As a guide, here’s what may happen depending on your PSA test result.
A normal PSA level
You’re unlikely to have cancer. If your prostate feels normal during a digital rectal examination (see below), then no further action is needed.
A high PSA level
There are no rules about what to do if your PSA level is high - even healthcare professionals don’t always agree on the best course of action. If the test shows that the level of PSA in your blood is raised, what happens next depends on:
- whether or not you have any symptoms
- how your prostate gland feels during a digital rectal examination. A digital rectal examination is when a healthcare professional inserts a gloved finger into your rectum (back passage) to feel the prostate. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s quick and shouldn’t be painful.
- your personal risk of prostate cancer.
- whether your PSA is slightly higher than normal or significantly higher than normal (see below).
If your PSA level is slightly higher than normal
In this case you probably don’t have cancer. You might need to have another PSA test in a few weeks. Some men may have a series of PSA blood tests. This is to see whether the level is changing over time and if so, how quickly.
If the PSA level remains abnormal or increases, you may be advised to have a sample of tissue taken from your prostate (a biopsy).
Your doctor or nurse practitioner may also ask you if you were sexually active in the 48 hours before your PSA test, or if you’ve had a recent urine infection. This is because these can raise your PSA level.
If your PSA level is significantly higher than normal
If the levels are a lot higher than normal you probably need to have a prostate biopsy to find out if cancer cells are present.
If the biopsy shows that you have prostate cancer, there are a number of different options for managing it, depending on your particular situation. Your medical team will be able to give you more information about the best options for you.