Is a PSA Test Right for You? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on April 21, 2013

Is a PSA Test Right for You?

You’ve heard time and time again that frequent testing for a variety of illnesses are crucial for maintaining a healthy body, or to detect any issues early on. 

But even if you follow everything the doctor says, are all tests necessary?

For men who are questioning whether or not they should have a PSA test to screen for prostate cancer, read closely.

“The entire medical community is grappling with this issue,” says Stephen Arrigo, M.D., a radiation oncologist with Crozer-Keystone Health System.

In healthy males, PSA (prostate-specific antigen) is released in low amounts into the blood from the prostate gland. As they get older and the prostate enlarges, the amount of PSA slowly continues to increase. However, rises in PSA levels can indicate a variety of other issues, and a few different tests become necessary to determine whether the increase is a result of something else, such as inflammation of the prostate gland or prostate cancer.

A PSA test is neither an invasive nor a harmful procedure; rather it is a simple blood test that shows levels of the antigen in a male’s bloodstream. However, many doctors are concerned about the effectiveness of the test, as well as the potentially negative effects it can also cause.

However, Arrigo wants to make it clear that men should not discouraged from taking the test. “The clear benefit of curative treatment for localized prostate cancer is a reduction in [the spread of cancer],” Arrigo says. “The focus on the front line of medicine should not be the discouragement of the PSA test, but education of the primary care physicians regarding targeted screening.”

PSA tests can be extremely beneficial for men over 50, and for those who are already at high-risk for developing prostate cancer. Men who have a family history of prostate cancer would most likely benefit from early screenings, as well as African American males over the age of 40. The benefit of diagnosing prostate cancer early is the possibility of receiving non-aggressive treatments to rid the body of cancerous cells. Many treatments for prostate cancer have been criticized for harmful side effects it can cause, such as incontinence or erectile dysfunction.

Some also suggest that having multiple tests might help predict the likelihood that you would develop prostate cancer, based upon the rate at which PSA levels are increasing. However, it is difficult to make such predictions based upon PSA rates alone, and more often than not, additional testing may be required.

Even if you fit the criteria as a male who’s predisposed to developing prostate cancer, you should speak with your doctor about the best screening process for you.

To learn more about Crozer-Keystone Cancer Services, visit http://ckcancer.crozerkeystone.org or call 1-866-695-HOPE (1-866-695-4673).

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