What do tumor markers really tell you?

Im sure that this is something some of you understand better than I do. I just had my tumor markers tested again along with my hormone levels and all my other blood work. My markers were 29, which my dr said is in the normal range. He also said that my tumor markers have always been in the normal range even in the beginning at first diagnoses.Therefore we cant rely on them. Yet he still test them. This confused my husband and I.Can anyone explain?

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my tumor markers have always been normal even with active cancer. they are not reliable indicators for all people. sorry to say!!! why they still test for them is beyond me...

some days i feel the same about mammograms. it never found my original cancer even though everyone could feel it, yet i go get my boob squished on schedule...

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I was first dx in 1997. My doc never checked my tumor markers until Sept. 08...go figure.

The markers do seem to be on the rise along with my pain...I guess it's just a crap shoot...works for some...not others. Guess my doc thought it would be interesting to see.....hummmmmmm.....do I hear... guinea pig?

I shouldn't be so sarcastic, I find it interesting myself, but having read about all of our experiences on this web site...thank goodness....brings me to the conclusion that I'm not going to worry about it.

As for continuing the marker test when they keep reading normal....as long as they are drawing blood anyway, whats the harm. If the doc wants to draw blood JUST for that, perhaps it could be skipped until there is another reason for drawing blood.....those reasons seem to come up a lot for us cancer babes.

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Are you referring to CEA levels?

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My levels have not changed since they first started checking, even with a reoccurence but he tests each time anyway.

Doc said I don't need mammograms anymore even though I have both boobs...he said the CT scan is enough. Works for me!

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I had tumor markers checked through 4 years between originally dx and mets dx. Mine doesn't change so haven't been helpful either, although the clinic still checks rountinely and as long as I don't have to have a seperate needle poke, it's okay with me.
I also was told I didn't need mammograms because of tx and quarterly scans.

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There are several markers that they can test for. I get a CA-15, but there are others. The tumor marker measures a type of protein in your blood that is shed from the tumor. Your tumors may not be producing that type of protein. That is why you may want to ask if they can use another test. If the first one doesnt show anything try another test.

My tumor marker was around 50 when I was diagnosed, went up to 75 before I started to respond to treatment and then went all they way down to 17. It stayed low for a few months and then we noticed it creeping back up slowly. My doc follows me with PET scans which we did around the same time that the marker was rising and found a increased in activity of the spinal mets at the same time. We felt it was useful to have these two indications of the disease progress before we changed treatment. Of course there is a natural variation in the rise and fall of the markers, so you can expect to see it up and down over time, but when it just goes up it may be a sure sign of renewed disease activity. Hope this helps, b

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My doctor checks tumor markers, but he doesn't rely on them entirely; he uses them as a guide, along with any symptoms I may be having, to decide if any other tests, such as a CT scan should be done.

Mine have been a little high at times when I've had my blood work done while I have been sick with something as simple as a cold.

At the time I was diagnosed with bone mets, my tumor markers were sky high and stayed that way a few months ( I get my blood work done once per month) until I started my treatment for that. But I was also having other symptoms at the time; unintentional weight loss and pain.

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Tumor markers seem to work for me. Ever since my dx of bone mets 9/07, my onc. has tested for CEA and CA 27.29.
Originally, the CA 27.29 was 150 (normal being under 38). The CEA was always in the normal range (under 3) until the Arimidex stopped working. With the Arimidex, the CA 27.29 had fallen from 150 to 41 in about 6 months. Then it started rising again, but the CEA stayed in normal range for a short time. Then, the third month of the rise in 27.29 showed a rise in the CEA from about 1.6 to above normal at 4.4.
With that rise, we did a CT scan and a bone scan. The bone scan didn't show any increase in the mets, but the CT scan showed a definite increase in the existing tumors.
So, we changed to Aromasin and CT scans every 3 months. With Aromasin, the 27.29 has stayed down in the 30 - 32 range and the CEA has gone back down to around 1.2 - 1.6.
My onc has concluded that, at least for me, my cancer is sensitive to the markers and that they can be used to guide treatment - at least at the present. When I got another CT scan last November, it showed that the Aromasin seems to have stabilized the tumors, and my onc. felt it unnecessary to have scans every 3 months so long as the markers stayed stable.
I get my next scan in May, so we'll see if this method of treatment is still working!
As for your situation, maybe the reason your doctor is continuing to test for markers is because they could be an indication of increased cancer if they actually do go above normal. As others have said, since the tests are not requiring another blood draw, why not have them done?

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My tumor markers have never been high, yet they have been checking them for the past 8 years. I had a doc tell me the other day that there would be no need to check them because they are absolutely no indicator of my disease. He was the doc in the hosp when I had my tx so I will ask my regular onc next week. Karyn

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My onc uses the markers to get an indication of whether my treatment appears to be working as well as how I am feeling. When I got first diagnosed my CA25-27 were over 900. They went down to 700ish on tamoxifin and then I got an ovary removed. Down to 385 - boy was I happy! But went back up the next month to 485. Onto Femera - Been on it 9 months and am down to 130. However no signs on my Pet scans that anything has improved. I get another scan next month and hopefully that will show improvement.

My CEA has only been done once and it was 6. My onc was not upset over it since the CA25-27 seems to show changes. He just wants another marker to confirm.

I think the oncs are just Vampires and love to take our blood.

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