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Prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in men over 55 years of age. However, more cancers are caught early and new treatments are making it possible for men to live longer, healthier lives. Often, many men do not get the best treatment for their cancer strictly because they don't act early enough.

The PSA blood test is the most important test that's used for monitoring the status of prostate cancer. This test measures the amount of a protein, called the prostate-specific antigen that circulates in the blood. While there are generally small amounts present in men who do not have cancer, the quantity of PSA generally rises when prostate cancer occurs.

Prior to a prostate cancer test, men should avoid ejaculation for 48 hours. Ejaculation raises levels of prostate-specific antigen in the blood by as much as 40% and will produce artificially high readings that could lead to needless worry and more tests.

A PSA should not be done at the same time as a prostate "massage," nor should it be performed if prostate infection (prostatitis) is present.

A man with a healthy prostate generally has a PSA of 4.0 or less. However, even if the level is higher than 4.0, it may not mean that you have cancer. More than likely, your doctor will order further tests to either confirm or rule out the diagnosis. And, in the event that cancer is detected, the PSA level will be a valuable tool for the doctor to monitor the response to your treatment and the spread of the cancer.

Prostate screening may be done annually for all men, ages 50 to 75: for men with family histories from either parent and for African-Americans-from age 40. We are not 100% sure that PSA exams lead to a better way of life.