PSA test for prostate cancer

Follow-up after treatment

A PSA test may be done as regular monitoring after surgery or after other treatment (for benign enlargement or for cancer), either to see if prostate cancer has subsequently developed, or to see if a cancer has recurred. 

For example, a surgeon may suggest the PSA test after a transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP). This simple operation is usually done for what appears to be a benign (non-cancerous) tumour. Sometimes a tumour presses on the urethra and prevents the passage of urine. A transurethral resection can relieve symptoms (see our prostate cancer section for more about TURP). 

However, cancer may sometimes be diagnosed years after the original TURP operation. The man quoted above developed cancer of his prostate ten years after the initial surgery (see 'Symptoms'). Another man, who had had a TURP operation in 2005, said that his surgeon had recommended that he have a PSA test every three months initially to make sure that the remaining part of the prostate gland had not become cancerous.

The PSA test is also used to help doctors assess whether or not treatment for prostate cancer has been successful. One man, for example, said that he had recently had a prostatectomy for prostate cancer. After surgery his PSA result was very low, which suggested that the cancer had been removed, but he expected to have three monthly PSA tests for a while, to make sure there was no recurrence.

Another man, whose prostate cancer had been picked up as a result of his PSA test, told us that he had been treated with hormones and radiotherapy. He was also having regular PSA tests as part of his follow-up. He felt frustrated that the PSA test results didn't seem to help his doctors to give him a prognosis for his locally advanced prostate cancer. 

The PSA test is usually done about a month before a man has his follow-up appointment with the consultant. 

One man had been having hormone treatment for prostate cancer for a number of years. He said that sometimes the consultant stopped his treatment because it seemed he was in remission, but when his PSA level started to rise again he was put back on his medication.

Last reviewed May 2016.

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