Prostate-Specific Antigen

Other names: Complex PSA; PSA; Total PSA; Free PSA; PSA

PSA is a protein, which is produced by cells in the prostate gland; the test can be a useful marker for prostate cancer. PSA is present in all males but higher levels may indicate problems with the prostate gland.

Why is the test used?

PSA is used to help doctors detect the presence of prostate cancer. The test is also used to monitor patients who have already been diagnosed with the condition.

The test is usually ordered when a patient has symptoms of prostate cancer, including frequent urination and difficulty passing urine. The test is not usually recommended as a screening test but it may be recommended for those who have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer; these people include those with a family history of prostate cancer and people with African-American or Afro-Caribbean heritage.

How is the test done?

The test is done by taking a sample of blood from a vein in the patient’s arm (usually on the inside of the elbow); a needle in inserted into the vein and the blood is collected in a syringe. Once the sample has been collected, the blood will be placed in a bottle, labelled with the patient’s name and sent to the laboratory for evaluation.

The patient will usually be advised to avoid strenuous physical activity 48 hours before the test; the patient will also be advised to avoid ejaculating during this period of time. The blood test is usually carried out at least 10 days after the digital rectal examination.

What do the test results mean?

If levels of PSA are higher than normal, this may indicate that an individual has higher risk of developing prostate cancer. The normal level of PSA is under 3.0 nanograms per millilitre for men under the age of 60, under 4.0 nanograms per millilitre for men aged between 60 and 69 and less than 5.0 nanograms per millilitre for men aged over 70. Increased levels may be due to non-cancerous swelling of the prostate and further examinations will be carried out; an inflammatory condition known as prostatitis may also cause levels to rise.

Specific Blood Tests

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