CA 27-29 test. What does the numbers mean?

My CA 27-29 test result is 119. It was usually 12 then it rose to 46 and then went to 39 and now it is 119. I did PET , CT tests and found lung mets largest is 2.2cm. How high can the test result be and where does 119 fall in the range. please help me understand this.
Thanks
Angelvoice

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21 replies. Join the discussion

Hey Angelvoice

I'm still working on my medical degree from the Uni of Google!! When in doubt - google!! but do check out reputable sites or 'google scholar' for info.

I found this bit of info at Dr Susan Love's Research Foundation's site, there's heaps of other info is you google "what is a ca 27-29 test?/ "what does cs 27-79 mean?", etc. From www.dslrf.org:

Since it is not highly sensitive or specific, the CA 27.29 test can go up for reasons other than metastasis, resulting in false positives, and it may not go up when there is metastasis, resulting in false negatives. The CA 27.29 test has been proven to be helpful in following increases in metastasis in women who have already been found to have metastatic disease, allowing doctors to better adjust treatment regimens.

In addition to having the CA 27.29 test, your oncologist may recommend that you have the CEA and CA 15-3 tumor marker tests done as well. Neither of these tests is highly sensitive or highly specific either. If you choose to have any of these tests done it should be with the knowledge that there is currently no test or scan that can reliably tell us whether a small number of breast cancer cells have gotten into, and have begun growing in, other parts of the body, and that the information you receive may not be accurate.

Should you have the CA 27.29 test done? The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends against routine testing of markers after a breast cancer diagnosis. Some oncologists recommend that women have this test every three to six months with the hope that they will find metastasis early. The problem is that there is no evidence that finding metastases by a blood test before a woman has symptoms will improve her survival or quality of life. The treatment of metastatic disease is aimed at reducing symptoms and putting the woman into remission. It is hard to improve symptoms if a woman does not have any. Most women whose breast cancer has metastasized do not show any symptoms until the disease is quite extensive. Symptoms of metastatic disease include bone pain, shortness of breath, lack of appetite and weight loss, and neurological symptoms like pain or weakness or headaches.

There are a series of tests that can help find large amounts of cancer cells in other parts of the body. These are called staging tests (this is not the same as the stages of breast cancer), and include chest X-rays, which can find cancer in the lungs, blood tests that can determine if the cancer has spread to the liver, and bone scans, which can help ascertain if the cancer has spread to the bone. CT scans are also used to detect the spread of cancer to the liver, the lungs, a certain area of bone, or even your brain. Like the blood tests, though, these tests are not good at finding small numbers of cancer cells.

Ultimately, the only way to determine whether having routine CA 27.29 testing is right for you is to think about how you want to handle the aftermath of your breast cancer treatment and whether a test that has limitations will be helpful for you. Some women find reassurance in having the CA 27.29 test done; others find the thought of having the test stressful and choose to not have it done. There is no "right" choice. If you do decide to have the test done, here are a few things you should know:
a normal CA 27.29 level is usually less than 38 to 40 U/ml (units/milliliter), depending on where the lab test is done
because anything under 40 is considered normal, you shouldn't worry if it's 20 one time and then 30 another time
just because the test result is higher than 40 it doesn't mean your cancer has spread. Endometriosis, ovarian cysts, first-trimester pregnancy, benign breast disease, and kidney and liver disease are just some of the noncancerous conditions that can raise your CA 27.29 level.


Good luck, xxxGGC

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Thanks for the info. My lung mets were discovered as a result of rising markers. from 12 to 40 to now 119. My doctor had told me to wait to do Pet because was too early. Now I have discovered lung nodules as large as 2.2 cm! Did I wait too long?(4 months) I am confident that I will beat this with the help of God. He is my healer! I am now in Alligator wrestler mode! I will be starting chemo soon..Cisplatin Gemzar combo.I am triple negative but I have a triple positive attitude! God , strong medicine, nutrition= hope and divine healing. So...cancer look out!!!!

