What Are Tumor Markers?

Researchers and scientists are in a constant battle to identify, predict, and respond to potential cases of cancer. Preventing and defeating cancer is a multi-billion-dollar industry. While there is no cure for cancer, scientists have made great strides in identifying cancer in patients early. This has made treating cancer and removing cancerous areas from the body a lot easier and more effective.

One tool that the medical community has been using is a tumor marker test. These tests are designed to identify tumor markers in the body with the hopes of determining whether or not a patient is battling with cancer. Tumor markers are substances that cancer cells as well as other cells in the body make when there is cancer or some other noncancerous condition. Even though tumor markers can be made by normal cells and cancer cells, they appear in a drastically higher level when cancer is present.

Tumor markers can be found in a person’s blood, stool, and in tumor tissue. Tumor markers are primarily proteins. Yet, recent advances in technology have allowed the medical community to identify certain patterns of gene expressions and alterations in the DNA that can be used as markers.

There have been multiple tumor markers that have been categorized by the medical community. Some tumor markers indicate that a person has a particular type of cancer. Others are only present when a person has two or more types of cancer. Researchers have not found a universal tumor marker that appears when any type of cancer is in a person’s body.

While they are a very effective way to diagnose cancer, tumor markers are not perfect. This is because in addition to cancerous conditions, some noncancerous conditions can cause the levels of some tumor markers to increase. Just because a person has cancer does not mean that the tumor marker that has been associated with their type of cancer will increase in their body. Also, there are many types of cancer for which a tumor marker has yet to be identified.

Many individuals have received an early diagnosis of cancer as a result of doctors detecting an increased level of tumor markers in their body. Tumor markers help doctors create an appropriate therapy for some cancers and have given doctors a good idea to the stage of cancer a patient has. Undoubtedly, when the medical community does find a cure for cancer, tumor markers and the tests associated with identifying them will have played an important role.

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