A normal range for your PSA depends on a number of factors. These include your age and the size of your prostate. They also include your risk factors for cancer, your symptoms, and the results of any PSA tests you’ve had. All of these things are taken into account when your PSA tests numbers are analyzed.
Talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of PSA testing and regular prostate exams. Even if your PSA level is normal, you may still need regular prostate exams. If you are African American or have a family history of prostate cancer, talk with your doctor about PSA tests by age 40–45.