Liver tumor markers types and norms

Currently, there is a tendency to increase the number of patients with liver cancer. This happens due to the deterioration of the ecological state, the wrong way of life, the consumption of low-quality products. In addition, the disease is spreading among young people, which makes it even more dangerous.

As you know, successful treatment always depends on prevention and the stage of detection, therefore, in medicine, it is extremely important to identify the disease at the initial stage. In the case of malignant tumors, liver tumor markers confidently cope with the task.

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Indications for conducting

First of all, at risk are people from the environment of a person with oncology, those who have previously had cancer, patients who have undergone surgery to remove a tumor due to a possible relapse, the person has a benign tumor.

Therefore, there are several cases where liver cancer tests are performed:

  • if the person was previously sick,
  • if there is a suspicion of malignant tumors,
  • to detect metastases from other internal organs,
  • to confirm diagnostic tests,
  • in order to check the effectiveness of the course of treatment,
  • to control the course of the disease,
  • as a regular check for metastases.

In addition, a person himself can take the initiative to conduct an analysis for tumor markers. The reason for this may be deviations from the norm in the analysis of blood, namely:

  • An increase in white blood cells and a decrease in platelets,
  • Increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate,
  • The formation of myelo- or lymphoblasts.

Sometimes these blood counts indicate liver cancer. Nevertheless, the results of blood tests can hardly serve as a reason for a diagnosis: many diseases can cause such changes in the lymph or cause deformation of the formed elements, their concentration, and it is also not uncommon for new substances to appear in the blood and urine. These substances can serve as indicators of a particular disease, in particular: some foreign proteins in body fluids signal the development of a malignant tumor.

Types of tumor markers and their norms

Tumor markers in liver cancer are substances whose presence provokes liver diseases or metastases.

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By themselves, tumor markers are special organic protein substances that are formed as a result of the vital activity of cancer cells, during inflammation, and various diseases.

They are antibodies against cancer cells, tumor waste, enzymes. It is reliably known that 100% of malignant neoplasms secrete specific substances that enter the blood or urine.

For each such substance, its own content rate is characteristic, a deviation from which indicates violations. All these substances can be contained in body fluids, but in a limited concentration, if there are malignant formations, with inflammation, increased activity of benign formations, this number deviates from the norm up or down.

Tumor markers that are generally absent in the body of a healthy person are called tumor-specific, since they are not produced by ordinary cells. Such substances are synthesized by cancer cells from the beginning of their existence and throughout the entire time. Due to the fact that each protein is specific, it is possible to accurately determine the level of localization of the disease, and sometimes it is possible to accurately identify the affected organ or structure, the stage of the disease and the approximate dates of relapse.

Screening for tumor markers is one of the most accurate methods for detecting cancer in the early stages and can save a person’s life. By the increased concentration of tumor markers, one can judge the presence of serious pathologies.

At the moment, about 200 different tumor markers are known, indicating the defeat of one or another organ, but since the overwhelming majority indicates only an increase in poor-quality activity, only 15-20 specific substances from the total are used for accurate diagnosis.

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With liver cancer

Tumor markers for liver cancer are few in number, but those that are used for diagnostics make it possible to get ahead of the disease by several months, since they appear in the blood before the clinical manifestations of the tumor.

Thanks to this feature, it is possible to gain access to the primary features of cancer and diagnose it at the initial stage, when hepatocellular carcinoma develops.

In addition to the development of tumor markers, changes in the dynamics of the synthesis of hormones or specialized substances by the glands can occur in the body. Examples of such changes include:

  • increased production of bilirubin, production of bile acid,
  • the level of amylase in the blood, ALT and AST rises,
  • changes in the content of tumor markers in the blood.

At the moment, markers of liver cancer are already well studied, their features and possible information about the pathology that can be obtained are known.

Other tests for liver cancer

What tests may indicate liver cancer:

  • Initially, a routine complete blood count can give reason to suspect cancer if it shows a decrease in the number of leukocytes and platelets.
  • A biochemical blood test, which will show the excess of the values ​​of tumor markers: AFP, ALT, AST, LDH5, increases its activity of aldolase and hepatic divisions, an increased level of hexokinase, globulin, ferritin and calcium in the blood. Lowered glucose.


Alpha-fetoprotein is a protein compound produced in the body of the embryo, namely in the liver and gastrointestinal tract. Analyze its content to identify violations of the developing fetus.

In oncology departments, AFP is used to diagnose cancer of the liver and genital organs: significant fluctuations in concentration show a 95% probability of liver cancer. Small deviations from the norm may indicate such diseases:

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  • hepatitis,
  • alcoholism,
  • liver failure,
  • cirrhosis of the liver.

Has a high level of awareness. Well localized, tumor-specific. Content rate: up to 10 U/ml in adults, regardless of gender. During pregnancy, its concentration is much higher (up to 250 U/ml).

Mucin-like glycoprotein CA 15-3

CA 15-3 – An organ-specific marker, according to changes in its concentration, it is possible to reveal the development of cancer of the liver, gastric ducts, breast, lungs, organs of the reproductive system, but sometimes an increased level of concentration is acceptable without the presence of malignant tumors. The value increases during pregnancy. Content rate: up to 20 U/ml.

CA 19-9

CA 19-9. Protein synthesized by the bronchial epithelium and organs of the digestive system. Its content increases with the development of cancer of the stomach glands, liver, gall bladder. Sometimes protein is produced in pancreatitis, benign tumors, cholecystitis, hepatitis. At the moment, it is considered the most sensitive t-specific among tumor antigens. Concentration level norm: up to 37 U/ml.

CA 72-4

CA 72-4. It is an antigenic substance in the body, appears with mutation of tumor cells. Its level is increased in cancer of the liver, ovaries, stomach, pancreas. There may be a slight deviation from the norm by 7mU. In the fetus, its concentration is much higher. Concentration level norm: from 2,0 to 4,0 mU/ml.

CA 242

CA-242. An organ-specific tumor marker that appears in intestinal tumors, liver or stomach cancer. Carbohydrate antigen, which is unique and makes it possible to diagnose diseases at early stages. Allows you to predict a relapse of the disease 6-7 months before its symptomatic manifestation, it can be present with metastases. Absent in healthy cells of the body. The content rate is 0-20 mU/ml.

After a complete examination, a person can be assigned a course and methods of treatment. Oncological diseases are considered one of the most intractable. Often, the only way to save a patient’s life will be a complex, risky operation, so it is advisable to undergo medical diagnostics twice a year in order to protect yourself from pathology.

Special attention should be paid to people living in large cities, relatives of cancer patients, so that if an early stage of the disease is detected, after chemotherapy it will be possible to overcome the disease.

Svetlana Borszavich

General practitioner, cardiologist, with active work in therapy, gastroenterology, cardiology, rheumatology, immunology with allergology.
Fluent in general clinical methods for the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, as well as electrocardiography, echocardiography, monitoring of cholera on an ECG and daily monitoring of blood pressure.
The treatment complex developed by the author significantly helps with cerebrovascular injuries and metabolic disorders in the brain and vascular diseases: hypertension and complications caused by diabetes.
The author is a member of the European Society of Therapists, a regular participant in scientific conferences and congresses in the field of cardiology and general medicine. She has repeatedly participated in a research program at a private university in Japan in the field of reconstructive medicine.