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Overview

Tumor markers are substances found in the blood, urine, or body tissue of some people with cancer. They are produced by the cancer tissue itself or sometimes by the body in response to cancer growth. Tumor markers are also called biomarkers.

Specifically, we can use this test (in conjunction with other tests) to monitor the success of a current therapy, evaluate the need for surgical intervention, or assess the development of recurrence.

What is being tested?

CA15-3 is a tumor marker for breast cancer.

CA19-9 antigen has been shown to be raised in the blood of some patients with gastrointestinal tumors.

CA-125 is a marker for ovarian cancers.

PSA is a marker for prostate cancers.

CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) is useful in monitoring patients with various types of malignancies, such as gastrointestinal, pancreatic, breast, and lung cancers.

Human chorionic gonadotropin, also called Beta-hCG is for testicular and trophoblastic disease, germ cell tumor like choriocarcinoma.

AFP is for liver cancer and tumor of ovary and testis.

How is the tests used?

Tumor markers are useful for the following:

Screen for cancer. Most markers are not used for general screening. Some may be used in people with a strong family history of a particular cancer.

Guide treatment decisions.

Monitor treatment.

Predict prognosis.

Monitor success of treatment and detect recurrence.

Limitations of tumor markers

While tumor marker tests can provide very useful information, they are not foolproof.  They do have limitations.

Many tumor markers may also be elevated in persons with diseases other than cancer.

Though some tumor markers are specific for a particular type of cancer others may be elevated in different types of cancer.

Tumor markers may not invariably be elevated in some individual with a particular type of cancer.

All cancers are not associated with production of tumor markers.

Sample Required?

A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm.

Test Preparation Needed?

Not needed 

  • CA19-9 antigen has been shown to be elevated in the blood of some patients with gastrointestinal tumors.
  • CA-125 is a marker for monitoring disease progression in ovarian cancers.
  • PSA is a marker for monitoring disease progression in prostate cancers.
  • CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) is useful in monitoring patients with various types of malignancies, such as gastrointestinal, pancreatic, breast.