Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test

3-minute read

What is being tested?

The PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test can help detect or monitor prostate cancer.

The prostate is a small gland at the base of the bladder in men. It is part of the male reproductive system, and produces the protein PSA. PSA is released into semen but some also enters the bloodstream.

High levels of PSA can be caused by prostate cancer, but they are usually caused by other conditions.

If you have prostate symptoms, you might be asked to have a PSA test. It might help point your doctor in certain directions, but it doesn’t diagnose prostate cancer. The only way to do that is with a biopsy.

If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the PSA test can help monitor your condition. When the levels go up, this suggests the cancer is growing. When they go down, this suggests it might be shrinking.

Do I need the PSA test?

The PSA test is not recommended for men who don’t have symptoms of prostate cancer, as it can lead to unnecessary investigations and treatments that have serious side effects.

If you are at higher risk of developing prostate cancer, or if you have symptoms that may indicate cancer, PSA testing may be of more benefit.

Cancer Council Australia and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners both recommend against routine screening in men without symptoms. That is because the PSA test is not very accurate for screening men without symptoms. High PSA levels can be due to many things, and cancer is just one of them. And a man with prostate cancer can have a normal PSA level.

As there is a range of risks and potential benefits of PSA testing, talk to your doctor to help make an informed decision.

How to prepare for this test

You may be asked to avoid ejaculation and vigorous physical activity that can affect the prostate (such as bicycle riding) in the 2 days before the test.

Understanding your results

It is important to note that PSA is not a test specifically for prostate cancer. A raised PSA level can indicate the possibility of cancer, but can also be caused by many other conditions. PSA levels also increase in all men with age.

The PSA test can provide false positive (raised PSA levels but no prostate cancer) and sometimes false negative (low or normal PSA levels, but prostate cancer is present) results.

The PSA test also cannot tell the difference between slow-growing prostate cancer (that would not cause harm) and cancer that will cause harm.

For all of these reasons, it is important to talk to your doctor about whether to have a PSA test and also about your results.

More information

About PSA testing

Lab Tests Online has more information about PSA testing, and you can read more about blood tests in general.

About blood testing

Visit our 'Guide to blood testing' to learn more about blood tests in general with information such as:

  • what to consider before having the test
  • what happens during a blood test
  • results accuracy
  • blood tests cost

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2020


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Ask the Doc: Should I have a PSA test done? | Healthy Male

Question I've seen a lot about PSA tests for prostate cancer in the news recently. Is this a test all men should have done regardless of any symptoms?

Read more on Healthy Male - Andrology Australia website

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) - Lab Tests Online AU

Overview of how PSA is used in detecting prostate cancer; when it is used; and what the results might mean.

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Diagnosing prostate cancer | Cancer Council Victoria

There is no single, simple test to detect prostate cancer. Two commonly used tests are the PSA blood test and the digital rectal examination.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

Prostate cancer | Guide to best cancer care | Cancer Council

Access our prostate cancer guide to help you with what questions to ask your health professionals to make sure you receive the best care at every step

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Prostate cancer | Healthy Male

Prostate cancer What is prostate cancer? How common is it? What are the symptoms? What are the causes? What can I do? How is it diagnosed? How do I decide whether to test for prostate cancer? Why is a biopsy necessary? How is the biopsy assessed? What are the stages of prostate cancer? What treatments are there? Your doctor’s appointment Resources and videos Resources Filter resources Type: Fact sheet Video Fact sheet Fact sheet Video Video Video Video Video Video Video Video Video Video Video RESET Fact sheet Androgen deprivation therapy fact sheet Download PDF Video How is prostate cancer diagnosed? WATCH VIDEO Fact sheet Prostate cancer diagnosis fact sheet Download PDF Fact sheet Prostate cancer treatment fact sheet Download PDF Video Understanding your prostate biopsy results WATCH VIDEO Video What are the different surgeries for treatment of prostate cancer? WATCH VIDEO Video What are the treatment options for prostate cancer? WATCH VIDEO Video What can be expected after a prostatectomy? WATCH VIDEO Video What is a prostate biopsy? WATCH VIDEO Video What is a PSA test? WATCH VIDEO Video What is active surveillance of prostate cancer? WATCH VIDEO Video What is androgen deprivation therapy? WATCH VIDEO Video What is radiation therapy for prostate cancer? WATCH VIDEO Video What is the prostate? WATCH VIDEO Video Prostate cancer WATCH VIDEO SEE ALL RESOURCES

Read more on Healthy Male - Andrology Australia website

Early detection of prostate cancer | Cancer Council

It is important that prostate cancer is detected early. Read our latest information on symptoms, screening and how to reduce the risk of cancer

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Prostate cancer: Overview | Cancer Council Victoria

Key questions on prostate cancer such as what is it, how common is it and what are the risk factors and symptoms.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

Health checks men should have - MyDr.com.au

What screening tests, examinations and self-checks should men do to stay healthy and detect conditions as early as possible?

Read more on myDr website

Get checked – men | Cancer Council

Finding cancer early offers the best chances to cure the disease. Read our fact sheet on symptoms, screening and risks of cancer for men

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

“Without pathology I don’t know where we’d be” | Know Pathology Know Healthcare

“Without pathology I don’t know where we’d be” Jan 28, 2016 0 Comment Post By:Annette Stenhouse In 2011, at the age of 70, Hamish Campbell was treated for kidney stones

Read more on Know Pathology Know Healthcare website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo