The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) prostate test, or simply PSA prostate test, is a screening test often used to detect the early development or presence of prostate cancer in men. Detection of prostate cancer at the early stage is generally important because effective treatment can still be given. Risk factors for prostate cancer include having a genetic predisposition, eating a high-fat diet, and being African American. Men are, thus, encouraged to take this test, especially those who are between 40 and 75 years old.
This PSA prostate test usually determines the PSA level in the man's blood. PSA is a protein that is normally produced by the prostate gland in small amounts. The test is done by extracting an adequate amount of blood from the vein of the patient to be processed in the laboratory.
In cancer or disorders of the prostate gland, the PSA level often becomes elevated. Examples of prostate gland disorders include prostatitis, in which there is inflammation of the gland, and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), in which the prostate gland is usually enlarged. The test, therefore, may not be considered specific in prostate cancer diagnosis. Use of some prescription drugs and herbal medications may also cause increased PSA prostate test measurements.
Doctors who deal with urinary tract problems in men are called urologists. They usually palpate or examine the prostate gland by doing a digital rectal exam (DRE). When the prostate gland is enlarged and the PSA prostate test result is elevated, a prostate biopsy may sometimes be done to confirm the diagnosis of prostate cancer. A biopsy is a procedure in which tissue from the gland is removed to be examined in the laboratory for the presence of cancer cells. Symptoms of prostate cancer include back pain, difficulty in urinating, painful urination, and pain in the pelvic area.
A PSA prostate test is also commonly used in monitoring prostate cancer treatment. An increase in level during treatment may indicate that the cancer is progressing or spreading, and not responding to the treatment well. The test is also performed to check the recurrence of prostate cancer in men who have undergone radical prostatectomy, a surgery for the removal of the prostate gland. These men are no longer capable of producing PSA. So when a PSA prostate test measurement rises several times after the surgery, it is often an indication that the cancer has spread or metastasized to other areas in the body.