What we measure
This test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. PSA is a protein produced by the prostate gland and if its levels are high, this can be a sign of prostate disease, including cancer. Measuring both free and total PSA allows you to get a fuller picture of your prostate health and better understand your risk of cancer.
This test can help indicate whether you’ve got prostate cancer.
The prostate is part of the male reproductive system, where it produces the fluid that transports sperm. A healthy prostate only makes small amounts of PSA, but when there's disease present, including cancer, the cells which are affected can make more of it.
High PSA levels can also be caused by other things, such as a urine infection or vigorous physical activity.
PSA blood tests are used to screen for prostate cancer, which means looking for signs of cancer before it causes any symptoms. These tests can’t diagnose cancer—they can only indicate how likely it is that you have it. If your PSA levels are abnormal, you should speak to your doctor who will investigate further.
Anyone can do a PSA test, but it may be recommended for people who have a higher risk of prostate cancer. This includes people who are older, have a family history of prostate cancer, have Black ethnicity, or are overweight.
what to expect
You’ll find out how much PSA is present in your blood and whether this falls within a normal range. What counts as “normal” varies with age, but in men aged 50-69 it’s generally considered to be less than 3.0 micrograms per litre (µg/L).
PSA readings are used to gauge how likely it is that you have cancer. This is the only first step on the path to a diagnosis—doctors can use your test results to decide whether to move to the next stage and investigate further.
For example, a total PSA reading above 3.0 µg/L doesn’t always mean there’s something wrong—a doctor will weigh this up alongside other factors, such as the size of your prostate, when deciding what to do next. But total PSA levels higher than 10.0 µg/L may indicate a greater likelihood of cancer.
When total PSA levels are in this “grey zone” of around 3.0-10µg/L, free PSA levels can help to predict the probability of cancer. In this instance, higher free PSA could suggest a lower risk of cancer, for example.
High total PSA can also be caused by conditions that aren’t cancer. There are other tests and examinations a doctor can do to help figure out what’s causing this reading.
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Tell the GP what the problem is during your consultation and they’ll take it from there. Prescriptions can be picked up at your local pharmacy.
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A few different things can interfere with your test results. PSA can rise after you ejaculate, for example, so it’s important to avoid this for at least 48 hours before your test.
Physical prostate exams can also increase PSA, so if you’re due to have a rectal exam your blood test should be done before this.
PSA can also remain high for many months after you’ve had a urinary tract infection (UTI), and for 48 hours after doing intense exercise—especially riding a bicycle.
Avoid ejaculation and vigorous exercise for at least 48 hours before your test, as both of these instances can cause PSA to rise.
If you’ve recently had a UTI, you should wait for 4-6 weeks before you take the test. UTIs can raise PSA levels and they can stay high for weeks afterwards.
Physical examinations of the prostate can raise PSA levels, too. If you’ve had a prostate biopsy then the test should be done at least 6 weeks afterwards.
A PSA test can tell you what your PSA levels are and whether these fall within a normal range. It can help to indicate the probability of cancer but can’t tell you for sure why your PSA levels are raised. To find out what’s causing high PSA, your doctor will likely need to do some further examinations.
Our tests are safe and accurate in measuring PSA levels. As well as being UKAS accredited and listed on the UK government website, we are CQC registered, which is a quality mark for trustworthy health services. All of our tests are validated by GMC registered doctors and HCPC clinical scientists.
You may consider taking a PSA test if you’re at a higher risk of getting prostate cancer. This includes people who are older, have a Black ethnicity, are overweight, or have a family history of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer usually has no symptoms until the tumour has grown large enough to put pressure on your bladder. If you do get symptoms, they may include needing to pee more frequently and having trouble passing urine.
A phlebotomy involves you going to your local pharmacy and having a test provider draw blood from your arm. This won’t take longer than a few minutes. You don’t need to worry about popping anything in the post—our courier will come and pick up the sample.
You’ll get your results in as quick as 2 working days.
There’s currently no prostate cancer screening programme in the UK, but Prostate Cancer UK recommends that men aged 45 years or older, who are Black and/or who have a family history of prostate, breast, and ovarian cancer, get tested regularly.
However, if you’re worried about prostate cancer then you can get tested at any age.