Estrogen Testing Fact Sheet
Overview of the Test
The levels of different forms of estrogen, including estrone (E1), estradiol (E2) and estriol (E3), can be measured through an estrogen test. Estrogen tests may also take place along measurement of other hormone levels such as progesterone or luteinizing hormone (LH).
The estrogen test allows doctors to evaluate ovarian function, reasons for amenorrhea, diagnose early puberty in girls and gynecomastia in men. Estrogen testing can be useful when diagnosing certain types of cancer, such as ovarian cancer. It is also able to monitor follicle development in the ovaries for purposes of in-vitro fertilization and monitor some types of hormone replacement therapy.
Estrogen testing is also very important during pregnancy. Estriol (E3) testing usually takes place between the 15th and 20th week of pregnancy, to help assess whether the baby is healthy and to also help detect birth defects such as Down’s syndrome.
How is it done?
Before an estrogen test is done, a doctor needs to know about birth control or if there is a chance of being pregnant. Estrogen testing for most health issues usually involves a small blood sample from the arm. This testing method is also more accurate for assessing ovary health. Estrogen levels can also be assessed with saliva samples.
Those who are at risk of hormone imbalances may also need to give a urine sample, as this allows measurement of excess estrogen circulating in the body. Daily urine samples may also be analyzed during fertility treatment to help assess the fertility period.
Results are usual available very quickly from all forms of estrogen tests. Estrogen levels do vary for individuals and depending on the type of test and analysis, there are different results ranges. This means that it is important to check with the doctor what the results actually mean. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), blood results for women pre-menopause are usually between 20 and 400 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL) and after the menopause, 5 to 25 picograms per milliliter. A normal range for men is usually between 10 and 60 picograms per milliliter. The normal range can vary considerably in pregnant women.
Who does it?
The blood sample is taken by a doctor, nurse or qualified technician. A urine sample can be done at home or in a clinic.
The price can vary considerably depending on the type of estrogen test and its frequency. Blood tests for hormone levels can cost as much as $1000 for those without insurance.
When and How Often?
An estrogen test is sometimes requested for those who have symptoms of the menopause such as irregular periods and hot flushes. Regular samples are often necessary, as it can be difficult to make diagnoses based on one sample alone. Doctors may also need to monitor estrogen levels over a length of time.
Levels of any hormone, including estrogen, vary from day to day and some health conditions can cause estrogen levels to increase or decrease. Treatments such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and steroids can affect results, as can high blood sugar levels (from diabetes).
- Urinary estrogen metabolites: http://www.healthscopepathology.com.au/index.php/functional-pathology/tests/2-and-16-urinary-estrogen-metabolites/
- Estradiol test: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003711.htm
- Tracey B. Hopkins (2005) Lab Notes – Guide to Lab and Diagnostic Tests. F.A. Davis. Philadelphia. Pg 29.
Last reviewed 26/Feb/2014