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Intermittent cough, high PSA level

Created date

February 12th, 2016

Q. I have a cough that comes and goes for no apparent reason. Sometimes it lasts for weeks. Should I see my doctor? 

A. A cough can be due to colds, allergies, or even certain medications. Sometimes, however, the cause can be elusive. To help your doctor find out why you are coughing, keep a symptom diary that keeps track of when the cough occurs—if it is worse at any particular time of day, if it is worse when you are active, if anything makes it better, and so forth. A cough can also be associated with other health conditions such as lung problems or acid reflux, so call your doctor as soon as possible for an evaluation.

Q. I am 88 years old and have a high PSA level. I am otherwise in good health and have no symptoms of cancer according to my doctor.  Should I have a biopsy?

A. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland. Prostate cancer, other noncancerous conditions (such as benign prostatic hyperplasia or prostatitis), or age can increase a man’s PSA level. Especially in the case of older men, there is some controversy about performing other diagnostic tests when faced with a high PSA. At issue is whether or not to treat cancer if it is detected, mainly because prostate cancer is typically slow growing. In addition, some studies have found that there’s not much difference in life expectancy between older men who are treated for prostate cancer and those who aren’t. For some men, treating the cancer may not be worth the side effects or complications resulting from such treatments. Talk to your doctor about your options, but remember: The decision is yours.


Jennifer Tam, M.D.

Medical Director, Linden Ponds

Hingham, Mass.

Dr. Tam received her bachelor’s degree in biology and her medical degree from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines. She completed her internship and a joint residency in internal medicine and primary care at the Sound Shore Medical Center of Westchester in New Rochelle, N.Y. Tam is board-certified in internal medicine and geriatric medicine and has a fellowship in geriatrics. She joined Linden Ponds in October 2005.