• How reliable is the CA27.29 Blood Test in detecting Cancer Recurrence

    Asked by NervousNellie on Friday, May 10, 2019

    How reliable is the CA27.29 Blood Test in detecting Cancer Recurrence

    I am a 65 yr. old TNBC, BRCA 1&2 negative 5 yrs. this June survivor. Mom died of breast cancer in her 40's. 6 months ago my Oncologist decided to use the CA27.29 which came back as 41. On 5/7/2019 it came back 12 points higher at 53. Prior to the CA27.29 CEA and CA15-3 were normal. Oncologist wants to repeat CA27.29 in 1 month. I am beside myself with worry. Should I be?

    17 Answers from the Community

    17 answers
    • carm's Avatar
      carm

      Hello, I am an oncology nurse and the CA 27.29 is slightly more accurate than the CA 15.3. However markers are markers and it's not impossible to be off at times. It's always the scans that tell the story. Best ofluck to you

      about 1 month ago
    • lujos' Avatar
      lujos

      Just as a contrast, my onc won’t test for markers because she believes they are just too inaccurate

      about 1 month ago
    • Morwen's Avatar
      Morwen

      I hope things go well for you.

      about 1 month ago
    • Fight4Life's Avatar
      Fight4Life

      Hi NervousNellie,
      I was Dx with TNBC a year ago & I requested my naturopath test my markers as my local & MSK oncologists would not monitor markers as per the ACS' recommendation. After my double mastectomy my CA 27.29 was 20. Over the course of 3 months following it rose to 49. I had a bone scan, CT, & PET scan yesterday & there is "concern" of metastatic disease on my rib. It is disturbing that a lot of oncs ignore the markers when they can be indicative of recurrence in some patients. I've been told that finding metastatic disease early does not improve overall survival which regardless in my opinion these markers should be considered additional data points to decide tx options while navigating through this awful disease. Perhaps the lack of testing markers attributes to the dismal OS & undergoing tx sooner rather than later would improve these stats. I'm currently on Xeloda & minimally if it's not working I will stop ingesting these toxins. So as I await my scan results & impending rib biopsy, I pray that these markers are "inaccurate" & this "suspicious" spot on my rib is a false positive.

      about 1 month ago
    • Carool's Avatar
      Carool

      NervousNellie, Sloan-Kettering stopped testing breast cancer blood markers many years ago, as the tests were unreliable. I haven’t been in treatment for many, many years, so I can’t say for sure that MSK hasn’t resumed testing. When I was having chemo (20 years ago), markers were still being tested for, and my markers rose. My oncologist ordered a bone scan and a CT-scan (of everything but my head). Both tests came back negative for any cancers, even though my markers had risen. And I knew someone who was diagnosed with breast cancer, had the marker bloodwork done before surgery, and the marker came back showing no sign of cancer.

      Wishing you everything good -

      about 1 month ago
    • Carool's Avatar
      Carool

      I now see, from what Fight4Life wrote, that MSK still doesn’t test for markers. I know that many other excellent cancer hospitals don’t test, either.

      about 1 month ago
    • Kp2018's Avatar
      Kp2018

      I truly feel for you. If there isn't already enough to be traumatized about, starting with initial diagnosis, continuing through treatment, and then persisting in the worries about recurrence forever thereafter, then you have your concerns escalated by tumor marker test results. God, how much can you take?!!

      To me, since there is no actionable treatment that can be initiated based on CA27.29 levels, it seems pointless, even cruel, to have the test unless the purpose is to monitor ongoing treatment. But, that is only my humble opinion as a tnbc survivor and worrier (not warrior).

      Michigan's Karmanos Cancer Institute does NOT test for markers. My oncologist stated that recurrence would be manifested in physical examination and patient reports of symptoms about the same time as marker test results or scans, so the results of the latter would not provide an advantage for earlier treatment.

      I am so sorry that this is causing you so much more anxiety than just being a tnbc survivor causes. Since these results have been so frightening, have you been offered scans to test the validity of the results? Might not be a bad idea. Just sayin'.

      about 1 month ago
    • Kp2018's Avatar
      Kp2018

      I'd like to add something. The CA27.29 is just a number, and a somewhat unreliable one at that.

      How are you doing as a person? I'm sure you go through the symptom checklist during every follow up visit, but if you can scan yourself and find no difficulties related to your lungs (coughing, shortness of breath), bones (pain), brain (dizziness, balance problems, headaches), lymph nodes, maybe you can relax a bit. You're nearly to the 5 year mark, so your statistical probability of recurrence is lower than it's ever been.

