Originally published: 17.SEP.2019
Last updated: 7.NOV.2023

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein produced by the prostate gland, and monitoring its levels can provide insights into prostate health. While the PSA test is a widely used tool, knowing when to check PSA levels is crucial for effective management.

PSA levels are measured in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL), and a normal range typically falls between 0 and 4 ng/mL. It's essential to keep in mind that various factors can influence PSA levels, and individual baselines may vary. Age, ethnicity, and health play roles in determining what is considered a normal PSA level for an individual.

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When Should You Check Your PSA Levels?

PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen, a substance produced in the prostate. PSA levels are determined through a blood test. Elevated PSA levels may suggest the presence of prostate cancer. The test is not, however, prostate cancer-specific.

Those who are thinking about prostate cancer screening must be aware that the full screening involves a rectal examination by a physician who will evaluate the feel and texture of the prostate gland as well as a blood test that measures prostate-specific antigen.

However, as prostate cancer is the most common cancer, and the number two cancer killer, of men, it is important to talk to your doctor if you have any symptoms of prostate cancer as well as to understand, PSA screening generally, and the shortcomings of the test.

In sum, if you are thinking about attending prostate cancer screening, you must:

Take a PSA test which will measure prostate-specific antigen in the blood.
Attend a rectal examination.

The American Cancer Society recommends that men discuss with their healthcare providers the option of having a baseline PSA test at the age of 50. For those with a higher risk of prostate cancer, such as African-American men or those with a family history, discussions about testing should begin at age 45. This initial test provides a reference point for future comparisons.

Here are some guidelines on when you should check your PSA levels:

  • Under 40 years: PSA screening is not recommended.
  • Aged 40-54: Routine PSA screening is not recommended.
  • Under 55 years at high risk: The decision for screening should be individualized.
  • Aged 55-69: Talk to your healthcare provider about the benefits and risks of prostate cancer testing.
  • Aged 70 plus: Routine PSA screening is not recommended But men over 70 should talk to their healthcare provider about prostate cancer testing if they have any concerns.

Source: American Urology Association

Why Should you Check Your PSA levels?

Early detection is key to receiving appropriate and timely treatment. For men who choose to use PSA testing as their chosen method, the volume of PSA vs. the testing range varies. According to the Mayo Clinic, men with a PSA volume of less than 2.5ng/ml may need to be retested every two years, for men with a reading of over 2.5ng/ml, they should get tested each year.

For prostate cancer, the most typical age of diagnosis is when a man is in his mid-sixties. It’s very unusual to ever see it before the age of 40 unless a man is at high risk for prostate cancer.

Statistics from the [American Society of Clinical Oncology](American Society of Clinical Oncology ) highlight the prevalence of prostate cancer.

  • In 2023, an estimated 288,300 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
  • Around 60% of cases are diagnosed in people age 65 or older. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 66 years.
  • Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States. It is estimated that 34,700 deaths from this disease will occur in the United States in 2023.

Remember while elevated PSA levels may suggest the presence of prostate cancer, the test is not prostate cancer-specific.

Men who take a PSA test should bear in mind that they also may need a digital rectal exam (DRE) as part of their screening.

A PSA test can offer insight into whether further testing should be pursued following early-onset symptoms and LetsGetChecked offers support and advice at every step of the way regarding your test results.

You should consider taking a PSA test if:

  • You are over the age of 50
  • You have a strong family history of prostate cancer
  • You are experiencing symptoms related to prostate cancer
  • You are overweight or obese

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