What is the PSA or Prostate Specific Antigen Test?

PSA stands for Prostate-Specific Antigen which is a protein secreted by the prostate. The PSA test measures the volume of PSA in the bloodstream and helps the physician determine whether or not their patient may have signs of prostate cancer. Originally conceived as a test to measure the progress of patients who already had prostate cancer, the test, in conjunction with a digital rectal exam or DRE, was also approved for men who showed no signs of prostate cancer. Today, the PSA test has become standard practice in the diagnosis of urinary symptoms that suggest an anomaly in the prostate.

What Causes Elevated PSA?

Several issues can cause an elevation in Prostate-Specific Antigen including protatisits (an inflammation of the prostate), BPH (a benign enlargement of the prostate) and prostate cancer. Until recently, yearly PSA tests were recommended for any man over the age of 50. However, many organizations have cautioned against such testing for several reasons. First, an early diagnosis of prostate cancer does not always lead to better outcomes. Some prostate cancer tumors grow so slowly that an older man may never be affected. In cases such as these, the effects of treatment including surgery or radiation may be premature and actually harm the man’s quality of life. The PSA test is also prone to false positives and negatives. PSA levels may be high and prostate cancer may not be the cause. Other times PSA levels may be low when prostate cancer does exist. The results can often be unnecessary anxiety and complacency respectively.

The PSA test is an important part of the diagnosis of prostate related issues however it cannot provide a definitive diagnosis by itself. Patients should be aware of the benefits and drawbacks of the test and speak to their urologist about the possible outcomes. With current research into more accurate PSA testing progressing quickly, there is every expectation that men will have a more accurate test on which to rely in the near future.