The Importance Of The PSA Test In Prostate Cancer Screening

At one time in what looks like a distant past a prostate cancer diagnosis was tantamount to a death sentence because the disease was not often discovered until it has had the chance to advance into the later stages. Even in these modern times, a delayed diagnosis could mean death for the patient because advanced prostate cancer cannot be cure – only treated. To that end, a lot of effort has been placed in ensuring early diagnoses of patients who are besotted with prostate cancer.

The fact that there are no symptoms in early stage prostate cancer certainly does not make matters very much easier, with improved and more widespread screening and screening tests, up to 90% of all prostate cancer cases in the United States today are diagnosed early, says the American Cancer Society, at a time when the cancer is both treatable and curable.

One of the screening tests that are used in the screening efforts to detect prostate cancer early is the PSA test, one that a lot of Americans must have heard about at this time, even if they have not experienced it. The PSA test reads the amount or volume of prostate specific antigens (PSAs) in the blood of the patient in order to determine the presence of ailments in the organ. Most men have PSA in their blood at all times, but its level in the body is usually below the critical 4.0ng/ml. 

Prostate cancer cells cause the production of more PSA that are seeped into the blood, as a result when a man suffers from the carcinoma, higher levels of this enzyme are found in his blood and the disease is immediately suspected. That’s right, higher blood PSA levels do not imply that a man has prostate cancer because a lot of other ailments, especially those that affect the prostate gland, also result in PSA spikes. That is why the PSA test is merely a screening and not a diagnostic one. In order to confirm the diagnosis, a biopsy of the prostate gland may be necessary.

The PSA level of a patient however takes on more importance once the cancer has been confirmed – it becomes sort of an indicator of the severity of the patient’s suffering and how far the cancer must have spread. Of course to determine this, other staging tests have to be carried out to determine how much the disease has metastasized, but the results often have to be merged for the best results.

People should be warned that the PSA test is by no means a conclusive one. As mentioned earlier, sometimes the patient could merely be suffering from some other infection or disorder to have a higher PSA level; and in converse, there are actually some manifestations of prostate cancer that do not cause PSA rises, such as small cell sarcomas. A man at risk of prostate cancer would need to be rather more vigilant.

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