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Angel,

When I was dx (July o8) because of a surgery, then they took my markers and I was over 650. At one point, I was over 700. In June, I was 176. My doctor using the markers as a guide to see if the meds are working along with how I am feeling and scans. It can't be used to dx but it can help in understanding how the cancer is responding to meds or if additional test can be. Some women the test is useless because the cancer isn't releases the protein that it measure. I don't think the number is as important as how you feel or what the scans show. I talk to a few doctors about the numbers and they have seen numbers in the 10 of thousand and the person felt great.

hope that helps.
Joell

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I love the fact you have a "triple positive attitude!" Let's see THAT test result on your chart.

My CA 27-29 scores have been within the average range for the past two and a half years...and the original oncologist I went to during the throes of diagnosis blurted out, "Oh, this isn't nearly as bad as we thought it was!" as a result of that test. Wrong, wrong, wrong dude...it was as bad and worse with mets all over the place (all bones). I know of many of our sisters in wrestling whose docs use the rising/falling of this score as one of the indicators as to how they are doing...and I've also known folks whose numbers were in the thousands...so don't give the test more worry and anxiety than it is worth!

Peace and love and keep up that triple positive attitude~
BB

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My oncologist uses it to keep a check on how treatment is going, however each person is different. When I was first diagnosed with BC stage IV with mets to bone, my markers were 94. After three months of hormone tratment, they were 23 and for the next 3 years they were under 38. (testing every 3 months) I was also monitored by bone scan every 6 months and CT scans 1 yearly. My doc started doing the tumor markers test every 6 months and the next test I had was 88. CT scans were then done and they found liver mets, so he determined the tamoxifen was no longer working. ( of course, I was very angry when I realized he had decided to do the tumor markers test every 6 months instead of 3, because I felt we could have found the new mets sooner!!) I switched to arimadex for 2 months and then a new marker test and ct scan was done and markers were 119 and CT scans showed an increase in size of liver mets and more of them. Then he decided I had to start chemo, which I have been on since March. My point is that in my case, the tumor markers were a good indicator of my disease progression. If you get on a routine, your dr can learn if the markers test is effective in your case, by comparing them to what the scans tell him. The hardest part about having cancer is that there is no absolute for any of us and its all trial and error. Best of luck and keep up the attitude!

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Before my mastectomy, when I still had the 6 cm tumor, my CA 27-29 was 38. After chemo it was 65. Then it went something like 32, 28, 24, 38 and 111. At that point a CT was done and they found my spinal mets.

Tomorrow is my last chemo before I'm off for testing. They will do another tumor marker test and we'll see what the number is then. Outside of the very first one when the tumor was very active and my numbers were still under 40, the test seems to be a fair indicator of what is happening, for me, but everyone is different.

One thing I'm curious about, what is the difference between the 27-29, the 125 and the 15? Do they measure the same thing?

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Ca27-29 and Ca15.3 are different ways of measuring the same thing. 15.3 is a cheaper test and will often be used instead of 27-29 (as is the case with me).
Ca 125 is usually an ovarian cancer marker, although i have seen it used to track BC also.

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I can not belive in tumor markers. they found bone met everywhere and the markers didn't move. i had some progression after chemo by mouth and the markers didn't move then i stared falsodex and started feeling better and the markers shot up to 300 so right now i am in wait and see mode with new scans on sept 29th. the markers have come back down to 280 so i feel waiting is ok at this point and give falsodex and avasitin a chance. mary

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Just to give you some more datapoints ... my mom's medical team has been using the test as an indication of disease progression/non-progression and response to treatment. After my mom's initial dx and corresponding mastectomy (in 1991), she had the 27.29 tests every 6 months or so and they were always in the 15-25 range. Around 2006-7 she stopped taking the test on the advice of her onc (after all, she'd been 15+ years in the clear). Then she started feeling aches and pains, and another 27.29 test in 2007 showed her numbers had spiked to 115. That was the first sign of recurrence, confirmed with scans, etc., and she went on hormonals (arimidex, zometa) for 18 months, which brought the levels back down to 20-30. They slowly began creeping up again recently (to 41, which is just north of average) and now she's on xeloda and avastin,

Just one more POV for you.

