As soon as your doctor recommends you with this test, the initial questions alarming your mind be – What is a PSA Test and why is it done? It is true that the test detects the presence of a specific disease, but which disease! If these and more such questions upset your mind, then this post will be helpful to you.
Defining the PSA Test
It is a blood test, which evaluates the volume of PSA or Prostate Specific Antigen in the blood. The normal cells present in the prostate produce prostate specific antigen, protein, in the blood. A balanced amount of these antigens in men is fine, but if the amount rises then this calls for an alarm of meeting a severe ailment or even cancer. Higher levels of PSA imply the occurrence of prostate cancer, or non-cancerous cancer, such as enlarged prostate or prostatitis. The procedure for the test is simple. It involves the collection of the blood sample and then sending it for measuring the PSA level in the blood.
The major reason of having the test done is that prostate cancer is a popular form of non-skin cancer in males and is a prominent reason for increasing deaths in men, next the lung cancer. With the help of the test, it is possible to detect cancer at an early stage, which in turn, can combat the ailment from becoming severe and resulting alarming results.
Possible Reasons for Variations in PSA level
It is an antigen released by healthy cells in the prostate. For this reason, all healthy males have a substantial amount of the protein present in their blood. There are but few reasons, which can alter the level of this protein, like:
- Vigorous Exercise – Yes, it is true that exercising is beneficial for overall health, but too intense exercise can create troubles within the body. Males, who do intense exercises, especially cycling, are more prone to have higher levels of this protein in their blood.
- Urine infection – A simple urine infection can trigger the secretion of this protein, and hence, can result in severe ailments within a person. If you are suffering from a similar infection and your doctor recommends you with the test, then first, it is essential to combat the infection as only then you can go for the final evaluation.
- Prostate stimulation and Anal sex – Bisexual, gay or males who has intercourse with other men, may face the problem of increased level of this antigen. Being the receptive partner during the process increases the overall probability of having higher level of PSA.
- The presence of any disease, besides cancer – A male suffering with diseases, such as prostatitis can meet with higher levels of this protein.
Risks and Benefits of the Test
Measuring the potential limitations and benefits of the test can help you make an informed decision. The major advantage of this examination is that it can help in the early analysis of the life-threatening disease – prostate cancer. If detected at an initial stage then it is possible to treat cancer and save the life. The crucial issue with the early detection is but that the symptoms of this cancer reveals after a couple of years, as this cancer progresses slowly every year.
The next thing to consider are the limitations of this test. Some of the major limitations of the PSA test are:
PSA – lowering reasons – Consumption of a specific type of drugs, which treat BPH or other urinary infections can reduce the levels of this antigen in the blood. The Even large dosage of chemotherapy medications can cause a reduction in PSA.
PSA – rising reasons – A positive test result does not imply that you are suffering from cancer. As listed above, more other reasons can cause the boost in the level of this protein.
Overdiagnosis – As per studies, almost 55% of men detected with prostate cancer were actually suffering from the tumor. Such tumors are ‘symptoms free’ and considered to fall under overdiagnosis category. Detection of their presence does not imply that an individual is suffering from cancer.
Misguiding results – There are chances that the test may not reveal precise results. It is because, there are few situations, mentioned above, which can trigger the level of PSA, and hence, lead to misleading results. For this reason, it is advisable to the patients not going to the test immediately after encountering any such situation.
Probable Risks are the next thing that needs accentuation. There are situations, which the test may result in the higher level of PSA, and hence, you may feel suffering from cancer. Under such condition, a patient can meet with two cases. He either can go for a further biopsy or can meet psychological effects. While a biopsy is a surgical procedure that involves its pain, risks, and infections, psychological issues can cause distress and anxiety in an individual.
This test is definitely controversial as it involves few risks and limitations. Based on this, the few generous recommendations are that a person must go to the screening based on his final decision. It is essential that you get educate about all possible outcomes of the test and decide to whether go for it, or not. Moreover, some healthcare institutes recommend that old age men who are above 75 years old, or who may not live many years may avoid going for this examination. Every male, who is at higher risk – those detected previously with the tumor or have a family history, may get the test done in every two or three years.
Implications of the test results
The result of the PSA test measures its level per millimeter of blood i.e. ng/ml. Before coming to a conclusion, it is wise, if your doctor performs additional follow-up tests to investigate the PSA velocity and free PSA percentage. The PSA velocity examines recent changes in the level of this protein. The free percentage of the antigen helps analyze that whether it is cancer or a tumor.
Before you finally conclude it is advisable to consult your doctor and discuss the limitations, benefits, and risks of this test. Knowing such issues beforehand makes it convenient for you to take correct decisions afterwards.