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Read the latest posts from experts at Harvard Health Publishing covering a variety of health topics and perspectives on medical news.

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Understanding PSA – I_B

Published March 30, 2009

Understanding PSA

Your PSA level is in the normal range. This is a reassuring result. You have a low risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer within the next few years.

Consider having your test repeated in one to two years.


You have reached the end of this guide. What would you like to do?

Understanding PSA – I_A

Published March 30, 2009

Understanding PSA

Your PSA level is very low. This is a reassuring result. You have a very low risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer within the next few years.

Recent research suggests that it’s probably safe to wait two years before having your PSA checked again.


You have reached the end of this guide. What would you like to do?

Understanding PSA – II_A

Published March 30, 2009

Understanding PSA

Your PSA level is in the normal range. This is a reassuring result.

Consider having your test repeated in one to two years.


You have reached the end of this guide. What would you like to do?

Understanding PSA – III_A

Published March 30, 2009

Understanding PSA

Your PSA level is above four ng/ml. In younger men, this is usually considered to be a worrisome level. However, your PSA level may be normal for someone in your age group.

Speak with your doctor about options for follow-up, including

  • referral to a urologist (prostate specialist)

Understanding PSA – IV_B

Published March 30, 2009

Understanding PSA

Your PSA level is in the normal range. This is a reassuring result.

Given your age or medical history, many doctors would question whether it makes sense to have your PSA tested regularly. This is because prostate cancer is often a slow-growing disease, especially in older men. Even if prostate cancer is detected, the risks of side effects from treatment may be greater than any potential benefits.

Speak with your doctor about whether it makes sense to continue being screened for prostate cancer on a regular basis.


Understanding PSA – IV_A

Published March 30, 2009

Understanding PSA

Your PSA level is above the normal range. However, given your age or medical history, further evaluation may or may not be worthwhile. Speak with your doctor about appropriate follow-up.

Your options include

  • a “watch and wait approach” with repeat testing in several months
  • referral to a urologist (prostate specialist)

You have reached the end of this guide. What would you like to do?

Understanding PSA – III

Published March 30, 2009

Understanding PSA

Next, we need to know your most recent PSA test result. Usually this is a number between 1.0 and 10.0 (PSA is measured in nanograms per milliliter, or ng/ml).


What was your most recent PSA level?

Understanding PSA – I

Published March 30, 2009

Understanding PSA

Most doctors recommend waiting until age 50 to start PSA testing. That’s because prostate cancer is uncommon before this age. However, PSA levels are sometimes checked in men younger than age 50 because they have a risk factor for prostate cancer, such as having a close family member with the disease or being African-American (African American men are more likely than other men to develop prostate cancer and can develop an aggressive form of the disease at a young age).

Understanding PSA – Introduction

Published March 30, 2009

Understanding PSA – Introduction

Welcome to this Decision Guide about PSA testing.

Prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, is a blood test used by many doctors to screen for prostate cancer. If you’ve had your PSA level checked, you may have been told that your results were “normal” or “abnormal.” However, some men would like to know more about what their PSA level means.

This tool provides more information about PSA levels, and what’s considered to be reassuring or worrisome for men of different ages.

What is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)?

Published March 27, 2009

This imaging technique, which uses a powerful magnet and a computer to generate pictures of the body’s organs and tissues, can be used to diagnose prostate cancer or pinpoint the tumor’s location.

What is transrectal ultrasonography (TRUS)?

Published March 27, 2009

Transrectal ultrasonography (TRUS) can create images of the prostate gland using sound waves. Doctors may recommend TRUS when they suspect prostate cancer based on an abnormal DRE or an elevated PSA.

Newer screening tests

Published March 27, 2009

Researchers are developing more screening tests for prostate cancer. Like the PSA test, they rely on biomarkers, such as antigens or proteins, which are elevated or may only be present in men who have prostate cancer. The hope is that these newer tests will better detect existing cancers (better sensitivity), and will not raise the alarm for cancer when it is not present (better specificity).

What is a digital rectal exam (DRE)?

Published March 27, 2009

In this test, the doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum and feels the surface of the prostate to determine whether it is swollen or has any lumps or abnormally textured areas (see Figure 1). This exam also helps doctors screen for diseases of the rectum, such as rectal cancer.

Cancer prevention trial (SELECT) comes to a halt

Published March 19, 2009

The National Cancer Institute discontinued the study after finding evidence that selenium and vitamin E supplements did not prevent prostate cancer.

Intermittent hormone therapy: A patient’s story

Published March 11, 2009

The jury is still out on whether intermittent hormone therapy, which involves repeated cycles of hormone therapy followed by breaks in treatment, might help patients live longer than continuous hormone therapy. But Patrick Kirby’s story might help patients who are debating various options in hormone therapy.

Hematospermia demystified

Published March 11, 2009

Spotting blood in your semen can be worrisome, but it’s usually not cause for alarm.

A Harvard expert shares his thoughts on testosterone-replacement therapy

Published March 11, 2009

Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and the director of Men’s Health Boston, shares his views on current controversies regarding testosterone-replacement therapy.

New options for treating erectile dysfunction

Published March 11, 2009

Penile rehabilitation, which typically consists of oral or injected medications, alone or with other interventions, may help restore erectile function after treatment for prostate cancer. However, this therapy remains controversial.

Erectile dysfunction and heart disease: What’s the connection?

Published March 11, 2009

Even if your doctor has given you a clean bill of health, beware: problems getting or keeping an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse may signal trouble, especially cardiovascular disease, down the road.

Harvard experts discuss benign prostatic hyperplasia drug treatments

Published March 11, 2009

Three Harvard doctors talk about who needs to be treated for BPH, what medications should be prescribed, and what side effects you need to be aware of.

Your benign prostatic hyperplasia medication: When to consider a change

Published March 11, 2009

A look at treatment options and trade-offs

If you are like many of the 14 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), you’ve probably been taking the same medication, at the same dose, for years. If so, consider the experiences of two patients, both of whom were taking some type of medication for BPH. Their names have been changed, but all other details are accurate (see “Jack Muriel” and “Henry Banks”).

Treating erectile dysfunction with penile implants

Published March 11, 2009

Penile implants, an option patients with erectile dysfunction probably hear little about, might offer a lasting and satisfying “cure.” Abraham Morgentaler, M.D., director of Men’s Health Boston, explains how.

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