Cancer is not diagnosed by blood tests alone. As well as finding out how well organs in the body are working, you may be tested for a cancer marker. Markers are chemical substances that can show up in the blood of patients with some types of cancer.
There are two markers that some pancreatic cancers may produce – CEA and CA19-9. Serum CA 19-9 is more commonly used and is considered to be elevated when its value is greater than 37 U/mL (Units per millilitre)
What does the CA 19-9 test measure?
The CA 19-9 is a simple blood test that measures the level of antigens (substances that cause the immune system to make a specific immune response) in the blood serum of a person with pancreatic cancer. CA 19-9 antigens are the substances released by pancreatic tumor cells.
The normal range of CA 19-9 in the blood of a healthy individual is 0-37 U/mL (Units per milliliter).
CA 19-9 associated antigen levels are elevated in the blood of many patients with pancreatic cancer.
NOT EVERY PATIENT WITH PANCREATIC CANCER WILL HAVE ELEVATED CA19-9
There are also some non-cancerous conditions that cause a high level of CA19-9 which is why it is not particularly useful as a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer.
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Information Product No. PCA0011 v1 | Published: 05/01/2013 | Last Updated: 29/02/2016 | Next Review Due: 05/01/2016