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my onc has told me that the specific number of the Ca27-29 is not what is important... no matter how high. It is the trend that counts.. meaning, is the number going up or down. It is not important what the number is when it first registers out of the normal zone ... follow the trend. and , for many.. the markers don't register no matter what. Markers are a tool.. and I don't think any oncologist would make a treatment decision based on these numbers alone.

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Angelvoice,

You most definitely have the right attitude! I love it - Triple Positive!!!!

My doctor tells me that tumor markers are only a piece of the puzzle and they don't work for everyone. For me the tend to work. When they rise, we usually find progression.

My highest has been 1182 and right now I am at 1025. I have also read that a 10% rise or decline in your numbers statistically means no change. So for example, although my number dropped about 100 points, there is really no change in my level.

I tend to get too focused on the numbers at times - it seems like it is the only really tangible evidence at times. But over the last year I have learned that you have to take everything with a grain of salt!

Best of luck to you.

Jessica

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This was just the site I needed. I received a voice mail today to go to the Onc. for another blood test, as the last one showed a spike. They did not tell me what the number was. The Onc. just wanted to be sure that the lab was accurate. I guess I will go for a test if it comes back high. I have cancer in my entire spine. I am so upset. These marker numbers get me filled with anxiety everytime. I hate them. Thanks for the info. Vetter 3

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Thank you all for this information. You are a wonderful bunch of Alligator wrestlers! Keep fighting!
love
Angelvoice

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My CA 27-29 went above 6,000 (six-THOUSAND) a few years ago. At one point it was only 169 and it is currently 1,000.

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at my facility the normal range is 0-38 when i started chemo the first time it was 118 and steadily dropped to normal after going off chemo is began to rise slowly and was up to 119 and showed recurrence of bone mets. so then it starts again, chemo that is. I've been back on since aug09 and my numbers are in the normal stage but dr doesnt want to stop yet since my recurrence was within 6 mo it's a much easier regimen this time except that dang hair loss. I'm on abraxane zometa and herceptin this time no nausea!!! Good luck!!

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My Mom's CA-27 jumped from 1324 to 4000 today. She is Stage IV with mets in her bones and liver. The # used to linger in the 100s to 200s, went to 1324 when they found mets in her liver, now at 4000. We will get another scan to see what is going on. Her #s in the past have reflected what is going on with the tumor growth. Most recent chemo was Gemzar; will have to try something new. The waiting is painful; as if cancer itself isn't stressful enough.

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Dear Angelvoice, My oncologist has the CA27.29 test done every month with the bloodwork prior to my monthly zometa infusion. She says it is the trend that is important. She says they worry when the number doubles. I always have a copy of all my bloodwork and lab work sent to my home for my records. Ask for it - you are entitled to it. Margery

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The CA27.29 range is 0-38. My CA27.29 last August was 743, diagnosis of bone mets and plueral effusion to lung, then I went on the drugs - today it is 65. The marker tests alone are not enough - need scans in addition as these tell the Onc whether or not the drugs are working. Also very important to have blood work done as this can tell them if the liver, pancreas, etc. are being affected. Scans show the picture, the markers show only a count which can vary depending on how you are feeling, any recent illnesses other than the cancer, etc. Personally, I think a positive attitude and prayer are probably more beneficial in my case. I use to get my blood pressure going just before I would see the Onc. fearful of what might be. I feel better now than I have in several years - is it the drugs or it is my attitude change?

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My CA 27-29 went from 2,000 to 1,000 in three months.

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As a former oncology nurse and now a stage IV breast cancer patient, I can tell you that 0-30 is considered normal at the lab that does my test. When I first started chemo it was 118. Dropped to normal after chemo and stayed for 6 mo. after a rise to 60 and then 117 the next month, my pet scan showed recurrent bone mets and it was time to go back on chemo for another 6 mo. I am currently at 30 and have been off my second round of chemo for 2 mo. I just hated my hair falling out again!

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