PSA testing is a laboratory analysis that measures a substance produced by the prostate gland called Prostate Specific Antigen. PSA testing is an effective aid in the detection of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in men in the United States. It occurs in about 1 out of 10 men. The good news is that prostate cancer may be cured if it is diagnosed early enough.
The PSA blood test can measure small amounts of PSA in the bloodstream. While elevated levels of PSA do no harm, they are an important signal of possible prostate disease. The American Cancer Society recommends PSA testing and digital rectal examination (DRE) yearly for men beginning at age 50, and for younger men who are at high risk.
Although the PSA blood test is not perfect, it is the best test currently available for early detection of prostate cancer. Most cases of early prostate cancer cause no symptoms and are found by a PSA blood test and/or DRE.
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How long does the test take?
Drawing the blood sample takes about 3 – 5 minutes. The sample is taken from the arm using traditional venipuncture techniques. A local traditional hospital runs the test and the results are usually mailed within 1 – 3 weeks.
Should I fast before taking the test?
No, it is not necessary to fast before taking the PSA test. Ejaculation can cause a temporary increase in blood PSA levels, therefore, some doctors suggest that men abstain from sexual activity for two days prior to testing.
Note: If you are having other tests performed, please see their respective test descriptions.
What test result values are desirable?
Results under 4 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter) are usually considered normal. Results over 10 ng/ml are high, and values between 4 and 10 ng/ml are considered borderline.
The higher the PSA level, the more likely the presence of prostate cancer. However, many men with a PSA level greater than 4 ng/ml do not have prostate cancer. Likewise, a PSA level under 4 ng/ml does not rule out the possibility of cancer. In addition, conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) can cause a borderline or high PSA result. Only a trained professional can determine what your test results mean.
Note: The above figures were obtained from the American Cancer Society. It is recommended that clients with a PSA level of 3 or higher inform their doctor as a precautionary measure.
How are the test results presented?
A certified laboratory analyzes the blood sample to see how much PSA is present and then reports the results. The results show your results and also the normal range for someone of your gender and age range.
: While test results are important indicators, they do not constitute a diagnosis. Discuss your results with your doctor on your next visit.