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TUMOR MARKERS

Measurements of tumor marker levels can be useful--when used along with x-rays or other tests--in the detection and
diagnosis of some types of cancer. However, measurements of tumor marker levels alone are not sufficient to diagnose
cancer for the following reasons:
• Tumor marker levels can be elevated in people with benign conditions.
• Tumor marker levels are not elevated in every person with cancer-- especially in the early stages of the disease.
• Many tumor markers are not specific to a particular type of cancer; the level of a tumor marker can be raised by
more than one type of cancer.

Tumor
Characteristic/s Application/Uses Other Information
Marker
Present in low
Prostate May help in the diagnosis prostatitis and
concentration in blood
Specific benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or Does not differentiate benign
of all adult males
Antigen with a malignant (cancerous) growth in prostate and cancer
(produced by normal
(PSA) the prostate
and abnormal prostate)
Is normally present only
Elevated PAP levels have since been
in small amounts in the
associated with testicular cancer,
blood, but may be
Prostatic leukemia, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Blood levels may also be
found at higher levels
Acid as well as noncancerous conditions such elevated in patients who have
in some patients with
Phosphatas as Gaucher's disease, Paget's disease, certain benign prostate
prostate cancer,
e (PAP) osteoporosis, cirrhosis of the liver, conditions or early stage cancer
especially if the cancer
pulmonary embolism, and
has spread beyond the
hyperparathyroidism
prostate
Carbohydra Produced by a variety Used primarily in the management of Note that a falling CA 125 level
te Antigen of cells, but particularly treatment for ovarian cancer; may also be generally indicates that the
125 (CA by ovarian cancer cells elevated by cancers of the uterus, cervix, cancer is responding to
125) pancreas, liver, colon, breast, lung, and treatment; Menstruation and
digestive tract; Noncancerous conditions pregnancy can also cause an
that can cause elevated CA 125 levels increase in CA 125
include endometriosis, pelvic
inflammatory disease, peritonitis,
pancreatitis, liver disease, and any
condition that inflames the pleura (the
tissue that surrounds the lungs and lines
the chest cavity).

Tumor
Characteristic/s Application/Uses Other Information
Marker
Elevated values may be seen in
Normally found in small cancers found in the ff:
amounts in the blood of Primary use of CEA is in monitoring melanoma, lymphoma, breast
Carcino-
most healthy people, colorectal cancer, especially when the cancer, ovary, etc. and other
embryonic
but may become disease has spread (metastasized); also conditions like inflammatory
Antigen
elevated in people who used after treatment to check for bowel disease, pancreatitis and
(CEA)
have cancer or some recurrence of colorectal cancer liver disease (tobacco use can
benign condition also increase levels beyond
normal)
Normally produced by a
developing fetus (levels
An elevated level of AFP strongly suggests
begin to decrease soon
Alpha Feto the presence of either primary liver Also increased in benign liver
after birth and are
Protein cancer or germ cell cancer (cancer that conditions, hepatitis, cirrhosis
usually undetectable in
(AFP) begins in the cells that give rise to eggs or and pregnancy.
the blood of healthy
sperm) of the ovary or testicle.
adults except during
pregnancy)
Elevated HCG levels may also
Also used to screen for choriocarcinoma (a
indicate the presence of
Human rare cancer of the uterus) in women who
Normally produced by cancers of the testis, ovary,
Chorionic are at high risk for the disease, and to
the placenta during liver, stomach, pancreas, and
Gonadotrop monitor the treatment of trophoblastic
pregnancy lung. Pregnancy and marijuana
in (HCG) disease (a rare cancer that develops from
use can also cause elevated
an abnormally fertilized egg)
HCG levels.
Initially found in
colorectal cancer Noncancerous conditions that
Researchers have discovered that, in
patients, CA 19-9 has may elevate CA 19-9 levels
those who have pancreatic cancer, higher
CA 19-9 also been identified in include gallstones, pancreatitis,
levels of CA 19-9 tend to be associated
patients with cirrhosis of the liver, and
with more advanced disease
pancreatic, stomach, cholecystitis.
and bile duct cancer
CA 15-3 Found in most breast Most useful in following the course of Rarely elevated in women with
cancer patients treatment in women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer;
pregnancy and lactation can
breast cancer, especially advanced breast
also increase levels of this
cancer
tumor markers
Used in conjunction with other tumors to Elevated also in cancers of
Like 15-3 can be found
check for recurrence in women previously colon, stomach, kidney, lung,
CA 27-29 in most breast cancer
treated for stage II and stage III breast ovary, pancreas; and in
patients
cancer. pregnancy

Tumor
Characteristic/s Application/Uses Other Information
Marker
Cannot be used to diagnose particular
Elevated LDH levels can be
type of cancer since nearly all types of
caused by a number of
Lactate cancer and other diseases can cause LDH
A protein found noncancerous conditions,
Dehydroge levels; can be used to monitor treatment
throughout the body including heart failure,
nase (LDH) of some cancers, including testicular
hypothyroidism, anemia, and
cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and
lung or liver disease
some types of leukemia
Measurement of NSE level in patients with
these two diseases can provide
Neuron – Detected in patients
information about the extent of the
Specific with neuroblastoma
disease and the patient's prognosis, as
Enolase and small cell lung
well as about the patient's response to
(NSE) cancer.
treatment.