Definition

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein made by the prostate gland. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland in men, located near the bladder and rectum. It produces a fluid that is part of semen. Most PSA is released into semen, but some is released into the bloodstream. If there is a problem with the prostate, the PSA found in the blood can become elevated.

Anatomy of the Prostate

Anatomy of the Prostate Gland
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Test

The PSA test is used to:

  • Screen for prostate cancer
  • Monitor treatment for prostate cancer
  • Help determine if cancer has returned in men who have already been treated for prostate cancer

An elevated PSA level may also be associated with prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) and an enlarged prostate ( benign prostatic hypertrophy ).

What to Expect

Prior to Test

  • Ejaculation can cause PSA levels to rise. Avoid sexual activity for 2-3 days before testing.
  • Some procedures can elevate PSA levels. Schedule your PSA test several weeks after any of these:
    • Any prostate surgery (eg, TURP)
    • Prostate biopsy
    • Prostate massage
  • Wait several weeks after successful treatment of prostate infections.
  • Some medications can lower PSA levels. Tell your doctor if you are taking:

Description of Test

You will roll up your sleeve. An elastic band will be wrapped around your upper arm. An area on your arm will be cleaned with alcohol. The needle will then be inserted into your arm. A small amount of blood will be drawn into a tube. The needle will be removed. Pressure will be applied to the puncture site. A small bandage may be placed on the site. Your blood will be sent to a lab for testing.

After Test

You will be able to leave after the test is done.

How Long Will It Take?

Drawing blood takes only a few minutes.

Will It Hurt?

It may be uncomfortable when the needle pierces your skin.

Results

The results are usually available in a few days to a week. Your doctor will talk to you about your results.

If your PSA level is slightly elevated but there are no other reasons to suspect prostate cancer, your doctor may recommend closely following your PSA levels. If your PSA level continues to rise or the doctor notices a lump during a digital rectal exam, he will probably schedule other tests, such as a prostate biopsy.

Call Your Doctor

After the test, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Bleeding from the puncture site
  • Red, swollen, or painful puncture site
  • If you haven't heard from your doctor in 1-2 weeks