A PSA test, or prostate specific antigen test, measures how much of a protein produced by the prostate is present in the blood. A PSA test is one way to check that a prostate is healthy. High PSA levels can be caused by a number of prostate problems, including prostate cancer. However, it is important to avoid certain things before the test is carried out in order to ensure that the results are accurate.
It is important that men abstain from sexual activity for a period of at least 48 hours before having a PSA test. Ejaculation can affect how much PSA is present in the blood and lead to inaccurate test results. It is particularly important for younger men to avoid sexual activity during this time as it can have a more significant impact on PSA levels than it would in older men.
Some nutritional supplements can affect the results of a PSA test. If these supplements are being taken for non-essential reasons, they should be avoided just before the PSA test is conducted. Examples of nutritional supplements that can increase testosterone levels and alter PSA levels include fenugreek, tribulus terrestris and pomegranate. It is advisable for patients to advise their GP of any supplements they take before the PSA test is carried out.
Some vigorous forms of exercise should be avoided for a minimum of 48 hours before a PSA test. If the exercise or activity causes a great deal of movement in the prostate area, it could stimulate the prostate into releasing higher levels of PSA in the blood. Examples of these activities include horse riding and cycling.
Certain medicines can alter a man’s PSA levels, including aspirin and common anti-inflammatory drugs. If these have not been prescribed by a doctor and are being taken for something as simple as a mild headache, men should try to avoid them just before their PSA test. It may not be possible to stop taking prescription drugs that can alter PSA levels but any medications should be discussed with a GP before the test. The doctor will take them into account and decide on the best course of action.
There are a number of medical conditions and procedures that can affect the results of a PSA test. Urinary tract infections can alter PSA levels and it may not be possible to obtain accurate PSA test results for six weeks after finishing antibiotics to treat the infection. Recent procedures such as prostate biopsies and digital rectal examinations can also affect PSA test results. While many of these cannot be avoided, any upcoming medical procedures that could alter PSA levels should be mentioned to a GP who will decide whether a test needs to be rescheduled.