What is a cancer marker test:
A cancer marker (also commonly known as “tumor marker”), are substances that are created by cancer cells or by normal cells in response to cancer in the body in parts like urine, blood, and body tissue. So, a cancer marker test looks for those substances and the amount present.
What does a cancer marker test do:
A high level of a cancer marker indicates that there is a cancer or another condition present in the body. However, cancer markers can still be present, even if you don’t have cancer. This is why cancer marker tests are usually paired with other testing like ultrasound imaging or biopsies (removing and examining a small part of the item) to ensure the accuracy. It is also used post-diagnosis, like when figuring out the stage of cancer, effectiveness/ineffectiveness of treatment, chances of recovery, or leftover cancer after treatment.
How is it done:
Cancer marker tests are usually done with a blood sample. This means that blood is drawn from your arm using a needle and syringe before it is sent off for analysis.
General cancer markers:
Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA):
- High levels of CEA typically hint at cancers of the colon and rectum, lung, breast, thyroid, pancreas, liver, cervix or bladder. It may also be attributed to noncancerous conditions like hepatitis or cirrhosis.
Cancer Antigen 19-9 (CA 19-9)
- High levels of CA 19-9 typically hint at cancers of the pancreas, stomach, liver, bile ducts, lung, colon or stomach. It may also be attributed to cirrhosis or gallstones.
- High levels of AFP typically hint at cancers of the Liver or ovaries/testicles. It may also be attributed to pregnancy.
Epstein-Barr Virus Viral Capsid Antigen Immunoglobulin (EBV VCA IgA)
- High levels of EBV VCA IgA hint at nasopharyngeal carcinoma (a cancer in the area nasopharynx/upper part of your throat)
Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA)
- High levels of AFP typically hint at prostate cancer.
Cancer Antigen 125 (CA 125) (Ovary)
- High levels of CA 125 typically hint at Ovarian cancer
Cancer Antigen 15-3 (CA 15-3)
- High levels of CA 15-3 typically hint at breast cancer
When you receive your results of the cancer marker test, it is best to consult with your doctor about explaining the results and meanings of the test. It’s also recommended to do another and more in-depth screening for cancer like an ultrasound to go along with your cancer marker test, just to ensure the validity of the results and to put your mind at ease about your health.
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