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CA-125 Tests

Email:

This email says women should demand a CA-125 test for ovarian cancer each year. It quotes a woman who says her ovarian cancer had been overlooked when it was misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. The writer says she insisted on more tests and had a CT scan that revealed fluid in her abdomen, at which point her doctor ran a CA-125 blood test and her level came back at a highly elevated 754. The email says: "This is an inexpensive and simple blood test. Please tell all your female friends and relatives to insist on a CA-125 blood test every year as part of their annual exam. Don't take 'No' for an answer. If I had known then what I know now, we would have caught my cancer much earlier before it was Stage 3!"

Fact:

Debbie Saslow, PhD, director of breast and cervical cancer for the American Cancer Society, says CA-125 protein levels in the blood can be measured as a marker for ovarian cancer, but should not be used to screen for the disease. “The test is not appropriate for routine screening because of its poor accuracy; there are some harmless reasons CA-125 levels can be elevated, and not all women with an ovarian tumor will have an increased level,” she said.

"Testing is recommended for women at very high risk, such as those with a family history of the disease," she added. The CA-125 blood test is routinely used for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer to measure their response to treatments, as well as to watch for recurrence.

To learn more:

Can ovarian cancer be found early?
Tumor Markers

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Last Medical Review: 8/26/14
Last Revised: 8/26/14