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What is a high PSA level for a prostate exam?

A lot of men believe that a high level of PSA means cancer, but this gets filed in with common health myths. The reason being your PSA level can be effected by many factors, not only cancer.

Let’s back up a bit and figure out what PSA is and how it relates to a prostate exam. First of all, PSA stands for Prostate-Specific Antigen, which are the results of a blood test drawn for the purpose of detecting the risk prostate cancer.

The test is pretty straightforward. Your doctor will draw blood and send it to a lab. The lab screens your blood and measures the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which is a protein produced by both normal and malignant cells of the prostate gland. The results are reported back as nanograms per millilitre.

Generally a PSA level under 3.0 ng/mL is considered normal, however, there are non-cancerous factors that can lead to a higher PSA level. Many men believe that a reading of 4.0 ng/mL is a sign of cancer, but doctors point out that’s not always the case.

Factors such as your age, the size of your prostate and previous medical conditions can all lead to a higher than “normal” reading. Other factors such as medications and previous urinary infections can also result in a high reading.

It is suggested that by age 50, the average man have a prostate screen done, earlier if family history suggests it. The first test is the digital rectal exam (DRE). For this your doctor will check your prostate for an enlarged size or irregular shape by inserting a finger into your rectum. A lot of men who report prostate symptoms will often have both the DRE and PSA tests done at the same time.

According to Cancer Center, the five early warning signs of prostate cancer include pain while urinating and an increased frequency to urinate at night. They also list loss of bladder control, blood in urine and/or semen, erectile dysfunction and painful ejaculations.

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