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Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test

The PSA test is a routine blood screening that can be performed in a lab, hospital, or your doctor’s office. It requires no preparation. It is used to help detect prostate cancer and monitor its response to treatment. PSA is a protein produced by both normal and diseased prostates.  It is specific to the prostate but not specific to prostate cancer, so benign conditions such as BPA (enlargement), prostatitis, or trauma can cause elevation as well. Because of this, elevation does not automatically mean you have prostate cancer but can alert the doctor to conduct more frequent or in-depth testing. Likewise, a “normal” PSA does not mean that there is no cancer. As important as the actual PSA level is, changes in the level over time are equally, if not more, important.

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What Is the Prostate Cancer Screening Process?

Regular testing for prostate cancer has been proven to aid in early detection. And the earlier prostate cancer is detected, the better chances for successful treatment and long-term survival.

Testing for prostate cancer involves a simple blood test and physical exam. All in all, it takes only about 10 minutes-a small commitment that could potentially save your life.

Typically, your primary care physician (PCP) does a prostate screening as a routine part of your yearly physical. (If a screening is not included, we advise requesting one starting at age 40.) Your PCP or urologist will also perform a screening if you are exhibiting any symptoms of prostate cancer.

Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)

The physician will place a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum and feel the prostate through the rectal wall. This allows the physician to feel the prostate for lumps, nodules, and other abnormalities.

While the DRE may be effective at early detection of colon or rectal cancers, or at catching later-stage prostate cancers, it isn’t a reliable method for finding early-stage prostate cancer. The PSA blood test should be used.

What Happens After My Screening?

If your PCP believes that the results of your digital rectal exam or PSA test are cause for concern, you will be referred to a urologist. Further testing of blood or urine may be done but ultimately, the diagnosis of cancer will require a needle biopsy, which is an outpatient procedure. The majority of prostate cancers are low grade (not aggressive) and can be followed with PSA, MRI, and further biopsies.