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Understanding PSA: What’s Your Number?

If you’re a man over 40, you may be familiar with the term “PSA level.” PSA stands for “prostate-specific antigen,” an enzyme routinely produced by your prostate gland. You may also have spoken with your primary care physician about the PSA test, which measures the enzyme’s level in your blood.

The test, which is usually performed at the same time as a digital rectal exam, has become an important men’s health screening tool. Men who have prostate cancer can have elevated levels of PSA in their blood, but a patient can have prostate cancer and show no elevated levels. 

This is why it’s critical to connect with a highly skilled urologist, who can interpret your PSA test results properly. Dr. Mark Kelly, Los Angeles’ most trusted urologist, performs this important screening for men on a regular basis. 

Dr. Kelly has received much recognition for his work and expertise in men’s health, including being named one of America’s Top Urologists by US News & World Report. He’s highly invested in customizing your care and utilizes the PSA test not only as part of a screening approach, but in the treatment and monitoring of prostate cancer patients.  

What’s normal when it comes to my prostate?

It’s interesting to note that, starting when you’re about 25 years old, your prostate begins to grow — very slowly. By the time you’re 50, however, you may experience some physical discomfort related to an enlarged prostate:

The technical term for this enlargement is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and there are prescription medications available to treat it and ease symptoms.

The PSA test tells us several things

It’s important to remember that the PSA test is more of an indicator that guides Dr. Kelly in your treatment than a definitive, black-and-white source of information. 

If your PSA test comes back from the lab and you have a high number, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have prostate cancer, and that’s important to remember. It may simply indicate that you have BPH. 

It may also mean that Dr. Kelly will watch you more closely to monitor changes that might indicate prostate cancer down the road, especially if you’re at higher risk for the disease. Risk factors for prostate cancer include:

Research has also shown that obesity and poor diet may be associated with the development of prostate cancer, so even though certain factors elevate your risk, which you can’t alter, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to lower it. 

The conundrum of the PSA test

As we’ve said, raised PSA levels can be the result of conditions other than cancer. Because of this, the PSA test has been the subject of debate over the years in the medical community. Some feel that routinely testing everyone is excessive and may lead to unfounded worry. 

Dr. Kelly has found that a patient might have an infection or something else going on that’s responsible for raising PSA levels, and after he treats that issue, the elevated PSA level resolves. 

Conversely, he may also recommend a PSA test if you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer or are in remission, because it provides him with important information in those instances as well. Ultimately though, the test is useful because it is both a diagnostic and treatment tool. 

The PSA test must be used within the proper context

If Dr. Kelly feels that you’d benefit from PSA testing on a routine basis, he’ll discuss with you the reasons why, and he’ll give you all the time you need to get your questions answered. He’ll also explain what normal and high PSA levels are as they relate to your age. 

Get the lowdown on whether the PSA test is right for you right now

The PSA test is just one instrument in Dr. Kelly’s extensive clinical toolbox. Most importantly, he looks at the test — and your PSA results — relative to your individual health profile, age, and other factors.

Contact the practice to schedule a consultation to discuss your prostate health with Dr. Kelly. You can give us a call at our office, or use our convenient online booking tool. Whether you’re advised to get a PSA test or not, you’ll get the best urological care available, here with Dr. Kelly.

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