Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Test Results – What Do They Mean?

For years, a prostate-specific antigen test has been commonly used as a  tool for screening prostate cancer. This diagnostic test normally measures the levels of a protein known as prostate-specific antigen produced by the prostate gland. If you underwent a Prostate-specific antigen test and received high PSA levels, you may be worried about the risk of prostate cancer.

But, do abnormal levels of prostate-specific antigen always indicate prostate cancer? If not, when should you get the prostate-specific antigen test done?

Read below to find the answer

What Do PSA Test Results Mean?

Typically, the possibility of prostate cancer increases with increased levels of PSA. However, there are no set cut-off values for determining whether the PSA levels are normal or abnormal. Depending on factors such as age and PSA levels, around 25% of men with high PSAs could be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Usually,  the prostate glands of older males have some cancerous cells. These tumors progress slowly. It is unlikely that they may spread outside of the prostate. Generally, a PSA value of 4.0 ng/mL or less is considered to be normal. But, there are cases where individuals have PSA values less than 4.0ng/mL and are still diagnosed with prostate cancer. Thus, Prostate-specific antigen test results may not always be a definitive indicator of prostate cancer. The doctor may need to do additional tests like a biopsy.

Reasons For Unusual PSA Test Results

Getting high levels of PSA doesn’t always point to prostate cancer. Several non-cancerous reasons could lead to high PSA levels. Some of these are:

  • Enlarged prostate gland: Enlarged prostate is also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This condition is prevalent in older men and can lead to increased PSA levels. Usually, this condition occurs as a person ages. It can affect the urinary tract and the bladder and lead to symptoms such as difficulty in urination.
  • Infection in the prostate gland: Prostatitis is a common disease found in males under 50 years. It occurs as a result of bacterial infection and can lead to swelling and inflammation of the prostate. This can also lead to increased PSA levels.
  • Age: Older men usually have higher PSA levels as compared to younger men. PSA levels can also vary between different ethnicities.
  • Urinary tract infections: Infection of the urinary tract could irritate the prostate and lead to higher production of PSA.
  • Stimulation of the prostate: Any activity that stimulates the prostate such as vigorous exercises or ejaculation can cause more PSA to be released. Sometimes a simple digital rectal exam can also raise PSA levels.
  • Injury to the prostate: Due to an accident or a fall, your groin may get injured. This can temporarily increase PSA levels. It is vital you share information about any such injury with your doctor. Sometimes surgical procedures can also cause trauma or bruising of the prostate.

What If The PSA Levels Are High?

If you have received high PSA levels in your test result but do not have symptoms of prostate cancer, the oncologist will ask you to go for another PSA test. If the repeated PSA test confirms the findings of the previous one, you will have to undergo a digital rectal exam. You may also need to go for additional diagnostic tests. Since high PSA levels could be because of other issues, your doctor has to carefully interpret the results of the PSA test. If the results of other tests in addition to PSA tests indicate the possibility of prostate cancer, usually, a biopsy will be done to detect the presence of cancer. These additional tests assist in improving the overall accuracy of a prostate-specific antigen test. Your doctor will also consider various risk factors when interpreting the results of the PSA test. Since prostate cancer is generally slow-growing, many men will be told to avoid biopsy and instead, the doctor will just conduct digital rectal exams and prostate-specific antigen tests on a regular basis to monitor changes in health.

When Is A PSA Test Required?

Several organizations differ in their opinions when it comes to using PSA as a screening tool. Nevertheless, a PSA test could be considered for screening under the following circumstances:

  • You are in the age group of 50-74 years
  • A history of prostate cancer exists in your family, especially if your sibling or parent has been diagnosed with it.
  • You had a relative who got prostate cancer when he was younger than 60 years or passed away because of it before turning 75.

In such scenarios, it is better to discuss the risk of prostate cancer and get a PSA test done before you turn 50 years old. Though a PSA test could help in the early diagnosis and timely treatment of prostate cancer, it can also give false results. Additionally, a PSA test can only detect small tumors that may not be even life-threatening. In most cases. “watchful waiting “ is recommended instead of undergoing treatments unnecessarily.

Get A Second Opinion From Us

Sometimes misinterpretation of the results of diagnostic tests or false positive results can lead to misdiagnosis. In recent times,  misdiagnosis of cancer  has emerged as a common problem in healthcare that can have long-lasting effects on the mental, physical and financial health of patients. MediGence brings to you ThinkTwice, a platform for a second opinion. By taking a second opinion with our board of oncologists, you can confirm your diagnosis of prostate cancer and know the best treatment. You get:

  • A technology-integrated platform that enables you to upload the results of your PSA test, biopsy, and other diagnostic tests.
  • A board of highly qualified and board-certified panel of expert oncologists
  • Second opinion report delivered within 5 days
  • Option of a virtual second opinion

Conclusion

Getting high PSA levels may not always indicate prostate cancer. It is important to discuss the results of the PSA test with your oncologist to understand what they mean and how they affect your health. In case you are unsatisfied with your diagnosis, you can avail a second opinion to ensure that you are taking the right steps for your health.

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