Blood Screening to Detect Cancer
Has your doctor ordered blood screening tests for cancer? Do you have questions about these types of tests and what cancers they can detect?
Early detection is key, as every year, more than 1.6 million people in the US are diagnosed with cancer. Blood screening is an important tool to detect certain cancers early on so you can get the treatment you need.
Keep reading to learn about the different blood tests that can detect cancer and how they can help you!
Tumor Marker Tests
Tumor markers are chemicals made by cancer cells that circulate in the blood. When you have certain cancers, these chemicals will become elevated. Common tumor marker tests include:
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA)
A PSA blood test is a test for prostate cancer. PSA is a type of protein that is produced by your prostate and typically only small amounts of this protein should be in the blood.
This test measures how much prostate-specific antigen is in your blood and high levels can point to the presence of prostate cancer.
Cancer Antigen 125 (CA125)
Cancer antigen 125 is a protein in ovarian cancer cells that gets secreted into the bloodstream, and elevated levels can indicate ovarian cancer.
Your doctor will order this test if they suspect you have cancer or you have a strong family history of ovarian cancer. Elevated levels of CA125 are also found in other cancers such as:
Cancer Antigen 15-3 (CA15-3)
Cancer antigen 15-3 is a protein that’s made by breast cancer cells in particular. CA 15-3 levels are usually higher than normal in women with advanced breast cancer.
This test is also used to monitor for the reoccurrence of breast cancer and to see how well the cancer is responding to treatments. CA15-3 is not as useful for early-stage breast cancer as this protein isn’t typically elevated at this stage.
Alpha-fetoprotein is a protein that’s usually made in the livers of developing babies during pregnancy. This protein level is high in babies when they’re born but should decrease to low levels after the first year of life.
Healthy adults should have low levels of AFP, and a blood test showing high levels can be a sign of liver cancer. It’s also often elevated with testicular cancer.
Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA)
CEA is a protein normally only found in babies developing in the womb and becomes undetectable after birth.
Your doctor might order a CEA test if you’re experiencing symptoms of colon cancer or if you have a genetic syndrome in your family that elevates your risk. Elevated CEA levels also can indicate other cancers like lung, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer.
Electrophoresis Blood Test
A serum protein electrophoresis blood test measures the levels of certain types of proteins in your blood. These proteins include:
- Alpha-1 globulins
- Alpha-2 globulins
- Beta globulins
- Gamma globulins
These types of proteins are responsible for tissue growth, inflammation, and immune function. This test can help to diagnose cancers like multiple myeloma where you’ll typically see an increase in both beta globulin and gamma globulin levels.
Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP)
ALP is an enzyme that’s usually found in your bloodstream at lower levels. It’s produced by your liver, but small amounts of this protein are also made in your bones, intestines, and pancreas.
ALP levels can be elevated in liver cancer, multiple myeloma, and other types of bone cancers.
Thyroglobulin is a protein that is made by cells in your thyroid gland. A thyroglobulin test measures the amount of thyroglobulin that is in your blood.
Thyroglobulin comes from both normal cells and cancer cells. In instances of thyroid cancer, your thyroglobulin level will be elevated. This test is also used during cancer treatments to ensure all thyroid cells are removed during surgery or radiation. If treatment is successful, you’ll have no levels of thyroglobulin in your blood.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
A complete blood count is a blood test that can help your doctor to diagnose blood cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma. A CBC is a great tool to detect these types of cancers before they progress.
A CBC measures different components of your blood such as:
- Red blood cells which are oxygen-carrying cells
- White blood cells fight infection
- Hemoglobin cells carry protein to the red blood cells
- Hematocrit contains the fluid component in your blood called plasma
- Platelets help with blood clotting
In leukemia, you’ll have lower than normal red blood cells and platelets. You’ll also have higher than normal white blood cell counts. With lymphoma, a CBC will show a low red blood cell count or low hemoglobin if this cancer has gone into your bone marrow and disrupted cell production.
Circulating Tumor DNA (ctDNA)
Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) is found in the bloodstream and comes from DNA changes from cancerous tumors or cells. As tumors grow, cells die off and are then replaced by new cells.
As these cells die, they get broken down and released into the circulating blood. The contents of these cells as well as their DNA can be measured by a ctDNA test. How much ctDNA is detected depends on the location and type of tumor you have.
A ctDNA test is helpful in detecting cancerous tumors, monitoring how effective treatments are, and monitoring during periods of remission.
Get Your Cancer Blood Screening Tests Today
It’s important to detect cancer as early as possible. Blood tests are a quick and easy way to find out if you’re experiencing health problems.
It’s time to turn to Precision Labs for your cancer blood screening needs. We offer accurate results, and efficient services, and have experienced and friendly phlebotomists. We work with assisted living facilities, home health agencies, and physicians’ offices.
We’re ready to help you, so make sure you contact us today for your lab testing needs!