Another question on CEA

Butt Member Posts: 352 Member

For those of you for whom CEA is considered a rather accurate predictor of reccurance, how long did it take from it starting to increase until things showed on a scan? Butt.


  • Trubrit
    Trubrit Member Posts: 5,800 Member

    When my CEA jumped from 1 to 10 and then 20, My Onc ordered a CT. The CT showed nothing, so he ordered me a PET. The PET showed a 2 cm tumour in my liver. 

    I've no doubt it changes with each person, but this was my experience. 

    I am due to have another CT on the 29th, because my CEA went up a LITTLE bit - thank goodness it didn't jump, or I would be allot more worried and pushed for an earlier scan. 

    Good luck!



  • steveja
    steveja Member Posts: 41
    You can't say "those whom CEA

    You can't say "those whom CEA is considered accurate"  - many ppl have normal CEA pre-surgery then develop elevated CEA at recurrence.  Some have elevated CEA pre-surgery then normal CEA at recurrence.   The UK FACS study, followed stage 1,2,3 after surgery with curative intent and recorded CEA readings over 5yrs.   In the followup, ~80% never had an elevated CEA (>5ng/dl) and this 80% had an 11% CRC recurrence rate.   Of the 20%  that had one or more elevated CEA readings, there was 50% recurrence rate.    I've parsed the data and >5ng/dl reading suggests a ~50% chance of recurrence, at >10ng/dl means >80% odds of recurrence., above 37ng/dl this dataset has 100% recurrence.  Cochrane Revieews and the UK national health system report suggest a CEA level of 10ng/dl as threshold for further study (non-smokers only).

    The Netherlands "CEAwatch'" study (and several other studies) found that following the RATE of CEA increase is an important criteria, with a threshold ~10% CEA increase per month over 3 months.  The UK national study suggests a RATE of 1ng/dl increase per month increase is the trigger for imaging in the first year, but lower rate triggers later (~0.65ng/dl per month at yr3).

    Liver metastases (as Trubrit's comment  suggests) often cause dramatic, exponential increases in CEA - doubling in a few months.  FWIW current thinking is tha CEA actually improves the odds that a liver metastasis will form, and then the high  blood supply in the liver makes release of CEA to the blood more common.

    I've never found the stat you are looking for.  CEA readings are just too erratic to determine a clear stating point from which to measure time, and a rapid rise in CEA is likely to be caused by a malignancy, whether it can be imaged or not.   The CEAwatch study (huge national database content) showed the mean time to recurrence ~15-16 months.  Generally they consider tumors found <6months from surgery to be 'synchronous' - tumors they just missed.   LT studies find CRC recurrence from 6months to 115months(~9.5yr) after surgery.  Early recurrence (<24-30 months) are likely to be metastatic liver or lung.  Later recurrence is more likley to be a local recurrence which has somewhat better outcomes.

    Perhaps most important, CEAwatch and now several additional recent studies show that extra surveillance (more frequent CEA tests, more CTs&PETs&Ultrasounds, find metastatis at an earlier tumor stage, cause consideraby more surgeries, but don't improve mortality outcomes!!    So detecting recurrence earlier than conventional protocol (typically CEA every 3mo for 2yr, CEA every 6mo for 3yr) isn't helpful or desirable.


  • sylvia_mae
    sylvia_mae Member Posts: 37
    edited October 2018 #4
    When my CEA rise from 2 to 4

    When my CEA rise from 2 to 4 (although still normal) my doctor said it is already alarming because of the increase and i felt pain. they had me checked-up and found a mass in between my ovary and doughlas pouch. i was set to have oral chemo for 4 cycles and it decreases. afterwards, i had another set of ctscans and they found out that the mass shrunk. doctors asked me to have chemoradiation, 28 days radiation and 6 cycles of chemo. first cyle with chemorad, i had my 1 week rest test of cea and it decreases to 1.9. then i had these mucus comming out from my butt and painful sensation during bowel movement. i was scheduled to have another test (same 1 week rest then cea test) it increases to 3. to make it shorter i had my last cea test after chemorad. and it says 5.22. doctor scheduled me another cea test by jan.2019. i am also seeking for advise about my current cea. they say if you have an infection it will rise (i hope the reason is because of my proctitis due to radiation) but nonetheless there is no assurance. and this bothers me a lot. 

