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When testing for cancer, doctors will often do a series of blood tests. A blood test for certain cancers might search for "cancer markers," also called "tumor markers."
Since a cancer in the body produces a certain protein, if that protein is found in the blood, it could indicate the presence of a tumor. Some cancer markers alert the doctor to a new cancer, while other cancer markers can only indicate the recurrence of a previous cancer.
While cancer markers can be useful, they are not foolproof. The detection of a cancer marker in a blood test does not necessarily mean you have cancer, and the absence of a cancer marker does not necessarily mean you are cancer free. Cancer markers are just one tool in a physician's arsenal. They must be used together with physical findings, other tests and medical history.