Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Lab Tests and health information

Order our breast cancer tests to screen for blood markers CA 15.3, CA 27.29, and CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) that together may detect the presence of breast cancer. Take control and learn about your health with Ulta Lab Tests.

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Description: The CA 15-3 is a cancer antigen test that is measuring the levels of the cancer antigen 15-2 that is present with breast cancer. This test is commonly used to monitor and watch for recurrence of breast cancer.

Also Known As: Cancer Antigen 15-3 Test, CA-Breast Test, Cancer Antigen-Breast Test, CA153 Test

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Serum

Test Preparation: No preparation required

When is a CA 15-3 test ordered?

When advanced breast cancer is first detected, CA 15-3 may be administered together with other tests to assist evaluate cancer features and treatment options. If CA 15-3 is initially raised, it may be ordered on a regular basis to assess therapy effectiveness and to help detect recurrence. When breast cancer is identified early, before it has progressed, CA 15-3 is usually not ordered since levels are not raised in the majority of early tumors.

What does a CA 15-3 blood test check for?

Normal breast cells produce cancer antigen 15-3, which is a protein. The production of CA 15-3 and the related cancer antigen 27.29 is enhanced in many persons with malignant breast tumors. CA 15-3 does not induce cancer; instead, tumor cells dump it into the bloodstream. CA 15-3 is measured in the blood in this test.

CA 15-3 is a tumor marker that may be tested in the blood and used to track the progression of cancer. CA 15-3 is high in fewer than half of women with early-stage breast cancer or a small tumor, whereas it is elevated in nearly 80% of women with advanced breast cancer. The test isn't always useful because not all women with invasive breast cancer have increased CA 15-3.

Because it is non-specific, CA 15-3 is not recommended as a screening test for breast cancer in women. It can also be increased in healthy persons and people who have tumors of the colon, lungs, pancreatic, ovary, or prostate, as well as certain illnesses like cirrhosis, hepatitis, and benign breast disease.

Lab tests often ordered with a CA 15-3 test:

  • CEA
  • HER2/neu test
  • Estrogen Receptor Status
  • Progesterone Receptor Status
  • Gene Expression tests

Conditions where a CA 15-3 test is recommended:

  • Breast Cancer

How does my health care provider use a 15-3 test?

The cancer antigen 15-3 test, as well as the associated CA 27.29 test, are primarily used to track therapy response and detect breast cancer recurrence. They are used in conjunction with other clinical evaluations and tests to assess a person's breast cancer, such as estrogen and progesterone receptors, Her2/neu, and genomic testing for breast cancer.

CA 15-3 is occasionally ordered to get a sense of how much cancer is present. Because CA 15-3 can only be used as a marker if the cancer produces high levels of it, this test isn't appropriate for everyone with breast cancer.

Because non-cancerous diseases can induce increased levels, the CA 15-3 and CA 27.29 tests are not precise or specific enough to be used as cancer screening tests.

What do my CA 15-3 test results mean?

The greater the CA 15-3 level, the further advanced the breast cancer is and the more cancer is found in general. CA 15-3 levels tend to rise as the cancer progresses. When metastatic breast cancer has progressed to the bones and/or liver, the highest levels of CA 15-3 are frequently detected.

CA 15-3 levels that rise over time may suggest that a patient is not responding to treatment or that the cancer has returned.

Normal CA 15-3 levels do not rule out the possibility of metastatic or localized breast cancer. It could be too early in the disease process to identify elevated CA 15-3 levels, or the person could be one of the roughly 20% to 25% of advanced breast cancer patients whose tumors do not shed CA 15-3.

CA 15-3 levels are mild to moderate in a number of illnesses, including lung, pancreas, ovary, prostate, and colon cancer, as well as cirrhosis, hepatitis, and benign breast abnormalities, and in a small percentage of seemingly healthy people. CA 15-3 levels in non-cancerous circumstances are generally constant over time.

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

CA 27.29 may be useful for monitoring patients for metastatic breast cancer.

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Description: CEA is a test that measures the levels of carcinoembryonic antigens in the blood. It is used to evaluate a person who has been diagnosed with cancer. The levels of CEA maybe elevated with certain types of cancer.

Also Known As: Carcinoembryonic antigen Test

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Serum

Test Preparation: No preparation required

When is a CEA test ordered?

When a person is diagnosed with colon cancer or another type of cancer, a CEA test may be ordered. It will be evaluated before treatment begins and subsequently on a frequent basis to assess treatment success and detect recurrence.

When cancer is suspected but not yet diagnosed, a CEA test may be conducted. Although CEA can be increased with a variety of illnesses, this is not a popular usage for the test, it may provide additional information to a healthcare practitioner.

