Other names: AFP; AFP Tumour Marker Test

AFP is a protein which is produced by the liver during foetal growth; levels of AFP decrease as a person grows older. AFP is only just detectable in healthy adults, as levels decline very quickly once the baby has been born. AFP levels may increase considerably if an individual has cancer or liver damage of some kind.

Why is the test used?

The AFP test is usually used to test for certain forms of cancer; the test is also used to monitor the condition of patients who have already been diagnosed with cancer and assess how well treatment is working.

Why would I need the test?

A doctor may advise you to have the AFP test if you have symptoms of cancer of the testes, ovaries or liver. The AFP test may also be used to assess damage to the liver and monitor patients with cirrhosis or hepatitis, as they will be at risk of developing cancer of the liver.

How is the test performed?

The AFP test is done using a blood sample from the arm. A needle is inserted into a vein in the arm (usually on the inside of the elbow) and the blood sample is collected in a syringe. Once the sample has been collected, it will be bottled and labelled and then sent off for analysis.

What do the test results signify?

High levels of AFP may indicate that an individual has cancer; most commonly, elevated levels of AFP indicate cancer of the liver, testes or ovaries. Higher levels may also indicate other forms of cancer but other tests are usually used to diagnose these forms of cancer.

The test is also used to monitor treatment; if levels of AFP decrease, then the treatment is having a positive effect but if levels stay the same or increase, it is likely that the tumour is still present or the cancer has returned.

If the AFP test is being used to monitor patients with liver diseases, a high level of AFP may mean they are at high risk of developing liver cancer.

Specific Blood Tests

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