Significance of high levels of tumor markers in metastatic?


Question from DorothyB: What is the significance of high levels of tumor markers like CEA and CA in metastatic breast cancer, and whether they increase in these patients?
Answers - Eric Winer, M.D. The absolute level, i.e., the specific number, is not terribly important; what is important is how these change over time. For many but not all women, tumor markers like CA2729 and CEA will increase when the cancer gets worse, and decrease as the cancer is responding to therapy. However, when we talk about decreases and increases, we're talking about decreases or increases of 50-100% of the value, so very minor fluctuations should be ignored. And early on, when one is starting a treatment, tumor marker levels can go up even when a patient is responding to treatment, so this is not something that should be looked at closely when a woman is starting treatment. There's always a temptation to pay too much attention to numbers and not enough attention to how a woman feels.

On Wednesday, December 15, 2010, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Updates from the 2010 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. Eric Winer, M.D. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about the latest updates on breast cancer risk, screening, and treatment in early and metastatic breast cancer.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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