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How Do You Test For Prostate Cancer

Use In Men Who Might Have Prostate Cancer

How to Test for Prostate Cancer | Ask a Prostate Expert, Mark Scholz, MD

The PSA blood test is used mainly to screen for prostate cancer in men without symptoms. Its also one of the first tests done in men who have symptoms that might be caused by prostate cancer.

PSA in the blood is measured in units called nanograms per milliliter . The chance of having prostate cancer goes up as the PSA level goes up, but there is no set cutoff point that can tell for sure if a man does or doesnt have prostate cancer. Many doctors use a PSA cutoff point of 4 ng/mL or higher when deciding if a man might need further testing, while others might recommend it starting at a lower level, such as 2.5 or 3.

  • Most men without prostate cancer have PSA levels under 4 ng/mL of blood. Still, a level below 4 is not a guarantee that a man doesnt have cancer.
  • Men with a PSA level between 4 and 10 have about a 1 in 4 chance of having prostate cancer.
  • If the PSA is more than 10, the chance of having prostate cancer is over 50%.

If your PSA level is high, you might need further tests to look for prostate cancer.

To learn more about how the PSA test is used to look for cancer, including factors that can affect PSA levels, special types of PSA tests, and what the next steps might be if you have an abnormal PSA level, see Screening Tests for Prostate Cancer.

How Do I Prepare For A Prostate Exam

Little preparation is needed before a prostate exam. However, be sure to let your healthcare provider know if you have existing conditions that could cause discomfort, such as:

Your healthcare provider may ask you to abstain from sex for 48 hours before your prostate exam. This is because ejaculation can cause your PSA levels to increase temporarily, which could affect your test results.

What Are The Prostate Cancer Symptoms I Need To Look Out For

In its early stages, prostate cancer may not show any symptoms. Symptoms of early prostate cancer can include:

  • difficulty passing urine
  • a slow, interrupted flow of urine
  • frequent passing of urine, including at night
  • incontinence.

Symptoms associated with advanced prostate cancer include:

  • blood in urine
  • pain during urination
  • lower back or pelvic pain.

These symptoms are also found in men who may have benign prostatic hyperplasia , a common, non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland.

If you experience these symptoms, visit your doctor.

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How Do I Get Tested

A general practitioner or an urologist can perform a full prostate cancer exam. This should include a PSA blood test and a digital rectal exam .

A Prostate-Specific Antigen blood test measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate. The levels of PSA in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer. The PSA level may also be elevated in other conditions.

A Digital Rectal Exam is a physical exam that is done when a doctor or nurse inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to estimate the size of the prostate and feel for lumps or other abnormalities.

Talk to your general doctor or urologist about receiving a prostate exam. If you do not have a doctor, do not have insurance, or cannot afford a test, find out what free screenings are available in your area on our Free Testing Map. If you do not see a free screening in your area, check back in the fall. Many screenings occur in September, during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Recent research has yielded additional tests that in addition to the PSA test and DRE and biopsy that can give a doctor more information on to determine the probability of both finding cancer during a biopsy and determining how aggressive that cancer is likely to be. Learn more here.

Can A Blood Test Determine If You Have Prostate Cancer

Screening for prostate cancer: What you should know about the PSA test

When it comes to prostate cancer, screenings play a key role in saving lives. Earlier detection when there are no symptoms leads to earlier treatment and better outcomes. And the good news is that many prostate cancer screenings can be done with a simple blood test. But thats just the start.

Learn more about how the PSA is the first step in the prostate cancer journey.

Understanding the PSA

For more than 20 years, there has been a blood test to monitor men for high levels of a protein called a prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, that is often associated with prostate cancer. Unfortunately, this test is not perfect many harmless conditions can cause heightened levels of this protein, leading to unnecessary tests and procedures that carry their own risk.

The uncertainty over the value of the PSA test led the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2012 to recommend it only be given to people at high risk of prostate cancer. Other groups, including the American Urological Association, opposed this decision at the time.

But that recommendation has been softened. Instead of advising against this test for most men, the task force now suggests that men aged 55 to 69 should talk to their doctor about its risks and potential benefits.

Dr. Vipul Patel, a urologist and robotic surgeon at the AdventHealth, calls that a step in the positive direction.

If youre over 50 years old, get PSA screening and get a rectal prostate exam, he says.

