Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Men's Health

Font Size

High PSA Level? Check it Again

PSA Tests Can Produce False Positives; Repeat Test After Six Weeks Advised
WebMD Health News

This article is from the WebMD News Archive. For more information on this topic visit: PSA Levels

May 27, 2003 -- The PSA blood test is commonly used to check for signs of prostate cancer or other prostate problems. When a PSA level comes back high, the next step is often a biopsy. But a new study suggests another course of action: Another PSA test done more than a month later.

That's because PSA levels can fluctuate up and down -- so a man with a high PSA level may not actually have any prostate problems at all. In fact, after studying nearly 1,000 men, researchers found that about half of those whose PSA levels were initially high had a normal result in a subsequent test.

But unfortunately, says the study's lead researcher, James Eastham, MD, FACS, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the initial finding of an elevated PSA is enough to warrant one of three typical responses from doctors.

"The first scenario, and a common one, is that the patient is referred for a biopsy, which may be unnecessary and painful," Eastham tells WebMD. "The second is that the PSA is immediately repeated, within a week or so. But that will only take into account any possible lab error, since it's not enough time to get a handle on natural fluctuations. And the third scenario is that the patient is assumed to have inflammation or infection in the prostate, and put on antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs."

Instead, Eastham suggests taking no action until another test is done four to six weeks later -- a time period that he says allows for a natural decrease in fluctuating PSA levels.

"The bottom line is that the recommendation for a biopsy should not be based on a single elevated test result, and a second test shouldn't be given too soon after the first," he says.

In fact, even after a second test produced elevated PSA levels, biopsy detected prostate cancer in only one of four of study participants, according to Eastham's findings, published in the May 28 issue of TheJournal of the American Medical Association.

"But the study is unable to determine how many men with an elevated PSA level who later returned to normal still could have had prostate cancer -- subsequent 'normal' tests may actually have been false negatives," says Richard M. Hoffman, MD, MPH, of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

Today on WebMD

man coughing
Men shouldn’t ignore.
man swinging in hammock
And how to get out it.
shaving tools
On your shaving skills.
muscular man flexing
Four facts that matter.
Food Men 10 Foods Boost Male Health
Thoughtful man sitting on bed
Man taking blood pressure
doctor holding syringe
Condom Quiz
man running
older couple in bed