CA 19-9

Also Known as Cancer Antigen-GI, Pancreatic Cancer Marker

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  • CA 19-9

    1 test included



blood sample




Age group

7 years & above

As the name suggests, pancreatic cancer originates in the pancreas in the abdomen, situated behind the lower region of the stomach. The gland is responsible for producing hormones, like insulin, that help in blood sugar regulation. There can be cancerous and noncancerous growths in the pancreas. However, the most common type of cancerous cells formed in the pancreas is known as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. This occurs within the duct lines of the pancreas that transfer the digestive enzymes.

The cancer type is treatable if detected at an early stage. However, it does not show any symptoms until it reaches the metastasis phase, where this cancer spreads to other body parts. Below are some of the following symptoms of pancreatic cancer: 

  • Consistent pain in the abdomen that radiates to the back 
  • Appetite loss and rapid weight loss
  • Itchy skin 
  • Fatigue 
  • Darker urine and lighter stools 
  • Sudden occurrence of diabetes
  • Existing diabetes is getting out of control 
  • The skin turning yellow with signs of jaundice 
  • Blood clots

You must visit your doctor immediately if you suddenly witness any or all of the symptoms. There might be other underlying causes for these symptoms other than pancreatic cancer. But it is better to be sure before it is too late.

Although the causes of pancreatic cancer are unclear, some risk factors, like smoking, have been identified as significant reasons. The cancer antigen 19-9 (CA 19-9) test establishes the presence of pancreatic cancer in the body. Also known as Carbohydrate antigen or sialyl Lewisa, this tumour marker is highly useful in detecting the induction and progression of pancreatic cancer.

The CA19-9 test is also referred to as CA 19-9 radioimmunoassay (RIA) test. It helps distinguish pancreas cancer from other types of conditions. This helps in providing proper treatment and preventing recurrence.

The test does this by detecting the level of the cancer antigen 19-9 in the blood via a radioimmunoassay method. A higher protein level denotes that the cancer cells might be present in the body. This is because antigens usually stimulate the immune response of the body. On the other hand, specific cancer cells transmit excess amounts of CA19-9 antigens into the bloodstream. Therefore, your doctor may prescribe the test if they suspect the possibility of pancreatic cancer.

You can easily get the test booked from any online diagnostic platform, like Apollo 24|7. Upon booking, you will get a visit from a lab technician who will collect the blood from your vein. A needle will be inserted into the vein of your arm to collect a small amount of blood. This may cause slight discomfort but is nothing to be worried about.

The blood sample is then sent to the lab for testing the CA 19-9 levels. Sometimes, a patient may need to be tested for the cancer antigen twice, before and after treatment, to ensure progress. The test is also helpful in detecting any changes in the tumour, such as growth or reduced size. 

faqFrequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the different types of treatment available for pancreatic cancer?

Pancreatic cancer is only curable if it is caught early. Despite its poor prognosis, specific treatments have proven to hinder its growth. This includes chemotherapy followed by surgery, or vice versa, chemoradiation, etc. Among these, gemcitabine is the most effective chemotherapy drug against pancreatic cancer. It is often used with capecitabine, cisplatin, erlotinib, or nab-paclitaxel.

What is the difference between pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis?

A cancerous tumour in the pancreas region is often termed pancreatic cancer. On the other hand, pancreatitis is the inflammation of the area, often resulting in soreness and swelling. While pancreatitis is a curable and short-term disease, the chronic version can permanently scar the pancreas. But it is still not as severe or fatal as pancreatic cancer.

Is pancreatic cancer hereditary?

It has been observed that having a family history of pancreatic cancer can increase the chances of developing it. It can occur due to an inherited syndrome. However, this is not the norm, and the gene responsible for the disease is yet to be discovered. Reportedly, only about 10% of cases of pancreatic cancer turn out to be hereditary.

What is the most prominent factor causing pancreatic cancer?

Smoking cigarettes have been associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. This is the no.1 cause which doubles the risk of the disease. While nonsmokers tend to have a much lower risk of developing cancer, almost 1/4th of reported cases have been smokers.

Is CA 19-9 a reliable marker?

It has been noticed that an elevated level of CA 19-9 in the serum (blood) is related to pancreatic cancer, especially in symptomatic patients. However, a higher than average level of the antigen does not assure you have pancreatic cancer. Other factors, like noncancerous gland swelling, bile duct blockage, pancreatitis, and gallstones, also increase the level. Therefore, your doctor may suggest other methods to confirm the disease, like an endoscopic ultrasound, MRI, or CT scans.

What is an ideal range of CA 19-9 in a healthy person?

The normal range of CA 19-9 protein in the blood is 37 units/mL. The level may be elevated in someone suffering from pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, or other health problems.

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The information mentioned above is meant for educational purposes only and should not be taken as a substitute to your Physician’s advice. It is highly recommended that the customer consults with a qualified healthcare professional to interpret test results