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Cancer Markers?? whats yours..

meena1's picture
Posts: 1005
Joined: Oct 2008

I had my chemo today and also saw my oncologist, who is an expert in Inflammatory Breast Cancer. My cancer markers are 111, he said this is not good. I do not know anything about cancer markers, my old onc never went over this with me. I tried googling but nothing really makes sense, so I was wondering what your cancer markers are. I

pinkflutterby's picture
Posts: 615
Joined: Jun 2009

Mine are 29 as of last week. They were 179 over the summer. I have heard they go way into the thousands. My dad's friend passed away this summer from cancer and his were in the 3000's

Gabe N Abby Mom's picture
Gabe N Abby Mom
Posts: 2415
Joined: Sep 2010

I don't have any information on this for you. But I'm seeing my onc tomorrow, so I'll ask. I'll let you know what he says. Thanks for the heads up on this.


Alexis F's picture
Alexis F
Posts: 3604
Joined: May 2009

I don't have info for you either Meena. My onco doesn't believe in cancer markers, so, he doesn't do them. He says they either scare you or give you false hope. I wonder if everyone else has them done, or, if it is just with certain types of bc?

Praying for you! How are you doing and feeling?

Hugs, Lex

Posts: 234
Joined: Mar 2010

My doctor is same as Alexis F.. She says they are not a good indicator because there are too many things that affect the numbers...Meena hope you find your answers..Praying for you....

Gabe N Abby Mom's picture
Gabe N Abby Mom
Posts: 2415
Joined: Sep 2010

My onc said it wasn't useful in my case. But he does follow the markers in cases with mets. He said it helped him track the progress, or lack of progress, of the disease in those cases.

Hope this helps.


cahjah75's picture
Posts: 2623
Joined: Jun 2010

I don't have a clue :-0 My oncologist has never mentioned it.

Posts: 3440
Joined: Aug 2009

I don't know. Dr. T told me back when I was on chemo that he didn't believe they were of any consequence to test for when dealing with IBC as it is so aggressive period. That it could give a 'heads up' when dealing with other types. At least that's how I understood what he said.


KayNYC's picture
Posts: 495
Joined: Mar 2010

My onc said it wasn't useful so she did not do them.We have never had a discussion on cancer markers. Sorry I cannot be of help with this.

John_32's picture
Posts: 71
Joined: May 2010

I think 30s are considered normal, this is what my mother was told. Hers are in the 90s, used to be in the 1000s.

chenheart's picture
Posts: 5182
Joined: Apr 2003

Though certainly not definitive, some oncologists use markers as a touchstone for our individual BC health...the lowest mine ever were was 18~ mostly, when I was responding well, they were in the high 20's. Once, they were 40 something...this was a red flag for my oncologist, who had me re-tested in 4 weeks rather than the usual 3 months. They had gone back down, and continued to drop. Had they continued to rise, this would have been an indication to my Dr that it was not an anomoly, and further testing would need to be done.
When, following my liver biopsy showing I have mets I had labs drawn, my markers were 55~ obviously high for me and my normal baseline. Within a month of staring Tamoxifen, they had dropped to 47~ and now, 3 months later, they are at 21.3!!! I was amazed, and yet sceptical~ they were not at that level when I had NO perceptible BC in my system for the 5 years I was on the Arimidex. My onc was also not doing cartwheels and deeming me a miracle~ he doesn't think that I will make it much past Thanksgiving without starting chemo. So that is why not all oncologists use them...with BC they are not the be all and end of of anything...


pinkflutterby's picture
Posts: 615
Joined: Jun 2009

everyone has tumor markers in their system, even those w/o any type of cancer at all. My onc also says they are not reliable to measure the tumor growth, BUT elevated markers are gounds for my insurance approving additional scans! Just foor for thought...........

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4017
Joined: Oct 2009

Cancer markers are substances in the blood that are produced by tumors. To test for markers a small amount of blood is drawn and a test is done that measures the amount of substance present.

There are different cancer markers with different normal values. Also, values vary somewhat by individual labs.
Here are some of the usual breast cancer markers and approximate normals:
Ca 27.29 <40 U/ml
CEA 2.5-5 ng/ml for non-smokers and up to 5 ng/ml for smokers
Ca 15-3 <31 U/ml

See: http://www.oncolink.org/treatment/article.cfm?c=7&s=42&id=296

Markers can be affected by inflammation and other conditions. They are not used to diagnose, but more as a response to treatment. So it is more important to see the numbers trending down then to focus on a particular number.

The link that I supplied also lists other possible conditions that can cause particular markers to rise.

My Ca 27.29 was 80 before treatment but has dropped to <30. My CEA was about 12 (I think). It is still a little high (5.6), but moving down.

Hope some of this helps. Is this your first set of markers? You are in my thoughts and prayers Meena. I am hoping that, with your new treatment, the next set of markers will be down.

