Testing for Cancer: Understanding Laboratory Tests

Early detection is the single most important factor that will affect the success rate in fighting cancer. It is good to know, then, that there is even more that can be done than just checking your skin regularly for moles or giving yourself an at-home breast/prostate/other exams. There are also some lab tests that can be done to identify cancer in the body.

Although they are generally not 100% conclusive in themselves, these tests can be utilized as a full-bodied look into your risks for cancer and possible diagnosis. Below are some of the most effective cancer maker laboratory tests.

Alpha Fetoprotein (AFP): This test is especially effective in identifying liver and testicular cancers because of the increased amount of AFP in the body when these cancers are present. Some gastrointestinal cancers can also be identified by this test. Be warned that these levels may also be higher due to pregnancy, so if there is any chance you may be pregnant, it is not the most effective test for you at that time.

CA 15.3: Many patients with breast cancer have elevated levels of CA 15.3. This test can be especially important for those women with a history of breast cancer in their families.

CA 19.9: If suffering from frequent stomach issues, this may be a test you want to ask for. The test, along with a CEA marker test, can help identify gastric, pancreatic, or stomach cancers.

CA125: This test is more frequently being used to detect tumors, and especially to detect cancers of female reproductive organs. Elevated levels may also suggest pancreatic, lung, breast, and colon cancer. Be aware, however, that a test showing elevated levels of CA125 may also be a result of menstruation, ovarian cysts, pericarditis, or cirrhosis of the liver. The CA125 test can also be utilized throughout cancer treatment to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment.

Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA): This test is used to screen for colorectal cancer and associated digestive tract cancers. It is often utilized for patients suffering from constipation, diarrhea, or bloody stool on a regular basis.

EVP: This test is a marker for nasopharyngeal cancer.

DR-70: This simple blood test can test for 13 different cancers, including cancers of the lung, breast, colon, stomach, rectum, liver, ovary, esophagus, cervix, pancreas, and thyroid.

T/Tn Antigen Test: It is believed that this test can identify many cancers in the body well before a biopsy would detect anything. By testing the concentration of the T and Tn antigens on blood and skin cells, the test can identify a cancer type and stage, and may even be able to indicate future development of cancer. The T/Tn Antigen Test so far has appeared to be 94% accurate in diagnosing lung cancers, and 80% accurate in diagnosing breast cancers. It was established by the Chicago Medical School, and you would need to contact a physician at the school for more information.


Not all of these tests are well-known, so you may need to ask your physician about them specifically, and discuss your options with your insurance. Most of these tests are most effective when combined with additional tests, due to the possibility of false positives or negatives with many of them. Discuss your options with your physician, and give yourself an advantage in the prevention of cancer.

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