Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among American men. Yet, it doesn’t always present noticeable symptoms. Fortunately, prostate cancer can be detected by a blood test that monitors levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. Routine screening for PSA helps identify cancer early while still highly treatable and curable. In this blog, we explore prostate health, what PSA levels mean and when you should be tested.
Prostate Health: What’s Benign and What’s Cancer
You may have heard of benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. It’s a non-cancerous overgrowth of the walnut-sized male reproductive organ located above the urinary bladder called the prostate. While causing some distressing symptoms, such as urinary frequency, urgency and retention, BPH is not life-threatening. Sadly, prostate cancer is.
Research shows that prostate cancer can be silent for years, slowly growing and potentially lethal. When symptoms do occur, they can include blood in the urine, pelvic pain, erectile dysfunction and pain during sexual intercourse.
That said, because it is mostly asymptomatic, prostate cancer requires periodic screening with an in-office digital rectal exam (DRE) and a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test. PSA screening detects a protein which only the prostate produces. When that protein rises beyond a certain measurable level, the urologist will require a prostate biopsy to confirm or rule out prostate cancer.
When to Get PSA Screening
Recommendations for routine PSA screening vary, but in general, the time to begin and the intervals between tests mostly depend on hereditary factors and a man’s age. Here are the current guidelines:
- A PSA level of 4 ng/ml or lower is normal
- A PSA level higher than 4 requires further investigation with a biopsy
- Annual PSA screening should begin at age 40 if there is a family history (first degree relative) of prostate cancer early in life
- Annual screening should begin at 45 if there is a family history of prostate cancer after the age of 65
- Bi-annual screening should start at age 50 when a man is at average risk (no close relatives with prostate cancer)
It should be noted, however, that PSA levels can increase with problems other than cancer. That’s why you should seek the expertise of a urologist to interpret your results. Factors which can impact your PSA are BPH, some medications, a urinary tract infection and others.
Get Your PSA Screening with the Best Urologist in Phoenix, AZ
At Ironwood Urology, we offer the services of board-certified and fellowship trained urologist Dr. Desiderio Avila, Jr. He screens for prostate cancer using the PSA test and also uses ultrasound and MRI technology to perform accurate prostate biopsies when necessary.
He affirms that early detection of prostate cancer is key to surviving it. So, if it’s time for your PSA test and DRE, contact Ironwood Urology today to book your appointment by calling (480) 961-2323. Also, you can request your consultation using our appointment request form. Call soon – We want you to enjoy the best possible urological health!