The AFP (alpha-fetoprotein) test is a blood test commonly used in medical diagnostics to measure the levels of AFP in the bloodstream. AFP is a protein produced by the liver and yolk sac of a developing foetus during pregnancy. In adults, AFP levels are typically low. Abnormal levels of AFP can indicate various medical conditions.
Here are some common uses of the AFP test:
Pregnancy Screening: In prenatal care, the AFP test is often part of a group of tests called the triple or quadruple screen. Abnormal AFP levels in maternal blood may indicate a higher risk of certain birth defects, including neural tube defects.
Liver Disease Monitoring: Elevated AFP levels can be associated with liver diseases such as hepatocellular carcinoma (a type of liver cancer) and cirrhosis. The test may be used to monitor individuals with chronic liver conditions.
Testicular Cancer: AFP levels can be elevated in certain types of testicular cancers, particularly non-seminomatous germ cell tumors. The test may be used for diagnosis, staging, and monitoring treatment response.
It’s important to note that while the AFP test can provide valuable information, abnormal results do not confirm a specific diagnosis. Further diagnostic tests, imaging studies, and clinical evaluations are often needed to determine the underlying cause of abnormal AFP levels.
The reference range for AFP levels can vary, and interpretation depends on factors such as age, gender, and the specific circumstances of the individual being tested. Consultation with a healthcare professional is crucial for proper understanding and interpretation of AFP test results in the context of an individual’s overall health.
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