For men who are experiencing symptoms related to prostate cancer, such as difficulty urinating, the PSA test can be an effective screening method. However, the test is notorious for producing false positives and negatives and is not considered an effective stand-alone diagnostic tool. It is used in conjunction with digital rectal exams and ultimately, a prostate biopsy, to confirm or rule out cancer.
The test consists of a simple blood draw, and results are generally available within hours to a few days, depending on the lab facility your physician uses. A low level of PSA in the blood is ideal. Higher levels of PSA in the blood increases the likelihood of prostate cancer, but you have to remember that false positives are common with the test. PSA is measured by nanograms per millimeter (ng/mL) of blood. Most healthy men have under 4 ng/mL.
What Can Cause An Elevated PSA?There are many things that can cause an elevated PSA level. Certain medications can cause it to rise, so it's important to make your doctor aware of all medications that you take, including prescribed medication, over-the-counter medication, and any herbs or homeopathic supplements. Other factors that affect your PSA level include:
- enlarged prostate gland
- inflammation of the prostate gland
- age (PSA levels can increase naturally with age)