When a healthcare practitioner suspects that a cancer has metastasized, a CEA test may be conducted on a fluid other than blood.

What does a CEA blood test check for?

Carcinoembryonic antigen is a protein found in the developing tissues of a fetus. It drops to a very low level by the time a baby is delivered. CEA is generally seen in extremely low amounts in the blood of people, but it can be raised in cancer patients. This test examines the quantity of CEA in the blood to aid in the evaluation of cancer patients.

CEA is a tumor indicator. CEA was once assumed to be a particular marker for colon cancer, however subsequent research has revealed that an elevation in CEA can be detected in a variety of malignancies. Non-cancer disorders such as inflammation, cirrhosis, peptic ulcer, ulcerative colitis, rectal polyps, emphysema, and benign breast disease, as well as smokers, can cause an increase in CEA. As a result, it is ineffective as a general cancer screening tool, although it does play a role in assessing cancer therapy response. An initial CEA baseline test may be performed after a person has been diagnosed with cancer. If this level is raised, serial CEA testing may be used to track the cancer's progress as the patient receives treatment.

Lab tests often ordered with a CEA test:

  • Tumor Markers
  • CSF Analysis
  • Body Fluid Analysis
  • CA 19-9
  • Calcitonin
  • Alpha Fetoprotein
  • Antiphospholipid Antibodies

Conditions where a CEA test is recommended:

  • Colon Cancer
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer
  • Lung Cancer

How does my health care provider use a CEA test?

The carcinoembryonic antigen test can be utilized in the following situations:

  • To keep track of the treatment of persons who have been diagnosed with colon cancer. It can also be used as a marker for rectum, lung, breast, liver, pancreatic, stomach, and ovary malignancies. Prior to therapy, a CEA test is usually ordered as a "baseline" measurement. If the level is high, the test can be used to track a patient's response to treatment and see if the cancer has advanced or returned.
  • Cancer staging entails determining the size of the tumor as well as the extent to which it has spread.
  • CEA testing in a bodily fluid sample can help doctors figure out if cancer has progressed to a body cavity like the chest or abdomen.
  • In the examination of cancer, a CEA test can be performed in conjunction with other tumor markers.

CEA is not produced by all malignancies, therefore a positive CEA test does not always indicate cancer.

What do my CEA test results mean?

Monitoring treatment and recurrence: CEA levels that are first raised but later return to normal following treatment indicate that the cancer has been successfully treated. The first symptom of tumor recurrence is frequently a progressively rising CEA level.

Staging: People with smaller and early-stage tumors are more likely to have a normal or slightly raised CEA score on initial testing. A high CEA value is more probable in people with larger tumors, later-stage cancer, or cancers that have disseminated throughout the body.

Testing for metastasis: If CEA is found in a bodily fluid other than blood, the cancer has most likely migrated to that part of the body. If CEA is found in CSF fluid, for example, it could suggest that cancer has spread to the central nervous system.

Because not all malignancies produce CEA, it's possible to have cancer and a normal CEA at the same time. The test will be useless as a surveillance tool if a malignancy does not produce CEA.

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

This test detects mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes which are the most common causes of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.

This test detects 3 mutations which account for approximately 90% of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations found in Ashkenazi Jews.

Description: A Comprehensive Metabolic Panel or CMP is a blood test that is a combination of a Basic Metabolic Panel, a Liver Panel, and electrolyte panel, and is used to screen for, diagnose, and monitor a variety of conditions and diseases such as liver disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. 

Also Known As: CMP, Chem, Chem-14, Chem-12, Chem-21, Chemistry Panel, Chem Panel, Chem Screen, Chemistry Screen, SMA 12, SMA 20, SMA 21, SMAC, Chem test

Collection Method: 

Blood Draw 

Specimen Type: 


Test Preparation: 

9-12 hours fasting is preferred. 

When is a Comprehensive Metabolic Panel test ordered:  

A CMP is frequently requested as part of a lab test for a medical evaluation or yearly physical. A CMP test consists of many different tests that give healthcare providers a range of information about your health, including liver and kidney function, electrolyte balance, and blood sugar levels. To confirm or rule out a suspected diagnosis, abnormal test results are frequently followed up with other tests that provide a more in depth or targeted analysis of key areas that need investigating. 

What does a Comprehensive Metabolic Panel blood test check for? 

The complete metabolic panel (CMP) is a set of 20 tests that provides critical information to a healthcare professional about a person's current metabolic status, check for liver or kidney disease, electrolyte and acid/base balance, and blood glucose and blood protein levels. Abnormal results, particularly when they are combined, can suggest a problem that needs to be addressed. 

