Prostate Problem Guide
How To Check For Prostate Cancer Using The PSA Test
One of the commonest tests for detecting the presence of prostate cancer is the prostate specific antigen, or PSA, test.
The PSA test is a simple blood test which measures the level of a specific protein produced by the prostate and indicates to your doctor whether or not there may be a problem with the prostate gland. Unusually high levels of the prostate specific antigen hormone will not in itself indicate the presence of prostate cancer, but it will show that there may be a problem with the prostate and suggest that it may be advisable to carry out further testing.
In some cases PSA testing is now included as part of routine medical examinations for men over the age of 40 and, for men with a family history of prostate cancer, may be carried out at even earlier ages. It is also becoming increasingly common for doctors to perform a digital rectal examination at the same time as the PSA test for men over the age of 50 as an additional physical check of the prostate gland.
In conducting the PSA test your doctor will take a sample of blood which is then sent to a laboratory for testing. The laboratory will then measure the level of the prostate specific antigen protein and report its findings back to your doctor.
If the results show an abnormally high level of PSA then, unless the level is especially high, your doctor may advise that this indicates a possible prostate problem which could be anything from a temporary prostate infection to an enlarged prostate or possibly prostate cancer.
At this point however, unless there are other factors which suggest that additional testing is needed, your doctor might well simply advise that the PSA test be repeated in a few months time to see whether or not your PSA levels are still elevated.
Many prostate problems are slow to develop and so repeat testing is frequently carried out over a long period of time with your doctor merely monitoring the results and charting what is sometimes referred to as the 'velocity' of your PSA. In other words, as long as your PSA levels are increasing, your doctor will monitor the speed of this increase until he feels that further testing is necessary.
There is some controversy surrounding the PSA test, not least because it does not provide a clear cut ‘yes’ or ‘no’ diagnosis for prostate cancer. Nevertheless it is an extremely valuable test for detecting early signs of problems developing within the prostate gland and is responsible for preventing many prostate cancer deaths each year.