The PSA test is a blood test which helps to detect prostate cancer. How does it work, how effective is it and what are the pros and cons of having it done?
This article on the PSA test and prostate cancer is written by Sarah Dawson, a freelance journalist who writes for national and international newspapers, magazines and websites.
Prostate Cancer is the most common cancer affecting men in the UK, with nearly 32,000 new cases diagnosed each year, but it is rarely found in men aged below 45 - four out of five prostate cancers are diagnosed over the age of 65. Prostate Cancer is different to other cancers because it tends to grow slowly so a patient can have it for years and not even know about it, as there often aren't any symptoms. It's when the cancers are large enough that they press on the urinary tube (urethra) disturbing the bladder that a man may be prompted to visit his GP.
There are a number of factors which are believed to increase the likelihood of prostate cancer including race, age, diet and genetics. Having a relative (brother, uncle or father) who has/had prostate cancer put you at a slightly higher risk, and research suggests that Afro-Caribbean and African-American men tend to be more affected than white men, with prostate cancer rare in men in the Far East.
A man's risk increases the older he is, and cases of prostate cancer tend to appear more in countries where people eat a lot of fat. Studies show that following a low-fat vegetarian diet, with plenty of Vitamin E, selenium and lycopenes-rich vegetables like tomatoes offers protection against prostate cancer. In most cases, prostate cancers grow slowly and don't spread to other parts of the body so the cancer may never need to be treated. According to the NHS by the age of 80, half of all men will have some cancer cells in their prostate, but only one in 30 will die from it.