Tumour Marker Tests: What You Need To Know - CancerMitr
Cancer, a formidable adversary that often operates in stealth mode, conceals its presence until it reaches a critical stage. This insidious disease is defined by the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells, remaining undetectable during its initial phases. It only unveils itself when it has amassed enough strength to disrupt the seamless functioning of the body, penetrate lymph nodes, or spread to distant organs through metastasis. The aftermath of late-stage cancer diagnoses is devastating, leaving a profound impact not only on the patient but also causing emotional and financial distress for their loved ones.
Nevertheless, amid this darkness, a glimmer of hope emerges. Early detection of cancer is not just a theoretical possibility; it serves as a vital lifeline, a guiding beacon navigating us through the tumultuous storm of this disease. Tumour markers play a crucial role in both the detection and monitoring of cancer. Read this article to learn more about tumour markers.
What is a Tumour Marker?
Tumour markers are proteins secreted by cancerous cells as well as normal cells (in small amounts). They emerge from non-cancerous cells as a response to the ominous presence of cancer. Some cancer cells produce these markers in abundance, setting them apart from their innocent counterparts. Additionally, tumour markers encompass the patterns and changes etched into the DNA of cells. They can be found in various bodily fluids – urine, stool, saliva, bone marrow, and blood. The tumour marker test, a sentinel of health, detects these proteins or DNA alterations in a patient’s sample. Occasionally, they even make appearances in samples extracted from a tumour during a biopsy.
What is the significance of tumour markers?
These markers are not mere spectators in the battle against cancer; they are critical players. Medical experts prescribe tumour marker tests for several reasons:
- – Assessing Aggressiveness: Tumour markers are not passive bystanders in the fight against cancer; instead, they play a critical role in providing insights into the aggressiveness of the disease. By measuring the levels of these markers, medical experts can uncover the pace at which cancerous cells are multiplying.
– Guiding Treatment Choices: Armed with data obtained from tumour marker tests, physicians are empowered to chart a precise course for treatment. These markers offer a molecular glimpse into the unique characteristics of the cancer’s growth, enabling doctors to customize treatment plans according to the specific attributes of the disease.
– Monitoring Treatment Efficacy: Tumour markers play a crucial role in monitoring the effectiveness of cancer treatment. As patients undergo therapeutic interventions, changes in tumour marker levels provide valuable feedback on how the cancer is responding to the treatment. This real-time monitoring allows healthcare providers to assess whether the chosen treatment is achieving the desired outcomes or if adjustments are necessary. The dynamic nature of tumour marker tracking serves as a window into the ongoing battle between treatment and cancer, informing decisions for potential modifications to optimize patient care.
– Predicting Prognosis: Tumour markers offer a predictive dimension to the medical landscape by providing glimpses into a patient’s prognosis. By analyzing these markers, medical professionals can gain insights into the likelihood of recovery, allowing them to paint a more nuanced picture of the patient’s future health.
– Detecting Recurrence: For individuals who have experienced remission, tumour markers act as vigilant sentinels, standing guard against the potential resurgence of cancer. These markers serve as early warning systems, capable of sounding the alarm if cancer attempts to return. Regular monitoring through tumour marker tests allows healthcare providers to detect signs of recurrence at an early stage, enabling prompt intervention and increasing the likelihood of successful treatment.
What are the different types of tumour markers?
Circulating tumour markers assist in staging cancer, predicting prognosis, evaluating residual disease, gauging treatment effectiveness, and even checking for cancer’s unwelcome return long after treatment.
Tumour tissue markers reside within the very essence of the cancer, tucked away in samples extracted directly from the tumour. These markers are the signposts to targeted therapies and specialized cancer treatments. The different tumour markers are as follows;
– CA 125: The guardian of ovarian health, CA 125 is a protein found in ovarian cancer cells. While not a reliable diagnostic tool, it’s a valuable monitor for those at risk of ovarian or gynaecological cancers.
-AFP: Alpha-fetoprotein, a protein associated with liver and fetal development, becomes a detective in cases of liver cancer, germ cell tumours, and more. People with any liver ailments are recommended to undergo AFP tests to check for possible tumour growth.
– bHCG: Beta human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone involved in pregnancy, plays double duty, signalling both gestation and certain cancers.
– PSA: Prostate-specific antigen, the sentinel of the prostate gland, helps screen for prostate cancer but cannot always distinguish benign from malignant growth. Usually, men above 50-55 years of age are recommended to undergo routine PSA tests to check for tumour growth.
– CEA: Carcinoembryonic antigen is a multi-talented marker found in various cancers, notably colorectal cancer, though not always indicative of cancer. It serves as a glimpse into a patient’s prognosis.
– CA 19.9: A marker from the realm of pancreatic cancer, CA 19.9 is a guide in navigating the complex landscape of this disease.
– B2M: Beta 2 Microglobulin, a marker rooted in bone marrow and blood, helps uncover the presence of malignancies like multiple myeloma and lymphoma.
– Calcitonin: A sentinel from the thyroid gland, calcitonin sounds the alarm for medullary thyroid cancer and related conditions.
– LDH: Lactate dehydrogenase, a key player in cellular energy production, serves as a detective, unveiling clues of tissue damage, anaemia, and certain cancers.
– NSE: Neuron-specific enolase is a reliable companion in the diagnosis of various cancers, including small-cell lung cancer.
– PAP: Prostatic acid phosphatase, a guardian of prostate health, monitors the progression of prostate cancer.
The tumour marker test, though not a first-line tool for cancer screening, stands ready as a sentinel of hope. When signs and symptoms raise suspicion, these markers offer a path towards early detection, guiding us towards treatments that can make all the difference. Let us embrace this tool as a symbol of hope in our fight against the shadows of cancer.
Looking for cancer diagnosis or treatment?
CancerMitr has a pan-India presence and has assisted hundreds of cancer patients throughout their journey. Our team works with various medical experts and healthcare service providers to assist patients from discovery to recovery. For more details about our various services, check out our website or contact our team at +91 9663071088.