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Posts: 673
Reply with quote  #1 

I never did tumor marker blood tests the first go-around with cancer.  My onc said that so many things affect the numbers that they are not a good predictor of cancer coming back, but once you know that you have mets, it can help you track if the treatment is working


This time my onc said we would check them once a month.  The first results were 97 on the ca125 (or 15-3 test, it was called both things).  Normal is 0 – 29.  The second one was 171 on the ca 27/29 test where normal is 0-38.


I am a little freaked out that they seem high, but I don’t know if that means anything. 


From what I understand from the onc, the numbers will tell us something if they go up or down, but I don’t know if the actual number means something….is higher worse? 


Anyone know much about these tests?


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Goddess Forever
Posts: 2,525
Reply with quote  #2 
Hey Deb,
you started chemo already or not?
(Can't remember jack!!!)....anyways, I read from Constantine's posts that you should be a while on chemo before repeating markers. If you are not on chemo yet, they can be a tool (however, some onc's don't use them as you know, for various reasons). I sure (scaredy cat) would be concerned, it is so scary what you are experiencing now, I cannot imagine, yet afraid of it....always.....
From my own records I remember the onc writing that mine once were high and he thought it was chemo (I sure am glad I did NOT know about this)...

Here is to your chemo kicking bu** big time. You are so brave and strong Deb, you might not realize it!!!
Keeping you in my prayer!

God Bless

~ There are lies, damned lies and statistics ~

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Posts: 2,320
Reply with quote  #3 

DebC:  Im no expert when it comes to tumor markers.  Mine were elevated once and yes, I did freak out.  I am reading 3 different tests here.
CA125 - is a tumor marker most commonly used to detect ovarian cancer.  Sometimes it will be used for breast cancer depending where the cancer is.  Normal is below 38.
CA15-3 is a tumor marker many oncs use on someone with bc to help identify early mets.  Many labs vary, although the normal Im most common with is below 32.  My tests always stays at about 29 - so onc says its normal.

CA27/29 is a tumor marker than many oncs use for someone diagnosed with mets to help monitor how the treatment is working.
Here is the thing about tumor markers.  For patients without mets, many oncs choose not to measure them at all.  As the numbers can vary related to different things besides cancer.

So your results were slightly higher than normal, which makes sense with your new diagnosis.  If you talk with others that have mets and are being tested, you would find most numbers with mets are much higher than that.  400, 800, some over 1,000.  So that makes your elevations relatively low in comparison.  I believe with most patients, the CA27/29 is used to monitor how the treatment is working.  You have a baseline number, now the onc can compare it to further numbers hopefully showing a decline in the numbers.
ASCO does not recommend doing tumor markers on bc patients without mets because you can get so many false positives.  My onc does them every 3 months.  He being old fashioned feels it gives him a heads up to identify early signs of mets..  My guess is your numbers are showing early signs of mets - which is what you have.
Dont let these number screw with your mind.  Use them as a tool but not the end all with regards to treatment.


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Queen Blue Sky & Golden Light
Posts: 1,681
Reply with quote  #4 
To my favorite Nurse, not nutty, Nicky,
Thank you for the information regarding the blood tumor marker tests...really has annoying side effects via, why and why not?
The Barr-Epstein virus, mono nucleolus; a friend who has been suffering from intestinal, bowel disorders, and fatigue; had every test under the sun for the past three years.  One test, early on in her quest for a diagnosis, mentioned an indication she had mono in  her blood test result; none of doctors were particularly concerned; as you say, it does it's thing, it's a virus, then it's gone.  She continues to suffer from what ever this illness is, as it was two and a half years ago she was exposed to some kind of intestinal and sore throat virus; took antibiotics, many, and has never recovered, continues to suffer, and has spleen, intestinal, Castro, stomach and overall body pain. 
It frightens me, because I'm thinking as you (a professional nurse, who knows and calculates these illnesses on a daily routine), that Epstein-Barr, along with it's fibro myalgia pals, is a possible indication of cancer, lurking, hiding, teeny=tiny weeny little micro biotic mini micro damn-o-phytes whirling in and out of our cell structure.  There are no tests; actually, are there. 
Until, the "cancer over expression of helper  cells appears", we are, as patients, without patience, left to ponder the reasons as to why we feel so crappy.  We know something is wrong, our bodies aren't feeling well, and we go from test to test, doctor to specialist to another doc, until we are turning blue with body pain.
Had I not been neurotic (both parents died of cancer, and many family members), I would likely still be wondering if the lump was a pimple or something other than what it is and was; Invasive the blood, not the lymph nodes, but now that I understand how the cellular structure is compliant with enzymes, proteins, layers of flimsy tissue and powerful immunity with back up receptors, all signaling to one another; what to do, when and how, I think life is pretty good.
Deb, I have collected billions, of stones, pebbles, rocks in the rain...prayers on each stone for all the women suffering from any cancer. have become special and spacial in the sculptures and rock paintings I'm trying to create.  I have a pink granite box of rocks, just for you...when I find the special "Deb Chemo Sabik Minerals, I pray to the Grand Creator, to the Spirits, Angels, and Inspirations of love...and to Ferne, G, Lori, Deb, Pam, so many women I have come to know, honor and love with all gracious and humble mediation",
You are all in the earth, the sky, the sun  and the rain....

