Since prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, this article is one you should read. There has been some controversy of late about how often, at what age, and who should have a PSA test. Let’s get the answer to the question: is a PSA test for prostate cancer right for you?
What Is a PSA Test
The PSA test, or prostate specific antigen, has been the most accepted screening tool used for decades. PSA is a blood test that measures the level of the protein, prostate specific antigen, for the possible presence of cancer. This test has saved many lives over the years, but it does have some drawbacks.
Western States HIFU will review a patient’s PSA levels over time, and if they go up as the patient’s age increases, cancer may be present. Normal range for a man in his 40s is 0 – 2.5, in his 50s 0 – 4, in his 60s 0 – 4.5, and in his 70s 0 – 6.5. An older man normally has a PSA level that is significantly higher than a younger man.
Benefits of the PSA
Since the PSA test became standard, death rates for men with prostate cancer have dropped by more than one-half. 90% of cancers are caught before they spread using the PSA test.
It especially is beneficial for younger men with certain risk factors, such as:
- A family history of prostate cancer or similar cancers
- Being African American
- The BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation
These men can have more aggressive types of cancer, and they are recommended to begin PSA tests between the age of 40 – 45.
The main question is whether every man needs a PSA test at their annual physical. Some doctors and researchers disagree on this particular recommendation.
Drawbacks of the PSA Test
Unfortunately, PSA levels can be higher due to factors unrelated to cancer. Vigorous physical activity, simply riding a bike, sexual activity, inflammation of the prostate gland, and an enlarged prostate are some factors that can cause a man’s PSA level to be higher.
These false positives on the test often lead to unnecessary biopsies and unnecessary treatment. The treatments then result in other unpleasant issues, like incontinence and impotence.
Many men who receive a positive result from their PSA test discover their cancer is quite slow growing, as most prostate cancers are. They may even be asymptomatic, yet they have treatments and unnecessarily worry over their condition for weeks or even years at a time. Many men with slow growing prostate cancer are able to live out their life without ever knowing they had cancer at all. Of course, other cancers can be aggressive and require immediate treatment. This is the dilemma.
The decision to have a PSA screening and how often is something you should discuss with Western States HIFU.
Each man is different and many considerations should be taken into account like your personal risk factors, your age, your overall health, your life expectancy, and lastly, your openness to treatment if you are ever diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Researchers are looking into other ways to detect prostate cancer in order to make the results more refined and definitive. These advanced screening methods include:
- MRI of the prostate to detect higher risk aggressive types versus low risk
- PHI combines three measurements to better predict the type of cancer
- 4K Score combines the levels of 4 PSA screenings with clinical information to determine a man’s risk for aggressive cancers
- Active Surveillance is a periodic monitoring system for men with low risk cancer. Treatment will only be considered if the cancer grows or becomes more aggressive.
This post was written by Western States HIFU