What Does PSA Mean? PSA is a blood test that is commonly used to help predict the presence of prostate cancer . It stands for Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) and refers to a protein first identified in 1979 that is made only by the prostate gland. It is currently used as a tumor marker and can also help monitor disease progression or lack of recurrent disease in patients who have previously undergone treatment for prostate cancer . A tremendous amount of confusion exists amongst patients and the popular press regarding PSA. Part of this lack of understanding has occurred because many think that an elevation in the PSA level means that one definitely has prostate cancer. In actuality, this is not true and this article should help clarify some of the confusion surrounding PSA testing. Most important is the “S” in PSA, which refers to the protein being specific to the prostate gland and not specific to cancer. Many conditions, both benign ...
Dear Dr. Motola,
Can sexual activity just before a PSA blood test make PSA results jump from 2 to 12?
PSA testing immediately after sexual activity remains controversial. The most widely held belief is that patients should wait 3 days after sexual activity prior to obtaining a PSA, however some recent studies suggest that sexual activity will not cause a rise. Repeating the PSA after 3 days of abstinence will be the easiest way to resolve this.
Dear Dr. Motola:
What is the normal PSA for a 69 year-old man? At what level does the PSA become troubling or warrant further tests?
PSA cut off levels have been debated for many years. Traditionally the cut off for a normal PSA has been 4, however more recently age-adjusted PSA values are being advocated. Utilizing age-adjusted PSA values helps to explain that the PSA of a 45-year-old should be different than that of a 70-year-old. A PSA less than 3.5 is usually considered normal for men age 55 or younger. Similarly as patients get into their mid 70s, higher values of PSA are now being accepted without the need for the patient to undergo biopsy.
Rather than utilizing the absolute PSA value, the rate of change of the PSA is a very important variable. PSAs that are rising at a very rapid rate are more like to be associated with prostate cancer . A PSA increase of more than 0.75 per year may also be indicative of underlying prostate cancer. Furthermore,...
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