CEA is the tumor marker used in certain types of cancers especially for colo rectal cancer. An abbreviation for ” Carcino Embryonic Anigen, it is nothing but a reflection of a “certain antigen produced by these cancers”. So typically if you have a raised CEA, it is generally synonymous with a cancer thriving inside you.
Getting CEA measured
A very simple procedure, CEA is measured by doing a blood test. Of course it could also be done by testing body fluids or biopsy tissue. But the most common method prescribed is a blood test. you wouldn’t need to really prepare your body for doing the test.
Normal Range of CEA
For a normal adult CEA should generally be around 2.5 ng/ml and for a smoker 5.0 ng/ml. Anything way above this isn’t really a good sign.
Readings and more of CEA
CEA count is used as a tumor marker. In simpler words it is used to detect the presence of malignancy. Generally levels>20 ng/ml before any form of treatment or surgery is an indication of a metastatic disease(diseases that has spread to other organs/parts of the body). Docs use this value as a base line at the time of beginning treatment and see if values drop in response to the treatment.
In general a high reading means:
- There is cancer in colon, lung, pancreas, breast, or ovary.
- If after chemo or radiation, there is an increase it means cancer may not be responding to treatment.
- For those with a steady rise in readings after chemo or treatment, it means, the cancer has come back.
How accurate is a CEA reading?
Many docs often look at CEA with a pinch of salt. It isn’t often looked at as an effective screening test. This is because, hidden or occult cancers or those in early stages do not show up any significant elevation in the blood. Also many a times a temporary elevation may be seen during chemotherapy or radiation. This is because of increased activity seen at the spot of cancer cells, with the death of the cells and, release of CEA into the blood. Many a times, benign tumors may not show n increase. Benign tumors may turn malignant at a future date. It is for this reason a scan is recommended by most docs.
Why Has Your Doc Asked You to Do One?
Your doctor :
- May have suspected cancer of the colon, rectum or other specific cancer.
- Wanted to check recurrent tumors/malignant cells
- Check for your response to treatment
Finally.. Its not About the Value Honey
With my experience during Dad’s treatment, I have learnt that its not about value alone thats a concern. The main wory is when, there is a steady increase in CEA, which does not reduce even after a cycle of chemo or radiation. It shows the cancers negative response to treatment and increasing metastatic activity.
This is a clear sign that the cancer is showing activity and spreading.