Tumour marker tests for testicular cancer

Tumour markers are measured from a blood test. They can help diagnose some testicular cancers and show how well treatment is working.

What are tumour markers?

Some testicular cancers make chemicals or proteins called tumour markers. These are released into the blood. Doctors can measure them with simple blood tests.

Not all men with testicular cancer have raised markers. Most non‑seminomas and some seminomas have raised levels of tumour markers.

We have information about the types of testicular cancer.

How are tumour markers used?

Tumour markers can be used to:

  • diagnose testicular cancer
  • monitor you after surgery
  • check how you are responding to treatment
  • check that the cancer has not come back.

You will have blood tests to measure tumour markers before surgery to remove the testicle. You will have them tested again usually a week after surgery. Even if you do not have raised tumour markers before surgery, you may still have them checked afterwards.

If the tumour markers fall quickly after the operation, it can be a good sign that all the cancer has been removed. This helps the doctors plan your treatment.

You will get used to having regular blood tests to check the levels of your tumour markers. It’s very important to attend your appointments to have them checked.

Types of tumour markers

There are three main tumour markers:

Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)

Alpha–fetoprotein (AFP) can be raised in non-seminomas but not in seminomas.

Human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG)

Human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) can be raised in non-seminomas and sometimes in seminomas.

Lactic dehydrogenase (LDH)

Lactic dehydrogenase (LDH) can be raised in both seminomas and non-seminomas.