      Hope this helps.

      about 1 month ago
    • gpgirl70's Avatar
      gpgirl70

      My mom and I have the same oncologist and I do not get tests for any markers. My mom is stage IV and has marker tests to validate whether meds are keeping tumors in check. Good news is my mom is now in her 12th year since stage IV diagnosis. I hope your biopsy shows no cancer.

      about 1 month ago
    • BarbarainBham's Avatar
      BarbarainBham

      It would be interesting to know what the CA27-29 actually is measuring, which is so inaccurate. My breast cancer was back in 2002 when they were still routinely doing the markers. Mine was always elevated. My oncologist told me to disregard it, as he thought mine just ran high since I had no other indications---In 17 years, I've never had a recurrence, and my original tumor was very tiny. I don't even remember if they still do it with my long list of bloodwork, i.e., DISREGARD.

      about 1 month ago
    • Lorie's Avatar
      Lorie

      BB, congrats on all the good years. Always wonderful to hear that can and does happen.
      NN, hopefully some of your fears put to rest. Now I'm wondering why my oncologist even does the markers.

      Anyone..... pardon my lack of knowledge in this area but are any others tests done or is CA27.29 Blood Test sole reason for the blood draws during routine visits? Lorie

      about 1 month ago
    • MLT's Avatar
      MLT

      Scans would be more reliable in looking for progression. Most Drs only do them if you have symptoms. Breathe deeply, it is hard to deal with!

      about 1 month ago
    • happydyad's Avatar
      happydyad

      It is my understanding that Cancer marker testing is only approved by the FDA for use in evaluating the efficacy of treatment in metastatic disease. I get my markers tested every 6 months or so to stay familiar with what mine are “normally” (is there any such thing in cancer?) and how they change. Last Spring my markers were higher than usual. I had them re-checked 6 week’s later on advice of my oncologists. They had substantially dropped. The only thing I could identify which would have caused the high reading was that I got the blood test on my way home from a micro-needling appointment. (I won’t do that again!) Nonetheless it appears to me that inflammation in any part of the body can cause an elevated test result. Good luck with your journey and the struggle to stay calm which is a struggle all of us know too well. Hugs & Prayers! Judy in KY

      about 1 month ago
    • BarbarainBham's Avatar
      BarbarainBham

      Like Happydyad, when I searched it the other day, it said that other medical conditions could elevate marker results. I didn't have time then, but the most accurate info would come from searching NIH National Cancer Institute or MayoClinic.com sites.

      Lorie, my oncologist does a long list of labs that includes WBC, RBC, etc. They can tell many things from changes in your blood values, such as if you're anemic from your chemo, etc. I've always asked for a copy of my lab results when I leave doctor's appointments, which is the only way to know what your doctor checks and what your results are.

      about 1 month ago
    • happydyad's Avatar
      happydyad

      Today I had my annual thermography scan. I do that annually and also if I have a “scare”. It gives me comfort to be able to get this alternative view of what’s going on in my body. I am mentioning it because the original question in this thread was about monitoring for cancer recurrence. Thermography is another option for checking yourself. There is no definitive test short of a biopsy but you can layer the “soft” findings from whichever tests you have access to: cancer markers, thermography scans, blood work, bone scans, and MRI’s. You can at least get a sense of where you are. The fear of recurrence causes so much anxiety for all of us. Hugs & prayers, Judy in Ky

      about 1 month ago
    • Lorie's Avatar
      Lorie

      TX. I watched video about the thermography and was surprised about the two studies came out about not so good after effects of mammography with the radiation and the smashogram effect possibly spreading the cells.

      about 1 month ago
    • Stickit2stage4's Avatar
      Stickit2stage4

      Hi NervousNellie - I completely understand. I am Metastatic - 6 yrs this August. My Oncologist has me do markers every 30 days - CA 27.29 and CEA. Ever since I started Ibrance/Faslodex three yrs ago my CA 27.29 has been literally all over the place. For example, last month it was 58.3 (my hospital's lab has a standard high range of 40). Today it came back at 44. When this started happening, my anxiety was off the charts. When she told me that if and when the CA 27.29 doubles (80 or higher) at that point she will get concerned. Until then, as long as the CEA is within the normal ranges, not to worry. I know everyone is different, but I hope this helps a little.

      about 1 month ago

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