Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein produced by the cells of the prostate gland. It is primarily used as a biomarker to assess prostate health and screen for prostate cancer. Here are some key points about PSA:
- Prostate Health: The prostate gland, found only in males, produces PSA as part of its normal function. The PSA level in the blood can help monitor the health of the prostate gland.
- PSA Test: A PSA test measures the amount of PSA in a blood sample. It is commonly used in prostate cancer screening, but it is not a definitive diagnostic test for prostate cancer. It is typically performed by a blood draw.
- Prostate Cancer Screening: Elevated levels of PSA can indicate the possibility of prostate cancer. However, other factors can also cause elevated PSA levels, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate), urinary tract infections, recent prostate procedures, or even certain medications. Further diagnostic tests, such as a prostate biopsy, are usually needed to confirm a prostate cancer diagnosis.
- PSA Levels: Normal PSA levels can vary depending on factors such as age and individual variations. Generally, a PSA level below 4 ng/mL is considered normal, but this cutoff can vary based on individual factors and clinical guidelines. Higher PSA levels may prompt further investigation.
- PSA Velocity and PSA Density: Besides the absolute PSA level, trends in PSA levels over time (PSA velocity) and PSA density (PSA level adjusted for prostate size) may also be considered in assessing the risk of prostate cancer.
- Limitations: The PSA test has limitations. It can give false-positive results (elevated PSA levels without cancer) and false-negative results (normal PSA levels despite having cancer). This can lead to unnecessary biopsies or delayed detection of prostate cancer.
- Shared Decision-making: Due to the limitations of the PSA test, it is important for men to have informed discussions with their healthcare providers about the benefits, limitations, and potential risks of prostate cancer screening. Shared decision-making helps individuals make an informed choice based on their personal values and preferences.
It's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and interpretation of PSA test results. They can assess the results in the context of an individual's medical history, risk factors, and other relevant factors to guide appropriate further evaluation or monitoring.