The main function of the PSA or prostate-specific antigen test is to screen for prostate cancer that is increasingly becoming common and often leads to death. The test involves measuring the intensity of prostate-explicit antigen in the blood of a potential patient. A high level of PSA is an indication of prostate cancer though some other conditions may also elevate the level of the antigen. This means that even when a high level of PSA has been detected, the reason can be complicated to establish. Early detection of an elevated level of PSA can be useful in getting timely and appropriate treatment.
Why the PSA Test Is Not Confirmatory
The PSA test is only one of the methods of screening for early indications of prostate cancer. Usually, doctors will advise a digital rectum examination in addition to the PSA test. The test involves the doctor inserting a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum of the patient to reach the prostate gland. By pressing or feeling the gland, it may be possible for the doctor to judge whether there are any hard areas or lumps in the gland that may require further confirmation for cancer.
Since neither the PSA test nor the digital rectum examination can confirm prostate cancer, any abnormal results may result in the doctor recommending a biopsy of the prostate gland for final confirmation. As in all biopsy procedures, tissue samples are extracted from the prostate gland and examined in a laboratory for diagnosis of cancer, according to Mybiosource, a global leader in PSA test kits.
The PSA test may also be advised for those who have already been detected with prostate cancer to gauge whether the treatment is working effectively and also to check if there is any recurrence of cancer.
PSA Test Risks
There is a fair amount of debate regarding who should or should not get themselves screened with a PSA test. Since the PSA test by itself is not a confirmation, very likely you will be advised to undergo a biopsy that is typically painful and may lead to serious infections requiring hospitalization for treatment. While the PSA test is fairly inexpensive, the costs can start adding up if the result is abnormal on account of consultation fees, ultrasound fees, and charges for biopsy, and hospitalization fees if the biopsy results in complications. It is best to consult your doctor about the risks and benefits of getting the PSA test done so that you can make an informed decision.
By undergoing a PSA test, you may be able to detect cancer at an early stage, which means easier treatment and faster recovery. However, you need to decide if by getting the test done, you will have a better outcome since as a disease, typically prostate cancer progresses slowly and may never become a problem during your lifetime, according to https://www.cancer.gov. The limitations of the test are that conditions other than cancer can cause elevation of the PSA level. Advanced age too can cause this to happen. Most importantly, the test is non-confirmatory and there is no guarantee of accuracy. It is best to go by the recommendations of your doctor, in case there is any suspicion that you may have prostate cancer.