What the PSA Can Reveal

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Response To Public Comment

A draft version of this recommendation statement was posted for public comment on the USPSTF website from April 11 to May 8, 2017. A number of comments suggested that because men are now living longer, they should be screened beyond 70 years of age. However, the USPSTF considered other evidence in addition to data on life expectancy when recommending against screening in men older than 70 years, including results from large screening trials that did not report a mortality benefit for men older than 70 years and evidence on the increased likelihood of harm from screening, diagnostic evaluation, treatment, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment. Several comments requested a recommendation for younger men and for baseline PSA-based screening in men 40 years and older or 50 years and older. The USPSTF found inadequate evidence that screening younger men or performing baseline PSA-based screening provides benefit.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: All authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest. Authors followed the policy regarding conflicts of interest described at . All members of the USPSTF receive travel reimbursement and an honorarium for participating in USPSTF meetings.

What If A Screening Test Indicates The Possibility Of Prostate Cancer

If prostate cancer is suspected, a biopsy will be recommended. During this procedure, a physician inserts a hollow needle through the wall of the rectum to collect prostate tissue samples, which can be evaluated under a microscope for evidence of cancer.

Moffitt Cancer Center offers prostate cancer screening without referrals. To request an appointment with a specialist in our Urologic Oncology Program, call or complete a new patient registration form online.

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What Do The Results Mean

PSA levels may be above the baseline for various reasons other than prostate cancer.

Other that can raise PSA levels include:

Also, people with obesity may have lower PSA readings.

In addition, some medications may reduce PSA levels, including:

Some herbal medicines and supplements can also lower PSA levels. A person should tell their doctor about any medications and supplements they take before undergoing the test.

High PSA levels alone do not indicate cancer. However, if a DRE also reveals changes, a doctor may recommend a biopsy for a more accurate result.

Some newer tests the results of the PSA test. They can help assess the risk for people with borderline scores to decide if they need further intervention.

The Prostate Health Index combines the results of:

What Is A Normal Psa Test Result

What it’s like to go for a rectal screening for prostate cancer

There is no specific normal or abnormal level of PSA in the blood. In the past, PSA levels of 4.0 ng/mL and lower were considered normal. However, some individuals with PSA levels below 4.0 ng/mL have prostate cancer and many with higher PSA levels between 4 and 10 ng/mL do not have prostate cancer .

In addition, various factors can cause someones PSA level to fluctuate. For example, the PSA level tends to increase with age, prostate gland size, and inflammation or infection. A recent prostate biopsy will also increase the PSA level, as can ejaculation or vigorous exercise in the 2 days before testing. Conversely, some drugsincluding finasteride and dutasteride, which are used to treat BPHlower the PSA level.

In general, however, the higher a mans PSA level, the more likely it is that he has prostate cancer.

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Getting The Results Of The Biopsy

Your biopsy samples will be sent to a lab, where they will be looked at with a microscope to see if they contain cancer cells. Getting the results usually takes at least 1 to 3 days, but it can sometimes take longer. The results might be reported as:

  • Positive for cancer: Cancer cells were seen in the biopsy samples.
  • Negative for cancer: No cancer cells were seen in the biopsy samples.
  • Suspicious: Something abnormal was seen, but it might not be cancer.

If the biopsy is negative

If the prostate biopsy results are negative , and the chance that you have prostate cancer isnt very high based on your PSA level and other tests, you might not need any more tests, other than repeat PSA tests sometime later.

But even if many samples are taken, biopsies can still sometimes miss a cancer if none of the biopsy needles pass through it. This is known as a false-negative result. If your doctor still strongly suspects you have prostate cancer , your doctor might suggest:

  • Getting other lab tests to help get a better idea of whether or not you might have prostate cancer. Examples of such tests include the Prostate Health Index , 4Kscore test, PCA3 tests , and ConfirmMDx. These tests are discussed in Whats New in Prostate Cancer Research?
  • Getting a repeat prostate biopsy. This might include getting additional samples of parts of the prostate not biopsied the first time, or using imaging tests such as MRI to look more closely for abnormal areas to target.

Prostate cancer grade

Gleason score

How To Tell If Your Cancer Has Metastasized

Prostate cancer metastasis may be suspected if you have specific symptoms such as new lower back pain or elevated liver enzymes. These may be signs your cancer has spread to your spine or your liver, respectively. If your prostate-specific antigen levels continue to rise despite treatment, especially if they are rising particularly fast, this may be a sign that cancer is metastasizing somewhere in your body.

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When Should I Get Tested

Visit Am I at Risk? to learn more. All men are at risk of prostate cancer, so it is important to talk with your doctor to make an informed decision. Check out our recommended age and testing guidelines, which are based on the NCCN provided recommendations.

Detecting prostate cancer early gives you the best chance of living longer. In fact, more than 99 percent of men survive prostate cancer when it is caught early.

