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Has this happened to anyone else? CEA Level question

Posts: 100
Joined: Mar 2004

My dad is stage IV colon cancer (diagnosed May 2002). In the past a rising CEA level for him correlated to a spot or two on his liver (cancerous). In February, his CEA was 2.8 and he had radiofrequency ablation done on the one liver spot. Since then, his CEA has been rising. Now it is 9. Back in April when his CEA was 6, he had a clean PET scan. Our oncologist does not seem too concerned at this time. He mentioned that my dad's CEA level was in the safe range. My concern is the lack of consistency. Even at a 2.8, we could see a spot on the PET scan. Now a 6 does not even register. He is on the folfox treatment every other week. The oncologist metioned that the CEA could also be caused by irritation. Any thoughts out there or similar experiences?

alihamilton's picture
Posts: 348
Joined: Jan 2004

My understanding of CEA is that it is not very reliable and is only used in conjunction with other tests...CT and PET scans. It is particularly unreliable when the patient is currently receiving chemotherapy so that could be the reason that your dad's is so erratic. I would go more on the PET scan results than anything else. I wish him all the best.

pjenks57's picture
Posts: 112
Joined: Nov 2003

sorry to hear your Dad is having irratic reports but with CEA levels that is not unusual. My hubby's CEA was at 56 and is now at 12.4 his highest was 162 and lowest has been 3. He is all over the place but the one that is really strange is his Aunt. Her CEA level read 54 and they did a CAT scan and found nothing. They did another CEA and it was 56 so they did a PET scan and nothing! Please don't take a lot of stock in CEA levels they are sometimes an indicator but mostly used as an indicator that Drs should look a little further. I have also heard many stories of different lab techs reading way different. PET scans and CAT scans are MUCH more reliable than CEA levels so please don't stress about these. Trust in your doctors and more importantly GOD and things will go fine.

PS. don't forget to take time for yourself too.
God Bless you and your family

Posts: 12
Joined: Feb 2005

My dad's CEA started at 66 and has been slowly increasing even with chemo. Presently, it is about 190 something. He has been on chemotherapy since January. He has had a PET scan and a CAT scan more than once and they have yet to find anything. We are just waiting for something to show up. It is very frustrating. I hear of many cases where patients are really sick with cancer and their CEA does not reflect it. I don't, however, hear of many cases where the CEA is rising and lesions are not seen.

nanuk's picture
Posts: 1363
Joined: Dec 2003

I'm curious..did the Onc say that CEA could be CAUSED by irritation? What kind of irritation? A
rise in my CEA has always been consistent with new cancer growth, but some people have high CEA
w/o associated new/enlarged cancer..go figure..?

Posts: 57
Joined: May 2005

My CEA levels have been always been normal (2.4) even though they found a malignant tumour during a colonoscopy. My surgeon said he will monitor the levels throughout treatment, but not to worry too much about them as they tend not to be very accurate, and usually only indicate something MAY be going on. He said that in some people they show no readings at all (me!), and some people have very high readings even with no cancer. This would suggest that it is not really all that reliable or accurate a test.

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