CA 19-9 Blood Test, What Is It? How Does it Work?

Pancreatic cancer marker test, CA19.9 serum test

CA 19-9 blood test is a tumor marker that helps doctors diagnose pancreatic cancer and its infelamations. Read on to know more about this blood test.

CA 19-9 blood test measures the amount of a protein called carbohydrate antigen 19-9 (CA19-9) in the blood. This protein is found at high levels in people with pancreatic cancer. It also increases when there is inflammation in the pancreas.

What is CA 19-9 Blood Test?

CA 19-9 Blood Test is a substance found in the bloodstream that can be used to detect cancer. It is produced by many cells in the body, but it is found at higher levels when there is a tumor present. This test looks for the antigen called cancer antigens 19-9 (CA 199) in your blood. CA 19-9 testing measures the amount of this antigen released into the bloodstream and is done using a simple blood test called Radioimmunoassay (RIA).

CA 19-9 can be used to help differentiate between cancer of the pancreas or bile ducts and other conditions, as well as to monitor response to treatment or progression of the disease.

Elevated levels of CA19-9 may suggest unresectability or metastatic spread of cancer, as well as other benign conditions. It is important to note that elevated levels are not diagnostic for any particular condition and should be interpreted along with other clinical information when making medical decisions.

CA 19-9 Test Details in Brief

Other names Carbohydrate Antigen test, cancer antigen 19-9, carbohydrate antigen 19-9, CA 199 measurement, CA 19-9 radioimmunoassay (RIA), Pancreatic cancer marker test, CA19.9 serum test, CA 19-9 test
Test Purpose For diagnosis and treatment monitoring of Pancreatic cancer
Preparation No Preparations required
Normal range <37 Units/mL


Why do I need a CA 19-9 test?

A CA 19-9 test is a simple blood test used to measure the level of a certain tumour marker called cancer antigen 19-9 (CA 19-9) in the body. This marker may be elevated in some types of cancer, as well as other benign conditions, and can help with diagnosis and treatment monitoring.

  • It can be used to differentiate between pancreatic cancer and other conditions, as well as to monitor the progress of treatment for those with pancreatic cancer.
  • Measuring a patients levels of CA 19-9 shortly after diagnosis can provide useful prognostic information that helps doctors determine the best course of action for them.
  • It is also used in healthy individuals when screening for various cancers including pancreatic cancer.

How to Prepare for the Test

No special preparations are needed for this blood test, but it’s important to hydrate well and avoid eating large meals prior to the test.
Before undergoing the CA 19-9 Blood Test, you should let your doctor know if you have any allergies or medical conditions that may interfere with the test results. Additionally, it’s important to inform your doctor of any medications you are taking, as some medications can affect the accuracy of the test.
Make sure to wear a shirt that has easy access to your arm so that taking a blood samples is easier. After your blood sample is taken, it will be sent off for laboratory testing and results will be available in around two days.

The Procedure of the analysis

CA 19-9 Blood Test
CA 19-9 Blood Test

A small needle will be used by a health care professional to draw blood from a vein in your arm. Following the insertion of the needle, a small amount of blood will be collected in a test tube or vial. When the needle goes in or out, you may feel a slight sting. This usually takes under five minutes.

“Related: Ferritin blood test, Preparations and Results

Normal Results and Abnormal Results

Normal results are typically less than 37 u/ml, and higher levels may not necessarily mean you have an underlying illness.

However, some benign conditions like peptic ulcers or chronic and acute pancreatitis can also cause elevated CA 19-9 levels. In addition, five to ten percent of Caucasians may have a particular blood group that gives falsely elevated results.

If your CA 19-9 level is higher than normal, it may indicate the presence of pancreatic cancer or another serious condition. In such cases, further testing is usually required to confirm the diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. If your levels have been higher than normal, then a decrease in CA19-9 or return to normal values could mean that the cancer is responding positively to treatment.

It’s important to note that not everyone with pancreatic cancer will develop high levels of CA 19-9; therefore other tests may be required for an accurate diagnosis.

When to Have Follow Up Tests

Follow up tests for CA 19-9 may be necessary if the initial test results show that the level is higher than normal. This is because elevated CA 19-9 levels can indicate cancer, as well as other conditions such as infection, inflammation, and benign tumors.

If no malignant disease is found after an initial test, a short-term follow-up is usually recommended. Medical follow-up in individuals with elevated CA 19-9 levels may be useful because some causative diseases may be detected during pre-operative testing or in cases of unexplained elevation.

follow-up can also help determine how well a patient’s treatment is working by measuring changes in the levels over time. If the patient’s CA 19-9 levels are decreasing or returning to normal values, it may indicate that their cancer therapy is working effectively.

In summary, follow up testing for CA19–9 should be considered when the initial results are high or when monitoring response to treatment for pancreatic cancer or other cancers where increased levels can occur.

Related tests

  • CA-125 Blood Test (Ovarian Cancer)
  • Alpha Fetoprotein (AFP) Test
  • CEA Test
  • Beta 2 Microglobulin (B2M) Test
  • PTEN Genetic Test
  • TP53 Genetic Test
  • BRAF Genetic Test
  • Tumor Markers Tests

It’s important to talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns regarding your results of CA 19-9 blood test. They can provide more information on what they mean for you, as well as advice on how best to manage your condition.

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