Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths for men in the United States, second only to lung cancer. As men age, their risk of getting prostate cancer increases dramatically, and the risk is even more pronounced in men with family histories of prostate cancer or for those who have been presenting symptoms.
The good news is that, when detected early, the outcomes of treatment for prostate cancer are very positive. The even better news is that regular screenings can reduce your risk even more.
The test that doctors have used for decades to screen for prostate cancer is called the prostate-specific antigen – or PSA – test, and it is a highly effective, helpful screening tool. Even as newer methods have developed, such as 4K score, these methods still include the PSA test as part of the overall screening for prostate cancer.
Below is how the PSA test works.
PSA Screening: What, When, and How
The PSA test is done by taking a sample of the patient’s blood for analysis, during which the technicians will check the blood to see if the prostate-specific antigen is present. This antigen is a protein that is produced by cells within the prostate gland. If this antigen is indeed present in the patient’s blood, these cells can be either normal or malignant.
The American Cancer Society recommends men to have a prostate screening at:
- Age 40 if they are at high risk, with a first-degree relative (father, son, or brother) who had prostate cancer at an early age
- Age 45 if they are at moderate risk, including men with a first-degree relative who had prostate cancer before age 65, and men who are of African descent
- Age 50 if they are at average risk
The blood level of PSA is usually elevated in men who have prostate cancer, so that’s why the PSA test is so important. If the PSA level is 2.5 ng/mL or lower, your prostate is considered normal, and your doctor will probably recommend screenings only every 2 years.
However, if the PSA level is 3.0 ng/mL or above, your doctor will probably recommend a biopsy to determine whether cancer is present before it has a chance to develop further and possibly spread to other areas of the body.
PSA screenings are also used to monitor the progress and outcomes of prostate cancer in men who have already been diagnosed and are either currently undergoing, or have completed, their treatment. Even men who have had their prostate removed should continue to have their PSA checked, so their doctor can make sure the cancer did not spread and cause metastatic cancer in other areas of the body.
Why Should I Have a PSA Test Done?
Because symptoms of prostate cancer – difficulty urinating, pain during sex, nagging pain in the back or hips – often go unnoticed or are ignored and attributed to the normal aging process, many men forego annual physicals or prostate screenings. More alarming symptoms may motivate a man to have a PSA test done, including painful urination, blood in the urine, erectile dysfunction, and severe hip, back, or chest pain.
But even if there aren’t any symptoms, a PSA test is an excellent indicator for checking whether a man’s body has produced the antigen – the PSA – to defend against prostate cancer. The body usually manufactures this defensive antigen if prostate cancer cells are present.
Therefore, having the PSA test done can help put your mind at ease or help bring you to any necessary next steps to help give you a longer, fuller life.
Men’s Health Care Specialist in Phoenix
Since 1994, the physicians at Ironwood Urology have provided the highest-quality patient-focused men’s health care in Phoenix. Board-certified urologist Dr. Desi Avila is highly skilled in diagnosing and treating men’s health conditions such as erectile dysfunction, low testosterone, prostate cancer, and more. He also specializes in vasectomies, vasectomy reversal, and treatment of male infertility.
Contact us today to make an appointment with Dr. Avila at Ironwood Urology by calling (480) 961-2323, or fill out our simple online appointment request form. We look forward to helping you live a fuller, more enjoyable lifestyle.