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Ovarian cancer level
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Ovarian cancer level

My mother was just told that her ovarian cancer level is 850. Please tell me how bad this is?

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Dear Kevin
thank you for you question.
An isolated lab value is not enough information.
What I need to know is:
has she had surgery?
what was the stage of her cancer?
what was the grade?
did she have chemotherapy?
has the cancer returned after chemotherapy? if so, when?

It is all of these pieces of information that allow us to sort out prognosis and risk of recurrence.

CA 125 is a blood test that measures a protein. This protein is called an oncofetal protein which means it comes from tissue normally in the fetus and during the development of the fetus before birth

once all a person's tissues and organs are developed these oncofetal proteins can be detected in the blood  in small numbers normally. Certain conditions such as cancer or inflammation or other breakdowns in the body cause a release of more of this protein.

So in the case of CA 125. This protein comes from the lining of the abdomen and the tissue that makes up the female upper genital tract (uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries)
You can see elevations of CA 125 when a woman is pregnant, during  a period, if there is a fibroid or a benign condition called endometriosis - all normal, benign conditions.

In cancers of the ovary, some of the cancers produce alot of this protein and it is a way of tracking if therapy is working.
The absolute value is not important and does not correlate per se with the amount of cancer or with prognosis.

For instance some women's cancers make only a little of this protein and their level never goes above 25 even if they have a stage 4 cancer.
Other ovarian cancers produce alot of this protein and they have levels of 5000.

What is important for prognosis - that is risk of the cancer coming back in the first 2 years after diagnosis include the following:

1-The extent of the cancer - that is stage
2-the behavior of the cancer, how fast is it growing - that is grade
3- the ability to optimally resect the cancer surgically
4- the ability of chemotherapy that is given after surgery to reduce to nondetectable the CA 125 and any sign of cancer seen on xrays
5- age. women over 55 are at higher risk for cancers that come back quickly compared to younger women

best wishes
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