Blood Tests For Cancer Markers
Cancer is a term used to describe abnormal cell growth and proliferation in the body. This is a relatively scary word to hear for anybody. The most common thought that comes to a persons mind on hearing the word Cancer is a deadly disease which is potentially fatal.
Well, it is true in most of the cases where a diagnosis of cancer is made considerably late. The reason is that, quite often, cancer of any type or any organ does not show alarming signs and symptoms right from the very beginning. In plenty of cases, cancer is discovered accidentally while having a regular blood check or while investigating for some other cause.
What You Need To Know
- Endometrial cancer starts in the lining of the uterus the endometrium.
- Being overweight or obese greatly increases a womans chance of developing endometrial cancer. Other risk factors include age, family history, a diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome and prior use of the breast cancer treatment drug tamoxifen.
- Symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding, pain during intercourse, difficult or painful urination, and pain in the pelvic area.
- Endometrial cancer is highly treatable when found early.
Genetic Tests After Surgery
Uterine cancer is usually removed surgically and the removed tissue is sent to a laboratory for further testing. For endometrial cancer, some of these tests will check whether the cancer cells have features that indicate a genetic cause for the cancer. Knowing whether the tumour has one of these features may help your treatment team decide on suitable treatment options.
For example, a small number of endometrial cancers are caused by Lynch syndrome. This syndrome is characterised by a fault in the genes that helps the cells DNA repair itself . If you have Lynch syndrome, you are at increased risk of developing other cancers and it is important for you, your family and your doctors to know about this.
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What Are Cancer Markers
Cancer is also called as a tumor, meaning an abnormal mass or growth of tissue without inflammation. Therefore, blood tests for cancer markers are also called Tumor
Advantages of Getting Blood Tests Done for Tumor Markers are:
Tumor markers are substances present in the blood when you have cancer. But it is not completely diagnostic. Sometimes, these tumor markers may be present in the blood due to certain other diseases. That is why only some tumor markers are considered to be of diagnostic value.
Living With Womb Cancer
Living with cancer is challenging and womb cancer can affect your life in specific ways.
For example, your sex life may be affected if you have a hysterectomy. You may find it physically more difficult to have sex and have a reduced sex drive.
You may find it beneficial to talk to other people about your condition, including family members, your partner, or other people with womb cancer.
Read more about living with womb cancer
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Does Uterine Cancer Spread Quickly
Type 1 cancers, the most common type, dont spread quickly. Type 2 cancers spread quickly and may require more aggressive treatment.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Uterine cancer includes endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma. Its the most common cancer affecting a DFAB persons reproductive system. Uterine cancer symptoms include vaginal bleeding between periods or after menopause. If healthcare providers catch uterine cancer before it spreads, surgery can cure it. If you experience any signs of uterine cancer, contact your healthcare provider.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/11/2022.
Symptoms Of Uterine Cancer
Because the cancer starts inside the uterus, there may be no symptoms initially. When symptoms do arise, they may be indicative of uterine cancer or other conditions, such as endometriosis. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Vaginal bleeding or discharge not related to periods or after menopause.
- Difficult or painful urination.
- Pain in the pelvic area.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Uterine Cancer
Signs of uterine cancer can resemble those of many conditions. Thats especially true of other conditions affecting reproductive organs. If you notice unusual pain, leaking or bleeding, talk to your healthcare provider. An accurate diagnosis is important so you can get the proper treatment.
Symptoms of endometrial cancer or uterine sarcoma include:
- Vaginal bleeding between periods before menopause.
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting postmenopause, even a slight amount.
- Lower abdominal pain or cramping in your pelvis, just below your belly.
- Thin white or clear vaginal discharge if youre postmenopausal.
- Extremely prolonged, heavy or frequent vaginal bleeding if youre older than 40.
Uterine Sarcoma Detection And Diagnosis
Uterine sarcomas are often found during or following a surgical procedure to address what appeared to be benign fibroid tumors. In some cases, they may be diagnosed because of a patients symptoms.
Many of the same methods used to detect and diagnose endometrial cancer are also utilized for detecting uterine sarcoma, including:
- Physical and pelvic exams
- Discussion about symptoms and medical history
- Endometrial tissue sampling
Other kinds of tests may be needed to determine whether uterine sarcoma has spread beyond the uterus. These include:
- Cystoscopy uses a lighted tube, or scope, to determine whether the cancer has reached the bladder.
- Proctoscopy, which also uses a lighted tube, helps determine whether the cancer has reached the rectum.
- Computed tomography scan is a specialized X-ray machine that takes pictures of multiple areas of the body. It may be helpful in determining whether the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body.
