What is PSA?

The prostate makes a protein called prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which is measured by a blood test.  If the PSA is high, the patient may have prostate cancer, but other factors (including an enlarged prostate or certain medications) can also cause elevated numbers.

How are PSA Screenings Helpful?

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, besides skin cancer.  Research shows that 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.  For African American men, that number is 1 in 6. While men under 39 have a 0.005 percent chance of getting prostate cancer, that number rises significantly – to 13.7% – by age 60. 

Cancer screening tests — including PSA screenings — can help identify cancer early, when treatment is most effective, according to many experts. Across all ages, routine PSA screening can lead to early, life-saving cancer treatment for about one in every 1,000 men, per Harvard’s Men’s Health Watch.

Benefits of PSA Screenings:

  • Detects prostate cancer early, leading to more successful outcomes. Early detection may lead to less aggressive treatment options and lower risk of serious side effects, such as erectile dysfunction and incontinence.
  • Can be done with a simple blood test.
  • Provides men with reassurance – either that they don’t have prostate cancer or that they do – and can work with their doctors to develop a plan, which may just be active surveillance.
  • Have reduced the number of prostate cancer deaths, due to the screening’s early detection.
  • Can reveal prostate cancer that’s likely to spread (metastasize) or quick-growing cancer that’s likely to cause problems.

It’s especially important to have regular prostate cancer/PSA screenings if you have high risk factors, including:

  • Age. Prostate cancer risks increase as men get older.
  • Race. African American men have a higher prostate cancer risk.
  • Family history. If a close family member had prostate cancer before age 65, your disease risk is higher.
  • Gene mutations. Gene mutations associated with cancer risk include BRCA1 and BRCA2.  Your doctor might recommend genetic testing if you have a family history of cancer and/or gene mutations.
  • Diet. A diet high in animal fats and low in vegetables may increase prostate cancer risk.

Some guidelines don’t recommend PSA screening in men 70 and older because:

  • They may be less likely to benefit from early detection, having less time for the prostate cancer to become life-threatening.
  • Their PSA levels can increase for reasons not related to prostate cancer.
  • Even if they’re diagnosed with prostate cancer, they’re likely to die from other causes.

At Busch Center, we believe that screening and early detection are important for all men.  Not all prostate cancer requires treatment – in some cases, active surveillance is the right approach.  And if men – including older men – have cancer that warrants treatment, we have numerous options above and beyond “standard protocol.”  Some treatments – including radical prostatectomy, chemotherapy and radiation – may not be the right options for older patients, due to their age, health factors, and the significant side effects associated with these approaches.  We recommend innovative protocols that give our patients the highest quality of life. Bottom line: Every man – regardless of his age – should talk to his healthcare team to make the best decisions for their specific situation