The following tests are included in the CMP: 

  • Albumin: this is a measure of Albumin levels in your blood. Albumin is a protein made by the liver that is responsible for many vital roles including transporting nutrients throughout the body and preventing fluid from leaking out of blood vessels. 

  • Albumin/Globulin Ratio: this is a ratio between your total Albumin and Globulin  

  • Alkaline Phosphatase: this is a measure of Alkaline phosphatase or ALP in your blood. Alkaline phosphatase is a protein found in all body tissues, however the ALP found in blood comes from the liver and bones. Elevated levels are often associated with liver damage, gallbladder disease, or bone disorder. 

  • Alt: this is a measure of Alanine transaminase or ALT in your blood. Alanine Aminotransferase is an enzyme found in the highest amounts in the liver with small amounts in the heart and muscles. Elevated levels are often associated with liver damage. 

  • AST: this is a measure of Aspartate Aminotransferase or AST. Aspartate Aminotransferase is an enzyme found mostly in the heart and liver, with smaller amounts in the kidney and muscles. Elevated levels are often associated with liver damage. 

  • Bilirubin, Total: this is a measure of bilirubin in your blood. Bilirubin is an orange-yellowish waste product produced from the breakdown of heme which is a component of hemoglobin found in red blood cells. The liver is responsible for removal of bilirubin from the body. 

  • Bun/Creatinine Ratio: this is a ratio between your Urea Nitrogen (BUN) result and Creatinine result.  

  • Calcium: this is a measurement of calcium in your blood. Calcium is the most abundant and one of the most important minerals in the body as it essential for proper nerve, muscle, and heart function. 

  • Calcium: is used for blood clot formation and the formation and maintenance of bones and teeth. 

  • Carbon Dioxide: this is a measure of carbon dioxide in your blood. Carbon dioxide is a negatively charged electrolyte that works with other electrolytes such as chloride, potassium, and sodium to regulate the body’s acid-base balance and fluid levels.  

  • Chloride: this is a measure of Chloride in your blood. Chloride is a negatively charged electrolyte that works with other electrolytes such as potassium and sodium to regulate the body’s acid-base balance and fluid levels. 

  • Creatinine: this is a measure of Creatinine levels in your blood. Creatinine is created from the breakdown of creatine in your muscles and is removed from your body by the kidneys. Elevated creatinine levels are often associated with kidney damage. 

  • Egfr African American: this is a measure of how well your kidneys are functioning. Glomeruli are tiny filters in your kidneys that filter out waste products from your blood for removal while retaining important substances such as nutrients and blood cells. 

  • Egfr Non-Afr. American: this is a measure of how well your kidneys are functioning. Glomeruli are tiny filters in your kidneys that filter out waste products from your blood for removal while retaining important substances such as nutrients and blood cells. 

  • Globulin: this is a measure of all blood proteins in your blood that are not albumin. 

  • Glucose: this is a measure of glucose in your blood. Glucose is created from the breakdown of carbohydrates during digestion and is the body’s primary source of energy. 

  • Potassium: this is a measure of Potassium in your blood. Potassium is an electrolyte that plays a vital role in cell metabolism, nerve and muscle function, and transport of nutrients into cells and removal of wastes products out of cells. 

  • Protein, Total: this is a measure of total protein levels in your blood. 
    Sodium: this is a measure of Sodium in your blood. Sodium is an electrolyte that plays a vital role in nerve and muscle function. 

  • Sodium: this is a measure of sodium in your blood's serum. Sodium is a vital mineral for nerve and muscle cell function.

  • Urea Nitrogen (Bun): this is a measure of Urea Nitrogen in your blood, also known as Blood UreaNitrogen (BUN). Urea is a waste product created in the liver when proteins are broken down into amino acids. Elevated levels are often associated with kidney damage. 

Lab tests often ordered with a Comprehensive Metabolic Panel test: 

  • Complete Blood Count with Differential and Platelets
  • Iron and Total Iron Binding Capacity
  • Lipid Panel
  • Vitamin B12 and Folate
  • Prothrombin with INR and Partial Thromboplastin Times
  • Sed Rate (ESR)
  • C-Reactive Protein

Conditions where a Comprehensive Metabolic Panel test is recommended: 

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney Disease
  • Liver Disease
  • Hypertension

Commonly Asked Questions: 

How does my health care provider use a Comprehensive Metabolic Panel test? 

The comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) is a broad screening tool for assessing organ function and detecting diseases like diabetes, liver disease, and kidney disease. The CMP test may also be requested to monitor known disorders such as hypertension and to check for any renal or liver-related side effects in persons taking specific drugs. If a health practitioner wants to follow two or more separate CMP components, the full CMP might be ordered because it contains more information. 

