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Get Smart About PSA Testing for Prostate Cancer

Friday, September 23, 2016

Prostate cancer remains the most common cancer in American men and the second leading cause of cancer death. September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and it is dedicated to encouraging early detection and treatment of prostate cancer.

"While men are reluctant to seek health care, through education and awareness we can change the impact men's health has on families, friends, and communities," says Dr. Michael Abern, assistant professor of Urologic Oncology at UI Health.

Testing the blood level of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) - a protein produced in the prostate gland - in one of the steps in screening for prostate cancer. Men with prostate cancer often have elevated blood levels of PSA. If cancer is suspected, doctors may conduct further PSA testing; a biopsy of the prostate must be done to confirm prostate cancer. Benign prostate conditions like prostatitis - the inflammation of the prostate - and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) - the enlargement of the prostate - also can contribute to elevated blood levels of PSA, there is no evidence that indicates either condition leads to prostate cancer.

There has been controversy regarding the use of the PSA blood test for prostate cancer screening. Here are the facts men need to know about this test:

  • Men between the ages of 40 and 70 should talk to their doctor about the PSA test.
  • Since PSA testing has been in use in the U.S., death from prostate cancer has been reduced by more than half.
  • For prostate cancer to be curable, it needs to be found early with a PSA test before there are pains or other symptoms.
  • Not all prostate cancer needs immediate treatment. Some can be monitored for many years.

Smart PSA testing is about testing the right men at the right time and carefully using the results. Prostate Cancer Awareness Month encourages men to be advocates for their own health and take part in annual appointments, along with following up about health concerns. Visit the Department of Urology to learn more or schedule an appointment with provider.