Standards in place at the time held that it should be less than 4; some evidence has suggested that it should be less than 2.5 if you're younger than 50. My doctor sent me to a urologist, who suspected that my high number was caused by a prostate infection.
The only way to confirm those suspicions, unfortunately, was by collecting some prostatic fluid.
About 10 minutes later, after I'd recovered, he gave me a scrip for an antibiotic and told me to come back at the end of the summer so he could retest my PSA. I was sitting in the dining car having chicken a la Amtrak with my wife and son when suddenly a disheveled old man tottered up the aisle carrying a little plastic bag full of pills. Then I started talking to him, and before I knew it we were comparing prostates.The steward swung him around and plopped him into the booth with us. My wife ratted me out: "He had a high PSA reading," she said, waving her fork in my direction. Now, almost 2 years later, I'm not going to say, "Thank god they caught it in time... Blah blah blah blah." No, what I'm thinking is more along the lines of: I want my prostate back. The size of a golf ball, it's tucked away under your bladder, biding its time until you and your reproductive system decide to emit the sacred seed.This long bomb triumphantly delivers your DNA into the end zone. But around the time in your life when you start to think more about your 401(k) than foreplay, your prostate starts to misfire.When PSA was first identified, the prostate appeared to be its only source, but it has even been detected, albeit in smaller amounts, in women. When your prostate is healthy, PSA is mostly contained within it, but if there is trouble in the tissue, more PSA can leak into the blood.
By the time cancer has ransacked and spread beyond the gland, PSA levels can soar into the thousands.
It swells in size, and the swelling clamps your urethra in a vise grip.
If the cause of the swelling is benign, you're lucky.
"But he won't go back to the doctor." The old guy turned to me. Well, as it turns out, nothing about the PSA test is accurate, starting with the name.
And, establishing eye contact for the first time, he said, "You really need to have that checked out." When I returned home I had another PSA test. The letters stand for a protein produced by the prostate.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men; only some skin cancers are more rampant.