What do my Comprehensive Metabolic Panel test results mean? 

The results of the tests included in the CMP are usually analyzed together to look for patterns. A single abnormal test result may indicate something different than a series of abnormal test findings. A high result on one of the liver enzyme tests, for example, is not the same as a high result on several liver enzyme tests. 

Several sets of CMPs, frequently performed on various days, may be examined to gain insights into the underlying disease and response to treatment, especially in hospitalized patients. 

Out-of-range findings for any of the CMP tests can be caused by a variety of illnesses, including kidney failure, breathing issues, and diabetes-related complications, to name a few. If any of the results are abnormal, one or more follow-up tests are usually ordered to help determine the reason and/or establish a diagnosis. 

Is there anything else I should know? 

A wide range of prescription and over-the-counter medications can have an impact on the results of the CMP's components. Any medications you're taking should be disclosed to your healthcare professional. Similarly, it is critical to provide a thorough history because many other circumstances can influence how your results are interpreted. 

What's the difference between the CMP and the BMP tests, and why would my doctor choose one over the other? 

The CMP consists of 14 tests, while the basic metabolic panel (BMP) is a subset of those with eight tests. The liver (ALP, ALT, AST, and bilirubin) and protein (albumin and total protein) tests are not included. If a healthcare provider wants a more thorough picture of a person's organ function or to check for specific illnesses like diabetes or liver or kidney disease, he or she may prescribe a CMP rather than a BMP. 

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

Please note the following regarding BUN/Creatinine ratio: 

The lab does not report the calculation for the BUN/Creatinine Ratio unless one or both biomarkers’ results fall out of the published range. 

If you still wish to see the value, it's easy to calculate. Simply take your Urea Nitrogen (BUN) result and divide it by your Creatinine result.  

As an example, if your Urea Nitrogen result is 11 and your Creatinine result is 0.86, then you would divide 11 by 0.86 and get a BUN/Creatinine Ratio result of 12.79. 

Description: A CBC or Complete Blood Count with Differential and Platelets test is a blood test that measures many important features of your blood’s red and white blood cells and platelets. A Complete Blood Count can be used to evaluate your overall health and detect a wide variety of conditions such as infection, anemia, and leukemia. It also looks at other important aspects of your blood health such as hemoglobin, which carries oxygen. 

Also Known As: CBC test, Complete Blood Count Test, Total Blood Count Test, CBC with Differential and Platelets test, Hemogram test  

Collection Method: Blood Draw 

Specimen Type: Whole Blood 

Test Preparation: No preparation required 

When is a Complete Blood Count test ordered?  

The complete blood count (CBC) is an extremely common test. When people go to the doctor for a standard checkup or blood work, they often get a CBC. Suppose a person is healthy and their results are within normal ranges. In that case, they may not need another CBC unless their health condition changes, or their healthcare professional believes it is necessary. 

When a person exhibits a variety of signs and symptoms that could be connected to blood cell abnormalities, a CBC may be done. A health practitioner may request a CBC to help diagnose and determine the severity of lethargy or weakness, as well as infection, inflammation, bruises, or bleeding. 

When a person is diagnosed with a disease that affects blood cells, a CBC is frequently done regularly to keep track of their progress. Similarly, if someone is being treated for a blood condition, a CBC may be performed on a regular basis to see if the treatment is working. 

Chemotherapy, for example, can influence the generation of cells in the bone marrow. Some drugs can lower WBC counts in the long run. To monitor various medication regimens, a CBC may be required on a regular basis. 

What does a Complete Blood Count test check for? 

The complete blood count (CBC) is a blood test that determines the number of cells in circulation. White blood cells (WBCs), red blood cells (RBCs), and platelets (PLTs) are three types of cells suspended in a fluid called plasma. They are largely created and matured in the bone marrow and are released into the bloodstream when needed under normal circumstances. 

A CBC is mainly performed with an automated machine that measures a variety of factors, including the number of cells present in a person's blood sample. The findings of a CBC can reveal not only the quantity of different cell types but also the physical properties of some of the cells. 

Significant differences in one or more blood cell populations may suggest the presence of one or more diseases. Other tests are frequently performed to assist in determining the reason for aberrant results. This frequently necessitates visual confirmation via a microscope examination of a blood smear. A skilled laboratory technician can assess the appearance and physical features of blood cells, such as size, shape, and color, and note any anomalies. Any extra information is taken note of and communicated to the healthcare provider. This information provides the health care provider with further information about the cause of abnormal CBC results. 

