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Are PSA tests accurate?

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Quick Answer

PSA tests are not always accurate, according to Mayo Clinic. PSA testing is often used to diagnose prostate cancer by identifying the level of prostate-specific antigens, or PSA, present in the bloodstream. However, as WebMD points out, this is a factor that cannot be reliably used to diagnose prostate cancer.

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Full Answer

As a result of the PSA test's unreliability, Mayo Clinic reports that up to 50 percent of prostate cancer patients may have been misdiagnosed as high risk, despite having benign and asymptomatic tumors. This has led to unnecessary surgical treatments and psychological strain in many men.

There are a number of factors that can lead to such a misdiagnosis based on PSA test results. One is that prostate cancer is not the only condition leading to elevated PSA levels. In addition to the natural effects of aging, other medical conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia and inflamed prostate, or prostatitis, can also have this effect. Furthermore, a number of medications can affect the accuracy of PSA test results by lowering PSA levels. These include medications for urinary disorders and some types of chemotherapy.

Despite its flaws, the PSA test remains one tool of early detection for urologists, as an indicator, however dubious, of possible prostate cancer. It is not recommended to take action based on a PSA test alone.

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