DebbyM's picture
Posts: 3294
Joined: Oct 2009

My oncologist also said they are unreliable and won't do them. It looks like a lot of the oncologists don't, which makes me feel better.

Sending prayers for you Meena!

meena1's picture
Posts: 1005
Joined: Oct 2008

Thanks for the info. I think that tumor markers are a good idea. If my first oncologist had done one back in Feb, maybe the cancer would have shown up

Boppy_of_6's picture
Posts: 1140
Joined: Apr 2010

My Onc. has never mentioned them, seems like a lot don't so I guess he is not the only one. God Bless
(((Hugs))) Janice

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4017
Joined: Oct 2009

The markers were very helpful in my case and I am always happy that my oncologist did them. I have always trusted my oncologist as he was handpicked for me by my dad who was then dept head of neurology at LSU and he kept up with best docs in the area. My onc followed my markers for about 10 years after my first diagnosis.

When I began having rib pain in 2005, he checked them again--still normal. They were always stone cold normal. PET and bone scans were confusing--healing fractures or new mets?? In 2009 my markers spiked way up and it was decided that I would have a rib biopsy (since my cancer had originally occurred so very long ago). Then we had to find a doc willing to do a rib biopsy. Not many rib biopsies in my area. Anyway, we finally got the rib biopsies (surgeon did 2 questionable ribs)--both were + for same exact ER+ cancer that I had battled in 1987.

Without the markers, it would have taken a lot longer for me to get a diagnosis. And I am doing well now. My markers are back to normal or near normal, so they are also helpful in showing my response to treatment and helping me to avoid more scans and more rads exposure.

ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) has guidelines re when to use markers (which cancers and when). See:

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4017
Joined: Oct 2009

If you can't get that link, here are the basic ASCO recommendations re markers:
What to Know: ASCO's (American Society of Clinical Oncology)Guideline on Tumor Markers for Breast Cancer

Different tumor markers are used at different points in the diagnosis and treatment process. The ASCO recommendations for tumor markers for breast cancer include the following:

For patients with newly diagnosed ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS):

•DCIS means that cancer has not spread outside of the ducts in the breast. It is also called noninvasive breast cancer. No tumor marker tests for DCIS are recommended at this time.
For patients with newly diagnosed invasive breast cancer:

•ER and PR tests, to help predict response to hormone therapy after surgery

•HER2 test, to help predict response to trastuzumab and other anti-HER2 treatments and some types of chemotherapy
Once these tests are done, the cancer is classified as ER-positive (if the tumor has estrogen receptors) or ER-negative (if the tumor does NOT have estrogen receptors); PR-positive (if the tumor has progesterone receptors) or PR-negative (if the tumor does NOT have progesterone receptors); and HER2-positive (if the tumor does have HER2) or HER2-negative (if the tumor does NOT have HER2). Learn more ASCO’s recommendations for HER2 testing.

For patients with node-negative breast cancer:

•uPA and PAI-1 tests, if available, to estimate the prognosis. Patients with tumors that do not have uPA and PAI-1 have a very good prognosis and may not need chemotherapy.
For patients with node-negative breast cancer that is ER-positive and/or PR-positive:

•Oncotype DX test, to identify patients who may be successfully treated with tamoxifen alone and may not need chemotherapy
For patients with metastatic breast cancer:

•ER and PR tests, to help predict response to hormone therapy

•HER2 test, to help predict response to trastuzumab and other anti-HER2 treatments

•CA 15-3 and CA 27.29, for monitoring treatment; these should be used along with the patient’s health history, a physical examination, and diagnostic imaging tests, such as an x-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

•CEA, for monitoring treatment; this test should be used along with the patient’s health history, a physical examination, and diagnostic imaging tests.
For patients with recurrent breast cancer:

•HER2 test, to help predict response to trastuzumab and other anti-HER2 treatments and guide the use of specific chemotherapy

meena1's picture
Posts: 1005
Joined: Oct 2008

I guess not all oncologists use the tumor markers, although it sounds like a good idea. The ideal is 38, so i guess anything over that amount would indicate that MAYBE there is cancer in your body.

Lighthouse_7's picture
Posts: 1566
Joined: Jan 2010

Wow, thanks for this post meena I never knew of cancer markers. I am going to ask my onc.
This site is a great source of information.

Posts: 399
Joined: Jul 2009

My oncologist tests for them occasionally. However, he says they cannot be trusted; they are "fickle". My cancer is stage IV, (mets to bone), but every time the markers are checked, they show "normal". When I saw him on Oct. 6th, he included markers in my lab work. Normal again. If this was the only diagnostic tool, no one would know I have cancer. Go figure. I'm glad my doctor is very thorough, and pays attention to my concerns. There are things that can influence the markers that seem to have little to do with the cancer itself. If you catch a cold, are stressed or overtired they might go up.

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