PSA is a protein that is made in the prostate gland and secreted into the bloodstream. The levels of PSA can be measured through a simple blood test. Coupled with a digital rectal examination (DRE), PSA is currently the best test for early prostate cancer detection.
Very little PSA enters the bloodstream in men with a healthy prostate. There are several conditions in which the amount of PSA released may be increased. These include benign enlargement of the prostate gland (called BPH), older age, infection or inflammation of the prostate gland (called prostatitis), UTI, instrumentation or surgery on the urinary tract (such as with cystoscopy, catheter placement), and prostate cancer. Ejaculation may also temporarily increase the PSA for 24-48 hours, so abstinence from ejaculation before PSA testing is recommended.
There is no “normal” or “abnormal” PSA level. This is different for each individual, and interpretation of a man’s PSA level needs to take into account his prostate size (often estimated through the DRE) his family history, any symptoms he might have, as well as the trend of prior PSA levels (called the PSA velocity).
The decision to screen for prostate cancer is an important one that each man should make in discussion with his physician after weighing the risks and benefits. The PSA test has been proven in several studies to save lives, and, as the American Urologic Association (AUA) has stated, “provides important information on the diagnosis, pre-treatment staging, risk assessment, and monitoring of prostate cancer patients.”
Talk to a CUC physician today regarding PSA testing, whether it is right for you, and what options exist in your specific situation.