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CEA Level

tr71068's picture
Posts: 26
Joined: Dec 2010

It has been awhile since I have been on. They stopped my Chemo side effects were to great. Since then I have been going for my blood work every three months. This is my question my first CEA Level was .08 my most recent one was 1.1 doctor seemed concerned alittle so they are redoing the labs in three weeks. It has only been 6 months since my last chemo treatment. I know the level is in the normal range, but it boths me that it has moved at all. I am a non smoker and my doc makes it seem like that is the only thing that will change it besides caner. So I am alot concerned. Any advice

lisa42's picture
Posts: 3661
Joined: Jul 2008


Yes, it is still within normal limits. It is my understanding that it is normal for the CEA to vary some up and down within the normal limits. From my understanding, even if it went up to almost 4, that shouldn't be a reason to worry. Now, if it goes up above normal limits, then you would maybe have more reason to be concerned. Interesting to me that your onc is so concerned with it going up to 1.1. That is very, very low. I really wouldn't worry about it if I were you, but do keep getting it checked.
For some people, CEA isn't always a good indicator. Do you know if it is for you? I know of a couple of people who even when they had lots of active cancer, the CEA tumor marker showed within the normal range. Then there have been others (and this is probably more concerning) who have high CEA's, but then they haven't been able to find evidence of active cancer. Weird. For some people, it's a very accurate indicator of the cancer's activity level. It seems to be so in me, so my onc does watch it very carefully in me. But, seriously, from 0.8 up to 1.1- I don't think anyone could say that there is a true upward trend here. I guess just continuing to watch it and test it every few weeks would give the story on that.

Hang in there!


tr71068's picture
Posts: 26
Joined: Dec 2010

I guess it worries me more since we had to stop the chemo after #2. I do know that after surgery here was no detectible cancer in me. They were only doing it since it has went to 1 lymph. Thanks it makes me feel better. And I am having a disagreement with my onc doc. And my family doc is filling in till I can find a new onc doc. But I do feel better thank you.

herdizziness's picture
Posts: 3642
Joined: Apr 2010

I know it's scary, mine originally was over 2000, it went down to I think 2.4 after surgery, and then slowly began rising, for the past 3 or 4 months, to 3.4, then this past Friday back down to 3.0. My onc says it's all natural, quit worrying, so I am, heck I've got a life to live. But yes, like you I was scared, but it's NORMAL
Take care dear.
Winter Marie

bamaje's picture
Posts: 4
Joined: Oct 2013

Hi, Not sure if you are still an active member on here or not.  I was diagnosed at 48 this summer and my CEA level was 1.4 which didn't concern me as up to 5 is normal.  I noticed on your comment you stated you had surgery and it went to 1 lymph node..  Can they tell if the cancer is in the lymph node without doing surgery?  Reason I ask is they removed my cancer at time of scope 90% cancer cells but clear margin underneath. They've recommended colon resection of 12-18 inches just to "see" if in any of the lymph nodes..which I think is kind of extensive given a clear margin under polpy and normal CEA levels.  Can they do a PET scan and tell if lymph nodes are impacted in lieu of yanking out via surgery?



Posts: 93
Joined: Nov 2011

Hi Debbie, sorry you're here. I know what you're going through looking for answers. Next time instead of replying to an old post start a new post and a lot of people will be there to help. Sometimes the people on a thread have died and it can be upsetting to people who were close to them. That said, to your question.

I can only tell you what happened with my husband. After the colonoscopy he had another scope by an endoscopic doc to stage the tumor and look for lymph nodes in the immediate area, he found three. The CT scan showed at least three more on the iliac artery.  He then had a PET scan, all the nodes lit up. At this point the endoscopic doc did a biopsy on the iliac nodes and they were all positive. 

I won't tell you what to do but why not ask for additional tests before surgery and take it from there. Keeping in mind that not seeing a node or seeing only nodes of normal size probably means they are okay but in reality they can contain cancer cells.  Armed with tests and working with a good surgeon will tell you much more and lead you to the best course of action. 

Good luck, keep us posted.



Annabelle41415's picture
Posts: 4846
Joined: Feb 2009

That level shouldn't concern you, and I'm wondering why your doctor is making such a concern or for that matter, even thought much about it. You are right, it is within the normal range. A lot of doctors don't put much faith in it and never test their patients for the marker. Articles claim that it's not always reliable, so with it so low, you shouldn't worry. Yup, easier said than done.


Cathleen Mary
Posts: 821
Joined: May 2011

My oncologist has repeatedly assurd me that many factors influence CEA levels. My CEA is checked every 3 mos. The last 4 checks have been slowly rising: 2.4; 2.8; 3.2; 3.6. There is no scan evidence of disease. If your CEA continues to rise, you may want to consider a CT scan or PET scan.
So many factors can increase our anxiety with this disease. Know that you are not alone and are in my prayer.
Cathleen Mary

marqimark's picture
Posts: 242
Joined: Jun 2011

Anxiety, hopefully, is your biggest concern.

I will have to ask what my 'base' number was 11/10 and my follow up number was 3/11 when I go in for a new test Thursday.

Wish me luck, BTW.


PS maybe I shouldn't ask

tr71068's picture
Posts: 26
Joined: Dec 2010

I hear from some people who there docs say many things influence CEA levels. I have also been told that there are only two things that increase your CEA levels and that is cigerette smoke also second hand and cancer. I dont know what to believe. I have even asked my family doc and he says the same things smoke and cancer the only two things that will increase it. It may flucuate some but not steadily increase. And since I dont smoke and try to stay away from those who do when my number increases is scares the crap out of me.

Posts: 2
Joined: Jun 2011

Hi I'm new here. 7 months post chemo. I have a concern and question. My CEA level has been slowly rising. Everytime I get the blood checked it's going up. 0.9, and recently it was 2.4. You see the upward trend? I am really nervous about this. I also have an inguinal/groin lymph node. I was Stage II with negative lymphnodes, went through 6 months of FOLFOX regimen, but had to stop the Oxaliplatin after my 3rd dose due to an anaphylactic reaction. So I'm nervous because I didn't get the full FOLFOX regimen.
I called my oncologist about the lymph node but I see him on July 7. He just said if it gets bigger to call him. What do you guys think? Should I be concerned?

Thanks Francine

tr71068's picture
Posts: 26
Joined: Dec 2010

I know how you feel 6 months post chemo. I never used to worry about any medical issue, it felt like anytime anything was wrong I would make a doc appt and it would go away. Now every little thing that isn't right or cant be explained right away I worry about. I also had to stop my treatments I only made it to number two. So I am in a perpetual worrying state. