What is a PSA test?

A Prostate-Specific Antigen Test, or PSA test as it is commonly known, is used to diagnose prostate problems such as prostate cancer, prostatitis, or an enlarged prostate. The PSA test allows the level of PSA in the blood to be measured. PSA is produced by both normal prostate cells and prostate cancer cells. As men get older, the amount of PSA protein in the blood typically rises.

While a raised level of PSA might indicate an issue in the prostate, it might not mean that the problem is cancer.

Who is a candidate for a PSA test?

If you are a man over the age of 50, or are over the age of 45 and possess characteristics which suggest a higher risk of prostate cancer, you could be a candidate for a PSA test. These characteristics can include certain racial profiles or family history of the disease.

Confirmation of suitability for a PSA test will usually involve the checking of symptoms by a doctor, and an assessment of other serious health conditions which may negate the value of a PSA test.

What does a PSA test involve?

Prior to taking a PSA test, it is common for a doctor to talk through the advantages (such as early detection of prostate cancer or significant changes in the PSA level) and disadvantages (such as the chance that the PSA test could miss prostate cancer) of the test with the patient. The risk to the individual of getting prostate cancer can also be discussed.

The PSA test itself involves a sample of blood being taken, before being sent to a laboratory where it is tested and examined for normal PSA levels. The measurement of PSA in the blood will be represented by a reading of nanograms per millilitre of blood (ng/ml). A nanogram is the equivalent of a billionth of a gram.

A PSA test is sometimes combined with a urine test, for the purposes of ruling out a urine infection, or a physical prostate exam, also known as a digital rectal examination (DRE).

What can affect the PSA level?

While prostate problems such as prostatitis, prostate cancer and an enlarged prostate can cause PSA levels to rise, there are also a variety of other factors which can affect the PSA level. These include a urine infection, sexual activity, intense exercise, a prostate biopsy, a DRE test and certain medications, including over the counter medications.

For more information on the PSA test at Harrogate Urology, contact us today.