PSA Testing and Prostate Cancer: Advice for well men aged 50 and over
The Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test may help find out if you are more likely to have prostate cancer. It is not perfect and will not find all prostate cancers. Having a PSA test has potential harms and potential benefits. This information should help you decide if you want to have the test or not. It is your decision. Before making your decision you may want to talk to your GP, practice nurse and your partner, family member or a friend.
The prostate gland lies just below your bladder. It helps produce healthy sperm. Problems with the prostate gland can affect how you urinate and your sexual function. Prostate cancer is caused when some cells in the prostate start to grow out of control. Slow-growing cancers are common. They may not cause any symptoms or shorten your life. Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in UK men. Each year about 47,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and about 11,000 die from the disease. Prostate cancer is rare in men under 50. The most common age of diagnosis is between 65 and 69.
Most early prostate cancers do not have any symptoms. If there are symptoms, many are the same as those caused by an enlarged prostate that is not cancerous. Symptoms can include problems urinating, pain when ejaculating, pain or stiffness in the lower body, extreme tiredness and loss of appetite.
You are at higher risk of prostate cancer if you:
- have a family history of prostate cancer
- are of black ethnic origin – the lifetime risk is 1 in 4 compared to 1 in 8 for white men
- are overweight or obese
There is no clear evidence to recommend PSA testing more for high risk men than low risk men.
The PSA blood test measures the level of PSA in your blood. A raised PSA level can mean you have prostate cancer. But it can also mean you have a condition that is not cancer, such as enlargement of the prostate or a urinary infection.
Test results and follow-up
If you have a raised PSA level you might need further tests, including a biopsy. This involves taking small samples of your prostate through your back passage and checking them for cancer. If you have prostate cancer, your specialist will discuss options. Men with slow-growing cancers may be offered active surveillance. This involves repeat PSA tests to monitor the cancer, with treatment offered if the cancer starts to progress. Possible treatments include surgery, radiotherapy and hormone therapy. Side effects of treatment can include problems with erections, loss of fertility and incontinence.
Find out more at www.nhs.uk/psa or view the full leaflet ‘PSA Testing and Prostate Cancer: advice for well men aged 50’ below:
PSA Testing and Prostate Cancer Advice for Well Men aged 50 and over