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PSA Test

What is the PSA test?

The PSA test measures the level of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. PSA is a protein made by the prostate gland. The prostate gland is part of a man’s reproductive system. It is about the size of a walnut and located between the bladder and the penis. The prostate gland surrounds the upper part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out through the penis. It makes fluid that nourishes sperm and helps carry it out of the body during sex.

The prostate usually makes more PSA if you have an enlarged prostate, certain infections, or prostate cancer.

Why is it done?

The PSA test can help check for disease in the prostate gland. It may be done along with a rectal exam. Checking the amount of PSA made by the prostate gland may help find prostate cancer very early. A PSA test is also a way to monitor untreated prostate cancer or to check how well treatment is working.

Before having a PSA test, talk to your healthcare provider about the benefits and harms of the test. The benefits of PSA tests are not certain. Most prostate cancers grow very slowly and may not cause any health problems. Cancer treatments can cause many side effects. Finding prostate cancer early may not reduce your chance of dying from prostate cancer.

How do I prepare for this test?

  • Avoid having sex for at least 24 hours before your test. Having an orgasm with ejaculation during this time might make your PSA level higher than normal.
  • You may need to avoid taking certain medicines before the test because they might affect the test result. Make sure your healthcare provider knows about any medicines, herbs, or supplements that you are taking. Ask your provider before stopping any of your regular medicines.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about the test.

How is the test done?

Having this test will take just a few minutes. A small amount of blood is taken from a vein in your arm with a needle. The blood is collected in tubes and sent to a lab.

Ask your healthcare provider when and how you will get the results of your test.

What does the test result mean?

The PSA level may be higher than normal if:

  • You have benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is a common condition of older men because the prostate gland grows larger with aging. BPH is not a form of cancer.
  • Your prostate gland is irritated due to: a recent infection, injury, biopsy, vigorous prostate massage during prostate exam, heart attack or heart surgery, or procedure done through your urethra (including using a catheter).
  • You had sex with ejaculation within 24 hours before the test.
  • You have prostate cancer.

A normal result does not always mean that there is no cancer in the prostate. The results of the test are in the normal range in 25% to 45% of men with prostate cancer. Talk with your healthcare provider about this.

What if my test result is not normal?

Test results are only one part of a larger picture that takes into account your medical history and current health. Sometimes a test needs to be repeated to check the first result. Talk to your healthcare provider about your result and ask questions such as:

  • If you need more tests
  • What kind of treatment you might need
  • What lifestyle, diet, or other changes you might need to make
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-05-07
Last reviewed: 2014-05-07
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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