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A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen in the blood. PSA is released into a man's blood by his prostate gland. Healthy men have low amounts of PSA in the blood. The amount of PSA in the blood normally increases as a man's prostate enlarges with age. PSA may increase because of inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis) or prostate cancer. An injury, a digital rectal exam, or sexual activity (ejaculation) may also briefly raise PSA levels.
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The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is done to:
Before you have a prostate-specific antigen (PSA), tell your doctor if you have had a:
Do not ejaculate for 24 hours before your PSA blood test, either during sex or masturbation.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form( What is a PDF document? ).
The health professional taking a sample of your blood will:
The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.
There is very little chance of a problem from having a blood sample taken from a vein.
A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen in the blood.
The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.
Because normal PSA levels seem to increase with age, age-specific ranges may be used. But the use of age-specific ranges is controversial, and some doctors prefer to use one range for all ages. For this reason, it is important to discuss your test results with your doctor.
Men ages 40–49:
0–2.5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL)
0–2.5 micrograms per liter (mcg/L)
Men ages 50–59:
Men ages 60–69:
Men ages 70 and older:
A PSA level within the normal ranges does not mean that prostate cancer is not present. Some men who have prostate cancer have normal PSA levels.
High levels do not always mean prostate cancer is present. PSA levels may be high if the prostate gland is enlarged (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH) or inflamed (prostatitis).
A follow-up test that measures free prostate-specific antigen (free PSA) may be used to see if a prostate biopsy should be done to check for cancer. Free PSA is the percent of prostate-specific antigen that is not attached to proteins in the blood. The lower a man's free PSA percentage, the more likely he is to have prostate cancer.
A man with a total PSA between 4 and 10 ng/mL may have a test to find out his free PSA, to see if cancer is likely to be present. This test can be very useful if he had a negative prostate biopsy in the past but still has a high total PSA.
Percent of free PSA
Probability of cancer
More than 25%:
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
CitationsFischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.Other Works ConsultedChernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2012). Screening for prostate cancer: Recommendation statement. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/prostatecancerscreening/prostatefinalrs.htm.
Current as ofDecember 19, 2018
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineChristopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology
Current as of: December 19, 2018
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology
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