What is a PSA blood test?

PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen. A PSA test is a blood test that is administered by a doctor primarily to screen you for prostate cancer. However, being given the test does not mean that you have cancer, only that it could be a possibility.

PSA is a particular type of protein that is manufactured by cancerous and non-cancerous cell tissue in your prostate gland. As well as being a possible indicator of the presence of prostate cancer, raised PSA levels can also be caused by an enlarged or inflamed prostate.

PSA testing and mental stress

PSA testing is considered somewhat controversial. While the test is like any other blood test and is only minimally and momentarily uncomfortable for most people at best, in some men it can cause mental stress. This is because men may then worry about the potential of having prostate cancer.

Although there is frequent discussion about a national PSA test screening program, to date, nothing has been approved. This is because of the worry factor just mentioned, and the fact that the tests, even when they indicate raised levels of PSA, are inconclusive. However, if you are diagnosed with an enlarged prostate, your GP may suggest that you have a PSA test as a precautionary measure.

The symptoms of an enlarged prostate

The actual cause of an enlarged prostate is not known. It is, however, linked to age and any changes in testicular tissue. The symptoms of an enlarged prostate gland include:

• Having a weak urine stream
• Feeling like your bladder isn’t completely emptying
• Experiencing difficultly when starting to urinate
• Having to urinate more often than usual – especially at night
• A stop-start stream when urinating
• Straining to urinate

If you report such symptoms to your GP, he or she will probably suggest that you undergo a digital rectum examination (DRE). It is after having a DRE that your GP may suggest that you take a PSA test.

Prostate cancer risk management

It was mentioned earlier that there is no national screening program. But for men aged 50 and over, there is something called prostate cancer risk management, which you can talk to your family doctor about. If you do opt to take part in this risk management program, your GP will give you further information regarding the pros and cons of PSA testing.

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