  • NewHere
    NewHere Member Posts: 1,427 Member
    Mine Seemed Accurate. Then It Did Not Seem To Be

    When I was diagnosed initially it rose.

    Dropped after surgery, then it then increased during chemo (common occurance). 

    Dropped after chemo 

    Then started rising after met to lung, which was removed. 

    Dropped after removal 

    Cancer came back in mulitple lymph nodes and multiple mulltiple multiple lung mets (a bunch).    CEA really has not gone up - it is still about 20% less than the reading I had with the one confirmed lung met and has not hit "High" on readings.   Have not bothered testing the last few times in light of the circumtances.  It would show high now, maybe more so with chemo now starting.  Would be interesting to track to see how it goes up and perhaps down as chemo works.  But I will be getting scanned fairly often in light of my condiiton.

  • Annabelle41415
    Annabelle41415 Member Posts: 6,742 Member

    Don't be stuck on the numbers of CEA.  Although it is reliable in a lot of people it can rise due to other issues like others said.  Mine never was a good indicator.  There are others where it has risen and all the tests run couldn't find anything.  I'm sorry that you are so stressed because of this.  Hoping that you find the answer you are looking for through this board as there is a wealth of information here.


  • steveja
    steveja Member Posts: 41
    Most common infections DO NOT

    Most common infections DO NOT elevate CEA.   Here is a list of some common benign causes of CEA elevation.

    • Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
    • Pancreatitis.
    • Liver disease.
    • Tobacco use can lead to elevated CEA levels.
    • Diverticulitis.
    • Hepatitis.
    • Peptic ulcers.
    • Hypothyroidism.
    • Cirrhosis of the liver.
    • COPD.
    • Lung infection.
    • Pleural effusions.
    • Biliary obstruction.
    • Treatment with oral 5-FU.
    • High serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase (sGPT, aka ALT) levels.

    There are some cases that sugget lithium treatment causes CEA elevation.


    CEA rising or >10 should trigger further studies.  Some papers suggest that an isolated high measure should be followed up with an additional test (lab error concerns, rare but it happens).

    Some tumors of the same cancer produce CEA in the blood stream, some do not.  So CEA is a test with high rates of false positives, and false negatives, therefore poor diagnostic power.

    There are some very new circulating cell & circulating DNA tests that still have mediocre true-positive rates (still quite a few false positives), but very low false negative rates, and little or no interference from other benign conditions.


  • Coachjim
    Coachjim Member Posts: 19 Member
    Add thyroid to that list

    A friend of mine had her CEA go to 5.8 (Roche) but scans were clear and she'd started gaining weight, tired all the time so she asked for a TSH.  She was hypothyroid.  After a few months on thyroid medicine, her CEA dropped over 50% and at 6 months, it was lower than it had ever been in 10 years. 

  • abita
    abita Member Posts: 1,152 Member
    My CEA was high with my

    My CEA was high with my initial liver mets. The numbers decreased during chemo at the same rate my tumors shrunk. After my resection, my CEA stayed at 1.  The blood work at my scan that showed the recurrence, my CEA was 1.5. At start of this chemo, 1.6. On the day of my third round, my CEA was 1.2 I realize this is still in the normal range, but I still think the .6 rise is the growing of the small lesions so I am taking it as a sign the chemo is working that the CEA is going down.

  • tanstaafl
    tanstaafl Member Posts: 1,313 Member
    better data

    CEA only tells part of the tale and surgery doesn't stop metastatic activities that are more likely with CA199 elevated cancer tissues (not the only source of serum CA199).  Perioperative cimetidine, before, during, and/or after surgery, has been shown to make surgery more successful against mets.  But your doctors usually don't know unless they'e been told by cancer forum and Life Extension Foundation readers...

    We also monitor CA199, AFP, ALP and LDH for various contributions.   Various soures of inflamation, sugar and thyroid spikes can affect the data but our bodies'  data can be conditioned chemically in multiple ways.  The more and better data makes a more complete and useful picture.