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When do you need a PSA test?

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test performed to screen for prostate cancer. It measures the level of PSA in blood—a protein made only in the prostate gland. After production in the prostate, the PSA finds its way into blood. But the level of PSA in blood depends on age and on the health of the prostate.

What is the normal level of the PSA in blood?

The amount of PSA in blood is measured in nanograms per milliliter of blood (ng/ml).  For men aged 40 to 50 years, a PSA level above 2.5 nanograms per milliliter is considered abnormal. The normal range for men of this age is usually 0.6 to 0.7 nanograms per milliliter. 

And for men aged 50 to 70 years, a PSA score greater than 4.0 nanograms per milliliter is considered abnormal.  The normal PSA range for men in this age is 1.0 to 1.5 nanograms per milliliter.

Besides, any rapid increase or a continuous rise in PSA level over a period of time is considered abnormal. For instance, a rise of more 0.35 nanograms per milliliter of blood within one year is abnormal. 

Nevertheless, not every increased PSA level is an indicator of prostate cancer. In fact, 3 in 4 men with elevated PSA do not have the cancer. Apart from prostate cancer, an elevated PSA level in your blood may be due to prostatitis, an enlarged prostate, and urinary tract infection.

So when should you get screened for prostate cancer?

The time to begin having PSA tests depends on a number of factors. According to new guidelines, men with no family history or known illness should undergo the PSA test starting from age 54 to 70 years. The reason for this is that it is at this age that they can benefit the most from screening. 

It is from the age of 54 to 70 when:

  1. You are more likely to develop prostate cancer.
  2. Treatment of diagnosed prostate cancer makes most sense—the benefits of treating the cancer outweigh any possible risks of treating side effects.

However, there are some men who may need screening earlier, between the ages of 40 and 54 years. Your doctor may recommend that you get screened this early if you:

  1. Have a positive family history of prostate cancer. That is if you have at least one first-degree relative, like a brother or father, who has had the cancer.
  2. Have at least two extended family members who have had prostate cancer.
  3. Are African-American; an ethnicity that has a higher risk of developing a more aggressive form of prostate cancer. 

But for men who are 70 years or older, taking the PSA test is not usually recommended. That’s because the benefits of treatment may not outweigh the adverse effects. Also, the cancer may not grow or spread to a life-threatening stage in the patient’s lifetime. Though, men above 70 years may undergo the PSA test if they have a life-expectancy greater than 10 years.

Choosing to get the PSA test

As you grow older, your risk of having prostate cancer increases. Hence, you will need to undergo screening to help you detect the cancer early should you have it. For most men, it is recommended that they undergo regular PSA tests after the age of 54 years.

However, you should ask your doctor for advice on when to start having screening tests and how frequently you should be screened. If you are 54 years or older, your doctor may advise that you have a PSA test every 2-3 years. The doctor will also explain to you the harms and benefits of screening for prostate cancer.

What next after an abnormal PSA test?

If your PSA level falls in the abnormal range, your doctor may make the following recommendations:

  1. Repeat the PSA test. If the level is still higher after the repeat, your doctor may recommend monitoring the PSA level over a period of time to see how it changes.
  2. A digital rectal examination to feel for the changes in your prostate gland that may help to detect prostate cancer.
  3. A biopsy, which involves taking small samples from the prostate and checking them for cancer cells.

If it is confirmed that you have prostate cancer, your doctor will want to know whether the cancer is indolent or aggressive. An indolent cancer is slow-growing and has only a minimal chance of spreading to other organs.  With such a cancer, you may not be treated, but may be placed under watchful waiting and active surveillance.

An aggressive cancer grows rapidly and has the potential to spread to other parts of the body. Your doctor will consider your age and other factors when weighing the risks and benefits of treatment.  Eventually, you’ll undergo a personalized treatment that may include radiotherapy and radical prostatectomy.

Do you have fears that you may be at risk for prostate cancer? Would you like to speak with a knowledgeable, experienced urologist to know your risk level and when to begin your prostate cancer screening? Contact Advanced Urology Institute today to book your consultation session with a urologist who will give you the best possible advice. For more information on prostate cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment, visit the site “Advanced Urology institute.”

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Advanced Urology Institute

Advanced Urology Institute is the largest urology practice in Florida. We are dedicated to improving the lives of our patients by providing excellent Patient-Centered Care. Set an appointment or visit our closest office near you.

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