How Is The Psa Test Used In Men Who Have Been Treated For Prostate Cancer
The PSA test is often used to monitor patients who have a history of prostate cancer to see if their cancer has recurred . If a mans PSA level begins to rise after prostate cancer treatment, it may be the first sign of a recurrence. Such a biochemical relapse typically appears months or years before other clinical signs and symptoms of prostate cancer recurrence.
However, a single elevated PSA measurement in a patient who has a history of prostate cancer does not always mean that the cancer has come back. A man who has been treated for prostate cancer should discuss an elevated PSA level with his doctor. The doctor may recommend repeating the PSA test or performing other tests to check for evidence of a recurrence. The doctor may look for a trend of rising PSA level over time rather than a single elevated PSA level.
What Is The Test To See If I Have Elevated Psa
Healthcare providers use a blood test to measure PSA levels.
You may have a digital rectal exam together with a PSA test to check for signs of prostate cancer. During a DRE, your provider inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to check for bumps or other irregularities.
Depending on the results of your initial test, your provider may want you to repeat the test. PSA levels can change. A second test gives your provider more details about your prostate health.
What Is A Psa Test
The PSA test is the leading method of screening for prostate cancer. PSA screening can help catch the disease at an early stage when treatment may be more effective and potentially have fewer side effects. The PSA test may be done along with a digital rectal exam , in which a physician inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to examine the prostate for irregularities.
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Understanding Psa Test Results
28 August 2020
Medicare data suggests that up to 21% of Australian men aged 4574 choose to have a Prostate Specific Antigen Test each year, and about 19% of men aged over 74 also undergo testing.
While PSA testing helps to identify men with an increased risk of undiagnosed prostate cancer, and can help to diagnose prostate cancers earlier, it can also produce false positive results, and in some men picks up cancers that are so slow growing that they do not affect a mans life expectancy, a finding known as over-diagnosis. False positives and over-diagnosis can cause harm, which means men and their doctors need to carefully consider the pros and cons of testing, based on each mans age and other individual characteristics.
For men with no family history of prostate cancer and no symptoms, the current guidelines recommend that men who decide to undergo regular testing should be offered PSA testing every two years from age 50 to 69.
For men with a family history of prostate cancer who decide to undergo testing, the guidelines recommend men be offered PSA testing every two years from age 40/45 to 69, with the starting age depending on the strength of their family history.
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What is PSA?
Prostate Specific Antigen is a protein made in the prostate gland. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that sits below the bladder in front of the rectum. It surrounds the urethra, the passage in the penis through which urine and semen pass.
When Should I Have My Psa Levels Tested
The first thing to do is talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening before you decide whether to be tested. Donât get tested until you have that talk. Opinions differ about when you should do that.
The American Cancer Society says to get tested at age:
- 40 or 45 if youâre at high risk
- 50 if youâre at average risk
The American Urological Association suggests:
- Under 40: No screening
- 40 to 54: No screening if youâre at average risk. If youâre at a high risk, you and your doctor can decide.
- 55 to 69: Screening if your doctor suggests
- Over 70 or less than a 10-15 year life expectancy: No screening
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says:
- 55 to 69: Men with prostate cancer risks may need testing.
If your doctor thinks you might have prostate cancer based on either a PSA level or a rectal exam, a biopsy is the next step. This is a test where the doctor takes a small amount of tissue from your prostate and sends it to a lab for tests. Itâs the only way to be sure you have cancer.
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How Do I Prepare For A Psa Test
If your doctor requests that you have a PSA test, make sure that theyre aware of any prescription or over-the counter medicines, vitamins, or supplements you take. Certain drugs may cause the test results to be falsely low.
If your doctor thinks your medication might interfere with the results, they may decide to request a different test or they may ask you to avoid taking your medicine for several days so your results will be more accurate.
Problems With The Psa Test
There are reasons doctors donât agree on whether you need this test:
- Finding prostate cancer early doesnât always protect you. The PSA test often finds small, slow-growing tumors that arenât life-threatening. Treating them anyway, whether itâs with surgery or radiation, can expose you to harmful side effects and complications. Also, finding cancer early may not help if you have an aggressive tumor or if it spread to distant body parts before you found it.
- The results arenât always accurate. If you have a high level but you donât have cancer, the test results can create a lot of worry and lead to medical procedures you donât need. A negative result if you really do have cancer can prevent you from getting treatment you do need.
