(This is the 2nd in a special two-part series discussing Prostate Cancer. See Part 1 of the series here.)
What is a PSA test?
This test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) – a protein produced by cells in the prostate – in the blood. High levels of PSA can indicate prostate cancer, but may also be caused by non-cancerous conditions such as inflammation or enlargement of the prostate.
Until recently, most experts encouraged annual PSA screening for all men beginning at age 50 or earlier. However, several organizations have cautioned against routine screening due to the possible risks associated with the test.
What are the benefits of PSA testing?
The PSA test is the most effective form of detecting prostate cancer early. When prostate cancer is detected in its earliest stages, like other cancers, treatments are more targeted and effective.
What are the risks of PSA testing?
PSA tests can produce both false-positives and false-negatives, meaning some men with increased PSA levels may not have prostate cancer and some men with prostate cancer may have normal PSA levels. A false-positive can create anxiety and lead to additional tests like a biopsy.
If it is determined that a man has prostate cancer, it can be difficult to determine if it will grow fast enough to lead to serious health problems or death, or if it will grow slowly and remain otherwise unnoticed. (Learn about more about prostate cancer here.)
What does this mean for me?
If you are concerned about prostate cancer, or if it is time for you to think about testing, talk with your doctor. Learn about the possible benefits and risks in order to make an informed decision and decide if testing is right for you.
The American Cancer Society recommends that men talk with their doctor at age 50, or at age 45 if you are African American or have first-degree relatives with a history of prostate cancer, talk to your doctor starting at age 45. The American Urological Association recommends that men talk with their doctor starting at age 40.
The key takeaway? Discuss your options with your physician. If you don't have a physician, let us help you find one.