Here is another area where men just don’t follow through and do the right things. Doctors say that after age 50 we should have our PSA (prostate specific antigen) checked once a year. No big deal. A little blood and a relatively inexpensive test. OK, all you guys that have done that as suggested, raise your hand! Ok….that wasn’t impressive.
Catching a rising PSA early can mean catching prostate cancer in an early stage, giving more options for treatment and better long term results. But, does an elevating PSA always mean that cancer is present or imminent? The answer to that would be no!
Medline Plus sums up the three main reasons a PSA can be elevated. Keep in mind that PSA can change from day to day as PSA is released into the blood whenever a prostate cell dies. This can occur with an infection (prostatitis), an enlarged prostate (BPH) or with prostate cancer.
I’ve always been told that a normal PSA is between 0 and 4. I think mine was .6 the last time it was checked. Doctors don’t seem to be as concerned with “normal” as they are with increases. I have had clients diagnosed with prostate cancer because their doctor did a biopsy when their PSA went from 1.0 to 2.4 in one year.
Evanston Northwestern Healthcare suggested in an article that the PSA can fluctuate as much as 20% a day. It seems the key word there is fluctuation, which would seem to indicate up and down, as opposed to just up.
From a life insurance underwriting perspective, out of normal is the most common red flag that is found. Many men, as I mentioned in the beginning, don’t bother to have their PSA checked, so they find out about the problem on an insurance exam. If you have an abnormal PSA on an insurance exam, expect to be put on hold while it is evaluated by your doctor. If, after testing, it is found to be prostatitis or BPH, and treatment successfully lowers the PSA, you are back in the game.
If it turns out that the elevation was due to cancer, depending on the stage and grade of the cancer, you could be back in the hunt as soon as a year after treatment. Often better than standard rates can be had after treatment.
Bottom line. Prostate cancer is the second most lethal cancer for men in the United States. It is very survivable if caught early, but you don’t catch it early by applying for life insurance every 10 years or so.