Breast Cancer Blood Tests?

Posted by mjay @mjay, May 2 12:17am

I had Stage 1 invasive lobular BC with pleomorphic (Grade 3) tumor treated with lumpectomy and radiation 1.5 years ago. I’ve had mammos and US at my six-month checkup and mammo and MRI at one year checkup. My oncologist only takes regular blood tests for basics, including cholesterol levels. I am on an aromatase inhibitor as I am post menopausal. I will be requesting bone scans to determine osteoporosis issues as I’m having lots of joint pain.
Does anyone with a similar diagnosis get some type of cancer marker blood tests on a regular basis? If so, please let me know what test and how often. I feel like there should be more blood testing to determine if cancer recurrence is looming and be able to keep a watchful eye based on test results, if such tests exist for early stage BC.
Appreciate your responses. Thanks.

Hey @mjay, There is a CA 15.3 that doctors use to check early indicators and possible mets. I put the article below. I wonder if asking your physician for this every so often might be a good way to progress?
https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/blood_marker#:~:text=Some%20doctors%20use%20marker%20test,to%20start%20treatment%20for%20recurrence.
@cindylb Cindy's husband has done cancer marker tests and she may be able to comment on how they went about getting their physician to treat with blood tests.

Do you only get checkups every 6 months?

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@amandaburnett

Hey @mjay, There is a CA 15.3 that doctors use to check early indicators and possible mets. I put the article below. I wonder if asking your physician for this every so often might be a good way to progress?
https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/blood_marker#:~:text=Some%20doctors%20use%20marker%20test,to%20start%20treatment%20for%20recurrence.
@cindylb Cindy's husband has done cancer marker tests and she may be able to comment on how they went about getting their physician to treat with blood tests.

Do you only get checkups every 6 months?

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Thank you, Amanda. I will ask my onco. I get checked every six months for now. Are you suggesting it should be more often?

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Hello @mjay Amanda the Connect Coordinator referenced me in her comment. My name is Cindy and I too have Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer, Stage 1. There aren't so many of us Lobular folks out there, so feel free to reach out to me, I'm happy to share and support in any way I can. About my cancer – I started with LCIS 7 years ago and then invasive 5 years ago. I opted for a bi lateral mastectomy because my LCIS was on the right breast and the invasive on the left. Since both breasts were involved, it was the right choice for me. I was unable to take the aromatase drugs but here I am at five years and counting and hopeful. I truly believe it's important to ask your doctors to check your estrogen and progesterone levels. They don't seem to do that automatically so you might have to press a little but I found that my estrogen levels were so low (without meds) that gave me some peace of mind. I was also tested with CEA turmor marker tests, which were negative, in the first year following my surgery (not prior to the mastectomy) but that is a possible test. It's not entirely reliable…you might get a low test and still have cancer and you might have a high level and not have cancer. It's just one tool oncologists might use. It's a simple blood test and not expensive, so you might ask about it as well.
My husband has a Stage IV cancer of unknown primary (they don't know the actual cancer type). He is working on year four now and is in treatment (radiation and chemo, off and on). He gets the CEA test every 3 months as well as a PET scan. His cancer is advanced and for him this blood test is very helpful because his cancer comes and goes with treatment and sometimes simply on it's own…it may appear and then receed randomly. A normal CEA is in the low numbers – like .02 – 4 etc….his test results have been at their lowest in the 200's and at their highest in the thousands. For him the blood test shows that the cancer continues to circulate in his system. The downside of the CEA is that it can be elevated by things like lung disease (COPD, colds) etc and other factors but it can also signal cancer.

I hope this helps a little. You should continue to be vigilant with your doctors, asking for whatever tests and support will help you cope with your cancer diagnosis. I think peace of mind and knowing you're doing all you can to manage your cancer and stay healthy is very important. Press your doctors for all the support you need.

