Approximately 180,890 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States this year. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men, resulting in a high number of deaths per year.
However, if caught early enough, there is a very high success rate (< 90%) for curing men affected by this disease. Early detection is the key, but because prostate cancer is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer” due to the lack of symptoms, blood tests aid doctors in determining if further tests should be carried out. Elevated PSA is the first clue for doctors that something may be wrong.
PSA (Prostrate-specific antigen) blood test
Prostate-specific antigen is a protein substance that is manufactured by the prostate gland. When the levels of PSA are up, there is a chance the man has prostate cancer. Doctors will conduct further testing to determine what steps to take next.
How high will the PSA be if cancer is suspected?
Although there is no exact number to determine whether a man definitely has prostate cancer, levels of 4 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) or above are cause for suspicion. A small percentage of men will have this cancer with blood levels below the 4 nanograms, and there is a 25 % chance the man will have prostate cancer if the nanograms are between 4 and 10. The likelihood increases to 50 % if the PSA levels are over 10 nanograms per milliliter.
What happens if PSA levels are high?
Each doctor has his/her own cut-off point, but generally, if the levels are just right around 4 or a little above, the doctor may suggest waiting a bit, watching it, and retesting in the near future. There are other factors that can elevate the PSA that does not point to cancer.
A biopsy is done if the PSA level is beyond what the doctor feels is a safe number or if other factors affect the likelihood of if being cancerous, such as age, a relative having the disease, medical conditions, race (African-American males get prostate cancer twice as frequently as other males), and so on.
The American Cancer Society recommends discussing prostate cancer screening options with a health care professional as early as age 40 if the man is in the high-risk group. At Urology Austin, we have a team of specialists who are experienced in the field of prostate health. If you would like more information about this topic or would like to secure an appointment, please contact us today!