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What are Tumor Markers and how accurate are they?

LoveBabyJesus's picture
LoveBabyJesus
Posts: 1650
Joined: Jan 2011

Hi pink sisters,

Hope you are all doing well.

I was wondering about what tumor markers were, and if they are accurate enough to identify cancer activity in the body. I hear some people say it just adds worry to the situation, while others are grateful for the test. They will be doing this to me to track my tumor markers, but I am confused as to what this is, what it does and how effective it is. Do you always get a scan if numbers are high? What follows after results? Just had general questions. If you can educate me, that would be great and appreciated.

Thank you.

NJMom10
Posts: 176
Joined: Oct 2010

I think you have to discuss with your oncologist. While many oncologists test for tumor markers, not all of them use the markers to track the progress of the disease. My onc did the tests but said my 'numbers' were always low and showed very little change throughout my treatment so he didn't really look at them to guage my disease. Barb

Lynn Smith
Posts: 1265
Joined: Mar 2011

My friends have the marker test done.One has good results.The other has high markers.She went in for the CT scan nothing was found.The marker test again.It was high BUT they wouldn't do another scan since her insurance wouldn't pay for it.The first one was done less than 6 months.Finally the test and showed nothing after all that time.It took a year.She was on pins and needles the whole time. Even her doctor was upset the CT scan was put off.He was very worried but nothing he could do with insurance policy.

My oncologist told me I don't need it.I asked.She said "NO your cancer is non invasive but if you want the test she would order it".Then I went to my breast surgeon.He said "just something to worry about".Now I know how he feels. The test could be inconclusive.

Finally I asked here on the Board.Some had the test, some said their doctors didn't order it,some doctors did order it and some bc survivors said the test was high when they got it, had the scan,Nothing showed.

In time I will break down and ask for a order.The one friend who has great results wants it done.She feels better about it.She is a 16 year survivor

Lynn Smith

MAJW
Posts: 2515
Joined: May 2009

My tumor marker numbers were ALWAYS Normal after my first go round with bc, lumpectomy, chemo rads.....then when the " lump" on my clavicle appeared 5 weeks ago, my tumor markers went from 35, which was normal to 55...which is not....so in my case the markers were correct...as scans, MRI and biopsy proved....It's one more tool they have, even though it's not always accurate, my oncologist said it's the best they have at this time...if one gets a higher than normal number, better to have scans and find out it gave a false positive, than not....

Hugs, Nancy

LoveBabyJesus's picture
LoveBabyJesus
Posts: 1650
Joined: Jan 2011

Thank you for your responses. I guess I am just going to have to take the tests. I wonder how often they do this.

Lynn Smith
Posts: 1265
Joined: Mar 2011

My friends have the marker test done annually.When it is time for their mammo and seeing their oncologist.

I hadnt thought about it but I have been under massive stress latley.I need to keep more up to date with something like this.Don't want anything to be missed.Like my friend aaid it is peace of mind.

Lynn Smith

LoveBabyJesus's picture
LoveBabyJesus
Posts: 1650
Joined: Jan 2011

Thanks Lynn. You can request yours now, but try not to worry too much please. You will be OK.

I think my dr. wants to do it more often than that, like every 3 months. :( How healthy it is to take blood all the time.

I heard there are many factors why markers go up. It's not always c. But still, I although this is a good thing for peace of mind, it also adds worry when results arent great. :-/ I guess its best to check than not to.

joannstar
Posts: 346
Joined: Nov 2010

I am on a 3-month schedule and have blood drawn at the oncologist office. They run the tumor marker test each time and I'm due on 7/27/11. Although it makes me nervous, I'd rather know so that they can order more tests if necessary--hiding my head in the sand really doesn't work for cancer. My markers went up during treatment and then went down after I was finished with both chemo & rads. My onc said that some people run high and are a-symptomatic (he won't say "cancer-free") while some people run low and have symptoms, but this is the best test they've got at the moment.

VickiSam's picture
VickiSam
Posts: 8219
Joined: Aug 2009

Thank you for the posting --- I am going in rather quickly for my annual quarterly blood draw, examine etc (Oncologist) -- so this posting comes at the perfect time.. I want a list/reference guide something tangible that I can use as reference -- otherwise, I freak out!!!!

Vicki Sam

RooDee's picture
RooDee
Posts: 20
Joined: Oct 2010

I had bloodwork done with the CA 27.29 test before my surgery last year in October and my number was high at 42.7, after surgery it went down to 16.3 and after 3 months of Tamoxifen my number is at 13.2 (normal level is 0.0-38.6), it makes me happy to see and also thankful that I am making progress and successful so far in fighting cancer. This month I'm due for another bloodwork and in the fall I will have another MRI ( had bi-lateral mastectomy, so can't have mammo anymore.

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