Hugs,

CIndy

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@cindylb

Hello @mjay Amanda the Connect Coordinator referenced me in her comment. My name is Cindy and I too have Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer, Stage 1. There aren't so many of us Lobular folks out there, so feel free to reach out to me, I'm happy to share and support in any way I can. About my cancer – I started with LCIS 7 years ago and then invasive 5 years ago. I opted for a bi lateral mastectomy because my LCIS was on the right breast and the invasive on the left. Since both breasts were involved, it was the right choice for me. I was unable to take the aromatase drugs but here I am at five years and counting and hopeful. I truly believe it's important to ask your doctors to check your estrogen and progesterone levels. They don't seem to do that automatically so you might have to press a little but I found that my estrogen levels were so low (without meds) that gave me some peace of mind. I was also tested with CEA turmor marker tests, which were negative, in the first year following my surgery (not prior to the mastectomy) but that is a possible test. It's not entirely reliable…you might get a low test and still have cancer and you might have a high level and not have cancer. It's just one tool oncologists might use. It's a simple blood test and not expensive, so you might ask about it as well.
My husband has a Stage IV cancer of unknown primary (they don't know the actual cancer type). He is working on year four now and is in treatment (radiation and chemo, off and on). He gets the CEA test every 3 months as well as a PET scan. His cancer is advanced and for him this blood test is very helpful because his cancer comes and goes with treatment and sometimes simply on it's own…it may appear and then receed randomly. A normal CEA is in the low numbers – like .02 – 4 etc….his test results have been at their lowest in the 200's and at their highest in the thousands. For him the blood test shows that the cancer continues to circulate in his system. The downside of the CEA is that it can be elevated by things like lung disease (COPD, colds) etc and other factors but it can also signal cancer.

I hope this helps a little. You should continue to be vigilant with your doctors, asking for whatever tests and support will help you cope with your cancer diagnosis. I think peace of mind and knowing you're doing all you can to manage your cancer and stay healthy is very important. Press your doctors for all the support you need.

Hugs,

CIndy

Jump to this post

Hi, Cindy! Thank you for your response and sharing your info. I'm soooo happy to hear you are near the 5-year mark…and without hormone blockers! May I ask were you ER+ or some other subtype of BC? Did you try them and stopped due to side effects or are you not taking for another reason?

I was ER+ so they did put me on an AI, but I fear the repercussions are going to be detrimental to my overall health, i.e., bone and heart health. Tradeoffs, right? I'm sure the hormone blocker has brought my estrogen level way down so I don't think my doctor will want to test for that, but no idea about progesterone, nor if it even matters being ER+.

I had a Grade 3 tumor in one breast and my doctor(s) with 2nd opinion recommended lumpectomy and radiation. I question whether I should have gone for a complete mastectomy from the get-go. Difficult decisions but I went with the advice of my doctors.

I was surprised that they didn't monitor my hormones before/after surgery and especially before/after hormone drugs, but that doesn't seem to be a regular course of action for early Stage 1. I'm sure my estrogen level must now be really low after 1.5 years on the blocker. I did not have the BRCA genes, but I did a DNA test and see there are other BC markers present, and I have a strong family history.

I will, however, check into the CEA tumor marker tests, however, being a highly anxious individual, I don't know that I can withstand the false positives. Anxiety itself is another genetic curse for me.

I have commented previously on this site about a beta-glucorinidase marker, which is a blood test done by naturopathic doctors and indicates a higher likelihood for BC or colon cancer. My results were elevated about a year before my discovering a lump despite nothing appearing on mamma or US. Unfortunately, I didn't put enough stock into the "slight elevation" and follow up, but pleomorphic is tricky so who knows if they even would have seen it earlier on. Did you also have pleomorphic tumors? I'm planning on having that test redone. (It's not covered by insurance due to it being an alternative medical practice test.)

Thank you for your offer to reach out should I have more questions that you may be able to help with.

I wish you all the best in your journey! May God bless.
May

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Hi mjay. Like you I was diagnosed with lobular invasive breast cancer, level 2, hormone receptive positive, and in December 2019 had a single mastectomy which revealed two separate tumors. Fortunately they did not come together or my story would have been very different. The surgical lab report downgraded the level to 1, and there was no lymph node involvement. Like you I asked my oncologist about labs or some proactive test to catch early signs in the event of a return. The answer I received was the same as yours. No testing currently, researching on one, but annual mammograms and bone scans every two years was the plan. I take Anastrozole daily, and am dealing with some joint pain, manageable. Because of a lung condition I have chest CTs done 2x year which is for me an added layer of protection. However I’d give up the lung condition in an instant if I could. Hope this helps.

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