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Your doctor just told you you have elevated PSA. What does that mean?

During a routine physical exam, many primary care providers will recommend that men have blood drawn to check their PSA levels. PSA stands for Prostate Specific Antigen. An elevated PSA (normal PSA levels are age-dependent) can be indicative of prostate cancer, or a number of other issues. Only about 25% of men with elevated PSA levels, who go on to have prostate biopsies (a procedure where a small sample of prostate tissue is gathered with a needle to be analyzed) have prostate cancer.

What are some of the issues other than prostate cancer that can cause elevated PSA levels?

Prostatitis. Prostatitis means inflammation of the prostate and can be classified as either bacterial or non-bacterial. While the bacterial variety can be quickly treated with antibiotics, non-bacterial prostatitis can be much more difficult to diagnose and treat.

Sex. The prostate provides about 25% of the material that makes up semen, and contraction of the smooth muscles of the prostate help to expel semen through the urethra. Ejaculation can cause PSA levels to increase slightly. This should come back to normal within two to three days. The increase tends to be minor enough to not have a significant impact on the level, but could push you from high-normal to high.

Getting older. By virtue of surviving another year, your prostate level will rise. While a level of 2.5 is normal for a 40-year-old, by the time you hit 70, that normal level is 6.5.

As you can see, an elevated PSA in and of itself should not be considered alarming. There is even a growing voice wondering whether the PSA is an accurate enough tool to be used to diagnose cancer.

Here at Urology Austin, we’ve been talking to men about their prostates for over 50 years. Please contact us to find out more about the PSA or any other urological concerns.

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