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How high can cea levels go?

ittapp's picture
Posts: 385
Joined: Jun 2009

Can anyone tell me how high the cea levels can go. I have seen where some posts say they are in the 6000 range is that possible? just trying to understand the ranges ant find it on the net. Thanks, Patti

PamPam2's picture
Posts: 375
Joined: Jan 2009

My onc nurse told me she has seen them in the thousands. It is a measure of the enzymes that cancer cells are putting out. Mine was only 7 when I had my large tumor, and now it stays around 3 to 4, for some people CEA is a better indicator than others. There are other environmental factors that can affect it also, smoking, second hand smoke, and so on. Good luck with your research.

ittapp's picture
Posts: 385
Joined: Jun 2009

Are you still in treatment? I see where it came back, wasn't sure if your out of treatment now or still in chemo? Thanks for the quick reply... My cea was 15 before any surgery just finding out I had it, then after colon resection but before chemo it jumped to 89.8,I have liver tumors that grew during that time.After 2 chemo treatments back down to 21.8 not sure if that is good havent talked to Onc. yet about it. Chemo nurse gave me the numbers. Sundance seems to think that is good and he seems really know his stuff. Any ideas? Thanks, Patti

PamPam2's picture
Posts: 375
Joined: Jan 2009

Hi Patti
I am out of treatment now. Was stage 4, tumor grew out of colon, into overy and lymph nodes. Keeping an eye on lesion on liver, it is not showing any activity or growth at this time. It is a good sign that yours is getting lower, the chemo must be slowing down/killing the cancer cells. From what I understand, the cancer enzyme activity level is the enzymes that growing and active cancer cells secrete, so it sounds like yours is slowing down or dying off. It sounds like the chemo is doing it's job for you. Hope your levels continue to drop, and the liver tumors die off or shrink enough for other treatments to get rid of them. I am nearing my 5 year mark from when this all started, and am very thankful to be here. It has been quite a journey, and I am still closely monitored, but I think it has all been worth it. I will be glad to offer anything I have learned. Best Hopes for you and your family.

eric38's picture
Posts: 588
Joined: May 2009

When I first diagnosed my cea was 333 because of liver involvement. I thought that was through the roof until I talked to a guy who I see in the oncologists office who said his was 1300 and have seen posts on here of people in the 6000`s. Phillieg says his never got above 10 even though he has liver and lung metastisis so I don`t know if cea is a good indicator or not. I do know that cea going down is a good sign though.

Eric ( : . )

Amyruparel's picture
Posts: 1
Joined: Jul 2016

There are many forms of measurement was your form in the terms of ng/ml ?

Posts: 56
Joined: Dec 2013

It goes one step beyond just units of measurement being brought up a couple of times in this thread.  There are actually two different testing methodologies for CEA which most people are unaware of.  The one most people have been used to over the years is the Siemens/Bayer test method.  The other is the Roche method.  The Roche method has a wider band of what is considered "normal".  It's important you understand what testing method your lab uses and to have consistent measurements for the basis of comparison for trending.  If you shift labs, expect to have at least 2 CEA tests done to establish the new basis for comparison.  I shifted oncologists and the new one uses Lab Corp for his testing.  They use the Roche method.  My previous encologist was affiliated with the local hospital and the labs were done there.  The local hospital had used the Siemens Bayer and shifted to the Roche method as evidenced by the spike in the CEA number I had from being in the 3.x range to 4.7.  The number came with a foot note stating the change in testing method and the new scale for what is considered normal.

My last CEA with the new oncologist and Lab Corp came back at 5.6.  I was shocked at that number and wondered if it was just lab variability.  My oncologist felt that was certainly the case and felt comfortable there was nothing going on; especially since my CT scan showed nothing.  That was 6 months ago.  I'm currently waiting for my CEA number to come back from the lab.  Another scan was also done and again showing nothing.  It'll be interesting to see what the CEA number is this time.

Posts: 15
Joined: May 2010

My mom had surgery Easter 2009.Removed tumor in right side of intestines along with lymph nodes. Tunor had penetrated into stomach wall. Dont know what her 1st cea level was. Moms a retired nurse, very private and In denial to situation thinking what she doesn't know can't hurt her, or hurt us. Level after surgery was 8.3. She had 9 chemos until reaction set in. Then it went to 8.7, 8.9 latest in March was 11. My sister, brother and I to were wondering level numbers. Mom is tough, Had infection 4 days after being released from hospital.So back in for another week. Home doing chemo until Nov. when reaction set in. Stopped chemo. Dec.12 she was found unresponsive in morning rushed to hosp. In coma about 4 days, until antiboitics started to work. Icu a week, regular room 3 days then to nursing home connected to hosp. for 2 weeks. Home, pnumonia month ago hosp. for 4 days home again. We are just taking it one day at a time. Ever time the phone rings from my dad my 1st. reaction is my stomach drops. But all we can do is go on. Hearing the numbers from others has helped greatly. Thank you all

Posts: 9
Joined: Jan 2015

never know how successful tx is

are you still alive?

