The PSA test is a blood test. When it is used with other tests, the PSA test can help doctors to diagnose prostate cancer.
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein made in the prostate. Some of this PSA leaks into the blood and can be measured in the PSA test.
Most men have small amounts of PSA in the blood. If the prostate becomes enlarged, inflamed, or infected, then larger amounts of PSA get into the blood. The amount of PSA in the blood may also increase if there is cancer in the prostate.
The PSA test may help diagnose very early prostate cancer, before any symptoms develop. But there are advantages and disadvantages of having treatment for early prostate cancer. For example, even when prostate cancer is diagnosed early, treatment might not help men live longer. Prostate cancer may grow very slowly, and very few men with early prostate cancer will die of it.
Some men may choose to have tests and treatment for early prostate cancer. Others do not want to know if they have prostate cancer. This is because they think knowing would cause them to worry, or that they would have to make difficult decisions about treatment. They may also be worried about the side effects of treatment.
Before you decide whether to have the PSA test, you may want to talk to your GP about it. It can help to think about some questions you would like to ask.
There is no right or wrong answer about whether or not to have the PSA test. But it may help to think about whether you have any risk factors for prostate cancer and about your own preferences.
We have more information on the benefits and disadvantages of the PSA test. Your doctor can also help you make a decision that is right for you.