What is the PSA test?
With prostate cancer being the second leading cause of death in men and the second most common cancer in men, it is vitally important for men to know their PSA number. Knowing this number will help determine whether you have cancer of the prostate, a walnut-sized gland enfolding the duct leading from the bladder to the penis. The test measures how much of a protein essential to human reproduction, PSA (prostate-specific antigen), is in your blood. The PSA’s job is to turn your viscous pre-semen into a liquid, consequently energizing the sperm.
Your prostate makes this PSA all the time, so a small amount of the protein (usually resulting in a reading of less than 4 ng/mL) is normal. Because cancer cells produce extra PSA, a higher reading may serve as a warning sign. While some experts think there is no specific normal or abnormal level, the higher your PSA, the more likely it is to signal a problem.
Does a high PSA reading mean that I have cancer?
Not necessarily. An enlarged or inflamed prostate, which is common in men over age 50, can also give a slight boost to PSA readings. What’s more, the test isn’t terribly accurate. At least half of all men whose PSA levels are over 4 don’t have cancer. And some men with prostate cancer have perfectly normal PSA readings. According to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, 15 percent of a group of 2,950 men with normal PSA levels were found to have prostate cancer.