Prostate-specific antigen, commonly referred to as PSA, is a substance found in the prostate cells of all adult men. High PSA levels can signify a number of different conditions, from a urinary tract infection to prostatitis. Checking PSA levels via regular blood tests is also one way doctors can detect the development and progression of prostate cancer.
There are many factors to consider regarding whether to get a blood test to check your levels of PSA. First and foremost, ask yourself the following two questions:
Are you 50 years old or older, and have never been screened?
If so, it is highly recommended you ask your doctor as soon as possible if screening is right for you. The American Urological Association, the American Cancer Society, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network all have different recommendations for prostate cancer screening, thereby leading to a lot of confusion for men at risk for prostate cancer. Since screening is the only reliable way to detect prostate cancer at a curable stage, you should have annual PSA tests beginning at age 50, or as early as 40 – 45 if you have a family history of cancer, or if you are African-American (rates of prostate cancer are historically higher among African-American men). If you wait until the cancer becomes symptomatic, it will likely be difficult to cure.
Do you have any of the risk factors associated with prostate cancer?
There are many factors that may increase one’s risk of developing prostate cancer, but the most prominent are age, race, and family history. The older you are, the more likely you are to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Although only 1 in 10,000 under age 40 will be diagnosed, the rate rises to 1 in 38 for ages 40 to 59, and 1 in 15 for ages 60 to 69. Additionally, prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men than in men of other races. African-American men are also more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage, and they are more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as white men. The reason for this is not quite clear. Lastly, like many other cancers, if other family members have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, your risk of developing this disease is substantially greater.
If you answered yes to one or both of the preceding questions, it is in your best interest to ask your doctor about checking a PSA level. Be aware, however, that a PSA test alone does not determine whether or not you have prostate cancer. The PSA test goes along with a digital rectal exam (DRE) and, by combining the results of both tests, doctors have a greater chance of detecting prostate cancer in men who have no symptoms of the disease. Also, when either of these tests is abnormal, it does not necessarily mean that you have prostate cancer. Your urologist is the best person to recommend who needs screening, who needs further testing, and who needs treatment.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment to get your PSA levels checked, contact us here, or call (404) 705-5201.