It rained and snowed, mud everywhere.  My dog, Buttercup has learned to dig for beautiful Rocks...she doesn't always but when she does, she manages to dig up some beautiful "Buttercup Rocks".  She found one today, and I named it Buttercup's Ferne and Gina Stone. 
She also found one a week ago with coral, white core and a pink layers with sandstone layer on the top.  Have no Idea what it is...think I will need a pro to tell me. She dug deep in the muddy for the "miracle stone, rock or shell formation", and it's such a glorious work of Nature's Art, true perfection content with it's imperfection and always achieving wild, free, thoughtless and undeniably eternal beauty.
Hope everyone is well...forgive the typo's, please?  Numb fingers, neuropathy... pisses me off!
Love you all,

Goddess Forever
Posts: 1,218
Reply with quote  #5 

Nickie - thanks so much for the explanation on tumor markers.  My onc draws tumor markers every three months when I see him.  I have not idea what they were before mastectomy and chemo, but currently they are within normal limits. He draws CA27-29 and CEA - what is CEA?   This is along with a CMP.  Wondering if I should ask for any other blood work.  I get the results by phone, I should ask for a copy as I did get that during chemo.  Or maybe its not important as long as everything is fine.  Hugs to you and thanks for all your help. Karen


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Posts: 2,320
Reply with quote  #6 
Karen:  Oh boy good questions.  I certainly did leave out 2 of the important tests.  My onc also draws a CEA and CMP.  He actually looks closely at the CEA as a predictor for an abnormal CA15-3.  BTW I dont get copies anymore, but thats just me.  Some might want to keep copies each time.

Carcinoembryonic Antigen



CEA is most useful for monitoring treatment of cancer patients.  Its often used as a tumor marker.  Physicians can use CEA to determine stage and the extenent of the disease and the outlook for patients with cancer.  Its used to monitor many different kinds of cancers including breast cancer.


A CEA is ordered when a patients symptoms suggest the possibility of cancer.  It is used to monitor patients before treatment, during treatment and as follow up when treatments are over.   I liked this article the best and pulled what I thought was important.  If ya want to read more detailed stuff about the CEA go to


 Comprehensive Metabolic Profile



Its an important blood test because it gives the physician and overview of how the body is functioning.  It has 17 different tests within the panel.  Within these 17 tests is important information regarding your kidneys, liver, electrolytes and sugar levels.


...Glucose:  To screen for, diagnose, and monitor diabetes.


...BUN (blood urea nitrogen):  It is used to evaluate kidney function and the effectiveness of treatment for kidney damage and disease.


...Sodium:  To evaluate electrolyte balance and kidney function.


...Potassium:  Critical for normal functioning of the muscles, nerves, and heart. 


...Chloride:  To determine electrolye and acid-base balance.  It helps maintain proper blood volume, blood pressure and pH of your body fluids.


...Carbon Dioxide:  It is a gaseous waste product made from metabolism.  The blood carries it to your lungs and is exhaled as a waste produc.  Your kidneys and lungs balance the levels of carbon dioxide, bicarbonate, and carbonic acid.


...Calcium:  It is important to body functions including muscle contraction, nerve and brain function, bone formation, and the release of hormones.


...Total Protein:  To determine your nutritional status or to screen for liver and kidney disorders as well as other diseases.


...Albumin:  To screen for a liver disorder or kidney disease.  Or to evaluate nutritional status.  You will see edema in the skin when albumin levels are low.


...Globulin:  Globulins are proteins that can be measure in blood serum.  High levels may indicate liver disease, chronic inflammation, and autoimmune diseases.  Low levels may be related to immune defiency, kidney problems, or bowel related problems.


...A/G Ratio:  It has to do with the ratio of albumin and globulins.  A decrease in the ratio often indicates the presence of impaired liver function, nutritional status, kidney disease and other medical problems.


...Total Bilirubin:  To screen for or monitor liver disorders.


...ALP:  To screen or monitor for liver or bone disorders.


...AST (SGOT):  To detect potential damage to heart, skeletal muscles, and liver disease.


...ALT ( SGPT):  To screen for liver damage.  Injury to the liver results in release of this enzyme into the blood stream. 


I thought this site was pretty informative.



Indi:   As always its so good to see a post from you.   You really understood what I was trying to say.  Why or why not?  Good questions.  The Epstein-Barr virus is something I have been interested in my entire nursing career.  Just found it astonishing how many different things can be a result of it.  


Home late.  Gotta go.


Nurse Nicki


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Goddess Forever
Posts: 1,755
Reply with quote  #7 
Hello to my favorite nurse!
I wonder ... is it normal that I have NEVER had tumour markers done? I am 2 years out from chemo next week. Wouldn't that be an early sign of mets?
Thanks Nicki!

When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on...Franklin D. Roosevelt

Posts: 568
Reply with quote  #8 

I'm just learning that different labs have different results. So you need to try to stay with the same lab for all your lab work!


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Posts: 7,476
Reply with quote  #9 
I don't know about tms anymore and my new onc doesn't do them at all since ASCO reported they weren't the best.

when i was completely ned they were in the 100s and when i was walking around with an active tumor and positive nodes they were completely normal!




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Posts: 2,320
Reply with quote  #10 
CherylG:  Yes it could be normal that you have never had a tumor marker done.  Many oncs dont do them because there reliability is questionable and they are expensive.
Lori:  Using the same lab is essential for accuracy.  The normals will differ from lab to lab.
Gina:  They are not recommended by ASCO.  Some Onc still use them as a monitoring tool.  Although CEA is one marker that has more reliability.  CMP - not being a tumor marker is an important test that should be done at least yearly. 
Nicki Nurse

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