The phrase “elevated PSA levels” sounds ominous. The association between this phrase and the increasing awareness surrounding prostate cancer is partially why hearing it can be alarming. It’s true that one in eight men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, which makes only skin cancer more common among American men. Before you let this alarm you, let’s review a few key details which will help put your mind at ease. It is most important for you to know that just because your PSA levels may be elevated does not mean that you have prostate cancer. It is equally as important to know that if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, in most cases, it does not prove to be fatal.
There are actually a number of reasons why your blood work might have returned a high PSA number. In order to help you become a bit more comfortable, we’re going to take a look at some of the reasons why elevated PSA levels occur. But first, let’s make sure that we know exactly what it means when we use the medical abbreviation, PSA.
What is PSA?
PSA, or Prostate-Specific Antigen, is a protein made by the tissues in the prostate gland. While healthcare providers can feel the prostate and detect hardness or abnormalities through a rectal exam, a blood test is a commonly used, less invasive way to screen your prostate by checking your PSA levels.
Healthcare professionals have learned that there isn’t necessarily a “normal” PSA level. There was a time when a level of 4.0 ng/ml would prompt a physician to order further testing. Now, however, healthcare professionals take into consideration a variety of factors including age, overall health, and family history in addition to the results of your PSA test. This approach considers the whole person, so any necessary action can be properly tailored.
PSA is mostly found in semen, although there is always a small amount of PSA in the blood. While it is true that most men with prostate cancer have elevated PSA levels, it’s important to remember that a high PSA number does not always imply prostate cancer. Approximately 3 out of 4 men with high PSA levels will not have cancer. Moreover, it’s not a perfect test. PSA screenings can miss about 15% of prostate cancers. They can also cause physicians to take action on cancers which are asymptomatic, and non-fatal.
6 Reasons for Elevated PSA Levels
Hopefully, understanding more of the details surrounding PSA screenings, and knowing that your PSA level is best used as a building block of a comprehensive medical profile, has begun to put your mind at ease. As we’ve mentioned, screening PSA levels should not be considered a definitive diagnosis of prostate cancer. Let’s take a look at some other common reasons for PSA levels to rise.
It is normal for your PSA level to rise as you age. Age-related elevated PSA levels could be due to the growth of benign prostatic tissue, an enlargement of the prostate, or even inflammation or infection in the prostate.
2. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Infections in the urinary tract can be caused by a number of things, including frequent sexual intercourse, poor hygiene, urine discharge problems, and diabetes, among others. UTIs can lead to symptoms such as a constant urge to urinate, inability to fully relieve the bladder, a burning sensation during urination, pain in the lower back or abdomen, and fever.
For a variety of reasons, infections become more common with age and may subsequently cause a high PSA number to be reported on screenings.
3. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
BPH, or an enlarged prostate, is a common cause for elevated PSA levels among older men. It often leads to problems with discharging urine, including difficulty initiating urination, frequent and urgent need to urinate, weak urine flow, and an inability to fully empty the bladder. BPH is sometimes also cited as a cause of erectile dysfunction.
Prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate, is common in men, including men under the age of 50. It’s usually the result of a bacterial infection and leads to irritation and swelling of the prostate. Its symptoms are similar to the symptoms of UTIs.
5. Frequent Ejaculation
Ejaculation has been linked to elevated PSA levels, particularly in the 24 hours following the activity. However, the connection between a high PSA number and ejaculation has not been clearly established, which merits more research.
6. Injury to the Prostate
If you’ve sustained an injury to the groin or lower abdominal area, it may lead to higher than normal PSA levels. The same is true for any bruising resulting from surgical procedures.
Asking the Right Questions
More research is needed to find the best way to apply the results of your PSA screening. This is why it is important that you work closely with your doctor to determine whether your PSA levels merit a prostate biopsy. Keeping in mind that prostate biopsies also have their side effects. If you have elevated PSA levels, talk to your doctor about the details of your test. A few questions you can ask are:
1. Have your PSA levels increased gradually over time, or was this a sudden increase?
Sudden jumps in PSA levels may be an indication that further examination of your prostate is necessary.
2. What is the percentage of “free” PSA in your screening?
There are two ways PSA is circulated in your blood, “attached” and “unattached.” There may be an indication of prostate cancer if you have a high PSA number, which is “attached” to the proteins in your blood, coupled with a low percentage of “free” PSA, which is “unattached” to the blood’s proteins.
3. Is an MRI or ultrasound of your prostate an option to help further analyze your prostate’s condition and directly compare it with your elevated PSA levels?
There is a formula which includes dividing your PSA levels by the volume of your prostate to determine your PSA density. There is some research which suggests that knowing the PSA density can help to identify your risk of prostate cancer.
Stress & The Prostate
Often we don’t realize just how big of a role mental stress plays in our physical body’s wellness. However, we are acutely aware of the stress we experience when the body is faced with challenging health conditions. Unhealthy stress, the kind which doesn’t motivate you, causes chemical changes in the body which impact the body’s inflammatory response. New research with regard to stress and elevated PSA levels, is beginning to show that stress may cause hormonal shifts which cause symptoms of an enlarged prostate (BPH) to worsen. Which means that it is exceptionally important to your overall health, as well as if you are faced with a high PSA number, that you turn your attention to your overall wellness and begin to find ways to manage your stress.
There is no better advocate for your healthcare than you. Which is why it is so important that you educate yourself and work with your healthcare provider to develop a plan which ensures and enhances the health of your prostate, as well as considers your overall wellness. The first step you can take is to integrate small changes into your day which you find helpful in managing your stress. Relieving stress will not only help your body’s systems work properly, it will also help you approach your physical health from a fresh perspective.
As you work to ensure the health of your mind, remember that it is up to you to nurture and fuel your body appropriately. Diet, exercise, and other small lifestyle changes are all good options to improve prostate health, especially as you age. If you keep a very busy schedule or want some extra support, you can incorporate a dietary supplement into your routine. Prostate Support by Howdy Handsome is a 100% organic formulation that helps you improve the quality of your life and manage incessant urinary urges. Feel free to peruse some of our testimonials or contact us to get the answers to any questions you may have. Keep up with our blog for frequent tips on managing prostate health and elevated PSA levels.