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Should I have a PSA test?

The PSA test is a blood test to help detect prostate cancer. But it's not perfect and will not find all prostate cancers.

The test, which can be done at a GP surgery, measures the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood.

PSA is a protein made only by the prostate gland. Some of it leaks into your blood, but how much depends on your age and the health of your prostate.

There's currently no national screening programme for prostate cancer in the UK because the PSA test is not always accurate.

Before deciding to have the PSA test, you may want to talk to a GP and practice nurse, as well as your partner or a friend or family member.

You have a higher risk of prostate cancer if you:

The amount of PSA in your blood is measured in nanograms of PSA per millilitre of blood (ng/ml).

If you're aged 50 to 69, raised PSA is 3ng/ml or higher.

A raised PSA level in your blood may be a sign of prostate cancer, but it can also be a sign of another condition that's not cancer, such as:

About 3 in 4 men with a raised PSA level will not have cancer. The PSA test can also miss about 15% of cancers.

Pros and cons of the PSA test

Pros:

Cons:

If you're having a PSA test, you should not have:

Each of these may give an inaccurate PSA reading.

A GP may also perform a digital rectal examination (DRE) to feel for any changes to your prostate gland.

A DRE is done by inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into your bottom.

A DRE on its own is not enough to detect cancer.

If you have a raised PSA level, you may need other tests, such as a biopsy.

This involves taking small samples of your prostate and checking them for cancer.

Biopsies miss 1 in 5 prostate cancers and can sometimes cause complications. The most common are bleeding and infections.

If you have prostate cancer, your specialist will discuss your options with you.

Possible treatments include:

Side effects of some treatments can include problems with erections, loss of fertility and incontinence.

You should talk to your cancer specialist about the benefits and risks of any treatment before you begin.

Read more about treating prostate cancer.