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What are they talking about

lmchils57's picture
Posts: 60
Joined: Feb 2010

What are they talking about when they talk about your counts when dealing with cancer? My son was told today that his counts were 7800 when he was in the hospital but since starting the treaments they are down to 5700 and that that is good. I was trying to look it up on the internet but all they want to give me for results is white blood cell counts and I was sure there is a count of cancer cells or somethign like that that they check when they do his lab tests. I am just a little confused. I know the doctor is very pleased at this point with the results they are seeing and of course that he is having very little side effects. He has a ct scan next week and we will probably find out on his next appointment the results of that,of course we will be waiting anxiously to find out how things look on that. Scott and his doctor both feel that liver is shrinking so that should mean the tumors are shrinking.

Sundanceh's picture
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009


It sounds like they are referring to his CEA levels dropping.

The CEA stands for Carciogenic Embryonic Antigen - fancy words for a blood test that is used as a diagnostic tool to determine cancer activity in the body.

The lower the number the better. The ranges are as follows:

0-3 for a non smoker is considered normal and within range.
3-6 for a smoker is considred normal and within range.

Obviously, his CEA markers were very high, but you are seeing a good reduction in those numbers, thus your onc is happy to see this. At this point, I would be happy to see such a significant drop in the numbers - that is a good indicator that things are moving in the right direction.

For some folks, CEAs are not a reliable marker, and in other folks, it is a good marker. In my opinion, it sounds like CEAs appear to be a good marker for your son.

Hopefully, the numbers will continue to decline. One word of caution though, if you see where the levels have dropped and then have begun to go back up, do not panic - as the cancer cells die off, they emit a protein in the blood which can be picked up on the CEA test. This is a normal event for those where the CEAs are a good marker.

His liver is probably not shrinking, rather the tumors are and that is what they probably meant. The death of a cell is called NECROSIS. As the tumor dies off, that area can recede or shrink and this is probably what is being eluded to.

So far so good - good job and continued best of luck.


ann2008's picture
Posts: 119
Joined: Nov 2009

It sounds like they mean white cell counts because normal is around 5,000 to 10,000. White cells help fight infection. Chemo can drop these numbers and your body will have a hard time fighting off infection.Ann

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