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What’s a PSA and why do I need one?

May 10, 2024

Nervous about a prostate screening? We get it. But here’s something you may not know. There’s an easy way to gauge your prostate health – no gown or glove needed.

Let’s break it down.

If you are male and over 40, you need to know your PSA number. It’s an indicator of good health – just like your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and A1C levels. The only way to know your number is to get a PSA blood test.

That’s right – roll up your sleeve.

What does a prostate do?

Your prostate is a gland found just below the bladder in men. It wraps the tube that drains urine from your bladder (urethra). Your prostate also makes the fluid that carries sperm.

When your prostate becomes irritated or enlarged, it can make urinating and ejaculating difficult. And that’s when it’s time to see a doctor.

We get it. The prostate’s job and location make most men feel a little uncomfortable talking about prostate issues. That’s exactly why an annual prostate screening is a good idea for most men. The screening starts with a blood test. No gown. No glove. Not awkward at all.

What is a PSA test? 

It’s a blood test to measure prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your body. You should repeat this blood test at least once every two or three years.

And if you are Black or have a close family member with a history of prostate issues – you may need to test earlier or more often.

What does a PSA number mean?

A healthy PSA for men in their 40s and 50s is under 2.5 ng/ml. Your normal may fall above or below that number. But knowing your numbers by getting a regular PSA test can be lifesaving.

A high PSA may mean your prostate is inflamed or enlarged, or it may indicate a higher risk of cancer. And just so you know, your PSA tends to get higher as you age, and for most men, that’s perfectly normal.

What if my PSA is high?

You probably need more testing. Depending on your family history, this may mean repeating the blood test or having a physical exam.

Physical exam? 

The physical exam is where most men get uneasy. To examine your prostate, your doctor will put a gloved, lubricated finger in your rectum to feel the prostate. The exam takes just a minute – uncomfortable for sure but not painful.

Then, based on blood tests and physical exams, your doctor may need to do a biopsy or remove a tiny piece of prostate tissue. The biopsy takes about 15 minutes, and you’ll get a local anesthetic.

Time for real talk. 

The exam and biopsy can be uncomfortable and make you nervous. However, a biopsy is the quickest way to rule out prostate cancer when your PSA and exam are abnormal.

The exam and biopsy won’t affect your sexual performance (we know you were wondering), but having an unhealthy prostate can.

The real, real talk is this.

Black men are 1.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with and 2.1 times more likely to die from prostate cancer than white men. Black men are also more likely than white men to be diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

This is why getting an annual PSA test is important for all men. It can save your life. No gown or glove required.

Find a Grady location near you, visit gradyhealth.org/locations.

 

Nervous about getting a prostate screening? Don't be.

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