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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Elevated tumor markers for breast cancer?

    I had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation 4 years ago. My tumor was triple negative, grade three. Although I had major complications with chemotherapy as my port went septic I have tried to maintain a healthy lifestyle since ceasing treatment.

    My recent tests showed my CA15-3 protein levels have risen from 14 to 33, which is now just above the top level of the recommended range. I have to have more tests this week, but I'm concerned the cancer could be returning. Are there any other factors that would cause the levels to rise?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    Dr Bhaumik Shah

    Medical Oncologist (Cancer Specialist)

    Dr Shah believes in family centered care and long consultations to put all anxieties at ease. He has trained in different illustrious institutes to obtain … View Profile

    Tumour markers are just a part of the picture. There are 3 ways in which we do follow for recurrance of cancer.
    1. Patient's symptoms and examination findings
    2. Blood test results (including tumour markers)
    3. Scans

    Tumour marker levels do fluctuate over time. Its pattern over time is more important. Obviously your treating oncologist would do repeat testing for the marker level. If you have any symptoms of concern or abnormal examination you would also have a scan to check for any abnormality. Ongoing rise of marker in absence of symptoms also prompts a scan. These tumour markers are proteins. There are more than one sources for their production. So sometimes we see their levels going up despite no recurrance of cancer too.

  • 1



    HealthShare Member

    Hi Dr Shah

    Thanks for replying to my post re tumour markers.  Just to give you an update of what has happened …. 
    My oncologist had the tumour markers tested a week later and they were still inflated.  A subsequent scan showed a mass on the liver.  A fine needle biopsy was then attempted.  Three attempts were made before the procedure was aborted due to the location of the mass.  I was then sent for a PET Scan, which revealed a tumour in the tail of the pancreas.  Tumour markers for pancreatic cancer revealed a reading of 58000.  I am now undergoing chemo. and have just completed my fourth cycle.  I have also made some significant dietary changes and my latest tumour markers were 944. My breast cancer tumour markers have returned to normal range. 
    Although I know the outcome for Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer is not good, I will continue to maintain a positive outlook on life.
    Regards, Gaye

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