- Magnetic resonance imaging uses radio waves and strong magnets to take detailed pictures of the inside of the body and see how deep into the uterus the cancer has grown.
- CT/PET scan starts with injecting radioactive glucose, or sugar, into a vein. The radioactive glucose collects within cancer cells if theyre present, and a scanner identifies them.
- Chest X-ray: This may help determine whether cancer cells have reached the lungs.
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Money And Financial Support
If you have to reduce or stop work because of your cancer, you may find it hard to cope financially. If you have cancer or you are caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to financial support.
- if you have a job but can’t work because of your illness, you’re entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from your employer
- if you don’t have a job and can’t work because of your illness, you may be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance
- if you’re caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to Carer’s Allowance
- you may be eligible for other benefits if you have children living at home, or you have a low household income
Find out what help is available to you early on. You can ask to speak to the social worker at your hospital, who can give you the information you need.
Read further information:
Are Endometrial Cancer And Uterine Cancer The Same
Uterine cancer can refer to either endometrial cancer, uterine sarcoma or other rare forms of cancer that can arise in your uterus. But people often treat the terms endometrial cancer and uterine cancer the same. Thats because endometrial cancers are much more common than other cancers that can form in your uterus.
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Additional Tests Might Be Used To Determine Extent Of A Cancer Diagnosed By The Tests Above:
- CA 125 assay: This blood test measures the level of CA 125 in the blood, a substance released by cells into the bloodstream. An increased CA 125 level is sometimes a sign of cancer or other condition.
- CT scan : A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles may be combined with injection or oral intake of a dye to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly.
- PET scan : A small amount of radioactive glucose is injected into a vein. The PET scanner rotates around the body and makes a picture of where glucose is being used in the body. Malignant tumor cells show up brighter in the picture because they are more active and take up more glucose than normal cells do.
- MRI : This procedure uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
Circulating Tumor Cell Test
A circulating tumor cell test can check for blood biomarkers that show whether normal cells are transforming into cancer cells. CTC tests can help diagnose and screen patients who have a risk of developing cancer, such as a family history of the disease.
CTC tests are helpful in the early detection of cancer as well as monitoring treatment effectiveness over time. The only test currently approved for this purpose is called CellSearch CTC, which offers different prostate, colorectal, and breast cancer assays.
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How Do You Rule Out Endometrial Cancer
The main tests to detect endometrial cancer fall into two categoriesultrasound and endometrial tissue sampling.
Endometrial Cancer Is A Disease In Which Malignant Cells Form In The Tissues Of The Endometrium
The endometrium is the innermost lining of the uterus. The uterus is a hollow, muscular organ in a woman’s pelvis. The uterus is where a fetus grows. In most nonpregnant women, the uterus is about 3 inches long.
Cancer of the endometrium is different from cancer of the muscle of the uterus, which is calleduterine sarcoma. See thePDQ summary on Uterine Sarcoma Treatment for more information.
See the following PDQ summaries for more information about endometrial cancer:
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Surgery For Stage 1 Womb Cancer
If you have stage 1 cancer, you’ll probably have a hysterectomy. This involves removing both ovaries and the fallopian tubes in a procedure called a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy , as well as the uterus .
The surgeon may also take samples from the lymph nodes in the pelvis and abdomen and other nearby tissue. These will be sent to the laboratory to see whether the cancer has spread.
The most common hysterectomy technique involves using one large cut across your tummy to access the womb and remove it.
It’s sometimes possible to use a technique called a laparoscopic hysterectomy, also known as a keyhole hysterectomy. This involves using several small cuts so a special type of telescope and other surgical instruments can be used.
You’ll probably be ready to go home 3 to 5 days after your operation, or less if you had keyhole surgery. But it can take many weeks to recover fully.
After your operation, you’ll be encouraged to start moving about as soon as possible. This is very important, and even if you have to stay in bed you’ll need to keep doing regular leg movements to help your circulation and prevent blood clots. You’ll be shown exercises by the nurses or physiotherapist to help prevent complications.
When you go home, you’ll need to exercise gently to build up your strength and fitness. Discuss with your doctor or physiotherapist which types of exercise would be suitable for you.
Treatment If You Haven’t Been Through The Menopause
Having a hysterectomy means you will no longer be able to get pregnant. Younger women who haven’t already reached the menopause may not want to have their womb and ovaries removed if they wish to have children.
In this case, under very specific circumstances it may be possible to treat the cancer using hormone therapy.
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Tests If You Have Womb Cancer
If you’re diagnosed with womb cancer, you may have further tests to help determine the stage of the cancer. Staging the cancer will allow the doctors to work out how large the cancer is, whether or not it has spread, and the best treatment options for you.
