What is a tumor marker?
A tumor marker is a substance that is made by the body because a cancer is present. Or it can be made by the cancer itself. Some of these markers are specific to one cancer. Some are seen in several types of cancer. The markers can be found in the blood, urine or tissues.
What are tumor markers used for?
Tumor markers are most often used to track how a patient's cancer responds to treatment. If the level is going down, the treatment is working. If it goes up, the cancer may be growing. There are health issues that can cause markers to be elevated that are not cancer. Because of this, you must think about the tumor marker levels along with the results of radiology scans (CT scan, MRI, Ultrasound), the patient’s symptoms, and the healthcare provider’s exam.
In some cancers, markers are used to watch for recurrence (return of the cancer after treatment). This is not useful in all cancer types. In breast cancer, research has found that watching tumor markers after treatment does not help people live longer. For that reason they are not recommended.
Tumor markers can also be used along with other tests (scans, biopsies, and so on) to help find cancer in a patient who has symptoms that are suspicious for cancer. Some markers can help healthcare providers to predict how the patient will do and to decide on treatment.
Alpha Fetoprotein (Liver)
Carcinoembryonic Antigen (Lung & Colon)
CA 19.9 (Pancreas)
EBV EA+EBNA-1 lgA Ab (Nose & Throat)
CA 15.3 (Breast)
CA 125 (Ovary)
Beta HCG (Testes)