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Question about CEA levels -

mykidsmommy's picture
Posts: 78
Joined: Apr 2007

For the life of me (pardon the pun) I can't get a read on what a low CEA level is and what is a high one. Mine have stayed steady at 0.5 - which seems low right?? Is there some chart I can see??? I know the CEA is not a definite but I want to understand it better - Thanks!

Betsydoglover's picture
Posts: 1256
Joined: Jul 2005

CEA is not a good marker for everyone.

0.5 is about as low as most labs go. For reasons too ridiculous to explain, I have no CEA prior to colon surgery, but post surgery, with confirmed liver mets, my CEA was 0.5. It has always been that with Labcorp. In Spring 2006 I was evaluated twice for a trial at NIH and there my CEA was <0.5 - different lab, meaningless difference. For reasons unknown, my oncologist sent my latest blood to Quest instead of Labcorp - CEA came back as 0.7 (with a note that these results cannot be compared to those of any other lab).

So, I am at least one person whose CEA seems to be meaningless. No doubt you are another. But doc will keep checking, because it is a datapoint and it would be wrong not to keep track of it.

CherylHutch's picture
Posts: 1399
Joined: Apr 2007

What my oncologist told me was that they consider anything registering 4.0 and below is considered "normal" and no need for any concern. Anything over 4.0 might be the trigger to order more/different tests. Everyone's levels of what is normal, or what is high can vary.

I've heard of people who are on chemo and yet, they have CEA levels in the 100s. Me, when things are going well then I register around a 1.5. Last Dec when my reading was a 6.0, that got my oncologist saying we will keep an eye on it. A month later it was an 18... so she ordered a PET scan. That's when they found the cancer in my right adrenal gland.

Just before the surgery to remove the adrenal gland, my reading was a 30. I had the surgery and a month after the surgery the level had dropped to a 1.5... and has remained there.

So, for me, it doesn't have to be very high before it triggers warning bells for my oncologist to order more tests or scans. For others, a 6 or 10 might not be of any concern.

Hope this helps, but I know it doesn't answer your question of what exactly is high and low... and there is no chart since everyone is so different.



claud1951's picture
Posts: 429
Joined: Jun 2007

I agree with Cheryl, in that my Doctor, also, told me anything that 3 or 4.0 and below is okay.

But, I'm one that they can't go by the CEA as mine is low, like yours. I think the highest mine got (while on chemo) was 1.5. I was only .6 when they found the cancer.

I just had my 6 month check up (1 year out) and no cea was taken.

If you go to this Web site you can read a little more about CEA

Hope that helps.


KathiM's picture
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

My oncologist, now, has stopped even testing it...the last test was "<.5"....

Now, I am going to make sure SOMEONE does it every once in a while, because if it DOES spike, well...an investigation is needed...lol!

Hugs, Kathi

Posts: 529
Joined: Nov 2007

Mine is always a bit high.
My onoclogist said mine would have to spike beyond 8 or 10 or more to be concerned. To the best of my knowledge my CEA has never been lower than 2.4 or higher than 4.7. Stage IIIA colon cancer, currently 16 months ned.
Not sure which is more worrisome.

Hope yours never spikes.


Posts: 529
Joined: Nov 2007

I was diagnosed with colon cancer in January 2007 after a malignant polyp showed up on my routine colonoscopy - CEA 4.7. At the end of chemo mine dropped to 2.4. During most of treatment I was between 2.9 and 3.4. Six months ago mine went up to 4.4 and has been there for 5 months -3 scans and 4 cea tests. For me, it is not a good indicator. I am currently ned. They generally get - when they have enough info and you are out of "your pattern."

I hope you will find you are prefectly OK


Posts: 4
Joined: Dec 2008

Hi, CEA is a prety good indication even though it is not a defenite accuracy. 0.5 is excelent, nothing to worry about, specially if it has been low for some time. Congratulations! CEA level vary on time of day, fod yu've had prior to CEA, if you're fasting @ time of lab. Don't worry and celebrate 0.05. Congrats!!

Posts: 41
Joined: Apr 2017

Old thread - but no - CEA is not related to food you eat nor does it vary significantly intra-day.

Half-life for CEA in the bloodstream is on the order of 13 days, although under some rare circumstances is can clear the system with a half-life around 4 days.  Week to week variation isn't useful and the most intensve surveillance I've read of takes levels at one month intervals.


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