PSA Test

The prostate gland which is a part of the male reproductive organ produces a substance known as the prostate surface antigen (PSA). Levels of PSA in the blood could mean different things at different times but a raised level calls for medical attention. The amount of PSA in the blood can be measured by carrying out the PSA test.

Elevated PSA levels may indicate prostate cancer or a non-cancerous condition known as prostatitis or an enlarged prostate. Although raised PSA levels may be a sign of prostate cancer, more than half of men with raised PSA levels don’t have prostate cancer and some men with normal PSA do have prostate cancer. Therefore, cancer is a possibility at any PSA level.

All men have small amount of PSA in the blood. The PSA level, as well as the prostate increases with age. PSA levels can also be influenced by various factors, such as:

·         Ejaculation

·         Anal sex/ stimulation of the prostate

·         Infection of the urinary system

·         Vigorous cycling

·         Prostate biopsy

·         Surgery on prostate or bladder

·         Some drugs might reduce it.

Considering these factors, PSA test alone cannot tell if one has prostate cancer. A digital rectal examination can be done to estimate the size of the prostate to help diagnose any prostate problem. Afterwards, a biopsy which is the only positive way of identifying a cancer can be carried out.

Over the years, lots of controversies have arisen on the need to carry out a PSA test. The basic reason for the controversy is that PSA testing has not clearly proven that screening for prostate cancer through it would be more beneficial. This is because

Ø  Raised PSA levels might not always depict prostate cancer.

Ø  Raised PSA might call for a biopsy which is painful and can result in an infection even when a cancer might not be involved.

Ø  Diagnosis of slow-growing cancer which would not have caused a problem could raise worries.

Ø  Treatment of prostate cancer can affect the patient’s life.

Despite these reasons stated, PSA test

Ø  Can pick up prostate cancer cells at an early stage for treatment before they start to spread.

Ø  Helps men at risk to monitor their health.

Ø  Can help men with slow-growing prostate cancer cells to keep an eye on it.

Ø  Can pick up prostate cancer before symptoms arise.

Ø  Can be used to guide treatment and determine its success.

Research is going on to determine improved ways to use the PSA test. This will help the doctor distinguish prostate cancer from other prostate ailments and to distinguish slow-growing prostate cancer cells from fast-growing prostate cancer cells.

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