Prostate- Specific Antigen (PSA) is a protein produced in the cells of the prostate gland. The PSA test measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA produced in the body can be used to detect disease. That is why it is sometimes called biological maker or tumor mark.
It is normal for men to have low PSA in their blood; however prostate cancer or benign conditions can increase the level of PSA in the blood. The most frequent benign prostate condition is Prostatitis inflammation of the prostate and benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) – enlargement of prostate.
Why is PSA test performed?
The use of PSA test help doctors detect prostate cancer in men of 50years and above of age who have no symptoms? However a single elevated PSA does not confirm prostate cancer.
Men who are receiving hormone treatment for prostate cancer may have low PSA level during treatment.
For whom the PSA test may be recommended?
Doctors advise PSA test for men above 50. However the benefits and risks of the screening test are discussed first by the doctor with the patient.
How are PSA test results reported?
PSA test results are reported as nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) of blood. There is no specific normal or abnormal PSA level. Patients have been detected with prostate cancer even with PSA level as low as 4.0ng/mL PSA level increases with age. Continuous increase in PSA level is an indication of prostate cancer.
What if screening test results show elevated PSA level? :
If screening test results show elevated PSA levels, doctors recommend repeated PSA level test and DRE to confirm prostate cancer.
What if the PSA level keeps rising during treatment for prostate cancer?
If the rise in PSA levels is accompanied with abnormal DRE results doctors recommend further treatment. Only a rise in PSA levels while a treatment is not something abnormal.
Limitation of PSA level test:
PSA level test can detect small tumor. But this does not reduce the man’s chance of dying from cancer. The test does not help fast growing aggressive cancer that has already spread in other parts of the body. False positive test results occur when PSA level is elevated but no cancer is detected. The test therefore faces controversy.