High PSA Levels
PSA is the abbreviation for prostate-specific antigen, a substance produced by the prostate cells. A PSA test measures the level of PSA in the bloodstream. Very little PSA escapes from a healthy prostate into the bloodstream, but certain prostate conditions can cause larger amounts of PSA to leak into the blood.
High levels of PSA may be a sign of prostate cancer or a noncancerous condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia. If your PSA levels are elevated, your doctor will do other tests to find out what is causing the elevated PSA levels.
Symptoms are not always present with prostate cancer. When they are present, the most common symptoms include:
- Having the inability to pass urine
or doing so with difficulty
- Having a hard time starting or
stopping urine flow
- Needing to urinate often,
especially at night
- Having a weak urine flow
- Having pain or burning while urinating
- Problems having an erection
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Frequent pain in the lower back,
hips, or upper thighs
Starting at age 50, men should talk to a doctor about the pros and cons of testing so they can decide if testing is the right choice for them. If you are African American or have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65, you should have this talk with a doctor starting at age 45.
Your doctor can detect prostate cancer even if you do not have symptoms. That's why it's so important to have regular physical exams. Early detection means your prostate cancer can be treated sooner.
As part of your physical exam, your doctor will take a blood test to measure PSA.
A PSA level of 4.0 ng/mL is considered the upper limit of normal. However, up to 25% of men with prostate cancer have a number below 4.0 ng/mL.
This guide can help you keep track of your PSA levels.
Download and print a full set of health risk charts and bring them with you to all your check-ups to help you monitor your health risks.
1. American Cancer Society Web site. Prostate cancer: early detection. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/ProstateCancer/MoreInformation/ProstateCancerEarlyDetection/prostate-cancer-early-detection-pdf. Accessed December 1, 2011.
2. American Cancer Society Web Site. American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer. http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/FindCancerEarly/CancerScreeningGuidelines/american-cancer-society-guidelines-for-the-early-detection-of-cancer. Accessed April 26, 2012.
3. Carter HB, Partin AW. Diagnosis and staging of prostate cancer. In: Retik AB, Vaughan ED Jr, Wein AJ, eds. Campbell’s Urology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders Co; 2002:3055-3079.
4. Data on file. Yankelovich men’s “Drive for Five” health campaign report survey. Conducted June 20-28, 2012.