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Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)

A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen in the blood. PSA is released into a man's blood by his prostate gland camera.gif. Healthy men have low amounts of PSA in the blood. The amount of PSA in the blood normally increases as a man's prostate enlarges with age. PSA may increase because of inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis) or prostate cancer. An injury, a digital rectal exam, or sexual activity (ejaculation) may also briefly raise PSA levels.

dplink.gif Prostate Cancer Screening: Should I Have a PSA Test?

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Prostate Cancer Screening: Should I Have a PSA Test?

Why It Is Done

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is done to:

  • Screen men for prostate cancer. Since other common medical conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis, can cause high PSA levels, a prostate biopsy may be done if your doctor is concerned about signs of prostate cancer.
  • Check if cancer may be present when results from other tests, such as a digital rectal exam, are not normal. A PSA test does not diagnose cancer, but it can be used along with other tests to determine if cancer is present.
  • Watch prostate cancer during active surveillance or other treatment. If PSA levels increase, the cancer may be growing or spreading. PSA is usually not present in a man who has had his prostate gland removed. A PSA level that rises after prostate removal may mean the cancer has returned or has spread.

How To Prepare

Before you have a prostate-specific antigen (PSA), tell your doctor if you have had a:

  • Test to look at your bladder (cystoscopy) in the past several weeks.
  • Prostate needle biopsy or prostate surgery in the past several weeks.
  • Digital rectal exam in the past several weeks.
  • Prostate infection (prostatitis) or an urinary tract infection (UTI) that has not gone away.
  • Tube (catheter) inserted into your bladder recently to drain urine.

Do not ejaculate for 24 hours before your PSA blood test, either during sex or masturbation.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

How It Is Done

The health professional taking a sample of your blood will:

  • Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.
  • Clean the needle site with alcohol.
  • Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick may be needed.
  • Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood.
  • Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.
  • Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
  • Put pressure on the site and then a bandage.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 30, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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