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If Tumor Marker Is Higher, Does That Mean I Have More Cancer?

If Tumor Marker Is Higher, Does That Mean I Have More Cancer?

Question

If my tumor marker number is higher than another patient's, does that mean I have more cancer in me?

Answer

Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN, OncoLink Nurse Educator, responds:

Not at all- these results are specific to each patient and should only be compared to your own previous results, taking into consideration your condition, treatments and other test results. For instance, after surgery for prostate cancer that removes the prostate, the PSA level is typically zero (because there is no prostate tissue remaining to produce the marker). However, if the patient was treated with radiation, there will still be PSA present because there is still prostate tissue in the body, but this does not mean that one treatment was less effective than the other.

Learn more about tumor markers: http://www.oncolink.org/treatment/article.cfm?c=17&s=136&id=296

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Interpreting Test Results transcript.