A PSA test does not tell you if you have prostate cancer. It can only tell if you might have it.
What is the Prostate?
Only men have a prostate. It is a small gland that sits below the bladder and surrounds the urethra, the passage through which urine and semen pass into and through the penis. The prostate is part of the male reproductive system. It produces most of the fluid that makes up semen, which carries and protects sperm.
What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer occurs when abnormal cells (cancer cells) develop in the prostate. These cells sometimes multiply in an uncontrolled way and spread outside the prostate into nearby or distant parts of the body.
Prostate cancer is generally a slow-growing disease, and most men with prostate cancer live for many years without the cancer spreading and without pain.
Prostate cancer that has spread to distant parts of the body is known as advanced (or metastatic) prostate cancer. Advanced prostate cancer can be treated, for example with radiation therapy and hormone therapy, but it cannot be cured. Some treatments, like hormone therapy, can have unpleasant side effects.
What is PSA testing?
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a substance made by cells in the prostate gland. A PSA test measures the PSA levels in your blood. It is normal for men to have low levels of PSA in their blood. These levels can increase for a number of reasons, including:
- increasing age
- a urinary infection
- recent sexual activity with ejaculation (coming)
- recent digital rectal examination
- a prostate biopsy in the last 6 weeks
- prostate cancer.
PSA testing does not stop men from getting prostate cancer and it cannot tell you if you have prostate cancer. It aims to find men who might have prostate cancer so if they do they can receive a diagnosis and start treatment early.
What happens after an abnormal PSA test result?
If a man’s PSA test result is abnormal, he undergoes extra tests to check whether he has cancer or not. The extra tests may include more PSA tests, digital rectal examination, a prostate biopsy (taking a sample of prostate cells with needles) or multiparametric magnetic resonance imaging (mpMRI).