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Breast Cancer/Breast Cancer Tumor Markers

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Hello Dr Nordquist,

I would very much like your opinion on the use of breast cancer tumor marker tests. I find them to be so extremely stressful to go through, for results that - from what I have heard, are not reliable - I wonder if it's worth putting myself through the stress.
My tumor marker was a 6 after I finished all my treatment, but has gone up over the last year and a half to a 21. At first I did not know my oncologist was testing my marker, and when I found out I plummeted into a very deep despair and depression. Even though they were still within 'normal' range, the consecutive increases have me terrified. I find myself convincing myself my cancer is back and it has spread and it is going to kill me. That kind of self talk is so detrimental to survivor ship. I don't know that they are worth the mental stress.
Can you please give me  your opinion? I was just feeling stronger, physically and mentally and my oncologist wants me to do a test. I don't know if I can.
Thank you so much for your time
C

Answer
You and I are in the same position. You due to breast cancer and I due to prostate cancer for which I had radiation therapy. In my case the marker is PSA. Yes tumor markers are nott fully reliable especially in primary tumor diagnostics. But that is not the case here. Here it is following the result of treatment. Also here it works best if its level was known before treatment and if it was increased at that time. As it was in my case. If it then drops - best if to 0 - after treatment it is a good sign. That also happened in my case. After that you follow the level regularly to see if there is any increase which may be a sign that the cancer has returned. So even if the procedure may not have been ideal in your case I still think that your level(s) should be tested since otherwise there is not much to work with even if I do understand the nervous stress this will cause you! Good luck!


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Claes-Gustaf Nordquist, M.D.

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I`m a doctor of medicine and a specialist in radiation therapy and medical oncology. I have long experience in diagnostics and treatment of breast tumours.

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I'm a Doctor of Medicine and specialist in Medical Oncology and Radiation Therapy educated & trained in Sweden. Now retired. Background in Radiation Therapy, Medical Oncology, Radiation Protection, Nuclear Medicine, Diagnostic Radiology, Gynecological Oncology, Clinical Pathology, Clinical Cytology,Hematology and Internal Medicine. M.D. from the faculty of medicine, Royal Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. Have also been an exchange student at the Hebrew University, Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem Israel. Former medical consultant, Swedish National Board of Radiation Protection. Former Police Surgeon and Medical Examiner, Stockholm Police Department. Former Chief Medical Officer, The Royal Guards, The Royal Horse Guards and the Royal Household Brigade, Royal Swedish Army Medical Corps.You can also reach me on: http://www.lifestylerescue.com/expert/health-fitness-advice/dr-claes-gustaf/128 I have no restrictions on the number of questions there.

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I'm a medical doctor and specialist in medical oncology and radiation therapy.

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