These tests may include:
- a chest X-ray where radiation is used to check if the cancer has spread to the lungs
- magnetic resonance imaging where magnetic fields are used to create a detailed image of the inside of your body to check if the cancer has spread
- a computerised tomography scan where a series of X-rays are used to create a detailed image of the inside of your body to check if the cancer has spread
- further blood tests these are usually done to check your general health and how well some of your organs are functioning
Read treating womb cancer for more information about staging.
How Is Uterine Cancer Treated
Most people with endometrial cancer need surgery. Your particular treatment plan depends on the type of cancer and your overall health. Other treatments you may have include:
- Chemotherapy, which uses powerful drugs to destroy cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy, which sends targeted radiation beams to destroy cancer cells.
- Hormone therapy, which gives hormones or blocks them to treat cancer.
- Immunotherapy, which helps your immune system fight cancer.
- Targeted therapy, which uses medications to target specific cancer cells to stop them from multiplying.
Researchers continue to study more ways to treat endometrial cancer.
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Whats The Survival Rate For People With Uterine Cancer
The five-year survival rate for endometrial cancer is 81%. That means 81% of people diagnosed with the disease are alive five years later. The rate is even higher when cancer is localized and hasnt spread outside the uterus. Then the survival rate reaches as high as 95%. Treatments continue to improve, along with survival rates.
When To Seek Medical Advice
If you have postmenopausal vaginal bleeding, or notice a change in the normal pattern of your period, visit your GP.
Only 1 in 10 cases of unusual vaginal bleeding after the menopause are caused by womb cancer, so it’s unlikely your symptoms will be caused by this condition.
However, if you have unusual vaginal bleeding, it’s important to get the cause of your symptoms investigated. The bleeding may be the result of a number of other potentially serious health conditions, such as:
- endometriosis where tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb is found on the outside of the womb
- fibroids non-cancerous growths that can develop inside the uterus
- polyps in the womb lining
Other types of gynaecological cancer can also cause unusual vaginal bleeding, particularly cervical cancer.
Read further information:
- Macmillan: symptoms of womb cancer
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Stages Of Uterine Cancer
Stage I: Cancer is found in the uterus only.
Stage II: Cancer has spread into the connective tissue of the cervix but beyond the uterus.
Stage III: Cancer has spread beyond the uterus but is confined to the pelvis.
Stage IV: Cancer has spread beyond the pelvis
Recurrent Cancer: This cancer has come back in the pelvis or some other part of the body after treatment.
Staging is very useful in determining the correct treatment.
What Causes Uterine Cancer
Researchers arent sure of the exact cause of uterine cancer. Something happens to create changes in cells in your uterus. The mutated cells grow and multiply out of control, which can form a mass called a tumor.
Certain risk factors can increase the chances youll develop uterine cancer. If youre at high risk, talk to your healthcare provider about steps you can take to protect your health.
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The Risks Of Endometrial Cancer Screening Tests Include The Following:
Finding endometrial cancer may not improve health or help a woman live longer.
Screening may not improve your health or help you live longer if you have advancedendometrial cancer or if it has already spread to other places in your body.
Some cancers never cause symptoms or become life-threatening, but if found by a screening test, the cancer may be treated. It is not known if treatment of these cancers would help you live longer than if no treatment were given, and treatments for cancer may have serious side effects.
False-negative test results can occur.
Screening test results may appear to be normal even though endometrial cancer is present. A woman who receives a false-negative test result may delay seeking medical care even if she has symptoms.
False-positive test results can occur.
Screening test results may appear to be abnormal even though no cancer is present. A false-positive test result can cause anxiety and is usually followed by more tests , which also have risks.
Side effects may be caused by the test itself.
Side effects that may be caused by screening tests for endometrial cancer include:
- Puncture of the uterus .
If you have any questions about your risk for endometrial cancer or the need for screening tests, check with your doctor.
Endometrial Cancer Screening Patient Version
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Screening is looking for cancer before a person has any symptoms. This can help findcancer at an early stage. When abnormaltissue or cancer is found early, it maybe easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may have begunto spread.
Scientists are trying to better understand whichpeople are more likely to get certain types of cancer. They also study the thingswe do and the things around us to see if they cause cancer. Thisinformation helps doctors recommend who should be screened for cancer, whichscreening tests should be used, and how often the tests should be done.
It is important to remember that your doctor does not necessarilythink you have cancer if he or she suggests a screening test. Screeningtests are given when you have no cancer symptoms.
If a screening test result is abnormal, you may need to have more tests done to find out if you have cancer. These are called diagnostic tests.
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