Tumour marker tests for testicular cancer

Tumour markers may be found in a blood test with some cancers. 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 that are released into the blood. These are called tumour markers. Doctors can measure tumour marker levels by taking a blood test.

Most non‑seminomas and some seminomas have raised levels of tumour markers. But not everyone with testicular cancer has raised markers.

There are 3 main tumour markers:

  • Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) – can be raised in non-seminomas but not in seminomas.
  • Human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) – can be raised in non-seminomas and sometimes in seminomas.
  • Lactic dehydrogenase (LDH) – can be raised in both seminomas and non-seminomas.

How are tumour markers used?

Tumour markers can be used to:

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

You have blood tests to measure tumour markers before surgery to remove the testicle. You have them measured again, usually a week after surgery. Even if you do not have raised levels of tumour markers before your surgery, you still have them checked afterwards and as part of your follow-up after treatment. You will have regular blood tests to check the levels of your tumour markers.

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

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    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Ursula McGovern, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

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Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 May 2022
Next review: 01 May 2025
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
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