Tumour markers - serum

Last updated: Friday, 07, April, 2006

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Item Process

5 mL blood in plain tube.



Reference Interval

Depends on marker and method.


The tests should not be used as either screening or diagnostic tests for malignancy.

They may be used to monitor effectiveness of therapy in patients with a malignancy that has been shown to produce the marker.

CA 125 is a marker for serous carcinoma, especially carcinoma of the ovary, but elevations are also seen in peritoneal disease of any cause.

CA 19.9 is a marker for gastrointestinal malignancy, especially carcinoma of the pancreas.

Other tumour markers are available but generally have only limited utility in monitoring disease.

See also: Carcinoembryonic antigen
Alpha fetoprotein
Neurone specific enolase
Prostate specific antigen
and Beta human chorionic gonadotrophin.


Persistence of an increased level after treatment indicates a significant amount of residual tumour.

Decrease to a normal level after treatment may mean eradication of the tumour or persistence of only small amounts of tumour; subsequent elevation indicates regrowth of the tumour.

Lesser elevations may be found in some non-malignant conditions.


Perkins GL et al. Am Fam Physician 2003; 68(6): 1075-1082.

Duffy MJ et al. Eur J Cancer 2003; 39(6): 718-727.