Cancer antigen 125 (CA-125) is a protein present on the surface of most ovarian cancer cells. This makes the test helpful as a cancer marker in particular circumstances. A CA-125 test measures the amount of cancer antigen 125 in the blood. An increased CA-125 level might be an indication of ovarian cancer. The ovary is the female reproductive glands that store female reproductive cells (ova) and produce female hormones. Ovarian cancer occurs when there is an abnormal cell growth in the ovary, forming a tumor. Significant elevated levels in CA-125 may be present in the bloodstream of a woman having ovarian cancer. Therefore this test can be helpful in determining the effectiveness of the treatment. The CA-125 test is not recommended as a screening test for women at low risk of this disease because it is non-specific. High CA-125 concentration can be a sign of other conditions besides ovarian cancer. Normal tissues produce small quantities of CA-125 throughout the body and some by cancers.
Doctors recommend a CA-125 test for various purposes:
A CA-125 test is performed to monitor the progression of ovarian cancer. The test is used as a baseline to compare against future measurements. A fall in CA-125 levels during and after treatment may indicate that treatment is running successfully. After the treatment for ovarian cancer, this test may be ordered for several years to ensure the disease was treated fruitfully.
A woman may also need this test if there is any risk of developing ovarian cancer. The risk may be higher if a woman has:
A technician or health care provider will insert a needle in the arm’s vein in order to collect the blood sample. A small quantity of blood is collected in a test tube/vial and sent to the laboratory for evaluation. The process doesn’t take more than five minutes. The person may feel a slight sting at the site where the needle goes in and out.
CA-125 is a normal blood test that does not require any special preparation. The individual can normally eat and drink before the test.
Usually, there is no or significantly less risk associated with blood tests. However, common risks may include:
If a woman is undergoing ovarian cancer treatment, she will be tested several times throughout the treatment.
1. If the CA-125 levels are initially high and fall drastically during the therapy, it may indicate that cancer is positively responding to the treatment.
2. If the CA-125 levels go up and stay the same, it may indicate that cancer does not respond to the treatment.
3. After the completion of treatment, if there is a rise in CA-125 levels, this means there is a possibility that cancer has come back.
If someone is not being treated for ovarian cancer and experiencing high CA-125 levels in their blood, it can be a sign of cancer. However, it may also indicate a sign of a non-cancerous condition such as:
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