Did you know that prostate cancer is the second most common cancer found in men, right behind skin cancer? According to the Cancer.net Editorial Board, an estimated 191,930 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. To help you find out if you are at risk of prostate cancer, you can have a prostate-specific antigen blood test.
First, what is a prostate-specific antigen? PSA is a protein made by cells in the prostate gland. High PSA levels may be a sign of prostate cancer. To find out what your PSA level is, you can have a screen test done. This usually involves taking blood from your arm. Before you decide to get a screen test done, talk with your doctor. Your doctor can help you understand all the pros and cons of the test, and let you know when you should be tested. x8
The PSA level in blood is measured in (ng/mL), which is nanograms per milliliter. As the PSA level goes up, so do the chances of having prostate cancer. To decide if a patient will need further testing or not, many doctors use 4 ng/mL or higher as a cutoff.
Doctors have a hard time setting a certain cutoff point when doing a PSA blood test because there are many other factors besides just cancer that can affect PSA levels. These factors include:
- An enlarged prostate
- Older age
- Riding a bicycle
- Certain urologic procedures
- Certain medicines
If you get tested for prostate cancer, just because your PSA levels come back higher than normal, does not mean that you have prostate cancer. If your PSA levels are higher than normal, further testing will need to be done. Your doctor may suggest waiting to do a second test, getting another type of test to help get a better idea, or getting a prostate biopsy. It’s important that you discuss all options with your doctor before making a decision.
PSA blood tests can help you find out if you are at risk for prostate cancer. If you have any questions or would like to talk to someone about it, contact your primary care physician.