Cancer patients usually find themselves on a learning curve after their diagnosis, as they have to familiarise themselves with a lot of new medical terminology. One term that they may encounter during the diagnostic process is ‘biomarker.’ Here’s a look at what they are, and how they are used in the case of a brain tumour.
Biomarkers are molecules that are present in the blood and other tissues or bodily fluids. They can be used by scientists to test for abnormal processes that are occurring in the body, including the presence and nature of cancer cells and tumours. Biomarkers are not relevant for all types of tumours, and are used in addition to other diagnostic methods.
In the case of a brain tumour diagnosis, The Brain Tumour Charity explains that biomarkers may be used to determine the type of brain tumour, and the potential rate of growth it has. They can also help determine which course of treatment would be most suitable and effective for the type of brain tumour, such as chemotherapy or radiosurgery.
Biomarker testing may be carried out as a matter of routine at some hospitals, while at others it may be not be available. Some patients may prefer not to know the outcome of the tests, especially if the prognosis for successful treatment is poor. Biomarkers do not always provide accurate results, and can only be used as indicators.
There are various different types of biomarker tests, and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has some more information about which tests are most suitable for brain tumour patients.
Biomarker results should be discussed with you by your medical team. They may also be used to assess your suitability for clinical trials, which can give you access to personalised and cutting edge new treatment options.