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What is the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test?
Prostate cancer can often be found early by testing the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood.
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland. The PSA test measures the level of PSA in the blood.
It is normal for men to have a low level of PSA in their blood; however, prostate cancer or benign (not cancerous) conditions can increase a man’s PSA level. As men age, both benign prostate conditions and prostate cancer become more common.
That is why screening for men over age 50 is encouraged, and men who are at a higher risk for prostate cancer will be advised to begin screening at age 40 or 45.
A man’s PSA level alone does not give doctors enough information to distinguish between benign prostate conditions and cancer. However, the doctor will take the result of the PSA test into account when deciding whether to check further for signs of prostate cancer.
Doctors often use the PSA test together with the DRE as prostate cancer screening tests. During a DRE, a doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum and feels the prostate gland through the rectal wall to check for bumps or abnormal areas.
These tests can help doctors detect prostate cancer in men who have no symptoms of the disease.
How are PSA test results reported?
PSA test results show the level of PSA detected in the blood. These results are usually reported as nanograms of PSA per milliliter (ng/mL) of blood.
Levels of 4.0 ng/ml and less are considered to be normal. Men with results higher than 10.0 ng/ml are considered to be at greater risk for prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia or between 4.0 ng/ml and 10.0 ng/ml can indicate prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia or prostatitis.
What if the screening test results show an elevated PSA level?
A man should discuss an elevated PSA test result with his doctor. There can be different reasons for an elevated PSA level, including prostate cancer, benign prostate enlargement, inflammation, infection, age, and race.