Pros and Cons of Getting a PSA Screen Test What is a PSA Screen Test?
A PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) screen test is a test designed to determine if there are any signs of prostate cancer in the patient. Prostate specific antigen is a protein that is made by both noncancerous and cancerous prostate tissue. This protein helps liquefy semen in a male. Some of these proteins are found in the bloodstream. In a person with cancer there are higher levels of PSA because cancerous cells make more PSA than healthy cells. High PSA scores can be affected by other conditions as well so the doctor will also factor in things like medications you may be taking (Propecia, Avodart and Proscar can all affect PSA as can some over the counter herbal supplements), age, the rate of PSA change and the size of the size of the prostate gland.
Deciding to Get Screened
Before having testing done, the patient must seriously consider the pros and cons of the PSA screen test. Discussing their fears and other feelings about the test with their doctor can help a great deal and help the patient and doctor to determine if PSA testing is the right choice at this point. Consider the points below.
• Early detection of cancer: Early detection can mean the difference between life and death.
• Lowered need for invasive cancer treatment: The earlier you catch cancer, the less likely it is that invasive and potentially life threatening treatment will have to be pursued.
• Men who are at risk for developing cancer can catch it before it worsens: Those at risk for these cancers need to be aware of their personal risk for developing them.
• Requires only blood sample for testing: Many cancer testing methods require far more invasive forms of testing to evaluate the risk for these cancers. This means that the patient is less likely to get tested to evade this stressful form of testing. Because PSA testing only requires a blood sample, it is more appealing to the patient.
• Less likely risk of death: While PSA testing isn’t always accurate the mortality rate of men who deal with prostate cancer has gone down since the test began to be used in its diagnosis.
• False positives do occur: Some diseases (such as protastitis or benign prostate enlargement) can also cause positive results in a PSA test. A false positive can bring on all sorts of stress, anxiety and even worse could cause you to have tests and treatment you may not even need!
• False negative: Some forms of prostate cancer are slow growing and don’t show up on a PSA test. This means that in cases where this occurs, the patient may not discover the cancer until the prognosis becomes far less hopeful than it could have been if caught sooner.
• Higher risk of needing more invasive testing and treatment to evaluate cancer risk: If you get a false positive it’s not often clear until testing or treatment for cancers may have already begun. This means risk to your health with treatments that may not have been needed in the first place.