Tumor Marker Tests: Guiding the Path to Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Early detection of tumors is crucial for effective cancer management. Tumor marker tests are indicators used to diagnose cancer, determine its type, and monitor treatment effectiveness.

In this article, we will explore different types of them and their specific applications for each organ of the body.

Different types of Tumor markers

Table of contents

  1.  What Do Tumor Markers Mean?
  2.  What Are the Main Types of Tumor Markers?
    1. Circulating Tumor Markers
    2. Tumor Tissue Markers
  3.  What Are Tumor Marker Tests?

What Do Tumor Markers Mean?

Tumor markers, also known as biomarkers, are substances present in blood, urine, or body tissue.

Cell samples taken from a tumor during a biopsy contain additional tumor markers.

They encompass proteins produced by both healthy cells and cancer cells in the body, as well as mutations, changes, or patterns in the DNA of a tumor. 

Tumor marker tests are utilized by doctors to determine the presence of cancer and gain further insight into the specific characteristics of the cancer. 

These tests aid in treatment planning and provide valuable information about the disease.

What Are the Main Types of Tumor Markers?

Tumor markers can be broadly categorized into two main types: circulating tumor markers and tumor tissue markers.

Circulating Tumor Markers

Some cancer patients have circulating tumor markers in their blood, urine, stool, bone marrow, saliva, or other body fluids. They are utilized for:

  • evaluate the prognosis
  • Identify the cancer’s stage
  • Identifying cancer that has reappeared or that is leftover after therapy. 
  • Determine how effectively a treatment is functioning.
  • Check to see if the medication is no longer effective.

Tumor Tissue Markers

Tumor tissue or cell markers are detected in a sample of the tumor taken out during a biopsy. They are used for:

  • Identify and categorize cancer.
  • Evaluate the prognosis.
  • Choose a suitable course of treatment (such as targeted therapy).

What Are Tumor Marker Tests?

Tumor marker tests can be specific to a particular type of cancer, while others may be associated with multiple types of cancer.

It’s important to note that elevated levels of biomarkers can sometimes be a sign of noncancerous conditions as well. 

The evaluation of tumor biomarkers can be done through blood tests, where the levels of specific markers are measured.

The following table shows tumor marker tests and the diagnosis of various types of cancer:

Tumor marker


abbreviation Diagnosis 

(Type of cancer)







Liver cancer

Germ cell   cancers 

(Testicular and Ovarian cancers)

cirrhosis and hepatitis

Beta-2 Microglobulin 

B2 M leukemia



Kidney diseases

Beta-human chorionic gonadotropin

β-HCG Colon cancer

breast cancer 

Bladder cancer

lung cancer

prostate cancer

Metastatic cancer




…… Medullary thyroid cancer.


CarcinoEmbryonic Antigen 

CEA Colon cancer

Breast cancer 

Pancreatic cancer 

thyroid cancer

Lung cancer


CA 19-9

…… Colon cancer

Pancreatic cancer

gallbladder and bile duct cancer

Stomach cancer

Bile duct obstruction, pancreatitis

thyroid disease inflammatory bowel disease


….. Ovarian cancer …..



….. Breast cancer

Elevated with

benign breast conditions. 

Lactate dehydrogenase LDH Management of many cancers


 kidney disease

Many infections

Prostate-specific antigen

 (Total, Free)





Thyroglobulin ……. Some types of thyroid cancer


Finally, Cancer is a serious disease that can be life-threatening. If you are considering having a tumor marker test, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional, For early detection of cancer, and to do regular check-ups regularly to preserve your life and health.



Very Well Health

Cleveland clinic


Mayo Clinic

Cervical Cancer News

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