A PSA is a simple blood test that checks for a specific antigen (protein) in the blood. Elevated PSA levels may suggest but do not confirm prostate cancer.
The only way to confirm prostate cancer is to perform an ultrasound-guided biopsy of the prostate. This office-based procedure is performed with the patient receiving a local anesthetic. It takes about five to ten minutes to perform with samples of the prostate tissue sent to a laboratory for review.
A digital rectal exam (DRE) is also performed. A DRE is a physical examination of the prostate, through the rectum, to detect lumps or nodules that could indicate cancer.
Although some medical practices use a PSA level of 4.0 to indicate an abnormality, South County Urological uses age-specific readings as suggested by the American Urological Association.
Unless otherwise instructed by their physician, African-American men and those with a family history of prostate cancer should have annual PSA screenings and a DRE beginning at age 40. All other men should begin annual PSA and DRE screenings at age 50.