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.
A series of studies were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine that question the efficacy of widespread PSA testing for the early detection of prostate cancer. One study, The European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC Trial), involved 182,000 men in Europe. An American study from the Prostate, Lung Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial looked at nearly 77,000 men in 10 medical centers.
For the last 20 years, urologists have been practicing in an era that advocates the early detection of prostate cancer . This has led to a decrease in the death rate from prostate cancer. With the decrease in death rates that we have been experiencing, we have to somehow explain what we as physicians are doing that is contributing to this. These studies may suggest that PSA screening may not be responsible for this.
However, several major flaws have been identified with these studies.
1. Most importantly, in the PLCO study, the PSA lev...
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