If prostate cancer is suspected through a digital rectal exam or because of the specific symptoms that the patient is experiencing, a PSA test may be ordered. A PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen and is a protein that is naturally produced in the cells of the prostate gland. There is a “normal” measurement for PSA – a low level of this protein that is naturally present in the blood. However, when particular conditions are present, including cancer and other disease, the level of PSA in the blood increases.
It’s important to keep in mind that this increased level of PSA does not necessarily mean the existence of prostate cancer. There are a variety of other conditions that can cause this elevated level of PSA including an inflamed prostate (prostatitis) and enlargement of the prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH).
But this increased level can direct your doctor to continue with further tests including a biopsy. The fact is that only 25 to 30 percent of men who have a biopsy turn out to have prostate cancer.
Why is the Test Important?
There are few symptoms that are present with the early onset of prostate cancer. In fact, in most cases there are no symptoms present in those beginning stages. So regular screenings are imperative for staying on top of your health. Prostate cancer is only diagnosed through testing including a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a PSA blood test.
Your doctor will work with you to assess your risk factors and help you determine if the need for more frequent screenings is necessary.
These tests are painless and non-invasive and will help to determine if there is something going on that should be examined further. With the ease of screenings, there’s no excuse for putting off a routine exam for prostate cancer.