The PSA Test is a blood test which can detect the early signs of prostate cancer.
The test, which can be done at a GP surgery, measures the level of PSA (prostate-specific antigen) in your blood. PSA is made by the prostate gland. Some of it will leak into your blood, and the amount depends on your age and the health of your prostate.
Raised PSA levels
The amount of PSA in your blood is measured in nanograms of PSA per millilitre of blood (ng/ml). PSA levels can range from 1ng/ml to hundreds of ng/ml.
If you're aged 50–59, your PSA level is considered raised if it's 3ng/ml or higher.
If you're aged 60–69, your PSA level is considered raised if it's 4ng/ml or higher.
If you're aged 70 or over, your PSA level is considered raised if it's 5ng/ml or higher.
A raised PSA level in your blood may show that you have a problem with your prostate. However, this may not be prostate cancer.
Other conditions, such as an enlarged prostate, prostatitis or a urinary infection, can also cause a raised PSA level.
All men over 40 are able to visit one of our PSA testing sessions, as long as they have made an informed choice based on the benefits, limitations and risks of having the test.
About 15% of all men with a 'normal' PSA level (under 4ng/ml) may have prostate cancer.
Two out of three men with a raised PSA level don't have prostate cancer.
One out of three men with a raised PSA level will have cancer.
Two out of three men who have a biopsy don’t have cancer.
Biopsies in one in five men fail to spot prostate cancer.
A normal PSA level
If your PSA level is not raised, you are unlikely to have cancer. No immediate action is needed, although you may have further PSA tests in the future. However, the PSA test doesn’t always pick up prostate cancer.
A slightly raised PSA level
Two out of three men with a raised PSA level will not have prostate cancer. If your PSA level is slightly higher than normal, you probably don’t have cancer but you might need further tests, including more PSA tests.
A raised PSA level
One out of three men with a raised PSA level will have cancer. The higher the level of PSA, the more likely it is to be a sign of cancer. If your PSA level is definitely raised, your GP will arrange for you to see a specialist for further tests to find out if you have prostate cancer.
A PSA test alone cannot tell you whether you have prostate cancer. If the test shows your PSA levels are raised, your doctor may suggest you have a digital rectal examination (DRE). This is an examination of the prostate gland, during which a doctor will insert a gloved finger into your rectum.
As there is currently no prostate cancer screening programme on the NHS The Graham Fulford Charitable Trust was set up to provide a level of support for men who would otherwise not have been aware of the risks of Prostate Cancer.
The DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) checks for signs of prostate cancer, such as the prostate gland feeling hard. However, a gland that feels normal does not necessarily mean you don't have cancer.
Many early cancers may not be detected by a DRE. Therefore, a DRE is not recommended as a substitute for the PSA test.
Your doctor will also consider your age, any family history of prostate cancer, your ethnic background and any previous PSA test results.
In some cases, extra PSA tests may help make the situation clearer or show any changes.
Source: NHS Choices
The PSA test is a simple blood test used to help detect prostate cancer. In its early stages, prostate cancer generally produces no symptoms, so it is important to diagnose the disease before symptoms arise and while it is still potentially curable. A recent trial suggests that treating prostate cancer may significantly prolong a man’s life.
A high level of PSA (usually 10ng/ml & above) is likely to be an indication of prostate cancer and should therefore prompt further investigation.
A moderately raised PSA level (usually 4ng/ml & above, dependant on age) means that other factors, including digital rectal examination, ethnicity family history, prostate volume, PSA history, and free to total PSA ratio, should be considered in determining whether to send a man for further tests such as biopsy.
However, in three quarters of such cases, further tests do not detect cancer. There can be other reasons for a moderately elevated PSA¸ e.g. urinary infection, enlarged prostate etc. and these may need treatment.
Prostate cancer is not always aggressive or life threatening. Even if further tests do detect early-stage prostate cancer, a specialist may not be able to tell whether the condition is life threatening or harmless. This may make treatment choices difficult for both patient & clinician.
All of these factors have led to the current controversy over the value of the PSA test, however, the uncertainties may be reduced by men having a regular test, ideally on an annual basis.
Regular monitoring of PSA levels can highlight any significant or gradual increase, so that even when the PSA is within the 'normal' range, one maybe alerted to the need for further investigation.
PSA Test Results
Our results are overseen by a team of practising and retired urologists who analyse the results and then sends each man a green, amber or red letter with the results.
Letters are sent out via email or post, depending on which option chosen when test performed.
The red letters are followed up after 6 months and the amber letters after 12 months.
Free to Total PSA result
A standard PSA test measures the total PSA in the blood. But PSA has different forms. It can either be Bound – attached to a protein in the blood Free – not attached to a protein.
The Free to Total PSA test result is currently provided via GFCT supported events where the PSA test score is over 1.5. Many other supporting groups also provide a Free to Total score too.
For more detail on the Free to Total result, please see the section on the Definitions page - Link
The Free to Total ratio can be used as another tool in potential diagnosis and is added (where available) to the result letter sent.
Please also read the Free to Total ratio analysis on the Downloads page - Link
This is a video taken at a PSA Testing event by Clearwater Photography in 2016 and includes a talk by David Baxter-Smith, a retired Consultant Urologist.
David has done this excellent talk in many PSA Testing events and includes information on prostate health, the PSA testing process and the letters sent out.
He has run and been involved in PSA Testing for a number of years and supports our charity in many ways, including sending of follow up letters to those who have had an abnormal PSA score.
Graham and his team have put together a manual to guide you through setting up your own test event. Partnering with "The Doctor's Laboratory" (TDL) you can source everything needed to conduct your event.
The great advantage of using TDL is not only the speed of response of getting the result (Could be as soon as 48hrs) but also the flexibility it gives in enabling regular events to be held in local communities. It is essential to understand all such groups will have the full support of GFCT (With the experience gained in holding in excess of 700 events all over the country). Please feel free to contact them at any time.