Even though it is not entirely reliable, PSA test has the potential to detect abnormalities in the prostate and therefore enable a person to address them before they cause further harm. If you are a male aged 45 years and above, you should probably consider undergoing this test.
PSA levels vary in individuals depending on age, genetics, health of prostate glands, rate of sexual activity, and general activity of the person. Concentration of the enzyme is usually measured in nanogram per milliliter (ng/ml). The normal PSA levels by age are as follows:
Between 40 and 50 years: 2ng/ml
Between 50 and 59 years: 3ng/ml
Between 60 and 69 years: 4g/ml
Between 70 and 79 years: 5g/ml
As a person advances in age, their body produces higher levels of PSA enzymes; that is why the level that is considered to be normal increases in the results scale.
What abnormal PSA levels indicate
Every adult has some level of PSA in their blood, and, as mentioned earlier, there may be slight difference in the amounts depending on factors like heredity, rate of sexual involvement, and general exercise. However, the average levels indicated in the above chart apply for the average person, and is therefore used as a yardstick for measuring normal levels of PSA. A PSA test can provide clues for existence of one or more conditions mentioned below:
Men of age forty and above are more susceptible to prostate cancer than other groups. When detected early, prostate cancer can be well managed, so that it does not pose life threats to patient. PSA tests were formulated as a cheaper and faster means to determine whether a person is likely to have cancer or not, and therefore prevent the individual from incurring further costs if they are deemed okay.
When the PSA levels are found to be too high, the person may be advised to seek further tests, which will provide results that are more reliable.
This is a condition whereby the prostate gland becomes inflamed. Prostatitis causes the affected glands to produce more than normal levels of PSA. It may or may not be accompanied by pain. Once high level of PSA is detected, further tests will be necessary to confirm prostatitis.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia
This is the an increase in size of the prostate glands. It is different from prostatitis in that, while the other involves inflammation without additional cells, BPH involves actual increase in cell count, which raises both mass and volume of the prostate glands. If not treated early, this expansion may lead to stress on the urethra, making urinal flow difficult and causing failure of the urethral muscles. PSA tests can help to detect this condition and address it early.
It is important to emphasize that, while positive PSA results can indicate presence of one or more conditions discussed above, at times, the patient may not have a single one of these. Therefore, a positive PSA test result only acts as a suggestion for further tests.
Why have the test then?
PSA is a less stressful and less costly way to monitor your prostate health. Generally, if a PSA test result indicates that your reproductive system is ok, there is very little possibility that another test will indicate otherwise, though, theoretically, it is still possible to find prostate abnormalities in a person despite their PSA levels being normal.
Many patients have survived from fast growing prostate cancers after early PSA tests rang the bells about their condition, prompting a quick response that saved their lives. At times however, some prostate cancers that read positive under PSA are not life threatening as their growth is too slow to harm the individual.
Even then, keeping these nonlethal prostate cancers under watch is important because no cancer is trustable; some may start with a slow pace but rapidly accelerate after sometime. For people with slow growing cancers, regular PSA tests can help to detect any changes and assist to keep the individual calm, knowing that nothing is wrong.
Once you take a test and it is found that your PSA levels are normal, you might choose to take another test after several months.
If your PSA levels are not stable, you may be asked to come back for another test after a couple of weeks. Within the 48 hours preceding the test, it is advisable that you do not engage in vigorous exercise or sexual activity. This will assist in providing more accurate results.
For people whose PSA is abnormal, the practitioner may advise them to take further tests. Usually, one goes for Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) after PSA.
In DRE, the doctor inserts fingers into the patient’s rectum and palpates the prostate. Some people may find it embarrassing, but the test only lasts for a couple of seconds, and it’s worth it.