circulating tumor cells read zero

I forgot to mention the other day when I posted about my snarky tumor markers rising that I also had some good news.

My circulating tumor cells (CTC) returned to zero from their previous reading of two, which was also good (5 or below is good). My oncologist uses both tumor marker tests and CTC for monitoring my treatment. Lucky me, I have tumor markers that are responsive. She uses them to help in determining when I need another CT/PET scan. My tumor marker tests are usually every other month or so, alternating between the CA15.3 and the CA 27.29 (I think my CA15 is more reliable), and the CTC is, as I recall, every six months. If you do not have tumor markers, however, your oncologist will rely on other measures for monitoring the success of your treatment—most likely scans. Like heart rates, tumor marker numbers are measurable for an individual as they increase or decrease, but numbers cannot be compared between individuals. It’s not the actual numbers that are as important as the activity, or their rise and fall.

The question now about my tumor markers is whether they are responding to a progression of the cancer or, for whatever reason, a possible shedding of a lot of antigens from dying cancer cells. It would be wonderful if it were the latter cause.

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© 2004–2011 Donna Peach. All rights reserved.

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