PROSTATE cancer is the third biggest cancer killer in the UK, and going for a PSA test can detect if a person is at risk of getting the disease early.
Still, so little men know what it is. Here’s the lowdown…
What is a PSA test?
A PSA test is a blood test that can help diagnose problems with your prostate, including cancer.
The test measures the amount of prostate specific antigens (PSA) in the blood – this is a protein produced by all prostates.
While a higher reading can indicate old age, it can also mean a problem with the prostate (thought this isn’t always necessarily cancer).
You can ask for a PSA test at your local GP.
What’s a normal PSA level by age?
In a PSA test, the amount of prostate specific antigen in your blood is measured in nanograms of PSA per millilitre of blood (ng/ml). PSA levels can range from less than 1ng/ml to hundreds of ng/ml.
The NHS say that if you’re aged 50 to 69, your PSA level is considered raised if it’s 3ng/ml or higher.
They explain that a raised PSA level in your blood may be a sign of prostate cancer, however, other conditions, such as an enlarged prostate, prostatitis, or a urinary infection, can also cause your PSA levels to be higher.
It’s important to note that there are well-known issues with the test, meaning there is not currently a national screening programme for prostate cancer in the UK – instead, men over 50 can talk in length about the pros and cons of a test under a scheme called the prostate cancer risk management programme (PCRMP).
What are the pros and cons of the PSA test?
According to the NHS, there are many pros and cons to the test, so it might be worth assessing them before you book yourself an appointment.
- It may reassure you if the test result is normal.
- It may give you an indication of cancer before symptoms develop.
- It may find cancer at an early stage, when treatment could prevent the cancer becoming more advanced.
- PSA testing may reduce your risk of dying from prostate cancer by 21%.
- If treatment is successful, you may avoid the risks of advanced cancer.
- In cases of advanced cancer, treatment will usually extend life.
- It can miss cancer and provide false reassurance.
- It may lead to unnecessary worry and medical tests when there is no cancer.
- It cannot tell the difference between slow-growing and fast-growing cancer.
- It may make you worry by finding slow-growing cancer that may never cause any symptoms or shorten your life.
- To save one life from prostate cancer, 27 men would have to be diagnosed with it.