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Blood Tests

Blood Tests

When you are told that you need a blood test – it is good to know what’s involved and what you are being tested for.

Who takes it?

In some surgeries the doctor or nurse may take the sample, alternatively you may be given an appointment to go to your local hospital to the Haematology (blood) department.

A trained phlebotomist.-(a specialised clinical support worker) will take a small sample of your blood usually from a vein near your elbow. The blood will be extracted by either a syringe with a needle, or more often a needle attached to a device where different vacuum vials-(small glass bottles) can be connected so a small amount of blood goes into each vial for a variety of tests. It is then sent to a laboratory where it is analysed.

Some people have a fear of needles or of blood and can feel faint. If this is the case do make sure you tell the person who is taking your blood so you can be positioned to reduce this situation arising.

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What is it made of?

Blood is made up of two main elements:

  • The fluid –which is called plasma

  • Cells –there are three kinds of cells
    • Red blood cells- deliver oxygen around the body
    • White blood cells- leukocytes – defend against infectious diseases
    • Platelets- these lead to forming blood clots

Blood Tests

Below is a list of some of the blood tests which are more commonly taken with the abbreviations used:-

  • ALT- Alanine aminotransferase - This is done to see if you have a  liver problem

  • Amylase – This is done to diagnose pancreatitis  (the pancreas is important for secreting enzymes for digestion and regulating blood sugar levels)

  • B12 and Folate - This is done to diagnose the cause of anaemia or nerve damage- Neuropathy

  • Card Enz –Cardiac Enzymes - This is done when a heart attack is suspected

  • Chol – Cholesterol - This is to test if you have heart disease or circulatory problems

  • Elecs – Urea and Electrolytes - This is done to assess your Electrolyte(term for salts, electrically charged ions) levels also to  check your kidneys are working

  • ESR – Erythrocyte sedimentation rate - This screens for infection and monitors inflammation

  • Ferritin – A protein - This is done to check the levels are correct as they are important for red blood cell production, and the levels of iron in your body.

  • FBC – Full blood count - This is done to check your general health and to screen for disorders, such as anaemia, infection, and nutrition.

  • FSH – Follicle stimulation hormone - This is done to check your pituitary gland which regulates the hormones that control your reproductive system

  • Glucose – This checks the levels of glucose in your blood as it may indicate diabetes

  • INR – International normalised ratio - This is to test your blood clotting mechanisms for people who take anti-coagulants(blood thinning medicine) like Warfarin

  • RF -    Rheumatoid factor - This is done when rheumatoid arthritis is suspected

  • TFT – Thyroid function test - To test for levels of  TSH – Thyroid Stimulation Hormone this shows if the thyroid is under active or over active.- this relates to your energy levels

  • PT –   prothrombin time - To check how well your blood thinning(anti-coagulants) medicine is working

  • WBC – White Cell Count - This is done when you may have an infection or an allergic reaction, also to monitor treatment

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Tumour Markers

Tumour markers are substances, usually proteins which are found in higher than normal amounts in the blood. These markers are produced by the tumour itself or by the body’s response to the tumour; the tumour can be cancerous or non-cancerous.
Markers, by themselves, are not adequate to make a diagnosis of cancer many of the well-known markers are seen in non-cancerous conditions as well.

These are some of the more common ones:-

  • AMAS - Antimalignin antibody screen - This is a less specific tumour marker, which indicates the presence of a cancer anywhere in the body.

  • AFP – Alpha feto Protein - Raised levels of AFP can indicate liver cancer. Raised AFP levels can also be found in cancers of testis, stomach, ovary, pancreas and lung.

  • CA 15-3 - Raised levels are found in breast cancer, also in lung, prostate and ovary

  • CA 19-9 - Raised in Colorectal cancer and pancreatic also raised in stomach and bile duct cancers

  • CA 125 - Raised in ovarian cancer. Increased levels are also found in pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, pancreatitis, and liver disease. Women may have increased CA 125 levels during menstruation and pregnancy. Raised levels are also linked with non-ovarian cancers including cancers of the uterus, cervix, pancreas, liver, colon, breast, lung, or digestive tract.

  • CA 27-29 - This is raised n breast cancer, but also in a variety of others such as colon stomach, kidney, ovary, uterus, lung and pancreatic cancers. Noncancerous conditions such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, non-cancerous breast disease, kidney disease, and liver disease.

  • CEA - CEA is measured in the blood plasma. It can be increased in many types of cancer: gastrointestinal, colorectal, ovarian, bladder, cervical, stomach, kidney, lung, pancreatic, liver, prostate, thyroid, melanoma, lymphoma, and breast. Also in many none cancerous diseases cirrhosis or peptic disease, colitis or diverticulitis; it can also be elevated in the elderly patients and in those who smoke.
  • hCG- Human chorionic gonadotropin - Raised in cancer of the testis or ovary; the tumours found in the ovaries and testes contain embryonal tissue.

  • Her-2/neu - The presence of HER-2/neu is associated with a poorer prognosis for breast cancer.

  • LDH- Lactate dehydrogenase - This is an enzyme that is produced by the blood cells, liver and brain. This is a tumour marker of the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukaemia, Ewing’s sarcoma and the testicular tumours.

  • PSA - Prostate specific antigen - PSA is a protein produced by the prostate gland and can be overproduced in prostate cancer. PSA is also increased in benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), an enlarged prostate condition common in older men.

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