Cancer is a disease that has a devastating impact on the families of the people it affects. It is the second-most leading cause of deaths in the world. According to the World Health Organization, around 9.6 million people died of cancer in 2018.
The American Cancer Society has found that approximately two out of five men and one in three women will develop cancer in their lifetime. Cancer has become more prevalent due to increased life span, unhealthy diets, alcohol consumption, smoking, obesity, artificial tanning, and less breastfeeding.
Therefore, it is crucial to get screened regularly for cancer so that you can detect it early and take steps to beat the disease in its initial stages, before it can spread throughout the body. An important tool available for cancer screening is a tumor risk marker. Read on to know more about tumor risk markers and how they can be used to screen for, diagnose, and monitor the treatment of a person who has cancer.
What are Tumor Risk Markers?
Tumor risk markers are biochemical substances that can be found in high levels in the blood, tissues, and urine if a person has cancer. They are proteins that are made by the body in response to the presence of cancer cells or may be produced by the cancer cells themselves.
Some tumor markers are found in various types of cancer, while others can be found only when there is a specific type of cancer present. Tumor risk markers can also be found in the body in elevated levels for non-cancerous reasons like pregnancy, bowel disease, kidney disease, hepatitis, menstruation, liver disease, endometriosis, dietary changes, and more.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Tumor Risk Markers?
Using tumor risk markers has both pros and cons, which we discuss below.
Advantages of Tumor Risk Markers:
- Useful for cancer screening and early detection: People who have cancer may not show symptoms until it is too late for treatment. Using tumor risk markers to screen for cancer will help them get early and effective treatment. The markers also help in detecting cancer in early stages, so it can be treated before it spreads.
- Helps in diagnosing cancer: Tumor markers are used to figure out the likelihood of a cancer occurring in a particular patient. They are also used to detect the origin point of a cancer that has spread, so that the origin point can be targeted by cancer therapy.
- Helpful in monitoring a patient’s response to treatment: If the tumor marker level decreases after treatment, it means the patient is responding well to the therapy.
- Can help in predicting the prognosis of the cancer: Some tumor markers can predict how aggressive the disease will be and whether it will respond to specific medications or not.
- Can be used to determine cancer relapse: Markers can be used to detect recurrence of cancer post the initial treatment.
Disadvantages of Tumor Risk Markers:
- They are not 100% reliable
- Some people who have cancer may never produce those markers
- They may not be present in very early stages of cancer and not all kinds of cancer have markers.
- Tumor markers are also produced by normal calls and can be found for non-cancerous reasons, too.
- Differences in handling the samples (like storage temperatures or testing methods) can change the protein structure of the sample. This causes a problem in establishing standard values to compare the markers.
Types of Tumor Risk Markers:
Here are the most common types of tumor risk markers:
- CA 125: Cancer antigen 125 is a tumor risk marker for ovarian cancer. Cancers like breast, colorectal, uterine, cervical, lung, pancreas, and liver are also linked to high levels of CA 125 in the body. It is used to check if cancer therapy is working and if the cancer reoccurs after the therapy is completed.
- CA 15-3 and CA 27-29: These are markers for breast cancer. They are used to detect recurrence or metastasis.
- PSA: Prostate specific antigen is a tumor risk marker for prostate cancer. It is used to screen and diagnose prostate cancer and to monitor treatment and also check for recurrence.
- CEA: Carcinoembryonic antigen is used to check for several cancers like colorectal, lung, thyroid, stomach, breast, pancreatic, and ovarian cancers. It is used to monitor treatment and check for recurrence.
- AFP: Alpha-fetoprotein is a tumor risk marker for testicular, ovarian, and liver cancers. It is used to diagnose cancer and detect the stage of the cancer. It is also used to check if the treatment is working and to determine the chances of recovering.
- NMP 22: NMP 22 is a marker for bladder cancer. It is used to screen for and diagnose bladder cancer.
- CA 19-9: Cancer antigen 19-9 is a marker for pancreatic cancer. It is used for diagnosis and for monitoring if the treatment works.
If you are above 40 and have a history of cancer in your family, or smoke, drink alcohol regularly, or are constantly exposed to chemicals or pollution, you should get screened for cancer, using the tumor risk marker tests. You can book an appointment for such tests through Medlife Labs now. They make it incredibly convenient by offering sample collection service at your doorstep and easy appointments via phone or their website. Get tested regularly to detect cancer early on and get it treated. Call 7022000900 to schedule a free home sample collection.