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CA 127 or CEA blood tests -- I need help?

Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2004

I am interested in finding out what the difference between a CA127 blood test and a CEA blood test in regards to measuring cancer antigens. Also interested in what they should be showing in order to show progress is being made in treatment, or if something is wrong. My sister has been fighting breast cancer for 4 yrs, never in remission...but has now found a lump in her other breast. The antigen levels seem to be going down, so I don't know if I should be alarmed or not. I hope someone can help.


sassysally's picture
Posts: 150
Joined: Mar 2003

Loriann, I am a three time bc survivor and my oncologist does blood tests, but not the CA127 or CEA all can read a false negative according to him. ANY lump should be looked at and evaluated. Please tell your sister to get it checked. If it is nothing... Fabulous. But if it is something, it will be early and she will be ahead of the game. I have been on this journey 14 yrs now. I checke everything I find, as early as I find it. Have your sister get a biopsy if possible. Knowledge is power. The more you and she knows, the better you will deal with ( or wont have to deal with) the situation. Best wishes. God bless you.

jamjar62's picture
Posts: 135
Joined: Jan 2003

Hi Lori...what a great sister you are!

CA27/29 is specific for breast cancer while CEA tests for the antigen to any cancer.

My oncologist has never run a CEA on me because I don't think its very reliable in the case of breast cancer. However, my surgeon did, so every doctor does things differently.

As Sally said, any lump should be checked out regardless of antigen levels.


bunnie's picture
Posts: 233
Joined: Mar 2003

Hi i cant anwwer your qestion but i can relate to you sister i have been fighting cancer non stop also for two years. first bc then lung and know brain. did chemo and radition and know getting ready to start chemo so we can keep lung cancer under control. I wish your sister the best of luck. and yes pleas encurge her too go get the lump looked at.Bunnie.

Posts: 116
Joined: Aug 2003

There is a sight that you can look up what blood test's mean Look under blood test then type in CA127 and Cea and it will tell you what you are looking for.

Posts: 41
Joined: Dec 2004

Hello LoriAnne,

If you type this in your search box, it should take you to the site that you are looking for to find the info. It is SpectraMedi Medical Abbreviations and Terminology.

The best of luck to both of you. Cancer in any form is a heavy load to carry in your mind. My thoughts and prayers are with you.


Posts: 41
Joined: Dec 2004

Hello LoriAnne,

On the SpectraMedi Medical Abbreviations Terminology site, they have the blood test designated CA125, but not CA127.They also had the CEA. Just a suggestion for you, my husband just had to get a CEA test to see if his cancer has spread and Medicare wouldn't pay for it. You might want to make sure that your insurance DOES cover that test, so that you will have peace of mind about it.

CA-125 A substance sometimes found in an increased amount in the blood, other body fluids, or tissues and that may suggest the presence of some types of cancer.

CA-125 test A blood test that measures the level of CA-125, a substance found in blood, other body fluids and some tissues. Increased levels of CA-125 may be a sign of cancer.

CEA Carcinoembryonic antigen. A substance that is sometimes found in an increased amount in the blood of people who have certain cancers, other diseases, or who smoke. It is used as a tumor marker for colorectal cancer.


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CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4014
Joined: Oct 2009

I think that you might mean Ca 27.29? In general, the Ca 27.29 is a marker that is very specific to breast cancer. CEA is more specific for colon cancer, but it is often elevated with breast cancer too. Markers are used mainly to follow response to treatment. There are guidelines as to how they should be used:

In my case, when we were trying to figure out whether I really had metastasis, my onc did both. Both were very elevated. After a rib biopsy, the diagnosis was confirmed. Since treatment, the Ca 27.29 is now normal, the CEA is near normal.

Here are the usual serum markers followed for breast cancer:

From http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/UnderstandingYourDiagnosis/ExamsandTestDescriptions/TumorMarkers/tumor-markers-specific-markers

"CA 15-3
CA 15-3 is mainly used to watch patients with breast cancer. Elevated blood levels are found in less than 10% of patients with early disease and in about 70% of patients with advanced disease. Levels usually drop if treatment is working, but they may go up in the first few weeks after treatment is started. This rise is caused when dying cancer cells spill their contents into the bloodstream.

The normal level is usually less than 30 U/mL (units/milliliter), depending on the lab. But levels as high as 100 U/mL can sometimes be seen in women who do not have cancer. Levels of this marker can also be higher in other cancers, like lung and ovarian, and in some non-cancerous conditions, like benign breast conditions and hepatitis.

CA 27.29
CA 27.29 is another marker that can be used to follow patients with breast cancer during or after treatment. This test measures the same marker as the CA 15-3 test, but in a different way. Although it is a newer test than CA 15-3, it is not any better in detecting either early or advanced disease. It may be less likely to be positive in people without cancer. The normal level is usually less than 40 U/mL (units/milliliter), depending on the testing lab. This marker can also be elevated in other cancers and in some non-cancerous conditions, and it is not elevated in all patients with breast cancer.

Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)
CEA is not used to diagnose or screen for colorectal cancer, but it is the preferred tumor marker to help predict outlook in patients with colorectal cancer. The normal range of blood levels varies from lab to lab, but levels higher than 3 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter) are not normal. The higher the CEA level at the time colorectal cancer is detected, the more likely it is that the cancer is advanced.

CEA is also the standard marker used to follow patients with colorectal cancer during and after treatment. In this way CEA levels are used to see if the cancer is responding to treatment or to see if it has come back (recurred) after treatment.

CEA may be used for lung and breast cancer. This marker can be high in some other cancers, too like thyroid, pancreas, liver, stomach, prostate, ovary, cervix, and bladder. If the CEA level is high at diagnosis, it can be used to follow the response to treatment. CEA can be elevated in some non-cancerous diseases, like hepatitis, COPD, colitis, and pancreatitis, and in otherwise healthy smokers, too."

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