The CBC focuses on three different types of cells: 

WBCs (White Blood Cells) 

The body uses five different types of WBCs, also known as leukocytes, to keep itself healthy and battle infections and other types of harm. The five different leukocytes are eosinophiles, lymphocytes, neutrophiles, basophils, and monocytes. They are found in relatively steady numbers in the blood. Depending on what is going on in the body, these values may momentarily rise or fall. An infection, for example, can cause the body to manufacture more neutrophils in order to combat bacterial infection. The amount of eosinophils in the body may increase as a result of allergies. A viral infection may cause an increase in lymphocyte production. Abnormal (immature or mature) white cells multiply fast in certain illness situations, such as leukemia, raising the WBC count. 

RBCs (Red Blood Cells) 

The bone marrow produces red blood cells, also known as erythrocytes, which are transferred into the bloodstream after maturing. Hemoglobin, a protein that distributes oxygen throughout the body, is found in these cells. Because RBCs have a 120-day lifespan, the bone marrow must constantly manufacture new RBCs to replace those that have aged and disintegrated or have been lost due to hemorrhage. A variety of diseases, including those that cause severe bleeding, can alter the creation of new RBCs and their longevity. 

The CBC measures the number of RBCs and hemoglobin in the blood, as well as the proportion of RBCs in the blood (hematocrit), and if the RBC population appears to be normal. RBCs are generally homogeneous in size and shape, with only minor differences; however, considerable variances can arise in illnesses including vitamin B12 and folate inadequacy, iron deficiency, and a range of other ailments. Anemia occurs when the concentration of red blood cells and/or the amount of hemoglobin in the blood falls below normal, resulting in symptoms such as weariness and weakness. In a far smaller percentage of cases, there may be an excess of RBCs in the blood (erythrocytosis or polycythemia). This might obstruct the flow of blood through the tiny veins and arteries in extreme circumstances. 


Platelets, also known as thrombocytes, are small cell fragments that aid in the regular clotting of blood. A person with insufficient platelets is more likely to experience excessive bleeding and bruises. Excess platelets can induce excessive clotting or excessive bleeding if the platelets are not operating properly. The platelet count and size are determined by the CBC. 

Lab tests often ordered with a Complete Blood Count test: 

  • Reticulocytes
  • Iron and Total Iron Binding Capacity
  • Basic Metabolic Panel
  • Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
  • Lipid Panel
  • Vitamin B12 and Folate
  • Prothrombin with INR and Partial Thromboplastin Times
  • Sed Rate (ESR)
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Epstein-Barr Virus
  • Von Willebrand Factor Antigen

Conditions where a Complete Blood Count test is recommended: 

  • Anemia
  • Aplastic Anemia
  • Iron Deficiency Anemia
  • Vitamin B12 and Folate Deficiency
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Heart Disease
  • Thalassemia
  • Leukemia
  • Autoimmune Disorders
  • Cancer
  • Bleeding Disorders
  • Inflammation
  • Epstein-Barr Virus
  • Mononucleosis

Commonly Asked Questions: 

How does my health care provider use a Complete Blood Count test? 

The complete blood count (CBC) is a common, comprehensive screening test used to measure a person's overall health status.  

What do my Complete Blood Count results mean? 

A low Red Blood Cell Count, also known as anemia, could be due many different causes such as chronic bleeding, a bone marrow disorder, and nutritional deficiency just to name a few. A high Red Blood Cell Count, also known as polycythemia, could be due to several conditions including lung disease, dehydration, and smoking. Both Hemoglobin and Hematocrit tend to reflect Red Blood Cell Count results, so if your Red Blood Cell Count is low, your Hematocrit and Hemoglobin will likely also be low. Results should be discussed with your health care provider who can provide interpretation of your results and determine the appropriate next steps or lab tests to further investigate your health. 

What do my Differential results mean? 

A low White Blood Cell count or low WBC count, also known as leukopenia, could be due to a number of different disorders including autoimmune issues, severe infection, and lymphoma. A high White Blood Cell count, or high WBC count, also known as leukocytosis, can also be due to many different disorders including infection, leukemia, and inflammation. Abnormal levels in your White Blood Cell Count will be reflected in one or more of your different white blood cells. Knowing which white blood cell types are affected will help your healthcare provider narrow down the issue. Results should be discussed with your health care provider who can provide interpretation of your results and determine the appropriate next steps or lab tests to further investigate your health. 

What do my Platelet results mean? 

