Prostate Specific Antigen: PSA Levels and What They Mean

Prostate Specific Antigen: PSA Levels and What They MeanProstate Specific Antigen – Prostate cancer is one of the most difficult to discover early since it has few if any symptoms in the early stages. This form of cancer tends to be less dangerous than many other types.

Mostly because it is located away from most of the organs in the body and the thickness of the tissues makes it difficult to expand rapidly. However, it’s common that many men who contract this form of cancer have it for several years and by the time symptoms start to make themselves known, it has spread to other areas of the body.

Prostate Cancer Signs

As indicated before, when the cancer is in the early stages, there may not be any signs or symptoms that are experienced. In some cases when cancer starts to develop in the passageways that allow urine or semen to pass, the irritation or slowness of movement may be one of the first signs.

However, if cancer develops away from these areas, then there usually no initial signs.

Once the cancer grows larger, symptoms start to develop which includes interference with the flow of urine or semen, pain during ejaculation, or a slow, growing pain that does not regress. At this point, the cancer may be in the form of a tumor and it may have started to spread in the body.

To detect this form of cancer in the early stages, a new test has been developed called the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test that uses the body’s own reaction to the presence of the cancer in the prostate as the detection element.

Prostate Specific Antigen  and What You Need to Know 

Here are the  things you need to  know about Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test and the risk level  at specific age;

What is a PSA Test and How is Being Done?


Prostate Specific Antigen: PSA Levels and What They Mean


The Prostate Specific Antigen test measures the amount of PSA in the bloodstream. There is PSA present in the blood of all men who have a prostate gland, but the level is usually quite low. Healthy men with no cancer or other issues with their prostate have a low amount of PSA present in their blood stream.

However, when the prostate grows larger, the amount will increase and when it reaches a certain level will be considered high enough to cause further examination.

Prostate glands will grow larger for a few reasons which include the presence of cancer which includes injury, a rectal exam that was performed digitally, or sexual activity that includes ejaculation. If there has not been any sexual activity, digital rectal exam, or injury to the prostate, then further examination becomes warranted.

In addition, there are medical conditions which will cause the prostate to grow as well, including prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH. So, a biopsy of the prostate will then be performed to detect the presence of cancer cells.


So, an increase in the levels of prostate specific antigen is not actually cancer detection, but instead an increase in the size of the prostate with cancer being a possibility. Still, a PSA blood test is considered one of the standard means of detecting cancer in the prostate.

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What is A Good PSA Level?

As men grow older, the level of PSA present in their blood also increases, although there is some controversy over the use of age-specific charts. Some doctors prefer a single chart while others prefer a chart that lists what is normal PSA level by age.

What is Normal PSA Level by Age?

When using age as the basis of a prostate cancer PSA test, the normal amount for a man in his 40s is a maximum of 2.5 nanograms per milliliter.

That rises to a maximum level of 6.5 ng ml with men who reach 70-years-old or older.


What Causes PSA Levels to Rise?

However, there is considerable variation within the ranges and it is possible that some men have little to no PSA detectable in their bodies. Plus, there may be natural increases in the PSA levels, but not reaching the maximum as indicated by the charts. Add to this that other factor may be causing the PSA levels to rise and the need for secondary tests becomes apparent.

One secondary test that can be used to confirm whether cancer is present is called a Free PSA test. This is a blood test that does not attach to the proteins in the blood stream.


Prostate Specific Antigen: PSA Levels and What They Mean

So How do We Interpret PSA Test Results?

The results of this blood test for prostate cancer are read in the opposite means compared to the standard test. So, the lower the free PSA percentage, the greater the likelihood that he has cancer in the prostate.

The PSA range for prostate cancer is not exact but rather indicated by a rise in the levels of the prostate specific antigen from previous tests. Or, if the levels well exceed the maximum range as denoted by the age of the men who are taking the test.

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This means that the PSA test results interpretation will need to be based on known factors, the age of the person in question, and perhaps combined with a family history to warrant further examinations.


PSA Screening Recommendations

Since 2008, it is recommended that men who are 50 and above get the prostate specific antigen test on an annual basis. However, if they are African-American or have a family history of prostate cancer, then they should start getting tested at the age of 45.

Since prostate cancer can affect all men, regardless of family history, regular screenings are advised if only because the test itself is non-invasive and simple to perform.

Prostate cancer in men under the age of 50 is relatively rare. However, men who have a family history of cancer at this age or show other risk factors should be screened. Otherwise, men who are in their 50s should take the PSA test and if the levels are higher than normal, receive the free PSA to confirm the presence of cancer in the prostate.

At this point, consultation with your doctor about potential treatments should be a top priority. Plus, remember that no treatment is an option as well depending on the results of the tests and any further testing that is done.


Prostate Cancer Survival Rate



Prostate Specific Antigen: PSA Levels and What They Mean

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The rate for survival depends, like most cancers, on when it is discovered. This means that early detection of the cancer offers a very high survival rate for men. This is mostly because the cancer is limited to the prostate gland which is well away from most other organs in the body.


Whether the treatment is a biopsy or full removal of the prostate along with any chemotherapy or radiation treatment, the survival rate is well over 90%.

However, if the cancer should spread to other areas of the body, the survival rate drops considerably. The exact percentage cannot be measured individually because it depends on several factors.

It should be noted that early detection of cancer in the prostate using a serum PSA test does not actually affect the survival rate depending on the circumstances. The PSA test results interpretation will have to be based on factors that are individual to the person being tested.

This is because the tissues of the prostate gland are thick which makes it difficult for the cancerous tumors to grow. In addition, the nature of the cancer itself may make it slow to grow as well.

So, if a man were in his 80s and a small tumor was found in his prostate, it’s possible that he might succumb to natural causes before the cancer grows large enough to be a threat to his health. In fact, some of the treatments for prostate cancer may be more dangerous to the man’s health than the cancer.

In fact, biopsies are not without risk as they may cause pain, bleeding, and even a serious infection to develop depending on the location. For men who have reached an advanced age, it may be a better choice to not treat the cancer at all.

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Effectiveness of the PSA Test


Prostate Specific Antigen: PSA Levels and What They Mean


When compared to other tests which are used to detect cancer in the prostate, the PSA is quite effective. In addition, the prostate specific antigen test is easy to apply, verify and allows the doctor and patient to discuss options about treatment. Previous prostate test to verify the presence of cancer have been invasive and in some cases, causes side effects which may be more problematic than the cancer itself.

The bottom line is that over the past two decades a considerable amount of information has been learned about prostate cancer and its treatment. What was once considered as dangerous as other forms of cancer are now regarded in a different light. This means that care must be taken when a prostate specific antigen test is taken that men do not overreact to the results.

In many cases, especially those in which the man who is diagnosed in well into his 70s or older, the presence of a cancerous tumor in the prostate may be nothing to worry about at all. However, every man who undergoes the test should speak with their doctor about the options that are available. The decision about what to do when the prostate specific antigen levels have risen which might indicate the presence of cancer.


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