This term refers to the measurement of tumour products that are secreted by the cancer. The ability to measure these products in the blood or urine or CSF (cerebrospinal fluid - the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord) assists the doctor in the diagnosis of tumours (e.g. a raised urinary VMA is found only in phaeochromocytoma or neuroblastoma ) and when the level corresponds well to cancer cell number/tumour burden then the serial measurement of the marker can be very important in the assessment of the patient's response to therapy (e.g. the CA-125 levels in the blood in ovarian cancer and the HCG levels in the blood in testicular cancer).
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