A low Platelet Count, also known as thrombocytopenia, could be due to a number of different disorders including autoimmune issues, viral infection, and leukemia. A high Platelet Count, also known as Thrombocytosis, can also be due to many different disorders including cancer, iron deficiency, and rheumatoid arthritis. Results should be discussed with your health care provider who can provide interpretation of your results and determine the appropriate next steps or lab tests to further investigate your health. 

NOTE: Only measurable biomarkers will be reported. Certain biomarkers do not appear in healthy individuals. 

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

Reflex Parameters for Manual Slide Review
  Less than  Greater Than 
WBC  1.5 x 10^3  30.0 x 10^3 
Hemoglobin  7.0 g/dL  19.0 g/dL 
Hematocrit  None  75%
Platelet  100 x 10^3  800 x 10^3 
MCV  70 fL  115 fL 
MCH  22 pg  37 pg 
MCHC  29 g/dL  36.5 g/dL 
RBC  None  8.00 x 10^6 
RDW  None  21.5
Relative Neutrophil %  1% or ABNC <500  None 
Relative Lymphocyte %  1% 70%
Relative Monocyte %  None  25%
Eosinophil  None  35%
Basophil  None  3.50%
Platelet  <75 with no flags,
>100 and <130 with platelet clump flag present,
Instrument Flags Variant lymphs, blasts,
immature neutrophils,  nRBC’s, abnormal platelets,
giant platelets, potential interference
The automated differential averages 6000+ cells. If none of the above parameters are met, the results are released without manual review.
CBC Reflex Pathway

Step 1 - The slide review is performed by qualified Laboratory staff and includes:

  • Confirmation of differential percentages
  • WBC and platelet estimates, when needed
  • Full review of RBC morphology
  • Comments for toxic changes, RBC inclusions, abnormal lymphs, and other
  • significant findings
  • If the differential percentages agree with the automated counts and no abnormal cells are seen, the automated differential is reported with appropriate comments

Step 2 - The slide review is performed by qualified Laboratory staff and includes: If any of the following are seen on the slide review, Laboratory staff will perform a manual differential:

  • Immature, abnormal, or toxic cells
  • nRBC’s
  • Disagreement with automated differential
  • Atypical/abnormal RBC morphology
  • Any RBC inclusions

Step 3 If any of the following are seen on the manual differential, a Pathologist will review the slide:

  • WBC<1,500 with abnormal cells noted
  • Blasts/immature cells, hairy cell lymphs, or megakaryocytes
  • New abnormal lymphocytes or monocytes
  • Variant or atypical lymphs >15%
  • Blood parasites
  • RBC morphology with 3+ spherocytes, RBC inclusions, suspect Hgb-C,
  • crystals, Pappenheimer bodies or bizarre morphology
  • nRBC’s


Clinical Significance

A galectin-3 test may be ordered for the identification of individuals with chronic heart failure at elevated risk of disease progression.

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PIK3CA mutation has been associated with poor prognosis in endometrial, breast and colorectal cancers. Mutations in exons 9 and 20 of PIK3CA ave also been associated with resistance to cetuximab therapy in patients with colorectal cancer.

Increased activity is associated with increased risk of arterial thrombosis, such as with unexplained premature myocardial infarction. As an acute phase reactant, the activity is increased after an acute event. Studies suggest PAI-1 may be a prognostic marker in early stage breast cancer.

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Description: A prolactin test is a blood test that measures the Prolactin levels in your blood's serum, and it is useful in identifying unexplained problems with breastfeeding, menstrual cycles, and infertility.

Also Known As: PRL Test, Prolactin Blood test

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Serum

Test Preparation: No preparation required

When is a Prolactin test ordered?

Prolactin testing may be requested in the following situations:

  • If someone is experiencing prolactinoma symptoms such as inexplicable headaches, breast nipple discharge, and or vision impairment.
  • Infertility or irregular menstrual periods in a woman.
  • A male that has low testosterone or has signs such as diminished sex drive, nipple discharge, or infertility.

When a person has a prolactinoma, prolactin levels may be requested on a regular basis to track the tumor's progress and response to treatment. They may also be ordered at regular intervals to check for the return of prolactinoma.

When a doctor suspects a person has a pituitary condition such hypopituitarism, prolactin levels, as well as other hormone levels like growth hormone, may be requested.

Prolactin concentrations are sometimes measured when a person has an illness or is receiving medication that may impair dopamine production.

What does a Prolactin blood test check for?

The anterior region of the pituitary gland, a grape-sized structure located at the base of the brain, produces prolactin. Prolactin is a hormone that promotes lactation and is found in low concentrations in men and non-pregnant women. This test determines how much prolactin is present in the blood.

