The PSA test is one of the investigations that can be performed to diagnose prostate conditions such as prostate cancer. It is a simple blood test that can reveal whether your prostate is larger or more active than usual.
The PSA test measures a substance called Prostate Specific Antigen in your blood. PSA is a protein that is produced in your prostate. Some of this PSA escapes into your bloodstream and can be detected by the PSA test.
It is normal to have some PSA in your blood and the level usually rises as men get older. However, if the PSA level is higher than expected for your age it can be a sign of prostate enlargement or prostate cancer.
A bigger prostate will produce more PSA so the level in your blood will be higher if you have benign prostate enlargement. Prostate cancer cells can also produce more PSA than healthy prostate cells, so higher levels of PSA can be a sign of prostate cancer.
High PSA levels can also occur if you have a condition called prostatitis, which is an infection or inflammation of the prostate gland.
The PSA test is a blood test. The doctor will usually take a small sample of blood from a vessel near your elbow. The sample will then be sent to the lab so your PSA levels can be tested. It can take a few days for the results to come back.
The PSA test isn’t routinely offered for prostate cancer screening in the UK but you can arrange the test privately if you think you might be at risk. Your urologist may also recommend the PSA test if you’re experiencing symptoms that could be linked to a prostate problem.
The most common reasons for having a PSA test are:
Screening isn’t necessary for all men so it is important to discuss the pros and cons of having the PSA test with your urologist.
The PSA test can reveal whether your PSA levels are higher than normal, but it can’t reveal what is causing this rise. You could have an infection, an enlarged prostate, or prostate cancer. The doctor will need to take your symptoms, other test results, and the risk factors for prostate cancer into account in order to identify the cause.
The PSA test can be an important tool for the detection of prostate cancer but it is important to be aware of the limitations. The PSA test can’t detect all prostate cancers and high PSA levels aren’t always a sign of something serious. Your PSA levels can be affected by exercise, urinary infections, or sexual activity.
You will need to discuss the results in detail with your doctor in order to understand exactly what they mean for your health.
If your PSA test results are within the normal range for your test then you might not need to take any further action. However, your doctor might recommend additional tests if you are experiencing symptoms such as urinary problems.
If your PSA levels are elevated then you might need to have more tests to work out the cause. You might have another PSA test to confirm that your PSA levels remain high. You might also need a prostate exam to check for enlargement, a testicular ultrasound, or a biopsy to remove part of the prostate so it can be tested for cancer.
The results of these tests should reveal whether your high PSA levels are due to prostatitis, benign prostate enlargement or prostate cancer. If you are diagnosed with one of these conditions then your doctor might recommend medication or lifestyle changes to relieve the symptoms. In some cases surgery may be needed to improve your symptoms or to remove prostate cancer.
If you would like to arrange a PSA test in London then you can make an appointment with Mark Feneley. He can also advise on your test results and provide additional tests and treatment as necessary.
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