PSA stands for prostate specific antigen, which is a protein that is produced by the prostate gland in a man's body. The prostate gland is a small gland below the bladder which is as small as a walnut. The PSA test is conducted in order to check the possibilities of prostate cancer in the body, even before one can feel the symptoms of prostate cancer. As per statistics, prostate cancer is known to be the second largest cancer in men after skin cancer. Not only for detection, the PSA test also helps in checking the effectiveness of the treatment that a person is taking for prostate cancer. So basically, a PSA test can help the detection, effectiveness of treatment and monitoring the re-occurrence of the cancer.
What Do PSA Test Results Mean?
The meaning depends upon the consideration of the normal range of PSA levels, which varies from laboratory to laboratory. Therefore, it is best to consult with your doctor as to what it actually means. Usually, the normal PSA levels range between 0-4 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter). However, the values may vary depending upon certain factors like age or health conditions. It is generally observed that elderly men tend to have higher prostate levels as compared to younger men. Which is why many health care specialists feel that the amount should be brought down to 2.5 ng/mL for a much clearer detection of prostate cancer. However, there are other experts who oppose this statement by saying that lowering the levels would lead to insignificant cancer treatment. Therefore, the normal ranges of PSA are a little controversial.
According to the American cancer society, if the PSA results range contains values which are greater than or equal to 10 ng/mL, this means that the person has 67% chance of developing prostate cancer. Also, if the values lie between 4.0 ng/mL to 10 ng/mL, this means that there are 25% chances of developing prostate cancer. Doctors usually consider high values of PSA which lie between 4-10 ng/mL as the gray zone. Various additional tests like the free PSA test and Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) test are conducted to make the final assessment. If the free PSA results are lower as compared to the total PSA test, this means that there are chances of the person to have prostate cancer. On the other hand, if the free PSA levels are high, this means that there is less risk of the development of cancer.
Even though the test results signify that high levels means high chances of cancer, it doesn't necessarily mean that the person has cancer! There are many other factors and conditions that can lead to high prostate levels in the body. This can be due to ejaculation, inflammation of the prostate gland, or non-cancerous prostate enlargement. Which is why the American Cancer Society recommends all doctors to advice PSA tests and DRE tests annually to men who are over 50 years of age. Tests can also be conducted on men who have a family history of prostate cancer at a young age, especially the African-American men, or men who are experiencing the symptoms like frequent and painful urination, back pain, and pelvic pain.
It would be advisable to check with your doctor about the PSA test and whether it should be conducted in your case or not. If it has been conducted, then you must confirm with your doctor about the meaning of your test results, as the range varies from laboratory to laboratory. Your doctor may also perform prostate biopsy to confirm the chances of prostate cancer. Hope for the best and have a safe tomorrow.