Dopamine, a brain neurotransmitter, regulates and inhibits prolactin release. Prolactin levels are typically high throughout pregnancy and shortly after childbirth. The hormones prolactin, estrogen, and progesterone enhance the production of breast milk during pregnancy. Prolactin aids in the initiation and maintenance of breast milk supply after childbirth. If a woman does not breastfeed, her prolactin level quickly returns to pre-pregnancy levels if she does not nurse. Suckling by the infant has a vital function in the release of prolactin if she does nurse. The amount of prolactin emitted by the pituitary, as well as the amount of milk produced, have a feedback system.

A prolactinoma, a pituitary gland tumor that generates excessive prolactin production, is a common cause of an unusually raised prolactin level. The most frequent type of pituitary tumor is prolactinoma, which is usually benign. They are more common in women, but they can also be found in men. The size and location of the tumor, as well as the unintended effects of excess prolactin, such as milk production in a woman who is not pregnant or nursing and, occasionally, in a man, can cause problems.

When the anterior pituitary gland and/or tumor grow large enough, they can put pressure on the optic nerve, causing headaches and visual abnormalities, as well as interfering with the pituitary gland's other hormones. Prolactinomas in women can induce infertility and menstrual abnormalities, while in men, they might cause a gradual loss of sexual function and libido. Prolactinomas can cause damage to the surrounding tissues if they are not treated.

Lab tests often ordered with a Prolactin test:

  • FSH
  • LH
  • Testosterone
  • DHEA-S
  • Estrogen
  • Estradiol
  • Estrone
  • Estriol
  • Progesterone
  • Androstenedione

Conditions where a Prolactin test is recommended:

  • Pituitary Disorders
  • Infertility
  • Pregnancy
  • PCOS
  • Thyroid Diseases

Commonly Asked Questions:

How does my health care provider use a Prolactin test?

Prolactin levels can be used for a variety of purposes. Prolactin is a hormone generated by the pituitary gland, and its major function is to assist pregnant and nursing women in initiating and maintaining breast milk production.

Prolactin testing, in combination with other hormone tests, may be used to:

  • Determine what is causing the production of breast milk that isn't related to pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • Find out what's causing men's infertility and erectile problems.
  • Determine the reason of a woman's menstrual irregularity and/or infertility.
  • Detect and diagnose prolactinomas, track their therapy, and look for recurrences.
  • Examine anterior pituitary function or any other pituitary problems.

What do my prolactin test results mean?

Prolactin levels in the blood of men and nonpregnant women are usually very low. Prolactin levels must be analyzed according to the time of day they are taken. Over the course of a 24-hour period, the levels will rise during sleep and peak in the morning. A person's blood should be drawn 3 to 4 hours after they wake up.

During pregnancy and while the mother is nursing, a high amount of prolactin is typical.

High prolactin levels can also be noticed in the following:

  • Prolactin-producing and -releasing tumors
  • Eating disorders such as  anorexia nervosa
  • Hypothalamic diseases
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Other tumors and disorders of the pituitary gland

Low levels of prolactin are not normally treated, but they could indicate a general decline in pituitary hormones caused by a pituitary condition such hypopituitarism.

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

Clinical Significance

Limbic encephalitis (LE) is a paraneoplastic neurological syndrome often associated with small cell lung carcinoma and more rarely with testicular, breast, and other tumors. Clinical hallmarks of paraneoplastic limbic encephalitis are changing mental status, short-term memory impairment, seizures, confusion, and behavioral changes. Hu antibody-negative LE patients usually do not develop symptoms beyond the limbic system and appear to improve more often after treatment of the cancer than those who have Hu antibodies, suggesting that the pathogenesis of the LE in both groups could be different. Recent studies have detected antibodies to voltage-gated potassium channels (VGKC) in patients with LE, with and without associated tumors. Neurological symptoms were found to improve with a reduction of VGKC antibody levels.

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If you're reading this article as an American woman, we have a sobering statistic to share with you. Your chances of developing breast cancer at some point in your life stand at 1 in 8.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer American women are likely to develop. This highlights the utmost importance of breast cancer tests. They can screen, diagnose, and monitor breast cancer.

What's the gold standard of breast cancer screening? What are the best lab tests to use? Let's take a look at what's available.

Lab Tests for Breast Cancer

Lab tests for breast cancer identify levels of different substances in the blood. In detecting breast cancer, the three following tests are significant:

CA 15-3

Cancer antigen 15-3 is always naturally present in the blood. However, if levels are increased, this can show the presence of cancer. It is also helpful in monitoring breast cancer after treatment.

CA 27.29

Cancer antigen 27.29 is a tumor marker. Levels of this antigen can predict the likelihood of breast cancer recurring in women who have had treatment.

