This article is written to provide information about the Prostate Cancer PSA test, both positive and negative.
The Federal Drug Administration approved the PSA test to be used with a rectal exam to detect prostate cancer. The PSA is just one tool a doctor has available to detect prostate cancer if a man is not showing any other symptoms of prostate problems. The PSA can detect small tumors but it does not actually reduce the chances of a man dying of prostate cancer. The test may detect slow-growing tumors but if the cancer is aggressive and has already spread to other parts of body, the PSA test may not help.
The Prostate Cancer PSA test may also give a false positive result because the levels may be high but there is no cancer present. If a patient gets a result that shows a positive high-level it may mean he will be sent for more medical procedures. These procedures have some risks and some of these tests are expensive. The financial costs of these tests can cause extra anxiety for the patient and the patients family. Most men who have high levels of PSA are found not to have cancer. Only 25-30 percent of those patients who have high levels of PSA are later found to have cancer after having a biopsy.
There is also a possibility that a patient may receive a false negative test results. This means the Prostate Cancer PSA test will come back as negative or normal when the patient has cancer. Most prostate cancer cases are slow growing and a patient may even have cancer for many years before it is detected. The cancer will gradually grow and when they are large enough will result in symptoms.
There is a controversy about the use of the PSA test. It has not been shown that it actually saves lives and there is still a debate about having follow-up tests and cancer treatments. The Prostate Cancer PSA test can detect small cancer cells that may never grow large enough to cause a problem. If tests and surgeries follow, they may cause added medical problems that could have been avoided. This may put men at risk for over treatment. Surgery and radiation could be avoided if the cancer is not growing or likely to grow.
A prostate biopsy is a normal follow up procedure and there are risks involved with this procedure. Bleeding and infection can occur and prostate cancer treatments may cause erectile dysfunction and urine incontinence. All of these risks should be considered when deciding to have additional screening or treatment after a high PSA test result.
Research is still being done to decide if yearly PSA tests will result in a decreased risk of dying of prostate cancer. The National Cancer Institute is conducting screenings right now to see if some screening tests do reduce the number of deaths caused by prostate, lung, colorectal, and ovarian cancer. It will be several years before the results of this study are complete. Scientists and researchers are searching for ways to see the difference in benign or malignant and fast or slow growing cancers.