High Tumor Marker

Question

Hi Dr. McGovern, My last tumor marker test was high. It was 9.8 I have had three liver biopsies over the last ten years and they have all been the same, stage 0, grade 1. My ast is 57 and my alt is 74. I had an ultrasound awhile back and it showed I had what was most likely an hemangioma on my liver. They want to do another ultrasound and possibly an MRI with contrast. So I guess my question is why is my tumor marker high? It has always been in range before. Thank you for your help, you have always eased my mind in the past.

Answer

You ask a good question. You are probably referring to the tumor marker alfa feto protein or (AFP), which can be highly elevated (about 300 and above) in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which is liver cancer.

Patients can get HCC from hepatitis C or B or alcohol or other causes. I don't check for AFP in a patient with HCV infection unless the patient has cirrhosis. So if you have HCV infection, I wouldn't have checked the test in the first place. Patients with HBV infection can get HCC even if they have earlier liver disease. I am not sure what type of infection you have but suspect it is HCV.

I wouldn't worry at all since the marker is barely elevated. Enjoy your weekend.The MRI will be just fine.