What Is a PSA Test?

March 21, 2017

What is a PSA test?

The prostate specific antigen (PSA) is a blood test used to help in the early detection of prostate cancer. PSA, an ingredient of semen, is made by the prostate. Some PSA naturally leaks from the prostate into the bloodstream. The PSA test measures the amount of PSA in the blood. As a man ages, more PSA leaks into the blood. Problems with the prostate-such as prostatitis (prostate infection), BPH (benign prostatic enlargement), or cancer-may cause extra PSA to enter the blood. A prostatic massage or prostate biopsy can also raise PSA levels. If a PSA test shows higher than normal blood levels of PSA, other tests are necessary to help determine the cause of the increase.

Why should I have a PSA test?

Opinions about screening for Prostate Cancer vary.  The U.S. Preventive Screening Task Force (USPSTF) does not (as of 2002) recommend routine screening for prostate cancer.  The American Cancer Society recommends “that health care professionals should offer the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination (DRE) yearly, beginning at age 50.” Your health care provider may recommend a PSA test for one or more of the following reasons:

  • You are over 50 years old.

  • You are over 40 years old and African American or have family members who've had prostate cancer (factors that increase your own risk for prostate cancer).

  • An abnormality is detected during your routine prostate exam.

  • You have symptoms that may suggest prostate problems, such as frequent urination (especially at night), urgent urination, having to strain when urinating, blood in your urine, or pain.

How is a PSA test performed?

A PSA test is a blood test. The test is done at a blood drawing station-usually in the doctor's office or at a lab, clinic, or hospital. Blood is taken from your arm and sent to a laboratory for evaluation.

How often should I have a PSA?

Even if your PSA level is not higher than normal, continue to have regular prostate exams. The American Cancer Society and the American Urological Association recommend yearly PSA tests for all men over the age of 50. If you are African American or have a family history of prostate cancer, your doctor may recommend yearly PSA tests by age 40 or 45.


March 21, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Godsey, Cynthia M.S., M.S.N., APRN,Joy FincannonJoy Fincannon RN MN,Lambert, J.G. M.D.