tumour markers?

Hi. Have been reading post on this site with lots of interest and realise I am woefully ignorant about just about everything really. Have seen people talk about tumour markers and wondered if someone would tell me what these are.

I am about to have a full CT scan to check whether the tumour in my breast has responded to the letrozole I have been taking and whether there is any change in the spread in my bones. If there is no response I think I will be offerred chemotherapy.

Does the scan I am going to have in some way mark how extensive the cancer is?

Any thoughts or info gratefully received.


Hi Julie

Sorry to hear of your dx, I was dx with my secondaries couple of weeks after primary, its one hell of a shock. But 2 and half years down the line doing well.

I’m also taking letrozle (18 months, Tamoxifen before that) and bondrant for bone and so far so good. Keeping fingers crossed you have the same response.

Tumour markers are a blood test, CA15, I think its called. My oncologist uses the results to help monitor cancer activity. She also always asks how I am feeling and takes this into account as well. Not all oncs use them as they can be unreliable, but mine have been a good indicator when cancer has become active. Last time she changed my treatment from Tamoxifen and since then my level has steadily dropped and everything is stable.

My CT scan shows my cancer in bone, it actually picked it up when bone scan didnt at original dx.

I hope this helps a little, I’m sure there will be someone along with abit more information for you.

Good luck with your scan, keep us posted.

Take care Lynne

Hi Julie, I had a similar path to being diagnosed, it’s in my profile but my hip fractured…all this happened in 2003. I have tumour markers too, CA15-3 markers, every 3 weeks.
Mine have been a reliable indication as to how a treatment is working. I had 5 years of hormonal treatments and had years of remission with them. Currently on my first chemo and I’m again in remission…hope this helps…x

Hi Julie, I have tumour markers in my bloods both CEA and CA125. But not everyone has tumour markers in their bloods…or so I have been told. When I have been having my chemo they check the markers and they look to see if the markers are going down which gives an indication that the chemo is working. When not on chemo, they also keep an eye on my markers and often when I am not feeling so good and have what is known as " breakthrough pain" the markers are often rising. But they cannot go by markers alone and how you are feeling and other things have to be taken into consideration. But as I have said not everyone has these tumour markers showing in their bloods…but I don’t know why really. Ask your hospital doctor or BC Nurse next time you are there, or phone if you are concerned.I find that GPs generally do not have enough knowledge about the subject. Love Val X

Thank you Lynne Val and Belinda this is really helpful.

I will ask my onc about this when I see her next week. The only blood tests I have been having is just before they give the zometa drip. I did ask how they would know the treatment was working and I was told a lot would depend on how I was feeling which seemed not very scientific to me but makes a bit more sense now.

At the moment I am not in any pain apart from when my leg protests because I have been on it too much.

I agree with you Val entirely about GP’s they are very good at what they do but are competely out of their depth where this is concerned.

Thanks again for helping me out with this.