T. Ming Chu, Ph.D., DSc, Chair Emeritus of Diagnostic Immunology Research and Professor Emeritus of Urologic Oncology, led research in the 1970s that resulted in the discovery of PSA and the development of the PSA test. In 1986, the PSA test was approved by the FDA to monitor the progression of prostate cancer in men who had already been diagnosed with the disease. By 1994, the FDA approved the use of the PSA test in conjunction with a Digital Rectal Exam, DRE, to test men who showed symptoms of prostate cancer. Keep reading to learn more about the PSA test.
PSA stands for Prostate-Specific Antigen. PSA is a protein produced by normal as well as malignant prostate cells. Although most PSA is carried out of the body in semen, a very small amount escapes into the bloodstream as well. There are multiple reasons someone might have elevated PSA levels. It might be a noncancerous condition such as prostatitis, the sign of an enlarged prostate, or indicator of prostate cancer.
The PSA test is a blood test done to primarily screen for prostate cancer. The test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen, PSA, in your blood. The PSA test can detect high levels of the antigen that may indicate the presence of prostate cancer. However, it might be from an inflamed or enlarged prostate instead.
Along with prostate cancer, there are a number of benign or non-cancerous conditions that can cause a PSA level to rise. Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, BPH, is enlargement of the prostate. Those two conditions are the most frequent benign prostate conditions that cause an elevation in PSA levels.
Having prostate urinary symptoms can be a sign of prostate cancer, but more often than not it’s caused by a harmless enlargement of the prostate.
If you are showing symptoms of prostate urinary problems, you should seek medical help. Make an appointment with your doctor. That way, if it is something serious, you can start treatment immediately. Your doctor may also recommend PSA screening if you are a man between the ages of 50 and 70 or if you have an increased risk of prostate cancer.
Men between the ages of 50 and 70 are more prone to getting prostate cancer. Hereditary might also play a role. Since women do not have a prostate, they cannot get prostate cancer; therefore, females do not have to worry about PSA. Some medications may affect the prostate as a side effect. If this is the case, you and your medical provider will monitor your PSA levels.
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer through PSA screening, you will have a few different treatment options. You and your doctor will determine the best regime depending on your symptoms and stage. Treatment options might include the following:
If you recently had a Urinary Tract Infection or UTI, you might have to wait for a screening. Using a catheter can also hinder the test. Ejaculation up to 3 days before the test could raise PSA level a minimal amount so men should abstain from sex until after the test. These conditions can cause artificial inflammation and elevated PSA levels.
Certain medications can be prescribed to treat benign enlargement of the prostate. They can decrease the PSA levels by about 50% within 6-12 months of starting them. Another medication used to treat fungal infections can also help lower PSA levels. Herbal supplements such as saw palmetto and those containing phytoestrogens, which are plant-derived chemicals with estrogen-like effects, may help as well.
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, you and your healthcare provider will discuss a treatment plan that is best for you. Living with prostate cancer can affect your physical status, social life, and even emotional health. Sometimes it’s recommended to speak with a professional if your emotional health has decreased.
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