Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America. That’s why Prostate Cancer Awareness Month is a good time to get a PSA Test. It also gives you the chance to learn more about prostate cancer screening.
If you don’t have any risk factors for prostate cancer, you don’t need to discuss the possibility of screenings until you turn 50. However, if you do have a family history of prostate cancer or are African American, your doctor may want to begin screenings when you turn 45.
This year, more than 174,600 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and more than 31,600 die from the disease. Most prostate cancer is diagnosed in men older than 65.
So, let’s find out a little more about what a PSA screening entails and how you can take part in Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, prostate cancer can be diagnosed with either digital rectal exam (DRE) or a PSA test.
A DRE is a physical examination. Your doctor will feel the size of your prostate gland and feel for bumps, soft or hard spots, or other abnormal areas.
Testing for PSA, or Prostate-Specific Antigen, requires that your blood be drawn and sent to the lab for analysis.
PSA is a protein produced primarily by cells in the prostate. Most of the PSA produced by the prostate gland is carried out of the body in semen. It acts to liquefy semen, but a very small amount escapes into the bloodstream, so PSA is normally found in low amounts (nanograms per milliliter or ng/mL) in the blood.
If higher than normal levels are discovered (greater than 2.5 ng/ml), it could be a sign that cancer is developing. Higher levels of PSA can be found in the blood as prostate cancer cells begin to proliferate in an uncontrolled way. The goal of screening is to detect prostate cancer while it is still confined to the prostate.
But elevated PSA levels don’t necessarily mean prostate cancer. PSA can also increase because of benign, non-cancerous conditions such as enlarged prostate, prostate inflammation, infection, or trauma. Get checked by your doctor.
When a screening reveals abnormal results, the next step is further testing to determine whether prostate cancer is present or if another cause may be to blame.
National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month (held in March in the UK, and in September in the United States) provides the opportunity to learn more about prostate health issues.
Prostate Cancer Awareness Month is celebrated with Twitter chats, prostate cancer screenings, and awareness events across the country. But you can honor it by having your PSA level checked with a blood test.
And before you go, you can use our infographic called “Decoding Your Lab Results” to get a better understanding of what the results of your blood test might mean.