Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA)
1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. It can be fast or slow growing, although slow is more common and often doesn’t cause any symptoms. If detected early there is a very high survival percentage for men with prostate cancer. But although prostate cancer strikes as many men as breast cancer does women, it lacks the same level of national awareness and research funding.
Prostate cancer is the most frequent cancer in men with approximately 40,000 men diagnosed in the UK yearly. It’s not known exactly what causes prostate cancer, but certain factors increase your risk of developing the disease. It mainly affects men over the age of 50, and you’re 2.5 times more likely to develop the condition if a close relative (father or brother) has been diagnosed with it. So you’re fully aware of the benefits and limitations of the test, we advise that you check the guidance to see if it’s right for you. It’s also worth noting this test is only appropriate for men aged 40-79. Crucially, you need to be aware that some men with prostate cancer will not have raised PSA levels. And equally, raised PSA levels is not a definite indication of prostate cancer. If your PSA levels are raised, or if you are experiencing any symptoms of prostate cancer, we would always advise you visit your GP for further investigation.
Important information and guidance
You should not participate in sexual activity that involves ejaculation for 48 hours prior to your test. You should also avoid vigorous exercises that could also stimulate the prostate – for example cycling or horse-riding because this can cause false positives. You should also not have a PSA test if you have a Urinary Tract Infection, or within 7 days of a digital rectal examination.
We also recommend you read this guidance about the PSA test to ensure you understand the benefits and limitations of the test. The key things to remember are:
- Raised PSA levels do not necessarily mean cancer is present. Because PSA testing is not tumour specific, a variety of other issues can cause a raised PSA level such as an enlarged prostate or prostatitis.
- Prostate cancer doesn’t always raise PSA. PSA levels can stay at their normal level even if prostate cancer is present, this is particularly true for early stage cancers. It’s not possible with PSA testing to know which cancers may become problematic in the future.
- Prostate cancer doesn’t always cause problems so pre-emptive treatment can be unnecessary. Risk from prostate cancer increases with age but in many cases the cancers will not cause any problems. For example. 88% of men aged over 80 have prostate cancer but only 3% died as a results of it.
The disadvantages of PSA testing can therefore be seen to outweigh the positives. Because it’s not diagnostic, further testing via digital rectal examination, biopsy, ultrasound and MRI scan are likely to be required to make a positive diagnosis. This can therefore mean that many men are put through medical procedures and caused anxiety unnecessarily.
All our tests have been specially designed to be convenient and non-invasive. Once you’ve booked your appointment, full preparation instructions will be provided in your confirmation email or letter. You can continue to eat and drink normally before your appointment, and you’ll also remain fully clothed throughout.