The PSA Test



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INFOGRAPHIC: Know Your Number


  INFOGRAPHIC: What Affects PSA Values?
What is Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA)?

Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) is a protein produced within the prostate gland and is secreted into seminal fluid.

There are two types of PSA:
  1. Free PSA: moves freely in the blood as it is unbound to other proteins  
  2. Complex PSA: attached to other proteins as it moves around the blood

Free PSA comes from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), an enlargement of the prostate. The higher the amount of free PSA, the less likely prostate cancer will be found as prostate cancer cells produce more complex PSA.

What is the PSA test?

The PSA test is a simple blood test, taken from the arm, which measures the amount of PSA protein in the blood. It is common for PSA to be found in the blood in very small concentrations. Higher levels of PSA may indicate the presence of cancer, but can also be an indicator of other prostate conditions.  

What are the benefits and limitations of the PSA test?

Benefits and Limitations of the PSA Test
Benefits Limitations
May indicate the presence of cancer in its earliest stages. May lead to unnecessary tests and treatment.
Simple blood test (not harmful). Cannot distinguish between slow growing and advanced cancer.
Currently only test we have as red flag to indicate follow-up. The PSA test cannot diagnose prostate cancer but can tell you if there’s a problem with the prostate.

While the PSA test is not currently used in Canada as a population-wide screening tool, it is used to monitor how someone responds to cancer treatment or to monitor disease recurrence or progression.

References:

Prostate Cancer Canada. Answering your questions on prostate cancer. 2012.
National Cancer Institute. Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/detection/PSA [Accessed July 30, 2013]
Canadian Cancer Society. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/diagnosis-and-treatment/tests-and-procedures/prostate-specific-antigen-psa/?region=on&acc=true [Accessed August 2, 2013]




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