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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.

Prostate cancer often grows very slowly, without causing major problems. Finding prostate cancer early and treating it may prevent some health problems and reduce the risk of dying from the cancer. But some treatments for prostate cancer can cause other problems, such as being unable to control urination (incontinence) or erection problems (erectile dysfunction). Some men may choose not to have a PSA test or treat prostate cancer if it is found. For example, an older man who has no bothersome symptoms of prostate cancer may choose not to treat the cancer if it is found, so he would not need a PSA test.

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. Experts agree that PSA testing is not right for all men. If a PSA test is used for screening, it is usually done for men older than age 50 or for those at high risk for prostate cancer, such as men with a family history of prostate cancer, or for African-American men who have a higher chance of developing cancer than other men. 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.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 14, 2013
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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