Cancer Antigens 19-9

Other names: CA 19-9

Cancer antigen 19-9 (known as CA 19-9) is a protein which may be present on the exterior of particular types of cell. CA 19-9 is cast off by tumour cells and can be used as a marker for cancer; CA 19-9 is most commonly associated with pancreatic cancer, however it can also be linked to other forms of cancer.

Why is the test used?

The CA 19-9 test is used to monitor the progress of patients who are being treated for pancreatic cancer; the test can show if treatment is successful and can also be used to look for early warning signs of a recurrence of the cancer after a course of treatment has been completed.

The CA 19-9 test can also be used to diagnose pancreatic conditions and differentiate between pancreatic cancer and other problems associated with the pancreas, as well as pancreatitis. The test is usually ordered for those with symptoms of pancreatic cancer, plus jaundice, unexplained loss of weight and abdominal pain.

How is the test performed?

The test is done by collecting a sample of blood from a vein in the arm; a needle is inserted into the vein and blood is collected in a syringe, which is attached to the needle. Once the sample has been collected, it will be bottled, labelled and sent to the laboratory for analysis.

What do the test results mean?

If levels of CA 19-9 are found in the blood, this does not necessarily indicate that patient has a health problem; the protein is found in the bloodstream of a small proportion of well people and further tests will probably be ordered.

If levels are moderate or high, this may indicate that a patient has pancreatic cancer or a different form of cancer or a problem associated to their pancreas. Very elevated levels are usually associated with advanced pancreatic cancer; the most common form associated with very high levels is excretory ductal pancreatic cancer. Excretory ductal pancreatic cancer is found in the tissue within the pancreas where enzymes that digest food are produced and within the ducts which carry the enzymes to the small intestine.

The test is usually carried out on a regular basis both during and after a course of treatment; it can help to measure the success of a treatment and it can also identify early warning signs that the cancer has come back after treatment.

Specific Blood Tests

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