The Importance of Knowing Your PSA Levels

The Importance of Knowing Your PSA Levels

Your tiny prostate gland has a tremendous influence on your sexual and general health. No bigger than a walnut or a ping pong ball, this gland produces some of the fluids that make up your semen.

The prostate is located at the back of your penis, just under the bladder. Your prostate continues to grow as you age, which is why most men eventually develop a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or an enlarged prostate. By age 70, 70% of men have BPH. 

While BPH doesn’t cause prostate cancer, it does make it more difficult to detect. Prostate cancer grows slowly and may not be evident for many years, particularly if your prostate is enlarged. However, prostate cancer is also the most common non-skin cancer in the United States; one out of every eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes. 

Alex Lesani, MD, an expert urologist, wants to catch prostate cancer at its earliest, most treatable (and often curable) stages. That’s why he offers tests that measure your levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) at our Las Vegas, Nevada, office. An elevated PSA level is one of the early warning signs of prostate cancer.

Why PSA tests are important

The reason why the PSA test can detect prostate cancer — even cancers that are too small to be seen — is that cancer cells cause your prostate to produce more PSA than normal. However, other conditions, including BPH, can also raise your PSA. That’s why it’s important to get a PSA test as soon as possible to act as a baseline for “your” normal.

Your doctor uses your baseline to make sure your levels don’t rise too much. If your score rises more than 0.35 ng/mL in a year, Dr. Lesani may recommend further tests.

If you haven’t gotten a baseline PSA test, we then compare your PSA levels with what’s considered normal for the average man. For men in their 40s or 50s, 0.6-0.7 ng/mL is normal and anything above 2.5 ng/mL is abnormal.

It’s natural for your PSA to rise with age. If you’re in your 60s, normal ranges between 1.0 and 1.5 ng/mL. Anything over 4.0 ng/mL is abnormal. 

However, depending on your individual situation, you could have a lower than normal PSA and still have prostate cancer. That’s why we also combine a high PSA test with a digital rectal exam (DRE), in which we insert a gloved finger in your rectum to check your prostate’s size and shape. 

When to test your PSA 

Although PSA testing is an important method for keeping tabs on your prostate health, testing too often or too soon may not be valuable, due to the risk for false positives and the fact that a high PSA could be caused by many different conditions. However, screening itself is safe and poses no risks to your safety.

All a PSA entails is a simple blood draw. You should get a baseline PSA at age:

Assuming your results are normal, you should also have follow-up screenings. The timing is, again, based on your risk factors:

Prostate cancer grows slowly, so generally you stop testing as you get older. Once you have a life expectancy of less than 10 years, you can stop your PSA tests.

What happens after a high PSA

If your PSA is elevated, we perform a DRE and other tests, too. Some tests that can confirm prostate cancer are:

If these results are abnormal, we then perform a biopsy procedure on your prostate to determine if cancer cells are present. If they are, we may recommend that you undergo surgical removal of your prostate to minimize the risk of the cancer growing or spreading. We also refer you to an oncologist.

Find out what your baseline PSA is today so you can keep tabs on your levels as you age. Early diagnosis of prostate cancer though a PSA test and other tests can save your life. To set up a PSA test, phone our friendly team at 702-470-2579, or book your appointment online today.

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