Trubrit's picture
Posts: 2980
Joined: Jan 2013

There are too many faces on this thread, who have passed away. It is heartbreaking!


NewHere's picture
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Joined: Feb 2015


tdatnd's picture
Posts: 7
Joined: May 2009


I'm a newbie here but I've been lurking.... these post have really given me hope.
My cea level was 7000 in Feb. so I guess I win the highest count - damn
after 12 rounds of chemo - once every two weeks - no surgery yet - my count is 1750.
I am stage 4 - it's all over the liver and one tumor on the colon.
The tumors are skinking with chemo, just got scan results back today.
Next stop IU Med Center in Indianapolis.


ittapp's picture
Posts: 385
Joined: Jun 2009

Hi Tina, I am pretty new myself, I also am stage 4 with liver mets, I did have my colon resection on the 14 of May. I also have some in my stomach and in 7 lymphnodes. I hope that the number coming down is a good thing for both of us! Welcome to this site, the people are amazing and I get so much encouragment from the wonderful people on here. You should throw yourself in and ask anything, and I mean anything goes on here. I have had 3 Chemo treatments so far, just had my bag off today. What is your treatment? I am on Folfox with Avastan and the 46 hr. pump of 5fu. Write anytime I am always lurking myself! Patti

Posts: 63
Joined: Jul 2009

Hi Tina and Patti I am kinda new to this site I just joined a few days ago. My husband was diagnosed June 08 had 7lymph node involvement and 4 liver mets. all removed. and was on the same chemo as you are for 3 months then changed to folfuri for another 3 months. I wish you luck and all the prayers. Are you going to be able to have the liver mets reomoved? Keep in touch.


Posts: 1
Joined: Apr 2015

Hi - I live in the Kansas City, Mo area and also have stage 4 colon cancer with liver mets.  I am also on the Folfox with Avastan treatment plan.  Prior to this, I was on Folfiri with the Certuximab target drug, which worked for about 10 or 11 months.  I will have a scan in about a month to see if this is working.  My CEA is at 53.6.  

Have you heard of the TheraSphere treament option for the liver mets?  I am now in the process of exploring it since I am not currently a canidate for a liver resection.

Take Care,

Ron G.



mom_2_3's picture
Posts: 956
Joined: Nov 2008

My CEA when diagnosed was over 250 (I think it was about 265) and everything I read indicated that anything over 10 always indicated metastatic cancer. Not sure if that is an absolute but it was the case in my situation. After treatment it started falling and prior to surgery it was in the 100's. After my liver surgery it basically halved itself every week to 2 weeks and is now 2.4 (at the last reading a month ago). I find out on Monday what it was the past 2 chemo sessions (my DR won't give the reading out unless I see her...drat!) and hopefully it has falled even more.

I have read of some people having CEA in the 20,000 range (which seemed impossible but apparently is possible).

snommintj's picture
Posts: 602
Joined: Mar 2009

When I was first diagnosed I maxed the scale. It came back as an error. After 1 treatment my level was 6800. It halved itself after every treatment. Before my first resection it was around 200. After surgery it got down to around 30. I've had a recent recurrence with a level around 90.

Posts: 163
Joined: Apr 2009

Sometimes cea markers are not indicators........mine was never over 3 when I had rectal cancer diagnoses and also later when I had a rectal cancer met to the lung.

herdizziness's picture
Posts: 3649
Joined: Apr 2010

Mine was 20,007, just went to the Onc today and he gave me the latest results, he said I had a twentyfold drop, it is now down to 974. He seemed very pleased. Although he had to mention that they could not cure me, due to liver tumors, but that already things were easier. Oh well. But yes, there are those like me that are/were in the 20,000 range.

angelsbaby's picture
Posts: 1168
Joined: May 2008

but angels cea was never over 4 more like 2 or 3 but then he had so much cancer all over the place you would think it would of been so high, for angel that was not a good thing because the drs all thought he was doing well and it did not go like they thought.


drayco's picture
Posts: 4
Joined: Feb 2013

I was diagnosed with stage II rectal cancer sept 2012.  Went through chemo and radiation.  Last treatment was in Dec 2012.  In jan I was recommened to see a surgeon.  I ended up seeing 4.  All 4 of them recommended full removal of my prostate, rectum, and part of my colon.  Then 6 months of heveay chemo.  