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What Is Psa Velocity And Psa Doubling Time
Change in PSA levels over time can be used to assess both cancer risk and aggressiveness of the particular tumor. Most urologists use these PSA metrics to help drive patient counseling and care. PSA velocity is defined as the rate of change in PSA over time. PSA doubling time is the time it takes the PSA value to increase by 100% . Although these two measures do not appear to be useful in determining who is at risk for prostate cancer, they do appear to be useful in monitoring some individuals with prostate cancer.
Psa In Other Biologic Fluids And Tissues
Concentration of PSA in human body fluids
|female serum||0.01 – 0.53|
It is now clear that the term prostate-specific antigen is a misnomer: it is an antigen but is not specific to the prostate. Although present in large amounts in prostatic tissue and semen, it has been detected in other body fluids and tissues.
In women, PSA is found in female ejaculate at concentrations roughly equal to that found in male semen. Other than semen and female ejaculate, the greatest concentrations of PSA in biological fluids are detected in breast milk and amniotic fluid. Low concentrations of PSA have been identified in the urethral glands, endometrium, normal breast tissue and salivary gland tissue. PSA also is found in the serum of women with breast, lung, or uterine cancer and in some patients with renal cancer.
Tissue samples can be stained for the presence of PSA in order to determine the origin of malignant cells that have metastasized.
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What Research Has Been Done To Study Prostate Cancer Screening
Several randomized clinical trials of prostate cancer screening have been carried out. One of the largest is the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, which NCI conducted to determine whether certain screening tests can help reduce the numbers of deaths from several common cancers. In the prostate portion of the trial, the PSA test and DRE were evaluated for their ability to decrease a mans chances of dying from prostate cancer.
The PLCO investigators found that men who underwent annual prostate cancer screening had a higher incidence of prostate cancer than men in the control group but the same rate of deaths from the disease . Overall, the results suggest that many men were treated for prostate cancers that would not have been detected in their lifetime without screening. Consequently, these men were exposed unnecessarily to the potential harms of treatment.
A second large trial, the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer , compared prostate cancer deaths in men randomly assigned to PSA-based screening or no screening. As in the PLCO, men in ERSPC who were screened for prostate cancer had a higher incidence of the disease than control men. In contrast to the PLCO, however, men who were screened had a lower rate of death from prostate cancer .
If Screening Test Results Arent Normal
If you are screened for prostate cancer and your initial blood PSA level is higher than normal, it doesnt always mean that you have prostate cancer. Many men with higher than normal PSA levels do not have cancer. Still, further testing will be needed to help find out what is going on. Your doctor may advise one of these options:
- Waiting a while and having a second PSA test
- Getting another type of test to get a better idea of if you might have cancer
- Getting a prostate biopsy to find out if you have cancer
Its important to discuss your options, including their possible pros and cons, with your doctor to help you choose one you are comfortable with. Factors that might affect which option is best for you include:
- Your age and overall health
- The likelihood that you have prostate cancer
- Your own comfort level with waiting or getting further tests
If your initial PSA test was ordered by your primary care provider, you may be referred to a urologist for this discussion or for further testing.
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In Men Over : Bph May Be The Cause Of High Psa
BPH is the most common prostate problem in men over age 50. It may not need to be treated unless its causing frequent or difficult urination.
Your primary care doctor may be able to tell the difference between BPH and prostate cancer by doing a digital rectal exam, but commonly this will require evaluation by a urologist and further testing, such as a biopsy or imaging studies.
What If A Screening Test Shows An Elevated Psa Level
If a man who has no symptoms of prostate cancer chooses to undergo prostate cancer screening and is found to have an elevated PSA level, the doctor may recommend another PSA test to confirm the original finding. If the PSA level is still high, the doctor may recommend that the man continue with PSA tests and DREs at regular intervals to watch for any changes over time.
If a mans PSA level continues to rise or if a suspicious lump is detected during a DRE, the doctor may recommend additional tests to determine the nature of the problem. A urine test may be recommended to check for a urinary tract infection. The doctor may also recommend imaging tests, such as a transrectal ultrasound, x-rays, or cystoscopy.
If prostate cancer is suspected, the doctor will recommend a prostate biopsy. During this procedure, multiple samples of prostate tissue are collected by inserting hollow needles into the prostate and then withdrawing them. Most often, the needles are inserted through the wall of the rectum . A pathologist then examines the collected tissue under a microscope. The doctor may use ultrasound to view the prostate during the biopsy, but ultrasound cannot be used alone to diagnose prostate cancer.
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Average Psa Test Doubling Time
Another red flag. This calculation denotes the time it takes your PSA values to double.
