Tumor Marker Tests

What is a Tumor Marker Test?

A tumor marker test is a type of diagnostic test that measures the amount of certain molecules, called markers, that may be found in a person’s blood or other body fluids. These markers can be produced by both normal and cancerous cells and can indicate the presence of cancer, especially in cases where the cancer is advanced or has spread.

Tumor marker tests are mainly used to monitor the progress of cancer treatments or to detect recurrences of cancer. In some instances, they can be used to diagnose certain types of cancer, particularly those that produce detectable markers in the body.

Preparation for a Tumor Marker Test

For most tumor marker tests, there is no special preparation required. However, some tests may require fasting to obtain a complete blood panel or use special collection containers for the samples.

Procedure of a Tumor Marker Test

Tumor marker tests typically involve obtaining a sample of blood or other bodily fluid, which is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. The laboratory will measure the amount of the marker present in the sample, if any. In some cases, a special imaging technique may also be used to detect tumors.

Types of Tumor Markers

There are a variety of tumor markers available, including:

  • CA 125: associated with ovarian, breast, gastric, pancreatic, and other cancers
  • CA 19-9: associated with pancreas and gastrointestinal tract cancers
  • PSA: associated with prostate cancer
  • AFP: associated with liver cancer
  • CEA: associated with digestive tract, ovarian, and breast cancers

Risks of a Tumor Marker Test

Tumor marker tests are generally safe and pose no significant risks. In rare cases, some tests may lead to false positives, resulting in unnecessary treatment or surgery.

Why Get a Tumor Marker Test?

Tumor marker tests can be used to determine the presence of cancer, monitor the progression of cancer treatments, or detect any recurrence of cancer. These tests may also be used in combination with other forms of diagnosis, such as imaging tests and physical examinations.

When to Get a Tumor Marker Test?

Tumor marker tests are typically used as part of a larger diagnostic plan to monitor existing cancers or as part of screenings for those at high risk of developing certain types of cancers.