Prostate cancer is the most common cancer throughout Britain, with 143 men per day receiving a diagnosis and 11,500 dying yearly.
However, you can catch prostate cancer in the early stages and lower your risks. The following article explains what prostate cancer is, how prostate-specific antigens (PSAs) can indicate cancerous cells and how a PSA blood test helps you keep track of high antigen levels.
What is the Prostate?
The prostate is a small gland between the anus and the base of the penis. Its primary role is to assist reproduction by producing semen that combines with sperm. Semen is a fluid that transports sperm, making it easier to leave the penis and reach an egg for fertilisation.
On top of the prostate is a bundle of blood vessels and nerves. These surround the prostate to regulate erections. The nerves may be attached to the prostate gland or nearby, but where they sit does not heighten or lessen the chances of developing prostate cancer.
You can separate the prostate into a few different zones. The main one to concentrate on is the back of the prostate (peripheral zone) near the anus, which can become cancerous.
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What is a Normal Prostate?
The average prostate is approximately 25 grams and the shape and size of a ping pong ball or walnut. It starts relatively small and grows as you get older. An enlarged prostate may reach three times its original size. However, the growth may be due to changing hormones as a man ages.
1 in 3 men over 50 may have an enlarged prostate, although it isn’t always linked to cancer.
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What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is when cells in the prostate gland become malignant by multiplying and rapidly growing. They affect organs and can spread throughout the body.
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Signs of Prostate Cancer
- A poor flow of pee– A large prostate gland will begin covering the urethra (the tube that pee passes through). As a result, the urine will have less space to get through, creating a weak flow.
- An urgent need to use the toilet– An bigger-than-average prostate gland pushes on the bladder. A man will have less control over urination and is suddenly hit with a need to urinate.
- Blood in pee or urine– If you notice blood in your urine and semen, see a doctor immediately, as it could be a sign of prostate cancer.
- Frequent urination– An abnormally large prostate presses against the bladder and makes a man need to pee more than usual. It is more prominent at night.
- Struggling to urinate– When an oversized prostate covers the urethra, a man may need to strain to release the urine, or it may take a while for the flow to start.
- Urge to urinate– When the cells in the prostate gland grow, they enlarge the prostrate, pushing on the bladder, and forcing a man to use the toilet even if there is not a lot in the bladder.
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What are Prostate-Specific Antigens (PSA)?
Prostate-specific antigens (PSAs) are a protein in semen produced by cells within the prostate and secreted from the prostate gland. These cells may be benign (non-cancerous growth) or malignant (cancerous growth).
PSAs break down molecules to provide the liquid consistency of semen and allow sperm to travel through the fluid more easily.
What Makes PSA Levels Go Up?
A high score of PSAs may indicate prostate cancer. However, other causes within the body increase the number of prostate-specific antigens, including non-malignant cells or inflamed and infected prostate.
Checking Your PSA Levels
You can check your prostate-specific antigen levels with a PSA blood test. A PSA blood test measures the amount of PSAs per millilitre (ng/ml) of blood to check whether you are within the normal range of 1.0 to 1.5 ng/ml.
However, even if your levels are low, it does not indicate you are completely clear of prostate cancer.
Normal PSA Levels in Men by Age
Although normal PSA levels are consistent throughout age, the baseline levels that cause concern increase the older a man gets. The reason is that prostate-specific antigens naturally rise with age. Therefore, the score considered abnormal gets higher the older you are.
|Under 40 years old||1.0 to 1.5 ng/ml.||Above 2.5 ng/ml or a rapid increase of 0.35 ng/ml in one year.|
|40-50 years old||1.0 to 1.5 ng/ml.||Above 2.5 ng/ml or a rapid increase of 0.35 ng/ml in one year.|
|50-60 years old||1.0 to 1.5 ng/ml.||Above 4.0 ng/ml|
|70-80 years old||1.0 to 1.5 ng/ml.||Above 4.5 – 5.5 ng/ml|
What PSA Levels Should Make me Concerned?
Above 4 ng/ml PSA levels are usually cause for concern. However, it depends on your age, as PSA levels naturally increase as you get older. Therefore, levels that doctors consider abnormal rise with it. However, the average is 1.0 to 1.5 ng/ml, and you can check scores using the ‘normal PSA levels in men by age’ chart above.
What PSA Levels Indicate Advanced Prostate Cancer?
The higher a PSA level over 4 ng/ml, the more indication it is of advanced prostate cancer. For example, above 4, but less than 10 ng/ml suggests you are in the early stages. Cancer will grow slowly, probably won’t spread, and it’s reasonably treatable.
Although more advanced, prostate-specific antigen levels between 10 and 20 ng/ml are still indications of an early and treatable stage. However, there is a higher risk of it spreading, and it will need treatment as soon as possible.
A PSA score over 20 ng/ml shows the cancer is far more likely to spread, which can mean cancer will grow quickly and need immediate treatment.
What if I Have High PSA Levels but No Cancer?
High levels of PSA may indicate you have an inflammation or infection of the prostate, or they are naturally increasing with age.
What Age Should I Get a Prostate Test?
You should get a prostate test from the age of 50, as the chances of developing prostate cancer accelerate.
In the UK, a local GP or doctor usually invites you to a general health check-up when you are above 50.
However, one in five untested men doesn’t want to attend a prostate check-up. It’s a highly negligent thing to do as often prostate cancer is undetectable unless a man is medically checked.
RELATED: You can keep tabs on your PSA levels by regularly taking a prostate-specific antigen blood test.
Who is at Risk of Prostate Cancer?
- If cancer runs in the family (especially prostate cancer).
- Men over 50 years old.
- If you live an unhealthy lifestyle (excess alcohol, smoking, poor diet, no exercise, etc.).
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Check Your PSA Levels for Cancer Today
You have a higher risk if you are genetically predisposed to cancer, you live an unhealthy lifestyle, or you are over 50. Therefore, it’s a good idea to get a PSA blood test to check your levels and catch early signs of prostate cancer.
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Written by Emma Carey. Emma is a health and wellness enthusiast who likes to know the science behind how supplements, vitamins, nutrition and exercise affect the body. She’s on a health and fitness journey to improve her lifestyle and live life to its fullest.
What is a good PSA score?
A good prostate-specific antigen (PSA) score ranges between 1.0 and 1.5 ng/ml. If it is any higher than this score or rapidly increases in a year (e.g. by 0.35 ng/ml), it may be cause for concern. The first step will be more tests by your doctor or GP to understand why there is an increase or above average score.
What happens if PSA is high?
If PSA is too high, it may point toward prostate cancer or another cancer within the body. The aggressiveness of cancer typically depends on how high the prostate-specific antigen reaches. However, it could also be due to an infection or prostate inflammation.
Can PSA go down?
Yes. Prostate-specific antigens (PSAs) do vary depending on genetics and age. However, levels are mainly due to living a healthy lifestyle. For example, if you eat well, exercise, get the recommended amount of sleep and generally look after yourself, it will lower PSA scores.