Prostate-Specific Antigen Testing: Why it Matters
In this blog, we discuss the importance of having your prostate examined through prostate-specific antigen testing, as well as detail common issues men may experience due to an unhealthy prostate.
Unfortunately, most men don’t think twice about their prostate health. In fact, many men believe myths about prostate cancer and assume they have to be above a certain age to develop prostate issues, or that visible symptoms must be present for anything to be wrong.
This simply isn’t true! This is why participating in regular health testing, such as prostate-specific antigen testing, is crucial for maintaining a healthy prostate. While it’s no secret that men avoid going to the doctor’s office, it’s vital that men be aware of the importance of regular doctor visits. Even if it’s for something uncomfortable — like having your prostate examined.
About The Prostate Gland
The prostate is a male reproductive gland that sits deep inside the groin area. It’s roughly the size of a walnut and sits between the bladder and rectum. The prostate’s primary purpose is to supply the seminal fluid, or semen, that mixes with the sperm from the testes. The combination of these two fluids is what allows the sperm cells to survive and travel through ejaculation.
Common Prostate Health Issues
There are three main types of prostate health issues that can be identified through prostate-specific antigen testing.
1. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
An enlarged prostate is called Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, which is commonly referred to as BPH. A swollen prostate gland is rarely due to cancer, but the exact causes of it are unknown. BPH is typically associated with aging and strongly correlates with a decrease in male testosterone.
The most identifiable symptom is a blockage in the urethra. This is caused by the sudden size change of the prostate pushing against the bladder.
Less than half of men diagnosed with BPH experience symptoms. Those with symptoms usually experience lower urinary tract issues, such as difficulty urinating or having the urge to urinate more than eight times per day.
This condition is easily treated with alpha-blocker medications that relax the muscles around the bladder and prostate gland to make urination easier for the patient. There are also minimally invasive treatments that can be done at a urologist’s office.
To learn more about the in-office treatment options for an enlarged prostate, click here.
Prostatitis is the swelling and inflammation of the prostate gland. This is very common in men under the age of 50.
There are four types of prostatitis with their own set of unique symptoms. These four types can be acute, meaning there is a sudden onset of severe symptoms, or they can be chronic, having ongoing symptoms for three months or more.
Also known as Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome, this type of prostatitis is very common. Unlike other types of prostatitis, chronic prostatitis is not caused by an infection and is likely to go away on its own. The symptoms of chronic prostatitis include:
- Pain near the scrotum or anus area
- Pain during or after ejaculation
- Pain of the urethra or penis during or after urinating
- Urinary frequency or urgency
Doctors might also test for sexually transmitted infections to make sure symptoms are not being confused with a different diagnosis.
Acute Bacterial Prostatitis
This type of prostatitis is rare and is usually caused by a bacterial infection that is accompanied by a severe urinary tract infection. The combination of these conditions can be excruciatingly painful for patients.
The symptoms of Acute Bacterial Prostatitis are:
- Fever and/or chills
- Burning sensation during urination
- Genital, groin, or lower back pain
- Urinary blockage
Chronic Bacterial Prostatitis
The chronic version of this bacterial infection will produce the same symptoms listed above, but they’re less severe and usually ongoing for more than three months. The symptoms can even take years to manifest before they’re noticed.
These three types of prostatitis above can easily be cured with a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications, such as over-the-counter NSAIDs.
Asymptomatic Inflammatory Prostatitis
The fourth type of prostatitis is usually not a concern to medical providers. Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis doesn’t cause any complications or produce symptoms and therefore doesn’t usually warrant treatment. Most men aren’t even aware they have this specific type of prostate issue.
3. Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers found in men, right behind skin cancer. This type of cancer can be challenging to catch because there are usually no symptoms in the very beginning stages.
As cancer grows, symptoms might become more apparent, including:
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in semen
- Urinary problems such as producing a weak stream
- Loss of appetite
- Weight Loss
Treatments for prostate cancer include Cryotherapy, High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound, Brachytherapy, Open Radical Prostatectomy, and da Vinci Robotic Prostatectomy. Learn more about robotic procedures, here.
About Prostate-Specific Antigen Testing
A Prostate-Specific Antigen Test is a lab test that measures the amount of PSA in the bloodstream.
The antigens are mainly found in seminal fluid, but a small amount of PSAs will make their way into the bloodstream. This generally isn’t a concern unless there’s a significantly high amount found in the bloodwork, which can indicate different types of inflammation or cancer.
The Importance of Prostate-Specific Antigen Testing
Working alongside a urologist is a crucial first step in protecting prostate health. It’s essential to have PSA levels routinely checked so medical providers can begin the process of confirming a diagnosis and recommending treatment if necessary. The three common prostate issues mentioned above can all be confirmed through PSA testing.
Keeping track of symptoms and undergoing routine check-ups, such as prostate-specific antigen testing, will help ensure male patients stay in good health as they age.
Men’s Health Tips
There are several simple tips to prevent BPH, prostatitis and prostate cancer that are easy to implement on a daily basis. While we’re sure you’ve heard it before, it’s worth repeating that regular exercise and a proper diet are crucial for maintaining excellent prostate health.
It’s important to note that other factors such as genetics, age, previous pelvic trauma and more can contribute to adverse health issues in men as well. Talk with your physician if you think these concerns may be affecting your health.
Keep in mind, the prostate gland is only one component of the entire male reproductive system. For complete information on how men can keep their health in check as they age, read our comprehensive guide, The Man-To-Man Guide on Healthy Aging.