What is PSA?

PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) is a blood test which we use to help us to diagnose prostate cancer. 

This test is usually performed in conjunction with a rectal examination of the prostate. In some countries PSA is used routinely as a screening test.

However PSA is not a precise test, an elevated blood level suggests only a suspicion of prostate cancer and so it helps to identify patients that should go on to have further investigations, usually in the form of a prostate biopsy.

PSA is a natural protein produced quite normally in the prostate. The PSA blood test measures how much of this protein has 'leaked out' from the prostate into the blood stream. More PSA leaks out into the blood stream in the presence of prostate cancer. However there are other processes which can cause PSA to leak into the blood stream including urinary infections in the bladder or prostate (cystitis or prostatitis), following surgery or catheterisation and some patients just appear to have a raised PSA, which is normal for them. Nonetheless patients with an unexplained high PSA reading will usually require a trans-rectal ultrasound (TRUS) and biopsy. Also a normal level of PSA does not absolutely exclude a diagnosis of prostate cancer.

PSA is also useful in monitoring prostate cancer in terms of disease progression or response to the treatment.

PCA3 (Prostate Cancer Gene 3) is a new test which is becoming popular and can be used in conjunction with traditional tests. The test detects prostate cancer cells in urine and maybe a more specific test than PSA. In other words there are less false positive tests. Ipswich Urology can provide this test on request.

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