Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men after skin cancer. All men are at risk for prostate cancer. Roughly 13 of 100 American men will develop prostate cancer during their lives, and 2 to 3 of those men will succumb to the disease.
When prostate cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, it can usually be treated successfully. That’s where PSA testing comes in. The PSA test is the leading method of early detection for prostate cancer. Keep reading to learn more about PSA testing.
What Is Prostate Cancer?
The prostate is a small gland in the male reproductive system that resides just below the bladder. The prostate produces the fluid part of semen.
Prostate cancer happens when malignant cells in the prostate grow out of control. The most common risk factor for developing prostate cancer is age. Around 60% of prostate cancer cases are found in men over 65. But some other factors may increase your risk, including:
Ethnicity – Prostate cancer develops more often and at a younger age in African American men.
Location – Prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean.
Family History – According to the American Cancer Society, having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles your risk of developing the disease. However, most cases of prostate cancer occur in men who don’t have a family history.
While prostate cancer is prevalent, most types grow slowly and may never cause health problems. As a result, some men live long lives with prostate cancer and never know they have it.
However, prostate cancer screening is still essential. Early detection of easily identifiable cancers like the prostate can result in early treatment and successful outcomes. Conversely, the longer you let these cancers fester, the more potential for long-term harm.
What Does PSA Mean?
PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen. PSA is a protein that’s produced by the prostate gland. It’s found mainly in semen, but a small amount is also found in the blood.
More PSA is released into the bloodstream when there’s a problem with the prostate, including cancer and inflammatory conditions like prostatitis.
What Is PSA testing? How Does It Work?
PSA testing is like any other routine blood work test. However, since high levels of the PSA marker can be very sensitive to a myriad of prostate issues, further testing must be done to confirm. By far, the PSA is the most popular screening method for prostate cancer.
For instance, other conditions, like an enlarged or inflamed prostate, can cause high levels of PSA. Thus, PSA testing cannot decisively detect cancer. Further testing is always required. Regardless, PSA testing is a good starting point for prostate cancer screening.
When Should PSA Levels Be Checked?
Some organizations recommend that men at a high risk of prostate cancer begin regular PSA testing as early as 40. These at-risk groups include:
- African-American men
- Men with variants in BRCA2
- Men with a family history of prostate cancer
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that men between the ages of 55 and 69 should discuss PSA testing with their doctor.
What Are Normal PSA Levels?
There is no specific “normal” level of PSA in the blood. However, many doctors use a cutoff point of 4ng/mL or higher to determine if a man should undergo further testing.
The chance of having prostate cancer rises as the PSA level increases. Men with a PSA between 4 and 10 have a 25% chance of having prostate cancer, while men with a PSA higher than 10 have a 50% chance of having prostate cancer. However, some individuals with prostate cancer may have a PSA level below 4.0 ng/mL. Many individuals who have relatively high PSA levels will not have prostate cancer.
In addition to prostate cancer, some factors can raise PSA levels:
- Older age
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate)
- Prostatitis (infection or inflammation of the prostate)
- Recent ejaculation
- Urinary tract infection
- Certain urological procedures like a prostate biopsy
- Some medicines or treatments, including testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)
Some factors may also lower PSA (even if a man has prostate cancer). For example, 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, certain herbal supplements, aspirin, statins, and thiazide diuretics could lower your PSA level. Make sure to tell your doctor about any medications or supplements you take.
What If I Have Elevated PSA Levels?
Your doctor will decide how to proceed if you have elevated PSA levels. If you have no symptoms of prostate cancer, your doctor may recommend another PSA test to confirm the original finding. They may order PSA testing and digital rectal exams (DREs) at regular intervals to see how the situation develops.
If your PSA level continues to rise or your doctor finds a lump during a DRE, they may recommend further testing. This usually includes a prostate biopsy.
How To Get a PSA Blood Test
Medicare provides coverage for annual PSA for all Medicare-eligible people over 50. Most private insurers also cover PSA testing.
However, PSA testing is only the tip of the iceberg regarding what we can understand about a man’s health through blood work. PSA testing is just one of the 60+ biomarkers Opt Health offers in our initial labs. We also measure hormones (testosterone and thyroid), insulin resistance (Homa IR), and inflammation (CRP), among others. Our longevity doctors use these biomarkers (plus a detailed questionnaire and consultation) to develop a treatment plan that’s completely customized to you.
The treatment plans go beyond medications. We offer 360-degree lifestyle optimization protocols. For example, how you sleep, eat, and exercise determines your lifespan and healthspan. Follow-up labs will continue testing these biomarkers to see how your health improves. Click here to sign up, or call (855) 443-8678 for a free consultation.