Close Encounter of the C Kind

The results of my recent medical exams were out, and aside from the now usual “bad” cholesterol numbers, one particular number caught my attention, CA 19-9, an item under a section called “Tumor Markers.” Oh! The clinic marked it as “D1”, which essentially means I was in deep sh1t, and treatment was required. The doctor recommended I have a re-check, and a detailed examination with their gastroenterologist.

I made plans to visit the clinic as soon as possible, tentatively scheduling it in the next couple of days. Meanwhile, my Google search engine was in full gear trying to get everything about CA 19-9. As it turns out, it is used to detect pancreatic cancer, and if the number made a sudden increase, and if it keeps on increasing, I might potentially have pancreatic cancer.

I reviewed my medical records for the past few years, and noticed my CA 19-9 readings remained steadily normal at around 15 U/ml, with the acceptable range 37 U/mg or lower. This year, it was 94 U/mg (!).

Oh sh1t!

I gave my wife a heads up, and told her what I knew so far, and that I was planning to have a re-test in the next couple of days. Being from a family of doctors, including a brother who specializes in internal medicine, she suggested we consult her brother. We called him up, and he gave us a quick briefing of what this CA 19-9 tumor marker was, what it meant, and what were the possible next steps.

He also remarked there is still a big possibility of it being a false alert, and we could only confirm after a re-test, a potential CT Scan, or an MRI Test. I told him I remembered having a CT Scan as part of my medical test, though he clarified it was a different kind of CT Scan that was needed. It should have included getting a special injection first, before the scan to help detect the tumor, if any. Either way, it is comforting to know there is still a possibility for a false flag.

When I visited the gastroenterologist for a re-test, I was asked several questions about my weight, my appetite, my family history, and my physical activities.  Nothing out of the ordinary. They took blood samples, and I was told the results would be available after a week.

I also gave my siblings a heads up, making it clear there is still a possibility of it being a false alert, and we agreed it would be best to put any worrying on hold, at least until we get the results of the re-test.

One week passed, I returned to the clinic. Numbers back to normal 15 U/ml.

Live another day.

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