Cancer Blood Tests: 18 Key Lab Tests Used in Cancer Screening

18 Key Lab Tests Used in Cancer Screening. Did you know that every year, an estimated 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer? 

While there are many different types of cancers out there, nearly all forms of the disease can be successfully treated if they’re caught early enough. That’s why diagnostic Cancer Screening is vital to the early detection of cancer. Diagnostic testing is comprised of a variety of blood tests that can alert medical professionals to signs of cancer in your body.

Whether you’re looking to take your health into your own hands or you’re looking to better understand the Cancer Screening your doctor is ordering for you, we’ve created a complete guide to help you better understand the key blood tests that are needed for cancer detection. Keep reading to learn more!

Symptoms of Cancer

 Some types of cancer can develop without showing any symptoms, which is why cancer screening’s are so essential While cancer doesn’t have any specific symptoms, it’s important that you’re aware of the most commonly reported cancer symptoms:

  • A persistent cough
  • Saliva that has a blood-tinged color
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Blood in your stool
  • Unexplained anemia
  • Breast discharge
  • Lump in the breast
  • Lumps in the testicles
  • Change in urination frequency

Risk Factors 

Just as there are many different types of cancers, there are several risk factors that can increase your chances of developing cancer. Some of the risk factors include:

  • Age
  • Tobacco use
  • Radiation exposure
  • Continued exposure to some chemicals
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Family history of cancer
  • Drug abuse
  • Alcoholism 

18 Key Cancer Screening Blood Tests

There are eighteen tests that your medical professional may order if they’re concerned about the possibility of cancer. Here’s what these Cancer Screening tests are and what they’re testing for:

1. CA 15-3 (Cancer antigen 15-3)

CA 15-3 (also referred to as cancer antigen 15-3) is a protein that healthy breast cells produce. In individuals with tumors in their breast, an elevated level of Cancer antigen 15-3 will be produced. While Ca 15-3 doesn’t cause cancer, it’s shed by the cells that the tumor releases and enters into your bloodstream.

A CA 15-3 tests to see if there’s an elevated level of these cells in your blood. 


2. CA 27.29 (Cancer antigen 27.29)

Along with CA 15-2, cancer antigen 27.29 is another Cancer Screening test that’s used to detect breast cancer. As the tumors in the breast shed cells, an elevated level of this protein will be found in the blood. 


3. CA-125 (Cancer antigen 125)

A CA-125 blood test is used both to diagnose and monitor the treatment of specific types of cancer. However, if you haven’t been diagnosed with cancer, your doctor may order a cancer antigen-125 test to see if there’s an elevated level of this protein found in your blood. 

This type of blood test is used to look for the early signs of ovarian cancer in the blood, especially if you’re a woman who is at an increased risk of developing this specific type of cancer. A CA-125 test can also be used to detect endometrial, fallopian tube, and peritoneal cancers. 


4. CA 19-9 (Cancer antigen 19-9)

CA 19-9 is a type of protein that only exists on the surface of specific types of cancer cells. CA 19-9 doesn’t cause cancer, but rather, it is what’s shed from tumor cells. Cancer antigen 19-9 is often used to detect pancreatic cancer. 


5. Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)

AFP is an abbreviation for alpha-fetoprotein, which is a type of protein that’s produced in the liver of a baby that’s developing. Levels of AFP are high in newborn children, but as a person ages, they fall over time.

This protein is used as a cancer marker in a blood test, as healthy adults should have very low levels of AFP in their blood. High levels of AFP found in an adult may occur with cancer of the ovaries, cancer in the testicles, or liver cancer.

While high levels of AFP in an adult aren’t always an indicator of cancer, low levels of AFP also don’t rule out the possibility of cancer. By itself, this test isn’t used to diagnose types of cancer, but when paired with other blood tests, it can help lead medical professionals towards a diagnosis. 


6. Amylase

About 40% of the amylase that’s found in your blood is produced by your pancreas, while your salivary glands create the rest. The purpose of this enzyme is to digest the carbohydrates that you eat. An amylase blood test will measure the effectiveness of the pancreas and salivary glands. If you have pancreatic cancer, there will be an increased level of amylase found in your blood. 


7. Calcitonin

This hormone is created by unique cells that are found in your thyroid, which are referred to as C-cells. Calcitonin is responsible for regulating calcium levels in your blood, which stops your body from breaking down your bones, as well as decreasing your kidney’s reabsorption of any calcium found in your body. 

In medullary thyroid cancer, elevated levels of calcitonin are found. Medullary thyroid cancer is a malignant type of cancer, which is why early diagnostic tests must be completed to ensure that cancer doesn’t spread.


8. CBC

A CBC is also called a complete blood count and is responsible for measuring the three types of cells that are found in your blood. This type of blood test will measure the white blood cell count, the white blood cell differential, platelet count, and the red blood cell count in your body. 

The results from a CBC will help to lead your healthcare provider to an understanding of what type of cancer you could have. A low blood cell count test result could be indicative of bone marrow cancer, multiple myeloma, lymphoma, or leukemia. 


9. CEA (Carcino-embryonic antigen)

CEA is an abbreviation for carcinoembryonic antigen, which is a protein that’s found in the tissues of a developing baby. However, by the time the baby is born, there are extremely low levels of CEA found in the baby. When there are high levels of CEA found in an adult, it’s a cancer market.

