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Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor

Does this test have other names?

VEGF, vascular permeability factor, VPF 

What is this test?

This test measures the amount of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in your blood. VEGF is a substance that helps encourage the growth of new blood vessels. Your body makes more VEGF in certain cases. For example, if your tissues aren't getting enough oxygen, they may make more VEGF so that new blood vessels grow to bring in more oxygen. Your lungs contain VEGF because good blood flow is vital there.

But VEGF also plays a role in cancer growth. Cancers need an ample blood supply. As a tumor grows larger, its cells can become hungry for oxygen. The cancer encourages new blood vessels to grow to supply it. Most tumors show higher levels of VEGF. Sometimes higher levels mean a lower chance of survival. In addition, VEGF may be important in the process of metastasis. This is when cancer spreads to other places within your body. 

VEGF can also promote "leakiness" of blood vessels. This can lead to swelling in surrounding areas. This can be especially harmful during brain cancer, because it can increase pressure within the skull and lead to brain damage. 

Certain cancer treatments target VEGF. This test may be used to tell how well the treatments are working.

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test if your healthcare provider wants to find out how quickly a tumor is growing. He or she might also order this test to see if your cancer is responding to treatments that work against VEGF. A number of cancer treatments work against VEGF. 

What other tests might I have along with this test?

If you have cancer, your healthcare provider may order tests to check for possible complications linked to certain anti-VEGF treatments. These complications include:

  • High blood pressure

  • Liver damage

  • Underactive thyroid 

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your healthcare provider.

Higher levels of VEGF have been linked to many types of cancer. 

How is this test done?

The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.

Does this test pose any risks?

Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore. 

What might affect my test results?

If your blood sample is mishandled by your healthcare provider or the lab, the results may not be accurate. Medicines such as cholesterol medicine (statins) can increase VEGF levels. High platelet levels can also affect the results.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test. But be sure your healthcare provider knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use. 

Medical Reviewers:

  • Snyder, Mandy, APRN
  • Taylor, Wanda L, RN, PhD