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What Is Screening for Prostate Cancer?

Photo of a doctor talking to a patientScreening for prostate cancer begins with a PSA test. Your doctor is the best person to interpret your PSA test results.

Cancer screening means looking for cancer before it causes symptoms. The goal of screening for prostate cancer is to find cancers that may be at high risk for spreading if not treated, and to find them early before they spread.

Screening for prostate cancer begins with a blood test called a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. This test measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate. The levels of PSA in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer. The PSA level may also be elevated in other conditions that affect the prostate.

As a rule, the higher the PSA level in the blood, the more likely a prostate problem is present. But many factors, such as age and race, can affect PSA levels. Some prostate glands make more PSA than others.

PSA levels also can be affected by—

  • Certain medical procedures.
  • Certain medications.
  • An enlarged prostate.
  • A prostate infection.

Because many factors can affect PSA levels, your doctor is the best person to interpret your PSA test results. If the PSA test is abnormal, your doctor may recommend a biopsy to find out if you have prostate cancer.

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