DOWNLOAD Test Reports
DDRC SRL Healthcare Packages

DDRC SRL Clinical Test

Under Your Tests...Empower Your Health

Alpha-fetoprotein-afp-tumor-marker



Why Get Tested

To help diagnose and monitor therapy for certain cancers of the liver testicles or ovaries

When To Get Tested

When your healthcare practitioner suspects that you have certain cancers of the liver testicles or ovaries at intervals during and after treatment for one of these cancers sometimes when you have cancer-predisposing diseases such as chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis

Sample Required

A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm

Test Preparation Needed

None




Common Questions


Alpha-fetoprotein AFP is used as a tumor marker to help detect and diagnose cancers of the liver testicles and ovaries Though the test is often ordered to monitor people with chronic liver diseases such as cirrhosis chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C because they have an increased lifetime risk of developing liver cancer most current guidelines do not recommend this use A healthcare practitioner may order an AFP test along with imaging studies to try to detect liver cancer when it is in its earliest and most treatable stages If a person has been diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma or another form of AFP-producing cancer an AFP test may be ordered periodically to help monitor the person s response to therapy and to monitor for cancer recurrence An AFP-L3 is sometimes also ordered to compare the amount of the AFP variant called AFP-L3 to the total amount of AFP The AFP-L3 test is not yet widely used in the U S but has gained wider acceptance in other countries such as Japan The test is used to help evaluate the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma especially in those with chronic liver disease and also to evaluate response of hepatocellular carcinoma to treatment

A healthcare practitioner may order an AFP blood test When it is suspected that someone has liver cancer or certain cancers of the testicles or ovaries cancer may be suspected when for example lumps are felt in the abdominal area during a physical exam or when imaging tests detect possible tumors When someone who has been diagnosed with and treated for a cancer of the liver testicles or ovaries is being monitored for the effectiveness of treatment When someone is being monitored for cancer recurrence To follow up patients with chronic hepatitis or liver cirrhosis An AFP-L3 is sometimes ordered to help evaluate the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma when a person has chronic liver disease or to test the effectiveness of treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma or monitor for its recurrence

Increased AFP levels may indicate the presence of cancer most commonly liver cancer cancer of the ovary or germ cell tumor of the testicles However not every liver ovarian or testicular cancer will produce significant quantities of AFP Elevated levels may sometimes be seen with other cancers such as stomach colon lung breast and lymphoma although it is rarely ordered to evaluate these conditions Other diseases such as cirrhosis and hepatitis can also cause increased levels When AFP is used as a monitoring tool decreasing levels indicate a response to treatment If concentrations after cancer treatment do not significantly decrease usually to normal or near normal levels then some of the tumor tissue may still be present If AFP concentrations begin to increase then it is likely that the cancer is recurring However since AFP can be increased in hepatitis or cirrhosis AFP levels can sometimes be misleading If AFP levels are not elevated prior to treatment then the test will not generally be useful to monitor the effectiveness of treatment or to monitor for recurrence When the AFP concentrations of people with chronic liver disease go from normal or moderately elevated to greatly elevated their risk of developing liver cancer increases When total AFP and AFP-L3 are significantly elevated then the affected person has an increased risk of having or developing hepatocellular carcinoma in the next year or two However both AFP and AFP-L3 concentrations can be elevated and fluctuate in people with chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis In these cases a sharp increase in AFP is more important than the actual numerical value of the test result

Not every person with increased AFP and AFP-L3 test results has cancer or will develop liver cancer The AFP and AFP-L3 tests are not diagnostic per se they are indicators They must be used in conjunction with information from a medical history and physical examination as well as histopathological examination and imaging studies to look for the development of tumors Although these tests can provide useful information they are not as specific or sensitive as healthcare practitioners would wish AFP can temporarily increase whenever the liver is injured and regenerating and moderate elevations can be seen with a variety of conditions Because of this AFP testing cannot be used solely to diagnose cancer In addition not every cancer will produce AFP so a person could still have cancer even when the AFP is normal For these reasons the AFP test should not be used to screen the general population for cancer AFP is not only a tumor marker Because AFP is produced by the fetus levels are normally higher in pregnant women and in their newborns For more information on AFP testing during pregnancy see the Second Trimester Maternal Serum Screen

This cancer usually occurs in people who have chronic scarring of the liver called cirrhosis Most commonly this is caused by chronic infection from one of two viruses hepatitis B or hepatitis C Alcohol abuse also increases the risk of developing cirrhosis Some inherited diseases especially a disorder called hemochromatosis in which the body absorbs too much iron which gets deposited in liver among other organs can cause cirrhosis and in time hepatocellular carcinoma as can non-alcoholic steatohepatitis NASH which is fat deposition in the liver along with inflammation and damage

If you have chronic liver infection or damage and your AFP suddenly rises or if it is very elevated your healthcare practitioner will usually ask for a study to look at your liver such as an ultrasound exam a CT scan an MRI scan or a biopsy for histopathological evaluation of tumor tissues The scans can usually spot liver cancers if they are present Your healthcare practitioner may also order a blood test for des-gamma carboxy prothrombin DCP which is also known as prothrombin induced by vitamin K absence-II PIVKA-II to help detect liver cancer and monitor patients with hepatocellular carcinoma

AFP is not available as a home test and it is not typically performed in a healthcare practitioner s office Testing is done by either a hospital laboratory or a reference laboratory