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Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test

  • Urmila Parlikar, MS
Publication Type:


Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test


The prostate is a walnut-sized gland in men that makes fluid for semen. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein made by the prostate. It is made by healthy and cancerous prostate cells. The PSA test measures the level of PSA in the blood.

Anatomy of the Prostate

Anatomy of the Prostate Gland of the Prostate GlandNULLjpgAnatomy of the Prostate GlandNULL\\filer01\Intellect\images\si1208.jpgCopyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.22NULL2002-10-012553912548_29006Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Test

The PSA test is used to:

  • See how well a treatment for prostate cancer is working
  • Help check if cancer has returned in those who have already been treated for prostate cancer
  • Test for other health issues like prostatitis or benign prostatic hyperplasia

The PSA test may also be used as a screening tool for prostate cancer. However, this use is controversial. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of the PSA test, and your own risk factors for prostate cancer.

Possible Complications

There are no major problems associated with this test.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

  • Ejaculation may cause PSA levels to rise. Ask your doctor whether you should avoid sexual activity for 24 hours before testing.
  • Some procedures can raise PSA levels. Schedule your PSA test several weeks after any of these:
  • Wait several weeks after successful treatment of prostate infections.
  • Some medicines can lower PSA levels. Talk to your doctor about any medicines, herbs, or supplements you take.

Description of Test

You will be asked to sit. An area inside your elbow will be cleaned with an antiseptic wipe. A large band will be tied around your arm. The needle will then be inserted into a vein. A tube will collect the blood from the needle. The band on your arm will be removed. Once all the blood is collected, the needle will be removed. Some gauze will be placed over the site to help stop bleeding. You may also be given a bandage to place over the site.

After Test

After the blood sample is collected, you may need to stay seated for 10 to 15 minutes. You may need to stay seated longer if you are lightheaded. Once you feel better, you can leave.

How Long Will It Take?

The process takes about 5 to 10 minutes.

Will It Hurt?

It may be uncomfortable when the needle pierces the skin.


The results are usually ready in a few days to a week. The doctor will discuss the results.

If your PSA level is a little high, but there are no other reasons to suspect prostate cancer, your doctor may advise closely tracking your PSA levels.

You will likely need more tests, such as a prostate biopsy, if:
  • Your PSA level is too high
  • The level has risen a lot
  • The doctor notices a prostate lump during a digital rectal exam

Problems To Look Out For

After the test, call your doctor if:

  • The puncture site is bleeding, red, swollen, or hurts
  • You have not heard from your doctor in 1 to 2 weeks

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.





  • Fang, J., Metter, E.J., et al. PSA velocity for assessing prostate cancer risk in men with PSA levels between 2.0 and 4.0 ng/mL. Urology, 2002; 59: 889-893.
  • Prostate cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed website.
  • Prostate cancer: screening. US Preventive Services Task Force website. Available at:
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) Test. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
  • Stephan, C., Stroebel, G., et al. The ratio of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) to prostate volume (PSA density) as a parameter to improve the detection of prostate carcinoma in PSA values in the range of < 4 ng/mL. Cancer, 2005; 104: 993-1003.
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.