Should I Get a PSA Test?

Should you get a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test? If you're over 50, and don't have prostate cancer, you may want to consider being tested. You can discuss the PSA test with your provider, as well as use the following information to help you decide.

About the PSA Test

What is the PSA test?

PSA is a protein made by the prostate gland. The PSA test is a blood test that measures the amount of PSA in your blood. The PSA test can help your health-care provider detect prostate cancer early.

Is the PSA test right for me?

There are three things you can do to help make this decision:

  1. Understand the facts:
        - Know the differences between prostate cancer and other prostate problems
        - Learn what the PSA test can and cannot tell you
        - Learn about other decisions you may have to make if you have a PSA test
     
  2. Get more information about prostate cancer and the PSA test from your health-care provider.
     
  3. Ask questions:
        - Write down any questions you have about the PSA test
        - Ask your health-care provider whether they think the PSA test is right for you
        - Ask your friends and family what they think about the test

PSA Test Accuracy

The PSA test can find cancer earlier than the Digital Rectal Exam (DRE).

Keep in mind the PSA test is not perfect:

  • Most men with an abnormal PSA test result do not have prostate cancer.
  • There is a small chance that you could have prostate cancer even if your PSA test result is normal.

PSA Test Frequently Asked Questions

Can the PSA test tell me for certain whether I have prostate cancer?

The PSA test can only tell you if your PSA level is abnormal. An abnormal PSA level is one that is higher than the level found in other men. An abnormal PSA could be a result of prostate cancer, benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) or a prostate infection.

How do I find out if I have prostate cancer?

If you have a higher than normal PSA test result, your health-care provider may suggest that you have a prostate biopsy. A prostate biopsy is a procedure that involves removing a small piece of your prostate with a needle. It can be very uncomfortable but it is needed to tell whether or not you have prostate cancer.

What other decisions are there to make about the PSA test?

If a biopsy shows you have prostate cancer, you will have to decide whether or not you want to be treated for prostate cancer. This can be a difficult decision for some men because:

  • There is a very good chance that their prostate cancer will never cause them any problems. However, there is a small and frightening chance that it will cause death or severe disability.
  • Prostate cancer treatments are not without risks - they can cause side effects such as problems with urination, sexual function and bowel function.
  • Nobody knows yet whether any prostate cancer treatment can help men live longer.

For more information on prostate cancer, please visit the Comprehensive Prostate Cancer Clinic.