I'm not sure what my CEA number was at diagnosis but I had blood work done last week.  My blood was the best it's been since I started getting sick a year ago this time.  My CEA was 2.  I was really exited when I saw that.  I haven't had any surgery and I denied any further chemo treatment or surgery.  


Is 2 good or should it be 0?  Does 2 mean you still have cancer cells and that eventaully the 2 will be come 4 and then 8 and so on?  Not sure how that works.


Hope everyone is doing good and getting better..  Best wishes! :)

Posts: 272
Joined: Nov 2011

drayco, many of the people on the thread, even the lady who started this, have been dead for 2 or 3 years.  Please start a new thread and always try to check the dates when searching.  It's heartbreaking for us when these loved ones pop up ........ and some families receive notice of replies because of shared emails. 


To answer your question, tho,  2 is WELL within normal.  Here's a quote:  Most normal persons have detectable concentrations of circulating CEA. Approximately 85% of adults have CEA levels less than 2.5 ng/mL, while 95% have levels less than 5.0 ng/mL. CEA levels are slightly higher in men than women. The median level is 3.4 ng/mL in men and 2.5 ug/mL in women. Healthy persons seldom have levels above 10 ng/mL.


renw's picture
Posts: 282
Joined: Jan 2013

Makes you wonder how this forum will look 2-3 years from now. I hate this disease.

Posts: 1
Joined: Nov 2013

How do you know they're dead? Serious question. Just because they've stopped posting?

Posts: 272
Joined: Nov 2011

Her husband  and brother both posted here when she died.  I kept in touch with her brother for quite a while but when he was past his grief, I stopped writing him.  She lived a few towns away from one of our members and I think some went to her funeral...... THAT's how we know she died. 


At least 3 others have died who responded to this thread. 



Lovekitties's picture
Posts: 3247
Joined: Jan 2010

We communicate...not with those who passed, but with their friends, family and loved ones. 

Many long term posters ask someone to let us know if the worst happens. 

Posts: 1005
Joined: Aug 2013

I am new to the forum and didn't think about looking at the dates. It was a mistake many of us would have made. Since I've joined, a couple of people have passed. Not everyone knows who has passed, so it's hard to know unless you are on here regularly.

As far as your CEA levels, my brother is stage 4 with mets to lungs and liver. He is doing chemo and his oncologist told us that his levels went from a 9 to a 7. She said it's good news, it means the chemo is doing its job. It's amazing how people have such different CEA numbers. I wonder why. good luck!!

beaumontdave's picture
Posts: 406
Joined: Aug 2013

No two is likely very good, mine has been up to the forties, never low until after the second liver surgery, now it's 2.0, if it jumps beyond 4, I guess I'll start to worry. All of that is to say, CEA has been reliable for me, doesn't indicate other's results...................................................Dave

beaumontdave's picture
Posts: 406
Joined: Aug 2013

Yeah, I didn't look at the dates, like I'm talking to the past. Start a new blog, please, these old one's hurt.


thxmiker's picture
Posts: 1283
Joined: Oct 2010

Mine spiked at 1125 and several docs we have spoke to, told us that was not possible.  I have read people's claims of over 100,000. My Oncologists told me that is possible, but very unusal.  When you speak to the top Oncologists, they will tell you much different things then if you see the local oncologist. It is the experience. I wanted to be treated by someone that has seen thousands of cancer patients, not hundreds.   I have a more unsual cancer in the location fo where it was found. I knew I needed a real professional.


Best Always,  mike

Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2014

Just found out that my husband's CEA was 2100 prior to surgery for a colostomy. He has colorectal cancer with liver metasases, covering about 70% of his liver. He is an otherwise healthy, active, non-smoker, non-drinker 39 yr old. The original tumor in his colon was causing him a blockage and so he was unable to eat. Starting losing weight and went to dr, got blood work, showed anemia, went to gastro for colonoscopy and they couldn't even complete it because of the blockage. So they did a ct scan and told us 3 days later that he has cancer, mets to his liver and is incurable. We are shocked and don't want to give up. Any survivors out there who can share their story or give us some advice. he has first appt with oncologist on Monday and 2nd opionion on tuesday. This all started last week. Thanks! Any help is appreciated!

S and C

Posts: 2215
Joined: Oct 2011

I am sorry you have to be here but welcome. This is a good community for advice and comfort. I was diagnosed 9 years ago with stage IV colon cancer and am still here and going strong. It would be wise to start another post of your own so folks will read it and welcome you.

annalexandria's picture
Posts: 2577
Joined: Oct 2011

this is a really old thread, and many of the people posting in it are no longer with us.

