You may have a CA 125 test for several reasons:
To monitor cancer treatment. If you have ovarian, endometrial, peritoneal or fallopian tube cancer, your doctor may recommend a CA 125 test on a regular basis to monitor your condition and treatment.
But such monitoring hasn't been shown to improve the outcome for women with ovarian cancer, and it might lead to additional and unnecessary rounds of chemotherapy or other treatments.
To screen for ovarian cancer if you're at high risk. If you have a strong family history of ovarian cancer or you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, your doctor may recommend a CA 125 test as one way to screen for ovarian cancer.
Some doctors may recommend CA 125 testing combined with transvaginal ultrasound every six months for women at very high risk.
However, some women with ovarian cancer may not have an increased CA 125 level. And no evidence shows that screening women with CA 125 decreases the chance of dying of ovarian cancer. An elevated level of CA 125 could prompt your doctor to put you through unnecessary and possibly harmful tests.
- To check for cancer recurrence. Rising CA 125 levels may indicate that ovarian cancer has come back after treatment. Regular monitoring of CA 125 has not been shown to improve outcomes for women with ovarian cancer and may lead to additional and unnecessary rounds of chemotherapy or other treatments.
If your doctor suspects you may have ovarian cancer or another type of cancer, he or she may recommend a biopsy to collect a sample of cells. Other tests that may be helpful in evaluating these cancers include a transvaginal or pelvic ultrasound and computerized tomography (CT).
April 14, 2014
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- Tumor markers: Questions and answers. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/detection/tumor-markers. Accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
- Cancer antigen 125 (CA 125), serum. Mayo Medical Laboratories. http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Clinical+and+Interpretive/9289. Accessed Dec. 11, 2013.
- Moyer VA, et al. Screening for ovarian cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reaffirmation recommendation statement. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2012;157:900.
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- Genetic/familial high-risk assessment: Breast and ovarian. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Dec. 3, 2013.
- Ovarian cancer including fallopian tube cancer and primary peritoneal cancer. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Dec. 3, 2013.