Some men are asking what’s wrong with the PSA test since there has been controversy over its accuracy and reliability. Experts argue that the PSA is not that reliable because it can give false positive (indicating the presence of cancer that is not there) and false negative (missing prostate cancer that is there) results. Either one of these situations can present significant problems. Here are five problems associated with what’s wrong with the PSA test.
- Concern about false-positive results that are caused by elevated PSA levels from a situation, condition, or event that has nothing to do with having prostate cancer
- Men having to undergo invasive, stressful, expensive or time-consuming follow-up tests that are not necessary
- Getting a false-negative result, leading to a missed diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancer that needs treatment, which may come too late
- Men experiencing anxiety or stress caused by knowing they have a slow-growing cancer that doesn’t need treatment
- Men who choose to have surgery, radiation, or other treatments that cause side effects that are more harmful than leaving the cancer untreated
Despite the problems posed by the current PSA testing procedures, this blood test is still considered to be an important part of screening for prostate cancer. Use of the PSA test, along with a digital rectal examination, a thorough medical and family history, and a review of risk factors for prostate cancer, should be considered when screening is done.
Men need to know that an elevated PSA level does not automatically mean a diagnosis of prostate cancer; in fact, high PSA readings can be caused by a number of factors not related to prostate cancer at all. It should be remembered that the PSA test is simply one tool in a doctor’s bag when evaluating the prostate.
Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.