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PSA Test No Longer Reliable in Determining Prostate Health

PSAThe very popular PSA test, or Prostate Specific Antigen, test has proven to be an unreliable indicator of prostate cancer.Of the 20,000 men diagnosed annually, nearly 3,300 Australian men die of Prostate Cancer every year. That staggering statistic confirms why men should be concerned about their prostate health.  Fortunately, there are a number of effective alternatives medical practitioners can turn to for diagnosis, as well as natural measures men can take to maintain their prostate health.

How the PSA Test Works

Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA, is a protein produced by the prostate gland and released into the bloodstream. Thus, medical practitioners conduct blood tests and use PSA as a biological marker to detect potentially cancerous prostate tumours. If a patient’s PSA level indicates the presence of tumours, then further testing is conducted which often involves a biopsy of the prostate. A biopsy consists of surgically collecting a small amount of tissue from an organ and analysing its tissue for cancerous cells. Yet, as statistics are illustrating, such invasive tests are not always necessary.

PSA Test: PSA blood levels are regulated by other conditions

The first factor that makes the PSA test an unreliable indicator of prostate cancer is that it changes in response to other common prostate conditions—not just prostate tumours. Each of these common conditions is known to elevate PSA:
  • Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)—natural enlargement of the prostate as men age
  • Prostatitis—inflammation or infection of the prostate
  • Rigorous physical activity
  • Non-cancerous (benign) prostate tumours
Needless to say, an elevated PSA level is not enough to diagnose prostate cancer. Even if PSA reveals prostate tumours, there is a chance that the tumours are benign. Or if prostate tumours are cancerous, PSA is still incapable of differentiating between rare aggressive prostate cancer and more common localised prostate cancer.

A high PSA level may lead to unnecessary treatment

Depending upon how much a medical practitioner trusts PSA test results, men with high PSA levels may undergo unnecessary or invasive treatments, such as surgery and radiation. This has led to some more discomforting statistics:
  • 90% of men have surgery/radiation for non-life-threatening cancers
  • 5 out of 1000 of those men will die within a month of receiving treatment
  • 50% of men who do survive will experience urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction, bowel problems and other side effects
  • A rising number of men are undergoing prostate removal as treatment
And with the possibility that those men may not have prostate cancer, many professionals believe that PSA should no longer be a part of regular checkups let alone the sole indicator of prostate cancer.

Alternative Tests to PSA

Mr Vitamins understands that staying informed is essential to staying healthy. For that reason, you should know that PSA is not the only test your doctor can use to evaluate your prostate health. Better methods include:
  • Digital Rectal Exams (DRE)—manually checking the prostate
  • Transrectal Ultrasounds—visually observing the volume of the prostate
  • Prostate Volume and PSA—comparing prostate volume to PSA
  • Free to Total PSA Ratio
  • PSA Velocity
  • Urine PCA-3 Test—not affected by BPH or prostatitis, so it is the greatest indicator of cancer

Take your prostate health into your own hands

As always, exercising regularly, reducing stress, and consuming a diet rich in herbs and nutrients are the best ways to promote prostate health. Definitely ‘Ask a Naturopath’ any questions or concerns you have regarding your prostate health, especially if you have a family history of cancer.