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CEA Question

scouty's picture
scouty
Posts: 1973
Joined: Apr 2004

Hi All,

I notice here lately that several of you said you CEA was "normal" while you had active tumors. What do you mean by normal? I have read less then 5 is normal, but I have also read 1 or below is the real normal. What were your CEA results that you thought were "normal"?

Just curious.

Lisa P.

spongebob's picture
spongebob
Posts: 2600
Joined: Apr 2003

Lisa -

Mine was always below 1.0.

I have heard the same conflicting reports about what "normal" is. At the same time, I have come to understand that CEA is not typically regarded in a single test, rather they look for rises and falls in the numeric trend to ascertain the presence of disease.

- Bob

Kanort's picture
Kanort
Posts: 1275
Joined: Jan 2004

Hi Lisa,

Great question. I am curious about CEA levels also. I do not know what mine was when I was diagnosed, but my gastroenterologist said that it was normal. (Just didn't know enough at the time to even ask!) Last week mine was 1.7 and three months ago it was 2.3. I understood that anything below 3 was normal. I also thought that possibly one's CEA level might rise with a recurrence even if it was normal with diagnosis.

It will be interesting to see what others have to report.

Thanks again,

Kay

alihamilton's picture
alihamilton
Posts: 344
Joined: Jan 2004

That is what I have heard too...that a rise in CEA can indicate recurrence. My husband's post treatment was 3.1 and the latest was 2.9 but his oncologist said it would likely "bounce around" a bit and that those levels were quite acceptable. Along with a PET scan, there was no indication of malignancy.

However, I also would not rely on the CEA alone.

Btrcup's picture
Btrcup
Posts: 287
Joined: Jun 2004

Hi Lisa, my hubby's CEA level has always been below 2. On Dec. 6th we found out he has recurrence (peritoneal carcinomatosis). So we know we cannot depend on CEA levels as an indication of tumors/recurrences.

Linda (Baltimore)

spongebob's picture
spongebob
Posts: 2600
Joined: Apr 2003

Lisa -

One other point worth mentioning regarding CEA...

I was discussing CEA tests with an MD friend of mine. He conducted a simple test in his office one day, he drew a CEA on a patient and sent a sample (taken same day from same patient) to two different labs. He got back CEA values that were 2.0 points different. Sounds like a lot of the results have to do with the lab's quality control as well.

Just some more food for thought.

- Bob

ron50's picture
ron50
Posts: 1288
Joined: Nov 2001

Hi Lisa,
With a highly aggressive tumour into 6 lymph nodes my cea never got over 2.8. Both my onc and surgeon used 4 as a baseline i.e under 4 ok over 4 check further. My cea in the last 7 yrs has been consistently under 1 usually between 0.7 and 0.9 ,only once during that time has it risen (up to 1.8) and that was due to a duodenal ulcer.

cindybob's picture
cindybob
Posts: 61
Joined: Aug 2004

Is CEA the bloodtest they do to "tag" for cancer? I think that's how my doctor phrases it? It is a blood test to indicate that "something" indicates that you have to do more tests? I get tested a lot for this "tag" thing and I'm wondering if that is what is meant by CEA. I've never heard of it.

Thanks,
The uninformed
CindyBob

scouty's picture
scouty
Posts: 1973
Joined: Apr 2004

This is all very interesting to me. Keep your thoughts and experiences coming. I am sorry to ask but my real reason is that too often lately I have read here about folks being NED and their CT scans and CEA were all normal, but the "***** cells" (sorry but that is what I call them) did not agree. I have no idea where my ole chemo damaged brain is going with all this, I am just curious as to how often we are sicker then our doctors think we are. Seems the only way they really know (and then they aren't always right either) is to cut us open and remove things and then examine them.

My friends here deserve better and I just have to vent for them and me too. I am starting to realize that they call it medical practice for a real life reason (sorry Jana, you are probably going to hate me now). I think I have said enough. Hugs everyone and I don't mean to be a downer, but reality does suck.

Lisa P.

MJay's picture
MJay
Posts: 132
Joined: Aug 2004

This is a very good question. When my GI doctor discovered the 5 cm rectal tumor, she immediately sent me for tests. One of which was the CEA test. At the time I was in too much shock to put 2 and 2 together. But now that I remember, she said that my CEA barely registered a tumor.

If results are so varied, and by the accounts on this board, unreliable... why do them???? Or put so much faith in them????

Good question!!!! I am going to bring that up at my drs appts next week when they all try to talk me in to going back to chemo.

FAT CHANCE!! I feel the best I have felt in over a year!!!