BRCAvantage™, Comprehensive

BRCAvantage™, Comprehensive is a proprietary test that can identify gene markers in women who have an increased risk of breast cancer. A positive result does not mean that you have cancer. It may mean that you are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. 

The Importance of Lab Tests

Breast cancer is usually diagnosed after a patient undergoes a mammogram. A patient may report breast pain or notice a lump, and a doctor may order a mammogram. At other times, a routine screening mammogram may show that further tests are needed.

Lab tests are vital in breast cancer detection. They are the only way to diagnose breast cancer accurately. A biopsy removes a sample of breast tissue for testing. If there are cancer cells present, it will show the type of cancer and the rate of growth. 

There are common types of breast cancer lab tests that your doctor will order. They are the hormone receptor test and the HER2/neu test. These tests can help to show which treatment options are most suitable for you.

What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer occurs when cancer forms in breast tissue. Although men can also develop breast cancer, it's far more common in women. The cancer cells divide rapidly and form a lump or mass in the breast.

A breast cancer diagnosis will also include further tests. These will check whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Most commonly, secondary tumor cells are found in the lymph nodes. 

It's true that breast cancer is common, but early diagnosis and treatment lead to a 99% survival rate at five years after diagnosis.

If you notice any changes in your breasts, not just lumps, it's important to go for breast cancer tests. Routine breast cancer screening can detect the disease before you have any symptoms. 

Risk Factors and Causes of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer occurs due to a number of factors. Some of the risk factors include a person's genetics. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations significantly increase the risk of developing breast cancer. 

Additionally, there are other risk factors, including:

  • being female
  • age
  • family history of breast cancer
  • exposure to radiation
  • obesity
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • drinking alcohol
  • using tobacco
  • starting period before the age of 12
  • starting menopause late
  • never having been pregnant
  • hormone replacement therapy

It's clear from this list that it's impossible to avoid many of the risk factors of breast cancer. That's why breast cancer screening is so important.

Women over the age of 40 should discuss when to start breast cancer screening with their doctor. Women between 50-74 who are at average risk should get tested every two years. 

There are some risk factors in our control. Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. Avoiding alcohol and tobacco will also help to reduce your risk. 

Signs and Symptoms of Breast Cancer

The first signs women notice are usually changes in their breast or breasts. This could include:

  • feeling a lump or thickening
  • change in size, shape, or appearance
  • skin changes
  • nipple becomes inverted
  • changes to the areola (pigmented skin around the nipple)
  • redness or pitting of skin on the breast

If you notice any of these symptoms, immediately contact your doctor.

There are also other symptoms of breast cancer to be aware of. Symptoms include swelling in your arm, under your armpit, or around the collar bone. Talk to your doctor if you notice any of these. 

With early-stage breast cancer, you may not be in pain. Lumps are often not painful. You may be suffering from tiredness, unexplained weight loss, or appetite loss.

Frequently Asked Questions about Breast Cancer and Lab Testing for Breast Cancer

Anyone with a diagnosis of breast cancer wants the best possible treatment. Breast cancer lab tests are a crucial part of ongoing breast cancer monitoring and treatment.

Some of the most frequently asked questions about breast cancer and breast cancer lab tests include:

  • What is the stage of my breast cancer?
  • What treatment options are available?
  • Has cancer spread to other parts of my body?
  • What are the side effects of cancer treatment?
  • Can lab test help to monitor my cancer?
  • When should I start screening for breast cancer?

Your doctor and specialist cancer doctor will be able to discuss these and other questions you may have with you. Lab tests are an important part of the decision-making in the early stages of treating the disease.

Breast cancer lab tests help doctors to identify certain tumor markers in the blood. This can help them to see whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Lab tests can also show whether the cancer is responding to treatment. They can also show whether cancer has come back. 

Having breast cancer lab tests is just the first step. To understand the tests, it's vital to review them with your doctor. They will recommend the next steps to get you on the road to recovery.

Time to Order Your Breast Cancer Tests

If breast cancer tests have shown that you have breast cancer, further help is at hand. Breast cancer lab tests are vital for doctors to ensure that you get the best treatment. They will help your doctors to monitor and treat you long-term.

What are the benefits of breast cancer lab tests from Ulta Lab Tests? Ulta Lab Tests offers tests that are highly accurate and reliable so that you can make informed decisions about your health.

  • Secure and Confidential Results
  • No Insurance or Referral Needed
  • Affordable Pricing including Doctor's Order
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee

Order your breast cancer lab test today. Your results will be provided to you securely and confidentially online in 24 to 48 hours for most tests.

Take charge of your health and track your progress with Ulta Lab Tests.