While CEA isn’t able to point to a diagnosis of a specific type of cancer, it’s a useful tool to use when evaluating to see if an individual has cancer cells in their body.


10. Chromogranin A (CgA)

Chromogranin A is a type of protein that’s released from neuroendocrine cells, which are responsible for exuding hormones as a response to signals that they receive from the nervous system. This protein is found in organs throughout the entire body and a Chromogranin A blood test measures the total level of CgA found in the bloodstream.

When there’s an elevated level of neuroendocrine cells in the bloodstream, there’s an increased chance of an individual developing both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors. A CgA test is a tool that medical professionals use to detect and diagnose carcinoid and neuroendocrine tumors. 


11. DCP (Des-gamma-carboxy prothrombin)

Des-gamma-carboxy prothrombin is an unnatural form of prothrombin, which is a blood-clotting enzyme that your liver is responsible for producing. The DCP blood test detects if there are tumors in the liver. Positive results for this blood test can let medical professionals know that you potentially have liver cancer. 


12. Fecal Globin by Immunochemistry

Fecal globin by immunochemistry is a screen that tests for lower gastrointestinal bleeding that’s commonly related to colon cancers.


13. Gastrin

Gastrin is a type of hormone that’s created by ‘G-cells’ in the antrum section of the stomach. This hormone is responsible for producing acid to help your stomach digest food. 

Gastrinomas are gastrin-producing tumors. Gastrinomas are typically created in the pancreas, even though endocrine cells are not involved in the production of healthy gastrin cells. The majority of gastrin cells are malignant, which means that they’re cancerous cells, and they can spread around the rest of your body. If there’s a large amount of gastrin measured in your blood test, it’s a sign that your pancreas is developing gastrinomas cells, and there’s a potential that a gastrin-producing tumor is in your body.  


14. HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin)

Human Chorionic Gonadotropic is often referred to as the pregnancy hormone, as it’s mainly comprised of cells that are found in the placenta. However, hCG is also a cancer marker for germ cell origin and trophoblastic tumors. Some forms of cancer and tumors produce hCG, such as germ cell tumors in the cells that produce eggs in the ovaries and the cells that make sperm in the testicles.


15. Protein, Total and Protein Electrophoresis

Proteins are the building blocks for our tissues and cells. They’re what make up the majority of our organs, hormones, and the enzymes in our body that regular other functions in our bodies. Discovering any absent proteins, elevated protein levels, or decreased protein levels can help medical professionals to diagnose types of cancer. Some types of cancer affect protein production and the loss of protein cells, which is detectable with a protein electrophoresis test


16. Thyroglobulin

The thyroglobulin blood test measures the level of thyroglobulin that’s found in your blood. Thyroglobulin is a type of protein that’s developed by cells that are located in the thyroid. Elevated levels of thyroglobulin in the blood identify the possibility that cancerous thyroid cells are producing thyroglobulin.

Your doctor will order this blood test is they suspect that you have thyroid cancer (or to rule out if you have thyroid cancer). 


17. Lactate dehydrogenase (LD, LDH)

lactate dehydrogenase (often referred to as LD or LDH) is a type of enzyme that’s involved in your body’s ability to generate energy. The highest concentration of LDH will be found in the cells of your liver, heart, kidney,s lungs, muscles, and in your blood cells.

Through a blood test, only a small portion of LDH can be found in your cells. Typically, LD is released from your cells when they’re damaged or they’re being destroyed. An LD blood test helps identify if there’s any tissue damage in your body.

While this blood test doesn’t identify the location or the cause of this damage, it can be used with other blood tests to determine the cause of the tissue damage, such as cancer. 


18. PSA (Prostate-specific antigen) 

Prostate-specific antigen (also called PSA) is a protein that’s produced by both healthy and cancerous cells in the prostate gland. A PSA blood test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen that’s available in a man’s blood. 

If the PSA levels in the test results are elevated, it’s often a sign that the man has prostate cancer and be used as a tool to diagnose the disease. However, prostate cancer isn’t the only reason why PSA levels would rise in a man’s blood results.

A large collection of benign health conditions can cause an increase in PSA levels. Inflammation in the prostate and enlargement of the prostate can cause PSA levels to be elevated in test results. Both of the conditions haven’t been linked to the development of cancer, although it is possible for an individual to has an inflamed or an enlarged prostate and not have prostate cancer.

Early Cancer Screening Detection Is Life Saving 

Cancer Screening blood tests can help to detect cancer cells in your body earlier before symptoms may arise. Some diseases or conditions develop over time and produce no symptoms. Generally, the earlier a medical condition is detected and diagnosed, the better the chances of successful treatment.

If you have a family history, you’re concerned about a sign or set of symptoms that you’ve recently started experiencing, or you would like to have peace of mind, order your tests today, it may save your life.

We offer these Cancer Screening blood tests as part of our selection of 1,500 lab tests, and we provide explanations on each biomarker. You can select your lab tests, order directly online, choose a convenient patient service center near you, and review your test results typically in 1 to 2 days after your blood is collected.  

Order your lab tests directly to start taking control of your health today.