Blood Tests Tips

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Should I get a CA-125 blood test to find out if I may have ovarian cancer?

CA-125 Blood Test Not Reliable Test For Ovarian Cancer

The CA-125 blood test is used to monitor women with ovarian cancer. Because CA-125 is a protein found more in ovarian cancer cells than it is in other cells, it is a reliable indicator of whether a patient is clear of cancer after treatment. However, the CA-125 blood test should not be used to test normal women for ovarian cancer.

In a woman who is free of ovarian cancer, a high level of CA-125 does not necessarily mean she has ovarian cancer. While it can indicate the presence of ovarian cancer or another type of cancer, it can also signal the presence of a benign condition like endometriosis. Therefore, it is not advisable to use the CA-125 blood test as a general screener for ovarian cancer.

What is genetic testing and what is it used for?

Genetic Blood Tests Useful in Many Phases of Life

Of all types of blood tests, genetic tests are some of the most controversial. While genetic testing starts with a simple blood draw, it can be used to learn a myriad of things about you. By examining your genes, experts can sometimes pinpoint the likelihood that you'll contract certain diseases. They also learn about your ancestry. Since we all get copies of genes, one from our mother and one from our father, we carry our history around with us.

Besides screening for certain diseases, genetic testing is commonly used in prenatal testing. This type of testing is used to examine a baby's chromosomes before it's born, and if a genetic abnormality is present, will often detect it. While genetic testing is unable to find all birth defects, it can provide a great deal of information for couples who opt to have it done.

Genetic testing is also used once babies are born. Babies in the United States are routinely tested for conditions that can cause problems if left untreated. They're also screened for genetic disorders that can be improved with early treatment.

These types of blood tests can also identify genetic mutations. The test searches for a gene mutation that could cause a genetic disorder, but hasn't yet. A person with this mutation would be called a carrier. Useful to families who have a history of genetic disorders, this test is often used by couples to determine their risk of passing on a genetic mutation to their children.

Because genetic testing can be complicated and sometimes difficult to cope with, many facilities offer genetic counseling with the testing.

Do I need to get a pregnancy blood test?

To Know For Sure, Get a Pregnancy Blood Test

Since not knowing whether you're pregnant can be very stressful for a woman, you want to find out as soon as possible. Today's home pregnancy tests (HPT) are very accurate and widely available. In some cases, however, your doctor may want to run a pregnancy blood test. These blood tests detect human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is also referred to as the pregnancy hormone (hCG).

Pregnancy blood tests can detect smaller levels of hCG at an earlier stage in the pregnancy than a HPT, even as early as six to eight days following ovulation. A quantitative blood test (beta hCG test) returns an exact amount of hCG in the blood. Even if it's very early in the pregnancy with just a small amount of pregnancy hormone present, the quantitative test will measure it, making it quite accurate.

The second type of pregnancy blood test is a qualitative hCG blood test which simply determines whether hCG is present at all, without measuring it.

How do I prepare for a fasting blood test?

How to prepare for a fasting blood test

Some chemicals in the human body respond to food and drinks; consuming these foods or beverages changes the levels of these chemicals in your body. Your doctor may request a fasting blood test so she can measure baseline levels, unaffected by food.

Ask your doctor if you can take your regular medications while you are fasting.

Schedule the laboratory appointment for the morning, if possible. Let the receptionist know if you will be taking any medications during your fast or if you have an illness or medical condition that prevents you from fasting.

Ask the receptionist how long you should fast – it is usually 8 to 12 hours. Ask her to help you determine what time you should start your fast, if necessary. Ask the receptionist if you can drink water during your fast – it is usually allowed.

Eat a nutritious dinner at the usual time. Take all medications as directed by your doctor.

When your fast begins, do not eat or drink anything except for water, if it is allowed. Smoking is not usually allowed.

On the day of your appointment, bring something to eat and drink. Hunger may make you lightheaded after having your blood drawn.

When you arrive for your appointment, tell the receptionist the last time you had anything other than water to eat or drink. If you were unable to maintain your fast, ask if you should reschedule or if she could make a note on your results.

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Byron White