CA 19-9 levels that are elevated are frequently associated with pancreatic cancer. However, excessive levels can occasionally signal other forms of cancer or certain noncancerous illnesses, such as cirrhosis and gallstones. Because high levels of CA 19-9 can indicate a variety of conditions, the test is not used to screen for or diagnose cancer. Rather, it is administered after a patient has been diagnosed with cancer to help determine whether the disease is likely to be responding to treatment and whether further testing is needed.
The sensitivity of CA 19-9 for detecting pancreatic cancer is low (about 35%). It may also be increased in patients with biliary tract cancers, lymphomas, and colon cancer. So although an elevated level of this marker is helpful in identifying patients with pancreatic cancer, it cannot be used alone to make this diagnosis.
In addition to measuring CA 19-9 levels, doctors also use computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to look for signs of pancreatic cancer. These tests may show changes in the pancreas prior to any symptoms appearing. Sometimes special stains on tissue samples taken during surgery can identify cancer cells. Tumor markers such as CA 19-9 are also used to monitor how well pancreatic cancer is responding to treatment.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Although it is the fourth most common form of cancer, it accounts for only about 4% of all cases.
If you do not have cancer and your CA 19-9 levels are higher than usual, it might be an indication of one of the following noncancerous disorders: A noncancerous enlargement of the pancreas is known as pancreatitis. Gallstones can cause pain around the stomach area and nausea but should not raise the level of CA 19-9.
Other conditions that can increase CA 19-9 levels include liver disease, heart failure, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal problems, urinary tract problems, blood diseases, and rheumatoid arthritis. Cancer does not always raise CA 19-9 levels. If your CA 19-9 levels are high but no other tests show any evidence of cancer, then it could be due to one of the above conditions or even a new pregnancy. Your doctor will take all factors into account when making a diagnosis of cancer.
CA 19-9 is a tumor marker that has been linked to pancreatic cancer. CA 19-9 levels should be between 0 to 37 U/mL (units/milliliter), although persons with pancreatic cancer frequently have greater levels. Elevated CA 19-9 levels may be found in other conditions as well, such as inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, and thyroid disorders.
The normal range for this test is 0 to 37 U/mL. If your level is higher than this, further testing is needed to determine if you have pancreatic cancer.
You can get this test after surgery has been done to remove part or all of the pancreas. The surgeon will take a sample of tissue from the pancreas and send it to a laboratory for analysis. Tumor markers like CA 19-9 are also used to monitor treatment success.
During follow up visits after surgery, your doctor will check your CA 19-9 levels and look at images of your chest cavity and abdomen taken using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scans. These tests can detect small tumors that may not show up on x-rays.
If your CA 19-9 levels remain high after surgery, this may indicate that you have cancer recurrence.
In symptomatic individuals, a high blood CA 19-9 level has a sensitivity of 79–81 percent and a specificity of 82–95 percent for identifying pancreatic cancer. The test can also identify other conditions that may cause symptoms such as bile duct disease, stomach or intestinal cancers, lymphoma, leukemia, or hepatitis.
CA 19-9 is found in higher levels than normal in people with pancreatitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, liver disease, gallstones, kidney disease, and some other types of cancer. It is not used to screen for pancreatic cancer because it does not help find the disease early when it can be treated successfully.
People with chronic pain, fatigue, weight loss, or other problems not caused by disease should not have their status through laboratory tests, such as CA 19-9, determined solely on the basis of their symptoms. These tests are called "diagnostic" because they try to determine if there is a problem by looking at markers in the blood or urine that are associated with certain diseases. A person who has one of these problems but does not have the disease itself would like to know so that appropriate treatment can be provided.
Here are some possible interpretations of your results: You may not have cancer if your CA 19-9 level is less than 37 U/mL. If your CA 19-9 level is more than 37 U/mL, you may have pancreatic, liver, gallbladder, lung, colon, or stomach cancer. Other diseases can also cause high levels of CA 19-9.
CA 19-9 is a protein that doctors use to check for cancer. It may also be used to check for cancer after surgery, during treatment, and sometimes even after you have gone into remission. For example, it is often checked after surgery to make sure no cancer cells were left behind.
Doctors usually talk about the level of CA 19-9 in ug/L (micrograms per liter). They want to know how much of this protein is in your blood.
Sometimes people who have cancer produce too many proteins. One of these extra proteins is called CA 19-9. So even though your test shows only one number, it's helping doctors understand how much of this protein is in your body at any given time.
High levels of CA 19-9 may mean that you have cancer. It is important to read all labels on food items to avoid contamination by chemicals known as plasticizers.
CA 19-9 does not cause cancer; rather, it is released by tumor cells and may be discovered in blood and, in rare cases, other bodily fluids by laboratory testing. The level of CA19-9 is determined by this test. Because CA 19-9 can be tested in blood, it can be used as a tumor marker to track the progression of cancer. A rising level of CA 19-9 may indicate that more cancer is developing even if the patient shows no symptoms of disease.
High levels of CA 19-9 may indicate the presence of pancreatic cancer. It may also be found at high levels with certain types of cancers such as colon cancer, ovarian cancer, liver cancer, and lung cancer. Monitoring the level of CA 19-9 may help doctors determine whether these diseases are progressing or responding to treatment.
Low levels of CA 19-9 may indicate the absence of pancreatic cancer or another type of cancer for which the marker was being tested.
Increased levels of CA 19-9 may indicate cancer growth within the pancreas or metastasis (spread) of pancreatic cancer to other parts of the body. Cancer that has spread to other parts of the body requires different treatments than cancer that remains within the pancreas. Metastatic pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult cancers to treat because there are few options available. In addition, the disease is likely to have become resistant to many therapies.
If your CA 19-9 level is greater than normal but less than 75 U/mL, you may have a pancreatic infection, a gallbladder infection, liver illness, gallstones, or cystic fibrosis. If it's higher than 75 U/mL, you probably have cancer.
The CA 19-9 test measures the amount of CA 19-9 protein in your blood. This protein may come from any of your organs (such as your pancreas, stomach, or intestines) that make proteins. With cancer, these organs may be damaged and not able to produce as much CA 19-9 protein.
Your doctor will know which organ is responsible for your high CA 19-9 level by doing more tests. He or she may also do other tests to find out if you have cancer.
CA 19-9 levels are usually measured by laboratories using immunoassays. Your doctor may ask you to give blood samples over time so he or she can see how your levels change. You may also be asked to give urine samples so doctors can check for CA 19-9 coming from your kidneys.
High levels of this protein in your blood may mean that you have cancer. However, this test cannot tell us exactly where the cancer is located. Only a biopsy can do that.