Community Views: PSA Testing Before Diagnosis
Last updated: February 2023
Before a prostate cancer diagnosis, most men undergo prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing. PSA is a measure of the amount of prostate antigen in a person's blood. It can potentially be a sign that prostate cancer cells are present in the body.1,2
Is testing always good?
There are different ideas about PSA testing within the medical community. This means that some people get tested more often than others. The scheduled testing approach is based on the view that knowledge is power. Having more information allows you and your doctor to make the most informed decisions.1,2
More random, or sporadic, testing is another approach to promoting health. Increased PSA levels can occur long before prostate cancer is dangerous. The often slow-growing nature of this type of cancer does not always need immediate treatment. And operating on a person before it is necessary can put their health at risk.1,2
Prostate cancer treatment can lead to incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Doctors have to weigh the pros of more information against the risks of more information.1,2
How often did the community get PSA tests?
We wanted to learn more about how often those in the prostate cancer community got tested before their diagnosis. So, we asked the ProstateCancer.net Facebook community: “How often was your PSA tested before your prostate cancer diagnosis?”
Respondents shared a wide range of testing approaches, from sporadic to quarterly. Here are the main ones we saw in the responses to our prompt.
The most common response was yearly testing. Most people had PSA testing ordered with their annual physical. They typically began PSA testing in their 40s or 50s.
“Once a year as part of my annual physical.”
“Mine had been tested annually since my early 40s due to family history. However, the year I was diagnosed, my PSA was still normal, and I had stage 4.”
“Every year for about 10 years.”
“Once a year until it started to rise, every 3 months until it was diagnosed. But then it was no longer contained.”
“Yearly since age 50. PSA and digital exam were always part of my physical.”
More than once per year
A few respondents had more frequent testing – every 3 or 6 months. Regular testing helped identify rising PSA levels early. It offered these people some peace of mind to know their PSA number.
“Every 3 months. Plus 3 separate biopsies over 2 years.”
“Every 6 months with a urologist and annually with GP.”
“4 times in 2 years. PSA kept going up.”
“Every 3 months since I was 38 years old. Still every 3 months. Early detection is key. Prostate cancer at the age of 55.”
Several people commented that they were tested only every several years or once symptoms presented. The test helped lead to their prostate cancer diagnosis.
“Every 1–2 years.”
“Half a dozen times from my late 30s. It was a DRE [digital rectal exam] during a bladder investigation that started me on the road to my diagnosis.”
“Once! 52 years old. A month later, it was removed. PSA was 14. I had never heard of a PSA. I was feeling sick, and my doctor suggested the test.”
“Not often enough.”
Many folks never had PSA testing before their diagnosis. Others did not have a PSA test until they needed it because of a different condition or procedure. A few respondents did not even know about the PSA test.
“Never! And it was only after a testosterone shot that I had a PSA test, which was 20-something. My PCP freaked out and said to see a urologist asap.”
“Never. I wasn’t even aware I needed to have it checked.”
Thank you to everyone who shared their history of PSA testing with us. We appreciate your candor about your journeys.
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