PSA TEST (PROSTATE SPECIFIC ANTIGEN) A GUIDE FOR PATIENTS AND CARERS This information sheet is to explain about the PSA test, its role in prostate cancer diagnosis, management and its limitations. Your doctor or specialist may need to discuss with you the relevance of this test and the need for further investigation or monitoring. WHAT IS THE PSA TEST? It is a blood test which measures a protein made by the prostate gland, this is found naturally in the bloodstream. A raised PSA does not necessarily mean a diagnosis of prostate cancer. Other factors which can raise the level of the PSA test include enlargement of the prostate gland or inflammation of the prostate gland. HOW RELIABLE IS THE PSA TEST? Your doctor may wish to check your PSA level to assess your prostate gland especially if you are having urinary symptoms. You may have read or have been advised to have your PSA checked so that you can get the ‘all clear’ with regard to prostate cancer. However, this is a screening test only and may indicate the need for further investigations. WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ROLE FOR PSA? This is to identify if there is a possibility of cancer within the prostate gland. A PSA test may detect prostate cancer at an early stage when it can be detected by no other means and even when there are no other symptoms at all. Once the prostate cancer is diagnosed the PSA test is very valuable in monitoring the condition as well as the response to all forms of treatment. WHAT OTHER FACTORS CAN CAUSE AN INCREASE IN THE PSA LEVEL? Some of the most common conditions that can cause an abnormal level of PSA other than prostate cancer are: A large prostate gland. The size of the prostate gland varies from person to person. The average size is 20-30gms but in some it may be 60gms or even over 100gms in size. The larger the prostate gland the higher the level of the PSA. Urinary tract infection. This may cause an abnormally high level of PSA for a temporary period. Prostatitis. Any inflammation within the prostate gland can raise the PSA level. WHAT HAPPENS IF MY PSA LEVEL IS ABOVE NORMAL? Normal values: age 50-69 years ~ 0-3ngms/ml age 70+ years ~ 0-5ngms/ml You will be advised to undergo a procedure called transrectal ultrasound guided prostate biopsies (please see separate sheet) The PSA test is very valuable to helping to detect and manage prostate cancer. However, the level in an individual case may require careful interpretation and sometimes other factors may need to be taken into account for the best possible advice and the highest quality of care.