Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. Each year in the United States, more than 1.6 million people are diagnosed with cancer, and nearly 600,000 die from it, making it the second leading cause of death. The cost of cancer care continues to rise and is expected to reach almost $174 billion by 2020.
However, screening rates for cancers remain below national targets set by Healthy People 2020, the nation’s agenda for improving the health of all Americans. A tumor marker is anything that's produced or found in the body when a cancer cell or other cells of the body appears in response to a certain type of cancer. It provides information about cancer's response to treatment.
Because tumor markers can be used to predict the response of a tumor to treatment and for prognosis, researchers have hoped that they might also be useful in screening tests that aim to detect cancer early, before there are any symptoms. Tumor markers are found in the actual tumors themselves, typically in a sample of the tumor that is removed during a biopsy. A number of tumor markers are currently being used for a wide range of cancer types. Examples of commonly used circulating tumor markers include calcitonin, CA-125 and beta-2-microglobulin can be measured in blood.
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