When should you get tested for prostate cancer?
A PSA test, or prostate-specific antigen, tests PSA levels in the blood. Abnormally high levels of PSA can indicate prostate cancer, but may also be a sign of infection or an enlarged prostate. Read on to learn when you should consider getting regularly screened and what to do should you receive an abnormal result.
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A prostate cancer test could save your life
Prostate cancer is a growing concern for adult men. According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. And while no one is immune, the disease disproportionately affects African American men, who are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with the disease.
Like any cancer, one of the best weapons we have against it is early detection. Finding prostate cancer before it spreads can be the single most important factor in successfully treating it.
The general consensus among medical professionals is that men should begin regularly getting a PSA test at 55. However, the recommended age decreases to 40 for people who have heightened risk factors such as relatives with the disease or if they are of African American descent.
What is a PSA test?
The PSA test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in the blood. PSA is produced by the prostate and acts to promote fertility as part of seminal fluid. Even in a healthy prostate, some of the PSA escapes and makes its way into the blood.
When prostate cancer is present, or the prostate enlarges, more PSA gets into the bloodstream. There is no single threshold, however, for what constitutes an abnormal test result. This depends on the patient's age and current prostate size. Men in their 40s and 50s have an average PSA range that is about half of a man in his 60s.
Another way for doctors to detect prostate cancer is if there is a sharp rise in PSA from one year to the next. This is one more reason why annual screenings are so important.
The PSA test itself is a simple blood test, and is much less invasive than other methods of checking for prostate cancer.
If your PSA blood test comes back abnormal
First of all, understand that an elevated PSA level doesn't always lead to a cancer diagnosis. As we mentioned, there are several different factors that may contribute to elevated PSA levels. However, an abnormal test result is one that should absolutely be taken seriously.
The first step is to take your results to your doctor. They will be able to explain your options to you, including what other tests might be necessary to determine the exact cause. In many instances, this is a prostate biopsy, where pieces of the prostate tissue are extracted and examined for cancerous cells.
Prostate cancer symptoms
If you are at the recommended age (55 for most men, 40 for at-risk individuals), then you should schedule an annual prostate cancer screening regardless of whether you are experiencing symptoms or not.
If you fall in the age range and are experiencing any of the following symptoms, then you should schedule a test as soon as possible.
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Difficulty urinating
- Erectile dysfunction
- Bone pain
- Unexpected weight loss
Find a PSA test near you
Life Line Screening has thousands of locations nationwide where you can schedule a PSA test. Our trained technicians will take a simple blood sample that will then be sent off to a certified lab to be analyzed. Your results will come in an easy-to-understand format and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have, although ultimately you should consult your doctor if you receive an abnormal result.