Comment About Testing
Elevated AFP levels often are found in the blood of people with liver cancer ( hepatocellular carcinoma Hepatocellular Carcinoma Hepatocellular carcinoma is a cancer that begins in the liver cells and is the most common of the primary liver cancers. Having hepatitis B or hepatitis C or fatty liver disease, or drinking... read more ). In addition, elevated AFP is often found in people with certain cancers of the ovary or testis.
Testing can be useful in monitoring treatment and perhaps for diagnosis of cancer in a person with cirrhosis (liver damage due to alcohol or viral hepatitis).
Beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (ß-HCG)
This hormone is produced during pregnancy but also occurs in women who have a cancer originating in the placenta and in men with testicular cancer Testicular Cancer Testicular cancer occurs in the testes, the two small organs in males that make sperm. Testicular cancer is most common among young men but usually curable. Usually a painless lump is present... read more .
Testing can be useful in diagnosing such cancers and in monitoring treatment.
Levels may be elevated in people with multiple myeloma Multiple Myeloma Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells in which abnormal plasma cells multiply uncontrollably in the bone marrow and occasionally in other parts of the body. People often have bone pain... read more and some lymphomas Overview of Lymphoma Lymphomas are cancers of lymphocytes, which reside in the lymphatic system and in blood-forming organs. Lymphomas are cancers of a specific type of white blood cells known as lymphocytes. These... read more .
This test is not recommended for cancer screening.
Calcitonin is produced by certain cells in the thyroid gland (C cells). Blood levels are elevated in medullary thyroid cancer Medullary thyroid cancer The cause of thyroid cancer is not known, but the thyroid gland is very sensitive to radiation, which may cause cancerous changes. Thyroid cancer is more common among people who were treated... read more .
This test may be used to detect the presence of cancer and monitor response to treatment of medullary thyroid cancer.
Carbohydrate antigen 125 (CA-125)
Levels may be elevated in women with a variety of gynecologic diseases, including ovarian cancer Ovarian Cancer, Fallopian Tube Cancer, and Peritoneal Cancer Ovarian cancer is cancer of the ovaries. It is related to fallopian tube cancer, which develops in the tubes that lead from the ovaries to the uterus, and peritoneal cancer, which is cancer... read more .
This test is not recommended for cancer screening.
Carbohydrate antigen 19-9 (CA 19-9)
Levels may be elevated in people with cancers of the digestive tract, particularly pancreatic cancer Pancreatic Cancer Smoking, chronic pancreatitis, male sex, being Black, and possibly long-standing diabetes are risk factors for pancreatic cancer. Abdominal pain, weight loss, jaundice, and vomiting are some... read more .
This test is used in monitoring response to treatment and in the diagnosis of tumors of unknown origin.
Carbohydrate antigen 27.29 (CA27.29)
This test can be used in monitoring treatment.
Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)
Levels may be elevated in the blood of people with colon cancer Colorectal Cancer Family history and some dietary factors (low fiber, high fat) increase a person’s risk of colorectal cancer. Typical symptoms include bleeding during a bowel movement, fatigue, and weakness... read more . Blood levels may also be elevated in patients with other cancers or noncancerous inflammatory conditions.
After surgery for colon cancer, testing can be useful in monitoring treatment and detecting recurrence.
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA)
Levels are elevated in men with noncancerous (benign) enlargement of the prostate and often are considerably higher in men with prostate cancer Prostate Cancer Prostate cancer begins in a small area of the prostate gland, an organ found only in males. The risk of prostate cancer increases as men age. Symptoms, such as difficulty urinating, a need to... read more . Men with an elevated PSA level should be evaluated further by a doctor.
Testing may be useful in screening for cancer and is helpful in detecting recurrence after treatment.
Levels may be elevated in people with thyroid cancer Thyroid Cancer The cause of thyroid cancer is not known, but the thyroid gland is very sensitive to radiation, which may cause cancerous changes. Thyroid cancer is more common among people who were treated... read more or benign thyroid conditions.
This test is not recommended for routine screening but may be helpful for monitoring response to treatment of thyroid cancer.
* Because tumor markers can also be produced by noncancerous tissue, doctors generally do not use them to screen healthy people. Exceptions may include PSA for prostate cancer and AFP for people at risk of hepatoma. In families with inherited medullary thyroid cancer, a rare condition, levels of calcitonin in the blood also may be a useful screening test.