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Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test 

High levels of prostate-specific antigen found in a blood test can be indicative of prostate cancer or other non-cancerous problems. 

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is performed to measure levels of PSA, a protein produced by the prostate gland. When there are cancer cells or inflammation in the prostate or the gland is enlarged, PSA levels will be elevated.  
There is little consensus among the medical community on what officially constitutes a high PSA level. In the past, levels of 4.0 ng/mL or higher would lead doctors to recommend more testing, such as a prostate biopsy. But many other factors, such as age, family medical history and overall health, are now considered along with PSA levels.  

When is a PSA Test Performed? 

PSA blood tests are recommended when men who are at risk for prostate cancer discuss screening options with their doctor. In general, the discussion should include men who are: 

  • Age 50 and have an average risk for prostate cancer 
  • Age 45 and have a high risk of developing prostate cancer, including black men and men who have first-degree family members with prostate cancer.  
  • Age 40 and have a very high risk of developing prostate cancer (for example, having multiple first-degree relatives who had prostate cancer at an early age) 

Men with enlarged or inflamed prostates may also undergo PSA blood tests. 

Procedure Details and What to Expect 

The PSA test is a blood test that can be ordered as part of a typical blood draw. The laboratory processing the blood sample will measure the amount of prostate-specific antigen in the blood and provide a report to your doctor.  

In addition to a PSA test, your doctor may also recommend a digital rectal exam as another part of prostate cancer screening. During this test, your doctor will insert a lubricated, gloved finger into your rectum and press on the prostate. This can help your doctor determine if there are any lumps or abnormal hard areas within your prostate. 

If the PSA blood test and digital rectal exam do not provide enough information for your doctor to diagnose prostate cancer, a prostate biopsy may be recommended.  

Effectiveness 

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is somewhat effective in that it can detect high levels of PSA in the blood, but it doesn't provide precise details about the condition of the prostate. This can make formulating an accurate diagnosis from the PSA test alone difficult.  

At Tampa General Hospital, the expert urologists on staff take PSA test levels and many other health factors into consideration before diagnosing patients and coming up with a treatment plan. Our multidisciplinary approach to care allows us to provide world-class care to patients and ensure the best overall results.