What are tumor markers? or Cancer Markers?
Tumor markers or cancer markers are elevated levels of substances found in blood, urine, stool, tissue, other body fluids in response to usually cancer cells and sometimes even non-cancer cells present in the body.
Tumor markers, are rarely used for diagnosis alone as there may be a few false results which mean a few patients may show elevated levels due to benign conditions. Usually, tumor markers are used in conjunction with other tests to reach a conclusive diagnosis. These tests may be a PET CT, or an MRI or a CT Scan, a fine needle biopsy, or a tissue biopsy.
Tumor markers help cancer doctors with cancer staging that is deciding what is the stage of cancer and what would be the probable course of the disease with treatment.
For patients undergoing treatment for their cancer, as the disease comes under control, the tumor markers may come down.
For patients currently in remission, in case of a relapse, the tumor markers would go up again.
There are several tumor markers for cancer which help with various types of cancers. Some cancer markers may be common such CA 125 for lung cancer and breast cancer and some such as HER2, may be useful only for breast cancer.
Here is a list of common cancer markers, used by oncologists for cancer diagnosis for breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, testicular cancer.
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