Therefore it may signify the aggressiveness of any prostate abnormalities, whether it’s an enlarged prostate, prostatitis, or prostate cancer.
If your average PSA readings double in less than three years your doctor will most likely order a biopsy, to look in to the problem further and discuss possible prostate cancer treatment options.
What Are The Risks Of A Psa Test
Drawing blood is considered safe. However, because veins and arteries vary in size and depth, getting a blood sample isnt always simple.
The healthcare provider who draws your blood may have to try several veins in multiple locations on your body before they find one that allows them to get enough blood.
Drawing blood also has several other risks. These include risk of:
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Positive Psa Score Association With Other Conditions
The amount of PSA in your blood test may increase with other prostate conditions such prostatitis, enlarged prostate , or within two days after ejaculation.
Rest assured, even though your results may be high, it doesnt necessarily mean you have prostate cancer. Just a greater risk of developing it.
What Is A Normal Psa
Most doctors agree that a normal PSA is between 0 and 4.0 ng/ml for the most common PSA tests. If your doctor uses a different PSA test, the results may be interpreted differently.
PSA is usually high in men with prostate cancer. However, some men may have high PSA in their blood and not have prostate cancer. That is why it is important to be seen by a urologic oncologist with experience in treating this form of cancer.
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Help To Continue The Work
The Prostate Cancer Free Foundation, reviews the results of hundreds of thousands of men treated for prostate cancer. Tracking them for years. This information is available to you, and others like you, to help find the best prostate cancer treatment. This work takes time, effort, resources all of it done by volunteers. Please help us continue. Please Donate!
Getting A Prostate Biopsy
For some men, getting a prostate biopsy might be the best option, especially if the initial PSA level is high. A biopsy is a procedure in which small samples of the prostate are removed and then looked at under a microscope. This test is the only way to know for sure if a man has prostate cancer. If prostate cancer is found on a biopsy, this test can also help tell how likely it is that the cancer will grow and spread quickly.
For more details on the prostate biopsy and how it is done, see Tests to Diagnose and Stage Prostate Cancer.
For more information about the possible results of a prostate biopsy, see the Prostate Pathology section of our website.
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What Do The Results Mean
High PSA levels can mean cancer or a noncancerous condition such as a prostate infection, which can be treated with antibiotics. If your PSA levels are higher than normal, your health care provider will probably order more tests, including:
- A rectal exam. For this test, your health care provider will insert a gloved finger into your rectum to feel your prostate.
- A biopsy. This is a minor surgical procedure, where a provider will take a small sample of prostate cells for testing.
If you have questions about your results, talk to your health care provider.
Learn more about laboratory tests, reference ranges, and understanding results.
Following Psa Levels During And After Prostate Cancer Treatment
A mans prostate-specific antigen blood level is often a good indicator of how effective treatment is or has been. Generally speaking, your PSA level should get very low after treatment. But PSA results arent always reliable, and sometimes doctors arent sure what they mean.
Before starting treatment, you might want to ask your doctor what he or she expects your PSA level to be during and after treatment, and what levels might cause concern. Its important to know that the PSA level is only one part of the overall picture. Other factors can also play a role in determining if cancer is still there, if it is growing, or if it has come back.
Its also important to know that PSA levels can sometimes fluctuate a bit on their own, even during or after treatment, so they may not always be a sign of what is actually happening with your cancer. Understandably, many men being treated for prostate cancer are very concerned about even very small changes in their PSA levels. The PSA level is an important tool to monitor the cancer, but not every rise in PSA means that the cancer is growing and requires treatment right away. To help limit unnecessary anxiety, be sure you understand what change in your PSA level might concern your doctor.
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What Causes An Elevated Psa Level
Prostate cancer is the main cause of an elevated PSA level. But PSA levels increase with age and can reflect different prostate conditions. Other factors that may raise a persons PSA level include:
- Prostate enlargement and inflammation .
- Urinary tract infection.
- Urinary catheter placement.
Your healthcare provider will also consider whether your medications affect PSA levels. For example, 5-alpha reductase blockers treat enlarged prostates and will lower PSA levels.
Factors That Affect Psa Levels
It is important to note that PSA levels can rise naturally with age, and that a number of benign conditions can also affect PSA levels, such as prostatitis , benign prostatic hyperplasia , urinary tract infection , or even injury to the prostate.
Other factors such as sexual activity right before testing, certain exercises, or even diet can impact the PSA levels as well. It is essential to consult a doctor regarding the meaning and next steps of your PSA testing results.
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