PSA Test: Advantages and Disadvantages, What to Expect, and What Happens After Testing for Prostate Cancer

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

A PSA test is a blood test that analyzes the amount of prostate specific antigen or PSA in the blood. PSA is a type of protein produced by the prostate gland. Although a small amount of PSA is normal among men, the level increases as you get older. An elevated level of PSA does not automatically mean you have prostate cancer. It could indicate a number of health anomalies:

  • An enlarged prostate
  • Infection of the prostate
  • Urine infection
  • Prostate cancer

After the test, your doctors will determine the factors that could be elevating the PSA level in the blood.

How PSA is Measured?

The level of PSA in the blood is measured in nanograms of PSA per milliliter of blood or NG/ML. The level of PSA per milliliter can range from 1 to 100.

For individuals aged 50 to 59, the PSA is considered high if it’s 3ng/ml or higher. For individuals aged 60 to 69, the PSA level is considered high if it’s 4ng/ml or higher. Finally for individuals aged 70 and over, the PSA level is considered high if it’s 5ng/ml or higher

The Advantages of a PSA Test

Early Detection of Cancer

Early detection is critical in treating cancer. When it’s detected and treated early, the disease may not progress at all. This raises the survival rate of prostate cancer.

Monitoring the Disease

A slow-growing prostate cancer may not require treatment. Through a PSA test, you and your doctor can track the progress of the disease. Your doctor can adjust the treatment according to your condition and its side-effects.

Cuts the Risk of Prostate Cancer

Through testing, you can spot any changes in your PSA level. From there, you can discuss various options to minimize the risk of cancer. Again, there are instances wherein an elevated PSA does not mean you have prostate cancer. In fact, 76% of men with a raised PSA level don’t suffer from prostate cancer. But a PSA test may help treat the underlying condition that boosts PSA level in the blood.

The Disadvantages of a PSA Test

More Tests

If say, you have raised PSA level, you’ll have to go through several other tests to determine the cause of the anomaly. For example, you will be asked to get a biopsy. And a biopsy carries some risks, including infection and pain.

It’s Not 100% Accurate

Yes, PSA test is not 100% accurate. 2% of men who took PSA tests suffered from prostate cancer even if their PSA level is normal.

Lengthy Treatment for Slow-Growing Prostate Cancer

Being diagnosed with slow-growing prostate cancer will affect your daily life. You’ll have to go through treatments that could shorten your life or cause other health problems. The fact is, as long as the cancer is not aggressive (slow-growing) you don’t need to get treatment.

What to Expect After the Test

If you have normal PSA level, no action is needed. However, you’ll need to take another test in the future. If it’s slightly raised, you probably don’t have cancer. But again, you’ll have to take the test several times in the future.

A raised PSA level could be a sign of cancer. You’ll have to see a specialist for further testing. Your doctor could perform a DRE, an examination of the prostate gland. If the gland feels normal, then you don’t have prostate cancer.

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