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Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)

How It Feels

The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.

Risks

There is very little chance of a problem from having a blood sample taken from a vein.

  • You may get a small bruise at the site. You can lower the chance of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes.
  • In rare cases, the vein may become swollen after the blood sample is taken. This problem is called phlebitis. A warm compress can be used several times a day to treat this.
  • Ongoing bleeding can be a problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and other blood-thinning medicines can make bleeding more likely. If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your doctor before your blood sample is taken.

Results

A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen in the blood.

The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.

Normal

Because normal PSA levels seem to increase with age, age-specific ranges may be used. But the use of age-specific ranges is controversial, and some doctors prefer to use one range for all ages. For this reason, it is important to discuss your test results with your doctor.

Total prostate-specific antigen (PSA)1

Men age 40–49:

0–2.5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL)

0–2.5 micrograms per liter (mcg/L)

Men age 50–59:

0–3.5 ng/mL

0–3.5 mcg/L

Men age 60–69:

0–4.5 ng/mL

0–4.5 mcg/L

Men 70–79:

0–6.5 ng/mL

0–6.5 mcg/L

High values

A follow-up test that measures free prostate-specific antigen (free PSA) may be used to see if a prostate biopsy should be done to check for cancer. Free PSA is prostate-specific antigen that is not attached to proteins in the blood. The lower a man's free PSA level, the more likely he is to develop prostate cancer.

Free prostate-specific antigen (fPSA)2

Percent free PSA

Probability of cancer

More than 25%:

8%

20%–25%:

16%

15%–20%:

20%

10%–15%:

28%

0%–10%:

56%

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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