Watch prostate cancer experts, Dr. Lowentritt and Dr. Siegel in this video discuss detection and diagnosis:

Early Detection Saves Lives

PCA3 test for prostate cancer: What you need to know

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting Australian men .

Prostate cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the prostate gland. This gland is only found in males and is about the size of a walnut.

The causes of prostate cancer are not understood and there is currently no clear prevention strategy.

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Effectiveness Of Early Detection

Potential Benefits of Screening

To understand the potential benefits of PSA-based screening for prostate cancer, the USPSTF examined the results of the ERSPC, PLCO, and CAP trials and site-specific reports from 4 ERSPC trial sites. To understand the effectiveness of treatment of screen-detected, early-stage prostate cancer, the USPSTF also examined the results of 3 randomized trials and 9 cohort studies.3

The ERSPC trial randomly assigned a core group of more than 160,000 men aged 55 to 69 years from 7 European countries to PSA-based screening vs usual care.8 Four ERSPC sites reported on the cumulative incidence of metastatic prostate cancer. After a median follow-up of 12 years, the risk of developing metastatic prostate cancer was 30% lower among men randomized to screening compared with usual care . The absolute reduction in long-term risk of metastatic prostate cancer associated with screening was 3.1 cases per 1000 men.11 After a median follow-up of 13 years, the prostate cancer mortality rate among men aged 55 to 69 years was 4.3 deaths per 10,000 person-years in the screening group and 5.4 deaths per 10,000 person-years in the usual care group .8 The ERSPC trial did not find a reduction in all-cause mortality.8

Neither the ERSPC, PLCO, or CAP trials, nor any of the ERSPC site-specific analyses, found an overall all-cause mortality benefit from screening for prostate cancer.

Potential Benefits of Treatment

Should I Be Screened For Prostate Cancer

Since there are benefits and risks to prostate screening, you should talk with your provider to decide if screening is right for you. You and your provider should consider:

  • Your age. The risk of prostate cancer increases after age 50.
  • Your family health history. If members of your family have had prostate cancer, your risk may be higher.
  • Your race. Prostate cancer is more common in African Americans. They also have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer at a younger age and having more serious disease.
  • Your general health. Are you well enough to have treatment for prostate cancer if it’s found?
  • What you prefer. How do you feel about the possible benefits and harms of screening, diagnosis, and treatment?

NIH: National Cancer Institute

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What Is Prostate Cancer Screening

Prostate cancer screening looks for signs of cancer in the prostate. The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system. It lies just below the bladder. It makes fluid that is part of semen.

Prostate cancer is most common in people over age 50. It usually grows slowly and doesn’t cause health problems. In fact, it’s possible to live a long life with prostate cancer and never know you have it. But in certain cases, prostate cancer may spread to other parts of the body and can be very serious.

The goal of prostate cancer screening is to find prostate cancers that may be more likely to spread so they can be treated early.

What Does The Psa Test Involve

Tests to Diagnose and Monitor Prostate Cancer

The PSA test involves taking a blood sample and sending it to a laboratory for analysis. The results indicate:

  • Normal levels: Most healthy adult males have PSA levels below 4 nanograms per milliliter .
  • Borderline levels: PSA levels of 410 ng/ml are borderline. There is a 25% chance that cancer is present, and the person will usually need additional tests.
  • High levels: If PSA levels are over 10 ng/ml, there is a 50% chance that the person has prostate cancer. The specialist will likely recommend more testing, including a prostate biopsy.

It is important to note that PSA levels can naturally vary from person to person. A person with high levels may not have prostate cancer. On the other hand, about 15% of people who test positive for prostate cancer after a biopsy have PSA levels below 4 ng/ml.

Prostate cancer is not the only cause of high PSA levels. Find out more about the other causes here.

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Should I Have A Psa Test

If you have no symptoms of prostate cancer and are thinking about having a PSA test, you should ask your doctor about the risks and benefits.

While some studies suggest PSA reduces mortality on a population basis, the test picks up large numbers of cancers that would have caused no symptoms or harm in the patient. This is known as overdiagnosis. Overdiagnosis of prostate cancer can lead to unnecessary treatments that have side effects such as sexual impotence, urinary incontinence and bowel problems.

It is important to balance the potential benefit of detecting a prostate cancer early against the risk that detection and treatment may not be necessary. Treatment may affect your lifestyle but it may also save your life.

Make your own decision about whether to be tested after a discussion with your doctor. Ensure you get good quality information to make an informed decision.

Screening tests for breast, bowel and cervical cancer can save lives, but there is still confusion around PSA testing for prostate cancer. Find more information here.

Remember, if you have any concerns or questions, please contact your doctor.

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