Prostate-specific antigen is a protein produced by the cells in the prostate. The prostate is a gland located in the male reproductive system that produces a large part of the fluid that makes up semen. The prostate is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is about the size of a walnut.

A PSA test is a blood test used to measure PSA levels. Elevated PSA can be a sign of prostate cancer, although many other factors, such as urinary tract infections, recent bladder or prostate testing, catheters, infection, inflammation or certain medications, can cause high PSA, too. A PSA test alone doesn’t provide enough information to diagnose prostate cancer, but it can alert you before you begin experiencing symptoms.

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What are symptoms of prostate cancer?

Signs of prostate cancer include:

  • Pain when urinating
  • Weak urine flow
  • Frequent urination
  • Lower back pain
  • Pain accompanying ejaculation
  • Unusual lumps

Who should get a PSA test?

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. If you are 50 or older, talk to a healthcare provider about getting a PSA test. There is no specific PSA level considered normal or average for all men.

Since prostate cancer moves slowly and misdiagnosis can lead to complications, scientists are working on ways to improve the PSA test. The goal is to give healthcare providers the ability to better recognize cancerous conditions from benign ones and slow-growing cancers from fast-growing ones. Ask your healthcare provider about the potential harm and benefits of the PSA test.

Consider getting a PSA test:

  • If you’re 50 or older
  • If you’re African-American
  • If you have a family history of prostate cancer
  • To determine what’s causing an abnormality on your prostate
  • To decide when to begin treatment if you have prostate cancer
  • To monitor your treatment

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