What are cancer or tumour markers, and should you be worried if your cancer marker tests turn up positive? Here’s what IMU Healthcare Medical clinic head Dr. Verna Lee, and Sunway Medical Centre consultant breast and endocrine surgeon Dr. Normayah Kitan have to say.
1. Cancer markers help to detect, diagnose, and manage some types of cancer
A cancer marker is a substance that is produced by the body in response to cancer, or is produced by the cancer cell itself. It’s found in very high levels in the blood, urine or body tissue of cancer patients. Some markers are specific to one type of cancer while others can be related to several types of cancers.
Although an elevated level of tumour markers may suggest the presence of cancer, these markers may also increase with non-cancerous conditions. “These tests are not developed to be used on its own to screen for any cancer,” says Dr. Verna. Therefore, tumour marker measurements are usually combined with other tests, such as biopsies to diagnose cancer.