I would suggest copying your post and starting a new thread, that way everyone can say hello and those who can answer your question will be more likely to see it and respond.

Again, welcome!  

Posts: 1
Joined: Feb 2016

My wife and I recently visited a cancer survivor in our area whose cancer journey is very similar to mine  -  only he started using an alternative called Protocel about two years ago.  He chose this after colon resection surgery and before starting chemotherapy as directed by his oncologist.  Having been told he had only six months to live without chemotherapy, he chose to forego chemo and has now passed that date by almost a year.  Incidentally, his blood CEA has lowered and he feels better than he has for the past four years.

I was diagnosed with colon cancer about the same time as he had been and, after surgery, went through 12 sessions of chemo  -  to my great dismay.  It was tough on my body and half a year later, after having been told I was without indications of cancer, I was told that I have cancer cells in my liver and six months to live without chemo and two to three years with chemo.

The choice is easy for me  -  I am trying Protocel and will either be the healthiest cadaver in four more months or will live more than the five years given by traditional therapies!



beaumontdave's picture
Posts: 406
Joined: Aug 2013

I'm sorry about the rollarcoaster ride, most here have been on it. Start a fresh thread about your treatment, these old ones hurt, because of those lost.

Akroger's picture
Posts: 88
Joined: Mar 2013

When my mom was first diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, complete with metastases in her lungs and liver, her CEA was 2,629. Within two months of chemo and radiation, it had dropped to 192.3. The lowest it ever got to was 31.2, but she's been jumping around on different chemo options for the past several months and her CEA has been rising and falling accordingly. This month it was at 409.8, the highest it's been since her diagnosis. CEA levels can provide some important insights, but honestly, I would say don't put TOO much emphasis on it. More important is how you're physically feeling, any new areas of pain or weakness, and what the scans show. Watching my mom's CEA levels for me has been like a die-hard sports fan watching the stats on his/her favorite team during a crazy season, and I know that's putting too much emotional reliance on a number that is but one indicator. My mom was diagnosed 20 months ago, and she has her good and bad days, but for the most part is doing extraordinarily well right now given how she was when she started (::knocks on wood::). One can only hope that a good trend lasts for a long time. 

Nana b's picture
Nana b
Posts: 3047
Joined: May 2009

Stanford told me that not all measure the same so my CEA level number could be different with them,  then with my cancer center/oncologist. 

Posts: 1
Joined: May 2016

There are several different CEA scales doctors use today.  Two of the usual ones are .. (1) "ng / mL" and (2) "ug / DL".   To convert, 1ng / mL = 10 ug / DL.  And it looks like many times labs are reporting lower case "d" instead of uppercase "D" (which adds to the confusion.. in terms of SI prefixes, dL= 0.1L  while  DL = 10L... that's an important difference.. 100x to us scientists).

         example:   22.4 ng/mL = 224 ug/DL

I suspect that the others here who are posting values of 264 and 333 are on that ug/DL scale.  And those posting values of 9 and 7 and 3.4 are on that ng/mL scale.  Apples to apples would be 26.4 vs 9 vs 7 vs 3.4.  The folks posting 2,629 and 6,000 might be on a different scale entirely.  Same as those posting "2" (there is another scale (0 to 5) scale some doctors use).   Make SURE you know what the units are on your test results! Otherwise the numbers are meaningless.

Anyway, the typical CEA range is < 3.0 ng/mL   (that is < 30mg/DL).  Some folks are naturally higher.  Others are in that range.  Sometimes certain cancers will elevate a patients CEA levels, othertimes or with other cancers, CEA will be normal.  Sometimes other things elevate CEA. 

Typically, from what I've read, heard, and studied, most doctors would say CEA < 10ng/mL (< 100ug/DL) could be normal or caused by things like smoking, not really a cause for alarm, but screening might be in order to determine the cause.  And again from what I've been hearing, CEA > 15ng/mL (>150ug/DL) typically means cancer might be spreading throughout your body.  More important than the absolute numbers is the TREND.  If you've been diagnosed with cancer and your CEA levels are low, but increasing, that might be a sign your particular chemo might not be working.  If your on chemo and the CEA is dropping, probably a good sign.  If CEA is remaining constant, maybe your particular cancer isn't one of those that elevate CEA.



Posts: 16
Joined: Jul 2016

I am 53, M from Malaysia. I am diagnosed with Rectac Cancer. Biopsy showed Grade C. I will be doing PET Scan on Monday. I am emotionally down. Surgey was done and rectum removed. Waiting for Chemo and Radio after PET Scan. What is the chances of survival of patients with smiliar problem like mine.


Posts: 9
Joined: Jan 2015

had my first tx yesterday

any body know how long it extends life?

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