April 25, 2005

What is a CA125 and why does it rule my life?

A CA125 is a tumor marker for ovarian cancer. A tumor marker is a chemical given off by cancer cells which can be picked up in a blood test. The level of the marker goes up as the cancer grows. The problem is that in some women with ovarian cancer, the CA125 level does not become elevated at all. This test is best used after a diagnosis of cancer has been made to help confirm the diagnosis. It can be used as a tool to diagnose ovarian cancer, but not as the only test. It is best used in a series, as a trend going up or down tells more than the number in only one test. For example, after the CT scan showed I had a tumor, I had a CA125 run. My level was 360. Normal was up to 35. After the surgery I had another CA125 done and my count was down to 35! Yipee!!!! The surgery removed most of the tumors. I was 95% free of cancer and they were relying on the chemo to get the rest. After one chemo treatment, my CA125 went down to 12, the next was 4, and the following tests throughout chemo were all between to 3.3 to 3.8. That was always such good news to get. The downward trend was showing that the chemo was working and destroying all those nasty cancer cells. Mutiple testing is also referred to as sequence testing. After chemo ended, I had a CA125 done every month for three months. I also had a CT scan done one month after chemo and it showed no cancer. Then I had another scan done two months after chemo. Still no sign of anything. All following CA125's were stable in the 3.3 range. It was decided that I could go three months without a CA125. Wow, was that scary. I was so used to being followed so closely and having treatment, that I felt like I was being deserted when it all stopped. Mentally it was very hard to go without seeing the doctors every week. At my 3 month CA125, my count was starting to rise. I had a doctors appointment the following week and another CA125 was done. The lab also reinstrumented their equipment and now the new normal level is only up to 16.3. They decided to do another CA125 because my last test rose to 12.3. After one week, my new level was 15.9. The first Monday in April I had another CA125

done. This time my count was up to 29.9. This has been a bad trend for me! Although, my doctors are not willing to say the cancer is back yet for several reasons. One, they have been having some problems with the new lab instumentation. Two, a cold or a virus, even if you do not feel ill, can cause the CA125 to rise. Three, I have been having major problems with eczema and possible rhuematoid arthritis. And any auto-immune disease will cause a rise in the CA125. There are also many other factors that can cause the levels to rise. I am being referred to a dematologist and a rhematologist to try and get these problems under control. That way we will be able to tell if they made my count rise or I am starting to have a return of the cancer. That is why the CA125 rules my life.

One of the reasons that a CA125 is not recommended as a yearly test, is because so many factors can influence the results. Also,I have read that this test is not very acurate in the early stages of the disease. It best predicts cancer at stage 3 or 4, very late in the game. If I were to do it all over again, I would have paid more attention to my symptoms and gone to the doctor much sooner. I think that knowing the signs of ovarian cancer is the real key. Being very insistant with your doctor when you know something is not right and demanding more be done until you have answers is so very important. Don't let anything take precidence over your health concerns. Be pro-active. Please research anything you have questions about. If you are tired all the time, check that out. Fatigue is a very common symptom of any cancer. I can only share what I have learned and it is only a drop in the bucket. Please follow up on any health concern you have. You could very well save your own life.

Posted by Lee Mason on April 25, 2005 5:41 PM


I'm not sure I was really clear about how I feel about having a CA125 done yearly, like you have a pap test done. I think if I had known about the test before, I would have insisted on it. I have a family back ground of ovarian cancer. If you choose to have the test done, just know that there is a high rate of false negative and positive results. More testing than just a CA125 might be needed.

Posted by: Lee at April 26, 2005 8:52 PM

My wife has ovarian cancer
and her tumor marker keeps
going up. I do not need to
here bad news from the Doctor. my God is a healer
and we are standing on his
word. so god said she is heal. Amen.

Posted by: Sandra Odom at May 14, 2007 9:36 PM

Thank you for explaining the ca-125. I never quite understood. I was stage 3 ovarian. I am in remission for a year now. My lowest count was 22. I go every 4 months now for a blood test, next one in March. All I can think of is please let it be under 35. I'm 59 years old with two grandchildren I hope to see grow up.

Posted by: Dee at February 20, 2009 12:57 PM