Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test

Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test

Prostate-Specific Antigen is a type of protein, a glycoprotein made by the prostate gland in the male reproductive organ. This protein is produced in normal as well as cancerous prostate cells. A high PSA level can be an indicator of prostate cancer.


What is the Prostate-Specific Antigen Test?

Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test measures the level of this protein in the blood of men. Different level of Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) indicates prostate health. 

A Prostate-Specific Antigen test is usually done along with a digital rectal exam (DRE) to check for prostate cancer and determine the nature of the problem in men who are experiencing or not experiencing any obvious symptoms of the condition.



Why is the Prostate-Specific Antigen Test done?

PSA test is mainly performed:

  • To detect prostate cancer
  • Inflammation and infection of the prostate
  • To monitor the effectiveness of the treatment
  • To check recurring cancer
  • To detect the benign condition of the prostate.

Which age group of men is recommended for this test?

This test is usually recommended for men of age 50 and older. It is also recommended for men aged 40 to 45 with a family history of prostate cancer and other risk factors for prostate cancer screening. The Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test cannot be used as a diagnostic test for prostate cancer. This is done with the help of a prostate biopsy.

How to prepare for this test?

Men should avoid sexual activity for about three days before this test, as ejaculation can increase Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) levels. Riding the bike before the test can change the test results and should be avoided. Tell your health care provider about any recent needle biopsy of the prostate or cystoscopy, as these tests may raise PSA levels for a few weeks. Also, inform the doctor about any recently treated urinary tract infections, along with information about the use of drugs, supplements, herbs, illegal drugs, vitamins, and prescription drugs, before the test as it is an important consideration.

How PSA Test is performed?

A blood sample is drawn from a vein in your arm into a tube with sterile needles. The area to be pricked is cleaned with an alcohol swab before the blood is collected and covered with a bandage or small gauze pad after the sample is drawn. Risks of having blood drawn include bleeding, bruising, infection, feeling dizzy, hematoma (collection of blood under the skin), and multiple skins punctures when trying to locate the vein. Some people may have burning or stinging pain at the injection site. After a while, you may feel pain in the area. However, most of these symptoms will go away quickly.

PSA Test Results and Normal Range

Prostate-Specific Antigen test results are reported as nanograms of PSA per milliliter (ng/ml) of blood. Some of the healthcare providers in India use the following age group ranges to define the normal levels of Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA): 


40 to 49 years 0-2.5 ng/mL
50 to 59 years 0-3.5 ng/mL 
60 to 69 years 0-4.5 ng/mL
70 to 79 years 0-6.5 ng/mL

Abnormal results: Higher than normal Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) levels indicate the possibility of prostate cancer. Other conditions that can increase Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) levels in the blood include 

  • Recent tests done on the prostate, such as a biopsy, or on the bladder, such as a cystoscopy. 
  • Recent ejaculation or intercourse.
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia.
  • Urinary tract infection. 
  • Prostatitis (infection of the prostate). 
  • Recently, excessive doses of chemotherapy drugs have been placed in the bladder to drain urine. 

Men at high risk of cancer are given another Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test within three months, a prostate biopsy to confirm PSA results, and a prostate follow-up, which is called a free PSA (FPSA) may be required. If PSA levels continue to rise, a DRE test, urine test, cystoscopy, transrectal ultrasound, and X-rays may be recommended to determine the nature of the problem. If a man has high PSA levels without prostate cancer, the doctor may continue to perform PSA and DRE tests to monitor for any changes in PSA levels over time. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the prostate gland may be recommended to identify cancer in certain areas of the prostate gland that are difficult to see with a biopsy.


What are the benefits of the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test?

A Prostate-Specific Antigen test can help detect prostate cancer at an early stage. Cancer is easy to treat and if it is detected at an early stage, it has a higher chance of being cured. But to judge the benefit of the test, it is important to know whether early detection and early treatment will improve treatment outcomes and reduce the number of deaths from prostate cancer. A major issue is the specific course of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer usually grows slowly over many years. Therefore, it is possible to have prostate cancer that never causes symptoms or becomes a medical problem in your lifetime.


What is the risk of the Prostate-Specific Antigen Test?

The potential risks of a Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test are essentially related to the choices you make based on the test results, such as the decision to undergo further testing and treatment for prostate cancer. Risks include:-

  • Problems with the biopsy- A biopsy is a procedure that has its own risks, including pain, bleeding, and infection. 
  • psychological effect – False-positive test results (high PSA levels but no cancer on biopsy) can cause anxiety or distress. If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, but it appears to be a slow-growing tumor that doesn’t result in disease, you may experience significant anxiety knowing it’s there.

( Disclaimer: Information provided in this piece of article is purely for educational purposes only. All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s data to make an accurate diagnosis.) 

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