What is PSA and what does it do?
Prostate specific antigen (PSA) is an enzyme produced by all men. It is created by the prostate gland, which is located between the bladder and penis. Normally, the prostate functions to aid reproduction by secreting a fluid which mixes with sperm to form semen. PSA helps to make semen more liquefied. PSA levels are measured using a very sensitive blood test. There will always be some PSA detected in the blood.
Why is PSA measured?
Your healthcare provider may want to measure your PSA level for a variety of reasons. The reason PSA is being tested will influence the interpretation of results. Some of the reasons your PSA may be measured include the following:
- Suspected enlarged prostate
- Prostate cancer screening
- Observation of patients who already have prostate cancer
- Post-treatment monitoring – type of treatment will influence interpretation
- Testing prostate volume and response to prostate disease treatment
What does rising or elevated PSA mean?
Most people automatically associate elevated PSA levels with cancer. This is not true, and can cause unnecessary worry. While PSA is sensitive for cancer, it is not specific. There are also non-cancerous reasons why PSA may be elevated. Some of these include:
- Prostate Surgery
- Prostate Infection
- Enlarged prostate
- Placement of a catheter in the urethra
- Prostatic Massage
- Vigorous exercise
When might your PSA cause concern?
The following changes in PSA may indicate an increased risk of Prostate cancer and could warrant a biopsy:
- PSA of > 4.0ng/dl
- Rising PSA on three consecutive readings
- A rise of >0.7ng/dl per year
- Rising PSA while on Avodart or Proscar medications
Michelle Strovski, Maple Ridge Urology, Serving Maple Ridge, Coquitlam, Mission, Abbotsford, Langley, and Vancouver.