Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)
A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test measures the amount of
prostate-specific antigen in the blood. PSA is
released into a man's blood by his
prostate gland. Healthy men have low amounts of PSA in
the blood. The amount of PSA in the blood normally increases as a man's
prostate enlarges with age. PSA may increase because
of inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis) or
prostate cancer. An injury, a digital rectal exam, or
sexual activity (ejaculation) may also briefly raise PSA levels.
Prostate cancer often grows very slowly, without causing major problems.
Finding prostate cancer early and treating it may prevent some health
problems and reduce the risk of dying from the cancer. But some treatments for
prostate cancer can cause other problems, such as being unable to control
urination (incontinence) or erection problems (erectile dysfunction). Some men may choose not to have
a PSA test or treat prostate cancer if it is found. For example, a man older
than age 75 who has no bothersome symptoms of prostate cancer may choose not to
treat the cancer if it is found, so he would not need a PSA test.
- Prostate Cancer Screening: Should I Have a PSA Test?
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Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.Prostate Cancer Screening: Should I Have a PSA Test?
Why It Is Done
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test
is done to:
- Screen men for prostate cancer. Experts
agree that PSA testing is not right for all men. If a PSA test is used for screening, it is usually done for men older
than age 50 or for those at high risk for prostate cancer, such as men with a
family history of prostate cancer, or for African-American men who have a
higher chance of developing cancer than other men. Since other common medical
conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis, can cause high PSA levels, a prostate
biopsy is needed to confirm a diagnosis of
- Check if cancer may be present when results from other
tests, such as a
digital rectal exam, are not normal. A PSA test does
not diagnose cancer, but it can be used along with other tests to determine if
cancer is present.
- Watch prostate cancer during active surveillance or other treatment. If PSA levels increase, the cancer may be growing or spreading. PSA is
usually not present in a man who has had his prostate gland removed. A PSA
level that rises after prostate removal may mean the cancer has returned or has