Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)
Does this test have other names?
What is this test?
This test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood.
The cells of the prostate gland make the protein called PSA. Men normally have low
levels of PSA. If your PSA levels start to rise, it could mean you have prostate cancer,
benign prostate conditions, inflammation, or an infection.
PSA testing is controversial because the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force discourages
men who don't have any symptoms of prostate cancer from being screened. The task force
says that PSA test results can lead to treating small cancers that would never become
But the American Cancer Society believes men should be told the risks and benefits
of PSA testing and allowed to make their own decision about if and when to be screened.
The American Urologic Society says that PSA screening is most important between the
ages of 55 and 69. If you have a brother or father with prostate cancer or you are
African American, you should start testing at age 40.
Why do I need this test?
You may have this test if you are 50 or older and your healthcare provider wants to
screen you for prostate cancer. Some providers recommend screening at age 40 or 45
if you have a family history of prostate cancer or other risk factors.
You may also have this test if you have already been diagnosed with prostate cancer,
so that your healthcare provider can monitor your treatment and see whether your cancer
has come back.
What other tests might I have along with this test?
Your healthcare provider may also do a digital rectal exam (DRE). A DRE is a physical
exam of the prostate, not a lab test. For the exam, your provider will place a gloved
finger in your rectum and feel the prostate to check for any bumps or abnormal areas.
The FDA recommends that a DRE be done along with a PSA test.
What do my test results mean?
Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses
to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you
may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your healthcare
Results are given in nanograms per milliliter ng/mL. Normal results are below 4.0
ng/mL. A rising PSA may mean that you have cancer. But the PSA results alone won't
tell your healthcare provider whether it's cancer or a benign prostate condition.
If your provider suspects cancer, he or she will likely suggest that you have a biopsy
of the prostate to make the diagnosis.
How is this test done?
The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your
Does this test pose any risks?
Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection,
bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight
stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.
What might affect my test results?
An infection can affect your results, as can certain medicines. Riding a bicycle and
ejaculation may also affect your results.
How do I get ready for this test?
You may need to abstain from sex and not ride a bicycle within 1 to 2 days of the
test. In addition, be sure your healthcare provider knows about all medicines, herbs,
vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need
a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.