July 18, 2022

Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test - What Is It?

Key Takeaways

  • A PSA blood test is an important part of prostate health. This test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in the bloodstream.
  • An elevated level of PSA may indicate prostate cancer. Elevated PSA levels may also be a sign of several non-cancerous conditions, such as an inflamed prostate (prostatitis) or an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia).
  • According to medical experts at Johns Hopkins, medical screening for prostate cancer should generally begin at the age of 55.
  • In preparation for your PSA blood test, you should avoid ejaculating during the previous 48 hours.

In recent years, physical and mental health has been at the forefront of many discussions. An issue talked about far less, especially when it comes to men, is reproductive health and how it affects more people than you would think.

For instance, did you know that men with reproductive problems, such as infertility, have a higher risk of other diseases like cancer and issues of the heart? Often, these issues involve a gland vital to a man’s reproductive health, that being the prostate.

Fortunately, examining the health of your prostate gland is as simple as having blood drawn. In this article, we will review PSA blood tests, when you might need one, what to expect when you have one, and what your amount of PSA signifies.

What Are the Functions of the Prostate Gland?

Found just below the bladder in men and normally only an ounce in weight, the prostate gland produces everything needed for the nourishment and transportation of seminal fluid (fluid containing sperm cells).

But don’t let this walnut-sized gland fool you. The prostate gland is also responsible for many other functions, including:

  • Creating erections: The nerves within the prostate gland play an important role in creating and maintaining erections. During intercourse, the nerves stimulate the flow of extra blood to the penis to help it enlarge.
  • Ejaculating sperm: As well as nourishing and transporting sperm, the prostate gland helps your body with the ejaculation of sperm during intercourse. This propelling action makes sure that the sperm can reach deep enough into the uterus to possibly locate an egg.
  • Producing hormones: The prostate produces the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is responsible for the male libido.
  • Filtering contaminants: The prostate gland serves as a filter for sperm by removing any toxins that would prevent its healthy performance.
  • Protecting against infection: The prostate also helps to protect the urethra (the tube that transports urine and semen outside of the body) from urinary tract infections (UTIs).
  • Controlling urine flow: Not only does the prostate prevent urine from being released from the bladder until a man is ready to urinate, but it also prevents urine from becoming mixed with sperm when a man ejaculates.
  • Producing PSA: Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein that is produced by both cancerous and non-cancerous tissue within the prostate gland. PSA levels can be increased by the presence of prostate cancer or other conditions including an inflamed or enlarged prostate.

What Is a PSA Blood Test?

A PSA blood test is an important part of prostate health. This test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in the bloodstream. The PSA protein is produced by normal and malignant cells but at different levels.

An elevated level of PSA may indicate prostate cancer. In addition to prostate cancer, elevated PSA levels may also be a sign of several non-cancerous conditions, such as an inflamed prostate (prostatitis) or an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia).

There is no causal relationship between these conditions and prostate cancer, although it is possible to have one or more of these conditions at the same time.

What Are Normal PSA Levels?

When you have a PSA test, your blood sample is sent to a lab for analysis. The result – a measurement of PSA – is reported as nanograms of PSA per milliliter (ng/mL) of blood. Normal PSA levels vary based on age range as shown below:

  • Age 40-49: 0 to 2.5 ng/mL
  • Age 50-59: 0 to 3.5 ng/mL
  • Age 60-69: 0 to 4.5 ng/mL
  • Age 70+: 0 to 6.5 ng/mL

High PSA Levels

If your PSA level is higher than normal for your age range, this does not necessarily mean you have prostate cancer. Your urologist will perform a digital rectal exam (DRE). During a DRE, your urologist will examine your lower rectum, pelvis. and lower abdomen to feel for abnormalities.

They may also perform other tests to rule out non-cancerous conditions such as a UTI or BPH. If your PSA is elevated and your DRE shows abnormalities, after other conditions have been eliminated, your doctor may recommend a prostate biopsy to look for cancer cells and make a prostate cancer diagnosis.

If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer your doctor will refer you to a specialist in oncology for prostate cancer treatment. Prostate cancer can be treated with radiation therapy and cured with early detection. BPH can be treated with dutasteride or finasteride. A UTI can be treated with antibiotics.

Low PSA Levels

A lower PSA level than normal for your age group typically means that you do not have prostate cancer or any of the non-cancerous conditions described above.

Why Do I Need a PSA Screening Test?

According to medical experts at Johns Hopkins, medical screening for prostate cancer should generally begin at the age of 55. Your healthcare provider will take into account your age, general health, medical history, and family history of prostate cancer (if applicable) and recommend a PSA test based on these factors.

You may need prostate cancer screening between the ages of 40 and 54 if you have any of the following risk factors:

  • You have a close family relative (father or brother) who has or has had prostate cancer.
  • You have two or more extended family members who have or have had prostate cancer.
  • You are African American — as people with African heritage may have a higher risk of prostate cancer.

Where Can I Get a PSA Test?

A PSA test can be performed in your healthcare practitioner’s office or a clinic. It is usually performed by a nurse or a phlebotomist. You can also have the blood sample for your PSA test taken at home.

Mobile blood sample services, like Getlabs, are popular because they are safe and convenient and allow you to have a blood test in the comfort of your home. Once a Getlabs specialist has taken your blood sample, it will be delivered directly to a local lab for testing.

What Should I Do Before a PSA Blood Test?

In preparation for your PSA blood test, you should avoid ejaculating during the previous 48 hours. This is because releasing semen can cause a temporary increase in PSA levels, which may affect your test results. For the same reason, you should also:

  • Avoid strenuous exercise in the previous 48 hours
  • Not have an active UTI
  • Not have had a prostate biopsy within the last six weeks

What Should I Do During my PSA Blood Test?

Here’s what to expect from your home PSA blood test:

  1. Upon arrival, your Getlabs specialist will introduce themselves and show you their official ID.
  2. They will ask you a few preliminary questions about your general health and medical history.
  3. They will make sure you are comfortable either sitting or lying down before your test.
  4. Next, they will select the most appropriate vein and collection device.
  5. After collecting your blood sample, they will ask you to apply pressure to the puncture site momentarily.
  6. Once they have checked the puncture site for bleeding, they will apply a bandage.

The entire procedure usually takes less than five minutes.

There is very little risk to having a PSA blood test. You may notice mild tenderness or slight bruising at the needle site, but this will quickly resolve. If you notice any numbness or tingling in your arm or you feel nauseous or dizzy during your blood draw, you should alert your specialist straight away.

What Should I Do After my PSA Screening?

After your PSA screening, you can return to your normal sexual activity. You should not experience any side effects from the blood draw other than mild bruising or slight tenderness at the site of the puncture. This should resolve within a couple of days.

When Should I Expect My PSA Test Results?

It can take several days to a week to get your PSA test results back. This will depend on the lab that is performing the analysis. When the results are ready your doctor will call you or you will receive your results through your laboratory's patient portal. Your doctor may request a follow-up appointment.

Have PSA Blood Testing in Your Home with Getlabs

If you decide to get your PSA blood test done at home, one of our Getlabs specialists can help you give a blood sample, comfortably, safely, and with total confidentiality. It will save you time and you can enjoy our personalized care with three simple steps.

If you want to learn more about Getlabs, visit www.getlabs.com/faq to learn more.

Book an Appointment

Getlabs delivers healthcare to you. Our specialists come to you to collect your labs and deliver them to Labcorp and Quest for testing. We’re available same-day, nationwide.

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