The Prostate Specific Antigen Test and Early Cancer Detection

Every day in the United States, 80 men lose their life to prostate cancer. Despite that dismal statistic, prostate cancer can be treated when detected early. Early prostate cancer often does not cause symptoms. Self risk assessment and proper testing via PSA and DRE is the key.

How do you know if you are at risk? Well, all men are at some risk, but hereditary, age, and sometimes diet can affect your factor. You tend to be at greater risk for getting prostate cancer if you are over 50, African American, living in the USA, and you have a brother or father that has had prostate cancer. Heredity is a risk factor that doubles your chances of getting the disease yourself. You may be increasing your risk factor if you eat a lot of red meat, have a fatty diet, sexually inactive, obese, and if you have had a vasectomy. Knowing your risk factor can tell you when you need to go and begin your yearly testing.

The prostate is about the size of an average walnut and produces the fluid that propels the sperm through the penis during ejaculation. It is below the bladder and directly in front of the rectum. Because of this positioning, a doctor can do a rectal exam and check the size and condition of the prostate. This rectal exam, a DRE (digital rectal exam) has been a standard test for men in the detection of cancer as well as the non-cancerous BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia). In 1985 a new test was approved called a PSA (prostate specific antigen) which will detect a cancer presence with that substance is elevated in the blood. This now has become a revolutionary test in the early detection fight. Men should get a PSA and a DRE each year if they are 50 and over, or for men over 45 if they are at risk due to heredity and risk factors.

A PSA test measures the amount that is bound to blood proteins and is limited to the prostate cells. Health amounts would be a reading of 4 or less where as a level of 4-10 would raise the chance that you have prostate cancer. Amounts of 50 or more would be indicative of a tumor that has spread further throughout the body and that immediate treatment is needed. The American Cancer Society in association with the American Urological Associations has made recommendations for men to get annual PSA tests, with the digital rectal exam, if they are over 50. This is to have early detection; the closest thing to a cure that we have. Men should get this test even if they are not showing symptoms because of the chance that they still have cancer and are asymptomatic.

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