The blood test for prostate cancer measures prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels. Although these tests may help to screen people for prostate cancer, they also have some limitations.
Cancer that starts in the prostate is known as prostate cancer. The prostate is part of the male reproductive system. It is a small gland just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It helps produce reproductive fluid.
According to the
Screening is where doctors use tests to look for cancer before it causes symptoms. There is no standard test doctors use to screen people for prostate cancer. However, one prostate cancer screening test is a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test.
This article discusses the PSA blood test, and how doctors use it to screen people for prostate cancer. It also explains the test results and limitations.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
The PSA test measures how much PSA is in a person’s blood. PSA is a protein made by cells in the prostate.
During a PSA test, healthcare professionals take a blood sample. They then send the sample to a laboratory for analysis.
Because various factors
Research is ongoing to find ways to make PSA testing
According to recent guidance from the American Urological Association (AUA), the PSA blood test is the standard screening test for prostate cancer. Healthcare professionals may use other tests to screen for prostate cancer instead of or combined with PSA tests.
PSA tests can be unreliable due to the fact that increased PSA levels can also indicate other conditions, such as infection or inflammation of the prostate. However, they can help indicate that a person may require further testing.
Many tumors that PSA tests detect grow slowly, and are
Healthcare professionals can discuss the benefits of a PSA test. They
PSA test results describe how much PSA is in a person’s blood in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL).
There is no standard set level for normal PSA blood levels. Different healthcare professionals may decide that different PSA levels indicate if a person requires further testing. According to the
Most males without prostate cancer have a PSA level of
If a person’s PSA levels are elevated, it may mean that they have prostate cancer. However, many people with elevated PSA levels
- another PSA test
- a digital rectal exam (DRE) that checks for physical signs of prostate cancer
- a tissue biopsy
A tissue biopsy is the
During a biopsy, a healthcare professional takes small samples of a person’s prostate tissue and sends them to a laboratory for examination. This allows a doctor to tell for sure if a person has prostate cancer. It also helps to tell how likely it is that their cancer will grow and spread, and how quickly.
- a person’s age
- some medical procedures
- some medications
- having an enlarged prostate
- prostate infections
PSA tests may also produce false negative results and false positive results.
False negative results are where people with normal PSA levels have prostate cancer. False positive results are where doctors cannot later detect prostate cancer in people with raised PSA levels.
Individuals should discuss the benefits and limitations of PSA tests for prostate cancer screening with a healthcare professional.
The following are some questions people frequently ask about prostate cancer.
What are the 5 warning signs of prostate cancer?
Five warning signs of prostate cancer
- blood in the urine or semen
- needing to urinate more frequently, especially at night
- difficulty with urination, such as a weak or interrupted flow or having trouble completely emptying the bladder
- pain or a burning sensation during urination
- pain that doesn’t go away in the back, hips, or pelvis
What is the most accurate test for prostate cancer?
Doctors use tissue biopsies to
The blood test for prostate cancer detects levels of PSA in the blood. If a person has elevated PSA levels, it may indicate they have prostate cancer. Healthcare professionals typically recommend further testing if a person has a high PSA level.
However, PSA tests may falsely indicate a person has prostate cancer or not detect it. Many other factors can also raise a person’s PSA levels.
Healthcare professionals may only recommend a PSA test after discussing the benefits and limitations with them.