Diagnosed With Cancer Again: Now What?
Cancer is difficult to beat once but it can come back a second time. Even though this is difficult, there are ways to catch it before it gets worse. Below are types of tests people can have to find out if their type of cancer has returned or spread.
Local and Metastasis Relapse
Cancer can return in two ways: local or metastasis. If you doctor says your cancer is local, this means it came back where your doctor originally found it. Metastasis also called distant recurrence means that it spread to other areas of your body. Both types are found with different types of tests.
Tests to Find Recurrence of Breast Cancer
Blood tests can find tumor markers or cancer markers that show where the cancer is hiding in your body. The test brings up two markers: protein markers, which show up in a person’s blood from the tumor and circulating tumor cell markers that come from the tumor then move through the bloodstream. If the circulating cell markers are at a high level, this means the cancer is getting larger.
Below are typical cancer markers oncologists find when looking for recurring and local cancer. CA 15:3 is a cancer marker that shows up when a person has ovarian or breast cancer. TRU – QUANT and CA 27:29 are markers that doctors see when the person has breast cancer. The marker, CA125, shows up in a person’s blood when breast cancer and ovarian cancer returns as well as when a person has ovarian cancer. A doctor who found CEA, which stands for Carcinoembryonic Antigen, in someone’s blood, knows that lung, liver and colon cancer is present in the person’s body as well as if their cancer is metastatic.
cMethDNA Assay, one of many breast cancer recurrence tests is a blood test that finds if ten gene markers have hypermethylation, which means the cancer gene is not able to develop. When hypermethylation occurs, it means that the cancer is more likely to return. The test also finds lung and colon cancer.
A genomic test examines a piece of a tumor to see the activity level of the cells. Active cells show how cancer acts, which includes how fast it will spread and how the tumor grows. The Oncotype DX test is a genomic test that looks at how a group of cells will act and respond when exposed to treatment. The test tells doctors if a person will have the recurrence of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer at the early stage. It can also tell oncologist if they will get an invasive breast cancer in their other breast or if ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) could come back.
Scans (Bone, PET and Chest X-Ray)
A person who has a bone scan or a scintigraphy has a small amount of radioactive dye injected into their arm that the bone cells absorb. The camera picks up large amounts of bone activity because when bones are extremely active it means that the bones are trying to patch holes made by cancer, which the dye absorbs. People get bone scans to see if their bones are healthy before treatment and to make sure cancer has not spread to the bones.
A PET scan or Positron Emission Topography is a test that finds cancer in the body. A technician injects a mixture of radioactive dye along with a sugar solution into a person’s skin. Cancer cells eat more sugar than normal cells. The machine takes pictures of the cells and the cells that light up on the scan are the cancer cells. People will have a chest x-ray if their oncologist believes a person’s cancer spread to their lungs.
Even though having blood cancer recurrence tests is scary, it is important to find recurring and local cancer. If your cancer has returned it can be treated early.