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rising CEA whilst having chemo

Posts: 11
Joined: Aug 2010

I have just finished my 12 cycles of chemo. Is it normal for my CEA count to go up? I didn't have a test prior to having cancer cut out (stage 3 and in 1 lymph node). After operation it was less than 0.5. Around cycle 6 it was 1.7 and today it was 2.8.

My doctor has said not to worry. Should I worry. He has said to leave it a couple of weeks to let my body settle down at the end of my chemo and then come back in for another marker test in a few weeks. If it is up again they will do a CT scan.

Could someone please explain the difference to me between a CT scan and a PET scan.

I was so happy at finishing my chemo and now I am all muddled and worrying about what ifs.

Many thanks in advance.

Anne in Switzerland

John23's picture
Posts: 2140
Joined: Jan 2007

There's a recent thread here: http://csn.cancer.org/node/201101 ,where I
listed references to the CEA numbers and what they mean.

Your physician is correct in not being alarmed, and you should not
be alarmed either. CEA is just one of many markers to be considered,
and alone.... means little.

A PET scan uses radioactive glucose in an attempt to isolate
cancer. Cancer cells typically use more glucose than their normal
surrounding cells. A cancer cell is nothing more than a damaged
normal cell that can no longer receive signals from your body.
It continues to grow using the fermentation process, eating
glucose and churning out lactic acid as waste. Your liver then
attempts to convert the lactic acid back into glucose...

The problem is... not all cancer cells use glucose faster than
their surrounding cells. In fact, an individual cell can not be
isolated, while cluster of cells, or small tumors can usually be
isolated. Likewise, what will not show up on a PET scan, will
not usually be touched by chemotherapy either, since the chemo
drugs attempt to locate cells growing faster than their surrounding
cells (i.e.they use more glucose when doing so)

Most surgeons seem to prefer the CT scan, since it can provide
more useful information to them; there are other things besides
cancer to be concerned with.... And... the CT provides a very good
platform for the surgeon to work from.

( CT vs PET scans )

Think healthy!


Posts: 372
Joined: Aug 2006

John is right. My CEA went from 1.4 to 5.6. My onc ordered a CT/Pet Scan back in March 2010. Both came back clear so time to celebrate and went on Vacation. The end of July they tested again and my CEA had gone to 14.6. Onc had no explaination and was sure it was something else then cancer. So he said lets give it another 4-6 weeks and we'll see if anything is growing inside with another Pet Scan. My family doc said BS and ordered a colonoscopy. They found a tumor back in my colon again. My last tumor was low grade slow grow as was this one. Onc now realizes my CEA is definitive for me and not the scans. My cancer doesn't eat sugar any faster than the other tissues so it doesn't show up. I am getting ready for chemo again and since surgery my CEA has dropped from 14.6 to 2.1. For me the CEA is a good thing but this is not the case with everyone. Hope this helps

Posts: 11
Joined: Aug 2010

Thank you so much for the responses:-) I really appreciate your thoughts.

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