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What is a PSA Test?

The Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein made by the prostate gland. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland in men, located near the bladder and rectum. It produces a fluid that is part of semen. Most PSA is released into semen, but some is released into the bloodstream. If there is a problem with the prostate, the PSA found in the blood can become elevated.

Reasons for Test

The PSA test is used to

  • screen for prostate cancer.
  • monitor treatment for prostate cancer.
  • help determine if cancer has returned in men who have already been treated for prostate cancer.

An elevated PSA level may also be associated with prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) and an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH).

What to Expect

Prior to Test

  • Ejaculation can cause PSA levels to rise. Avoid sexual activity for two to three days before testing.
  • Some procedures can elevate PSA levels. Schedule your PSA test several weeks after
    • Any type of prostate surgery (such as TURP)
    • Prostate biopsy
    • Prostate massage
  • Wait several weeks after successful treatment of prostate infections.
  • Some medicines can lower PSA levels. Tell your doctor if you are taking
    • Finasteride (eg, Propecia, Proscar)
    • Dutasteride (eg, Avodart)

Description of Test

You will roll up your sleeve. An elastic band will be wrapped around your upper arm. An area on your arm will be cleaned with alcohol. The needle will then be inserted into your arm. A small amount of blood will be drawn into a tube. The needle will be removed. Pressure will be applied to the puncture site. A small bandage may be placed on the site. Your blood will be sent to a lab for testing.

After Test

You will be able to leave after the test is done.

How Long Will It Take?

Drawing blood takes only a few minutes.

Will It Hurt?

It may be uncomfortable when the needle pierces your skin.


The results are usually available in a few days to a week. Your doctor will talk to you about your results.

If your PSA level is slightly elevated but there are no other reasons to suspect prostate cancer, your doctor may recommend closely following your PSA levels. If your PSA level is too high, has risen significantly, or the doctor notices a lump during a digital rectal exam, you will probably need to schedule other tests, such as a prostate biopsy.

Call Your Doctor

After the test, call your doctor if any of the following occur:

  • Bleeding from the puncture site
  • Red, swollen, or painful puncture site
  • If you have not heard from your doctor in 1-2 weeks

Above content provided by the American Cancer Society in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted October 2011

Contact Information

Prostate Cancer Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Shapiro Clincial Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
Phone: 617-667-7777
Fax: 617-667-7292