Disease: CA 125

    What is CA 125? What is a tumor marker?

    CA 125 is a protein that is a so-called tumor marker or biomarker, which is a substance that is found in greater concentration in tumor cells than in other cells of the body. In particular, CA 125 is present in greater concentration in ovarian cancer cells than in other cells. It was first identified in the early 1980s, and the function of the CA 125 protein is not currently understood. CA stands for cancer antigen.

    How is CA 125 measured?

    CA 125 is usually measured from a venous blood sample. It can also be measured in fluid from the chest or abdominal cavity. The tests currently in use are all based upon the use of an antibody that is directed against the CA 125 protein (monoclonal antibody technique).

    In 1996, an improved version of the test was introduced and is sometimes denoted as CA 125 - II. The numerical figure of the second generation test results may be higher or lower than a first generation test. When comparing multiple test results over time, it can be important to know which method was used.

    What is the normal range for CA 125?

    The normal values for CA 125 may vary slightly among individual laboratories. In most laboratories, the normal value is 0-35 units/ml.

    What does an elevated CA 125 level indicate, and how is the CA 125 test used?

    It is not possible to interpret the meaning of an abnormally high CA 125 without additional information about the particular patient being evaluated. The reason is that blood levels of this protein can be increased in many different benign and malignant conditions, and an elevated level does not mean that cancer is present. CA 125 is used most often to monitor patients with a known cancer (malignancy) or as one of several tests in the workup of a patient suspected of having a tumor.

    The most common use of the test is the monitoring of people with a known cancer that elevates CA 125 level, such as cancer of the ovary. Around 75%-85% of women with epithelial cancer of the ovary will have an elevated CA 125 level. In the patient who is known to have a malignancy, such as ovarian cancer, the CA 125 level can be monitored periodically. A decreasing level generally indicates that therapy, including chemotherapy, has been effective, while an increasing level indicates tumor recurrence. Because of normal test variation, small changes are usually not considered significant. A doubling or halving of the previous value would be important.

    In the patient who is being evaluated for a pelvic mass, a CA 125 level greater than 65 is associated with malignancy in approximately 90% of cases. However, without a demonstrable mass, the association is much weaker.

    What does an elevated CA 125 level indicate, and how is the CA 125 test used?

    It is not possible to interpret the meaning of an abnormally high CA 125 without additional information about the particular patient being evaluated. The reason is that blood levels of this protein can be increased in many different benign and malignant conditions, and an elevated level does not mean that cancer is present. CA 125 is used most often to monitor patients with a known cancer (malignancy) or as one of several tests in the workup of a patient suspected of having a tumor.

    The most common use of the test is the monitoring of people with a known cancer that elevates CA 125 level, such as cancer of the ovary. Around 75%-85% of women with epithelial cancer of the ovary will have an elevated CA 125 level. In the patient who is known to have a malignancy, such as ovarian cancer, the CA 125 level can be monitored periodically. A decreasing level generally indicates that therapy, including chemotherapy, has been effective, while an increasing level indicates tumor recurrence. Because of normal test variation, small changes are usually not considered significant. A doubling or halving of the previous value would be important.

    In the patient who is being evaluated for a pelvic mass, a CA 125 level greater than 65 is associated with malignancy in approximately 90% of cases. However, without a demonstrable mass, the association is much weaker.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

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