No sex before a PSA test

You’ve made you’re appointment with the urologist for your annual PSA test.  Whether a man looks forward to this doctor’s visit or not, it is a necessary part of screening for any issues that may be affecting the prostate gland.  There’s just one thing to remember – no sex for 48 hours before the test.

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A PSA, or prostate specific antigen test is a simple blood test that measures the amount of prostate specific antigen present in the blood.  PSA is a protein that men have in their blood which is released by the prostate gland.  In healthy males, the amount of PSA men have in their blood is low – generally less than 4.0 ng/mL.  However, when men age, their prostate can experience physiological or pathological changes which cause the PSA to rise.

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and the penis.  The prostate is just in front of the rectum.  The urethra runs through the center of the prostate, from the bladder to the penis, letting urine flow out of the body. 

However, the PSA test is far from foolproof. Values of the PSA test can vary depending on when the test is administered.  A man can help get the most accurate score by following certain suggestions before he has the PSA test done.  One of the suggestions is to abstain from sex at least 24 hours prior to the test being done and some physicians may even recommend abstaining from sex at least 48 hours before having blood drawn for the PSA test.  Sex includes not only sexual intercourse but also masturbation.

The reason for refraining from sexual activity right before getting a PSA test is that semen released during sex can cause PSA levels to rise temporarily which may influence or affect the test results.  

Besides not engaging in sex at least 24-48 hours before the PSA test, other activities that are also recommended to refrain from include the following:

·      Vigorous exercise 48 hours prior to the test

·      A man with an active urinary tract infection

·      Any man who has had a prostate biopsy in the previous six weeks

·      Any man taking drugs or herbs that are known to lower the score which include Proscar and saw palmetto

Another suggestion for getting the most accurate PSA reading is to have the PSA test done before the digital rectal exam.  A PSA test done after the rectal exam can also artificially elevate the level by releasing additional PSA into the bloodstream. 

A man may not like having to give up sex for a day or two but he also wouldn’t like getting an inaccurate PSA test reading. 

All men over the age of 40 should have a PSA blood test and digital rectal exam as part of their annual physical.  For those with prostate cancer risk factors – a family history of the disease or African American men – screening should begin earlier.  Through monitoring PSA levels, men who are at risk for developing the disease can be closely and easily monitored.