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CA-125 test

A CA-125 test measures the amount of the cancer antigen 125 (CA-125) in a person’s blood. CA-125 is a protein that is a biomarker or tumor marker. It is found in greater concentration in cancer cells, particularly ovarian cancer cells.

Cancer types that can cause higher than normal levels of CA-125 include:

The CA-125 test helps doctors:

  • Monitor ovarian cancer and other cancers to determine if they are responding to treatment
  • Monitor patients with ovarian and other cancers post-treatment to check for cancer recurrence
  • To an extent, screen for ovarian cancer in women who are at high risk for developing the disease

For the test, a nurse or other clinician obtains a sample of the patient’s blood. A sample of fluid taken from the chest or abdomen can be used instead of the blood. The sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis to determine if the level of CA-125 is abnormal.

Normal levels of CA-125 tend to be less than 35 units per milliliter, but laboratories do vary with what they consider a normal range.

Patients who have previously treated for ovarian cancer that have elevated CA-125 levels may have a cancer recurrence. However, additional testing and surgery (in some cases) is necessary to confirm a recurrence.

It’s important to note, conditions other than cancer can cause higher levels of CA-125, including:

  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Lupus
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • The first trimester of a pregnancy
  • Menstruation

Additionally, cancer medications, recent abdominal surgery or radioactive scans can alter CA-125 levels.

Seek a specialist for gynecologic cancer

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Here, you’ll find quick checklists of common symptoms, ways to prevent or detect gynecologic cancer early, and ways to take charge of your care if you are diagnosed with the disease.

An accurate cancer diagnosis

accurate cancer diagnosis

Our team of cancer experts uses advanced, minimally invasive diagnostic technology to detect cancerous cells anywhere in the body.

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