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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Pancreatic cancer


Other Names for this Disease

  • Cancer of the pancreas
  • Cancer pancreas
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

My husband was treated for pancreatic cancer in 2011. He has been doing fine except for the fact that his CA 19-9 is elevated. He has had numerous tests with no explanation as to why the CA 19-9 has been on the rise now for about a year. His other blood tests seem normal. Is it possible he has some rare condition?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is CA 19-9?

The CA 19-9 is a tumor marker that is used along with other tests and procedures to help detect and diagnose cancer, monitor a person's response to treatment, and detect a recurrence. CA 19-9 levels are high in 70% to 90% of people with advanced pancreatic cancer, but high levels can also be due to a number of other conditions such as colorectal cancer, lung cancer, gallbladder cancer, gallstones, pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis and liver disease.[1] Healthy people often have small amounts of CA 19-9 as well. 

If CA 19-9 is elevated, your doctor may recommend additional tests, such as an CT scan, ultrasound, MRI, ERCP, and/or a biopsy.
Last updated: 4/2/2014

Can CA 19-9 be consistently increased in a person without cancer?

Yes. Cases of people with long lasting high levels of CA 19-9 with no evidence of cancer have been described in the medical literature. One common cause of highly elevated CA 19-9, not due to cancer, is cholestasis. Click here to visit MedlinePlus and learn more about cholestasis. Other reported cases have been due to interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, diabetes, endometriosis,[2] H. pylori infection,[3] and ruptured epidermoid cyst.[4] Medications may also play a role in elevated CA 19-9.[2] People with high levels of CA 19-9 and no signs of cancer, benefit from careful monitoring.[2] Talk with your doctor about setting a plan for follow-up.
Last updated: 4/2/2014

References
Other Names for this Disease
  • Cancer of the pancreas
  • Cancer pancreas
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.