Every November commemorates Movember – a month where we highlight and raise awareness of issues that affect men, such as prostate cancer screening. When diagnosed early, most cancers can be treated successfully. Having the prostate screening test for cancer, or PSA test, is no different. Doctors continually emphasize the importance of prostate cancer screenings, and you can determine their importance especially when you are aware of your personal risk factors.
The PSA Blood Test
PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen blood test which measures the level of protein or PSA in the cells of the prostate. This protein is found in both benign and cancerous cells and a small amount enters the bloodstream. Prostate cancer cells make more PSA causing the levels in your blood to rise.
The test remains an important tool in determining if cancer is at its earliest stages even when there are no symptoms.
If PSA levels are higher than what is deemed normal, there are a number of options you should discuss with Dr. Thirumavalavan.
They include the following:
- Waiting a short time and having another test, since false positives are common. Sometimes a high normal can be due to an infection, sexual activity, riding a bike, or an enlarged prostate.
- Having another type of test
- Getting a DRE or digital rectal exam
- Getting the biopsy
If you have a second PSA after a month or so and the level has risen again, there are some warning signs. If the rate of velocity – or rise overtime becomes faster, then the risk level increases. The same is true for the density of the PSA level after a second or third test.
If cancer is detected with a biopsy or DRE, there are still more decisions to be made. Should you begin treatment?
Time to look at your personal risk factors to help you decide to begin treatment for cancer or not.
- Age is one. As you get older, your risk for prostate cancer increases, especially after age 50.
- Race is a determining factor. Black men tend to have a higher risk of developing and dying from prostate cancer.
- Family history is always important. If your brother, father, or uncle was diagnosed before age 65, your personal risk is higher than average.
- Certain inherited gene mutations like those with breast cancer can increase your risk.
- Lastly, if your diet consists mainly of animal fats with few vegetables, your personal risk is higher.
You can make an informed decision after evaluating all the factors in consultation with Dr. Thirumavalavan.
There are many men who opt to live with their cancer rather than get treatment, especially those who are older and asymptomatic. There are side effects from treatment including incontinence and impotence, and they might decide to do “Active Surveillance” with periodic PSA tests.
In other cases there is an immediate threat and the cancer needs to be treated.
The Bottom Line
There is no doubt PSA screening helps detect prostate cancer early, and the cancer is easier to treat and more likely to be cured in the early stages. In addition, it is a simple blood test, and the number of deaths has decreased since PSA testing became available.
Contact Dr. Thirumavalavan at Cleveland Men’s Health if you are ready to have a prostate cancer screening or have questions about the results of recent one. As a board-certified and fellowship-trained urologist, Dr. Thirumavalavan is highly experienced in diagnosing and treating prostate cancer as well as other men’s health issues. Call (440) 613-3406 to schedule an appointment at our office in Cleveland, Hudson, or Lyndhurst today!