Wednesday, October 8, 2008

October Tumor Markers

Last week, when I had my "Z" Day, I found out the results of the tumor marker blood tests for September - great news there! This month, the news is still good, but both numbers went up a bit. Nothing to be concerned about, according to my doctor's office and to my colleague, Sunil. They expect these numbers to fluctuate a little bit - might be because I was fighting an infection (and my son, Scott and his daughter were all sick last week) or a change in the weather or whatever.

Anything below 31 is considered "normal"
Sept 2007 - 23 U/mL
Jan 2008 - 31 U/mL
Mar 2008 - 36 U/mL
June 2008 - 23 U/mL (started radiation that month)
Aug 2008 - 18 U/mL
Sept 2008 - 14.5 U/mL YAAAAAAY!!!
Oct 2008 - 19.6 U/mL

Sunil said that another month or two at these low ranges would mean that the disease is stable and under control.

The CEA results are below. 3.8 and under is normal:

1/2008 - 1.2 ng/mL
3/2008 - 0.9 ng/mL
6/2008 - 1.0 ng/mL
8/2008 - 1.1 ng/mL (need to double check this number, but it was in that 0.9 to 1.2 range)
9/2008 - 0.5 ng/mL
10/2008 - 0.9 ng/mL

I reported earlier this year that they aren't quite sure what it's measuring, so I asked my colleague if he knew. The way I understand it is that when a tumor cell dies, it leaves waste (lisosomic??) and the CA 15-3 measures the amount of this waste. CA stands for carbohydrate antigen. Normal cells, when they die, also give off this waste, but it is at a much slower rate than the rate of growth and death in tumor cells. So, the higher the number, the more likely that there are tumor cells growing and dying. He also told me that while this test is not necessarily a good indicator to diagnose metastases or it's not useful in early breast cancer, it does measure, fairly well, how tumors and cancer cells respond to treatment. Using these markers are better than subjecting patients to CT scans (radiation) or bone scans every month.

So, everyone, let's keep those numbers stable, shall we? Hopefully, I'll keep it in the less than 20 range!


Carver said...

I'll be sending out stable marker thoughts.

My UNC Onc doesn't do that blood work for me which is part of why I added a medical ONC. My medical ONC does do it and my numbers are good which reassured me since my C reactive protein was high indicating some kind of immune response. That was done by a rheumatologist. No one really knows why the CRP has stayed high.

With stage III melanoma like I have some Oncs do the tumor marker tests and some don't. Your explanation helps me understand why. Since mine are good it's reassuring and at this point adds to me wondering if I really need two ONCs since the main thing the medical one does that my main UNC surgical ONC doesn't do are the tumor marker tests. My UNC ONC relies pretty much on the PET/CT scans and since all my little things there resolved themselves I think I'm ok with the annual one I get at this point.

I'm seeing the medical one in December and if everything is good it may be time to cut back to the one ONC. I'll still have to see the UNC ONC every 6 months and I see the dermatologist every 6 months plus all the other specialists. I think I'm about ready to drop the medical ONC who primarily does tumor markers and repeats the physical the other docs do. I guess I'll see what he thinks. What's a diplomatic way to say, do I really need you?; ha, ha.

All good thoughts going out for YOU. I didn't mean to go off on a tangent.

Dee said...

Hi Carver,
No problem going off on a tangent - whew! Hearing about all your docs made me tired! It's like you need little notecards telling you which doc does what. It also seems like the dermatologist or the UNC onc could add tumor marker tests for you - my understanding is that blood tests might be less invasive than the PET/CT scans. Maybe if you're on a twelve month schedule for the PET/CT, you could just have someone draw some blood for a tumor marker test at the six month mark . . . but definitely, simplifying your medical care is important.

Why can't all those docs be in one place and you can go see them all at once, in one fell swoop, and have them all in agreement about when and how often and what kind of tests to run on you? It's ridiculous that it's the patient who ends up having to do all the running around, huh? It's the healthy ones that should be doing the running around!!

And, thanks for sending out good thoughts about the tumor markers, too!