Cancer of the Prostate PSA Test

You probably know it already; prostate cancer is the most common cancer in elderly men and the second most common cause of cancer-related death in men. It does not seem to occur much in men younger than forty five years of age, but it is highly prevalent in men that are over sixty five years old. The highest incidence of the disease is in men that have reached eighty years of age and beyond, and although it progresses so slowly that the patient can die of other causes, prostate cancer has some very debilitating symptoms that can make the rest of the natural life of the patient quite miserable in the process.

The hard part about prostate cancer is that it causes few, if any, symptoms in its early stages, meaning that you could be inflicted with the disease for several months, and even years, without being aware that you have it, which tends to give the disease that chance to advance and develop, and turn into something that is somewhat more difficult to handle. As prostate cancer progresses it has been known to cause such symptoms as difficulties with urination and bleeding in the urinary tract; and as the cancer spreads to other areas of the body, like the pelvis and thigh, and like the back and the ribs, the same symptoms of pain start to spread to those regions too.

The earliest and simplest way by which prostate cancer may be detected is the digital rectal examination, which requires the doctor sticking a finger to feel for the lump in your prostate. Even if a lump is there, it is not conclusive of a prostate cancer, and it could just be a benign mass. The most common diagnostic means of determining that you have prostate cancer is testing you for abnormally high blood levels of the protein known as prostate-specific antigen (PSA).

The PSA test requires the extraction of blood samples to be tested for the presence of the protein, which is elevated in count if the patient has prostate cancer. In addition, tissue samples can be stained for the presence of PSA and other tumor markers in order to determine the origin of malignant cells that have metastasized to other regions of the body… if that is suspected. In any case, considering that the cancer might not have been caught early enough, many doctors still go ahead and test for metastasis just in case.

More than just determining if there is the presence of prostate cancer in a patient, the degree of mutation observed in the tissue test during the PSA test helps to determine the Gleason score of the prostate cancer. Being a number between one and ten, it is a measure of how severe the case is, and it helps in deciding which treatment technique is most appropriate for this patient.

The patient could be treated using hormones, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgical procedures, or a blend of any number of these treatments. However, checking the PSA count for prostate cancer does not necessarily conclude that the patient has the disease because some other diseases and infections actually cause the same elevated PSA count. In such instances, the last fallback is the prostate gland biopsy which requires some tissue sample from the patient’s prostate to be scrutinized under a microscope. This confirms it once and for all, even though staging may still be needed to determine how far the disease has spread.

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