PSA means prostate Specific antigen. It is an enzyme or protein-like substance produced by the prostate gland and can be traced inside the blood stream. The presence of this enzyme in the blood stream is an indication that the person has cancer of the prostate. In other words, PSA test is applied to screen men for prostate cancer. In most cases, an elevated level of more than 10ng/ml is considered a red flag for prostate cancer.
However, it should be noted that elevated levels of PSA is not only an indication that the person could be suffering from prostate cancer but there are yet other causes of elevated PSA levels. These other causes are discussed below.
- Prostatitis – This is a condition that causes inflammation on the prostate gland. Usually, infections and other unclear factors can cause this inflammation. A person suffering from Prostatitis can be diagnosed with high levels of PSA. This is more especially if the person has chronic Prostatitis.
- Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) – This condition is often described as enlarged prostate. Most men who are more than 50years of age are diagnosed with this condition.BPH is a non-cancerous growth of the prostate gland, hence the prostate can swell but does not spread like prostate cancer. The PSA levels of those with BPH can rise just as for people diagnosed with cancer in the prostate.
- Recent Ejaculation – The passing out of semen from the penis during sexual intercourse or otherwise is referred to as ejaculation. However, this habit can spike the level of prostate Specific Antigen or PSA. When going for a prostate cancer test, the man could be advised by the doctor to avoid sexual activity of any act that may lead to ejaculation a few days before his blood sample is taken for PSA test.
- Biopsy and Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) – These are other types of tests that can spike the level of prostate Specific Antigen in the blood. Biopsy involves the taking of tissue samples of the prostate to be examined under the microscope. In most cases, this procedure artificially elevates the PSA level. This is more likely to occur if biopsy is conducted a few days before PSA test. Also, Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) conducted before PSA test can spike the level of PSA in the blood. Thus, to avoid false positives in prostate cancer screening, the PSA test is better conducted several days before biopsy or DRE.
- Finally, another factor that can cause elevated PSA in the blood is the bicycle riding. A study published in the Journal of Urology linked bicycle riding with PSA test. It was reported that strenuous bicycle riding can spike up the PSA level on a short term.
So, these are some of the other factors that can elevate the level of the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) in the body. With this understanding, it is important to note that increase in your PSA level may not necessarily mean you would be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Your doctor can carry out other diagnostic methods to complement PSA blood levels to truly diagnose or screen cancer in your prostate.
If you have just been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the doctor may want to know and evaluate the prognosis or your chance of survival. This is an important step in prostate cancer diagnosis and staging. The Gleason Grading system is applied to evaluate the likely prognosis and help in the prescription of the best treatments. The following are some important details that can help you understand this system of Prostate cancer staging.
For a start, Dr. Donald Gleason developed this system as a tool for staging prostate cancer in men. He is a pathologist that worked with the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Hospital in the 1960s. Since then the use of the Gleason Grading System has become an important diagnostic procedure in staging cancer that originates from the prostate gland. This gland is found in men and forms part of the reproductive system.
How the Gleason Grading System works
The procedure for staging prostate cancer (i.e. determining what stage or how aggressive the cancerous cells are) through Gleason Grading system is initiated by taking samples of prostate tissues through a method called biopsy. The tissues extracted from the body are prepared on microscopic slides to be observed under a microscope. A pathologist, a radiologist, or a urologist can carryout these functions.
Under the microscope, a grade is assigned to the primary tumor pattern (i.e. the prominent nature of the cancerous). The secondary tumor pattern is also graded. The grade assign to each pattern ranges from 1 – 5. The higher the number the more aggressive is the cancer. The Gleason Score is obtained when two Gleason grades are added. For instance, if the primary tumor pattern is 4 and the next tumor pattern is 3, the Gleason Score will be 4+3= 7. The ranges of the Gleason score are from 2 to 10. Also, the highest numbers of the Gleason scores have the worst prognosis for prostate cancer.
The first number is assigned to the primary tumor pattern, while the second number is assigned to the next pattern. However, it must be noted that the Gleason score that has a primary tumor pattern of 3 and a secondary tumor pattern of 4 is less severe than when the numbers are reversed for each pattern. Hence, 3+4=7 is less aggressive than a 4+3=7 Gleason Score. It is very important to understand this!
Final note on the Gleason Grading System
So, the Gleason score is used to stage prostate cancer. Fewer score means less aggressiveness of the cancer, and vice versa. The primary tumor patterns are those that cover more than 50% of the total patterns of the tissues. The secondary or next tumor pattern covers less than 50% of the total tissue patterns.
Conclusively, it is important you understand the Gleason Grade (Gleason Pattern) and the Gleason Score (Gleason Sum) so you know if your prostate cancer has the best or worst prognosis. I hope this article has been useful to you in some way. Talk to your urologist or Pathologist to get further explanations.
Right after a new prostate cancer diagnosis, you are bound to be looking at a few sudden decisions that you are going to have to make in a hurry. Depending on how widespread the disease is at the time that it is detected, you may have to begin urgent treatment immediately, if you determine that treatment for the disease is what you need. Also, you may have to choose between the various courses of treatment that there are, especially when you consider that each one of them has its own respective chances of success, and yet it’s own risk of complications and side effects.
Sure, you will be looking at what life has to offer you after such earth shattering news, but you are smart enough to realize that earth never stops spinning, and life is going to go on with or without you. The essential in your decision then is how to ensure that you are still able to contribute to life, especially the lives of your loved once.
A prostate cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence these days; as a matter of fact, considering the fact that most patients are diagnosed still in the early stages of the disease when there is still a great deal of hope, prostate cancer is essentially curable. Hormonal treatment, combined with some radiation therapy, and very likely some surgery, will deal with the cancerous tumor and offer you a chance of living another ten years totally cancer free, or the rest of your life even; however the catch is that there is hardly any remedy for the carcinoma that does not have a serious potential for these serious side effects.
One of the worst and most common consequences of prostate cancer treatment is impotence. Although you might be able to feel penile sensation and even orgasm, you might have difficulty achieving an erection after you have been treated for prostate cancer. Worse, you might also not be able to ejaculate, at least not as effectively. This therefore calls for action because a man who still desires to have sexual relations or even kids at this age (usually over fifty years old) may seriously feel impaired as a result.
Another risk in prostate cancer treatment, especially if you are undergoing radiotherapy is radiation proctitis. This often causes mild rectal bleeding and diarrhea. In addition, proctitis could result in fecal and urinary incontinence… until it wears off. When the harmful effect of radiation treatment wears, so do it’s side effects, so you may just be in luck.
Again, being diagnosed with prostate cancer is not a death sentence, and even if you do end up impotent, there are still a lot of things you can do with your life. As a matter of fact, you should know that certain performance enhancing drugs still aid in restoring some degree of potency, and it just might be enough for what you need. That aside, it might be a good time to seal your relationships and ensure that what is left of your life counts for something good.