MJay

kangatoo's picture
kangatoo
Posts: 2115
Joined: Feb 2004

Well, this is certainly an interesting topic. I have no idea what my CEA was on dx. After talking to you guys for the past 12 months or so I decided to enqire to my doc. about them.
My last CEA was 4, the one previous was 3.
To quantify this I need also to say that my doc. told me CEA levels can be raised due to smoking(ok-slap me one...I smoke..tsk, tsk!) She also told me that various labs can come up with different readings depending on the procedure used. My level has increased by 1 inthe last 2 months but she told me that 7 is considered the level that I do NOT want to reach. If I do then it is time for further tests. This does worry me.
Now my question to the group!
Would CEA testing be a "universal" thing worldwide as far as readings go?
Could it be that we use a different "numbers" scale here in Australia?
If that is the case then fine.....but if the numbers used are universal then according to all your Cea readings my level of 4 would be considered high, don't yah think?
Ok----I am not going to get paranoid over it....but the underlying concern is a real one.
luv n huggs, kanga n Jen

kangatoo's picture
kangatoo
Posts: 2115
Joined: Feb 2004

Hey Ron..howryah buddy??? You may know the answer to my question mate.
BTW guys.....where is our darling Monika and her best mate, Bert? Have not heard from her for a while, starting to worry me.
kanga

ron50's picture
ron50
Posts: 1288
Joined: Nov 2001

Hi Kanga,
I had a talk with my onc about cea years ago. He considered 4 as the baseline for the perfect subject ,he also added that if I smoked I could expect to have a reading of 5+ and still be normal. I asked why do you bother doing it then. His advice was that cancer embryonic antigen whilst not an effective tool for diagnosing ca it was an excellent indicator of recurrent ca and he stressed that the figure itself was not as important as the direction in which it was moving and how rapidly. He also advised me that several ulcerative Gi tract conditions could also cause cea to rise. To me it has been a bit of a security blanket a nice low reading that I could cling to during the long and stressful road to ALLCLEAR. You should be getting enough smoke over in sth oz without inhaling the stuff Kanga,very sad stuff again,fires in aust ,tsunami's in asia and floods in the usa , not to mention the inevitible trucks that the non cancer sufferers could get hit by. It is a dangerous world mate ,keep your head down and take care and look afterthat lady of yours ,she's the one that will get u thru all this crap. Cheers Ron.

taraHK
Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

I have also heard that different labs have different "norms". My CEA was within normal limits at the time of my diagnosis. It is not a great test. But, if it goes up, and continues to go up, that is an indication that further testing is needed. My surgeon thinks the test is virtually useless for me, but my oncologist thinks "why not". Since I like to have as much information as possible, I still have the test regularly. In the knowledge that, for me, a normal result may not mean much -- but an abnormal/rising result would be a red flag.
Tara

Fitlisa
Posts: 99
Joined: May 2004

Hi All,

Very interesting discussion. When I was diagnosed in May with a very large tumor, my CEA was normal. It has remained that way throughout chemo and up until they went inside laproscopicallly on Dec. 10 and found that I have periotineal carcinomatosis ...it didnt show on the PET nor the CEA....hmmmm..

I am scheduled for surgery on Jan, 21 and my surgeon did another blood test last week which he says is more specifically designed to identify abdominal tumors (this to me would include colon tumors, no???). I think it was a CA-19 or something but I definitetly plan to get the exact test and report back here to all of you for future reference. I have no idea what my number is on that test yet. So, for me also, the CEA is useless.

My surgeon also told me about a test that they are going to do, whilst I am in surgery on live tumor. They remove the tumor, put some of it a petrie dish and send it live off for testing. Supposedly, this test will determine whether certain types of chemo are better suited to certain tumor types. Interesting huh??? I have never heard of this before and he qualified this by saying its not definitive. Since my chemo, Folfox 4, didnt stop the progression of my cancer, they are wondering if something else will should I choose to undergo more chemo after my surgery. I am on the fence about that right now but that is another topic for another day.

Anyway, its interesting this CEA thing and I wonder myself how accurate a test it really is.

Take care all,

Lisa

Lisa Rose's picture
Lisa Rose
Posts: 589
Joined: Mar 2003

Hi All,

My CEA was always in the normal range. It remains around 0.7 once it went up to 1.0 while I was doing chemo. My Dr told me anything under 4 was normal and in a recurrence it could still rise, so we still do it... We also use the blood marker CA 19-9 that Fitlisa spoke about. My blood remains between 14-18 and anything under 35 is considered normal.... I don't know how much faith I have in any of them.

Lisa

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