is the test?
- A mans prostate produces a protein called "prostate-specific
antigen" that can be measured in the blood. Some diseases, including
prostate cancer, cause the prostate to make a larger quantity of this
protein. By measuring prostate-specific antigen levels in your bloodstream,
doctors may be able to find prostate cancers in their early stages.
Doctors still disagree about whether it is a good idea for all men
to have this test done after they turn 50. One reason is that many
prostate cancers that are found by the PSA test are destined to remain
tiny areas inside the prostate gland, never to spread and cause medical
problems. Discovering such cancers can cause great anxiety, if a man
chooses to have no treatment for them. If a man opts for treatment,
he may suffer the possible side-effects of treatment (such as loss
of sexual function, or leakage of urine) in order to treat a cancer
that would never have grown and spread.
At the same time, detecting cancers that are destined to spread at
an early stage can be life-saving. Doctors are working hard on techniques
that will distinguish those prostate cancers that are destined to spread,
and those that are not. You should definitely discuss with your doctor
the pros and cons of having this test done before you proceed.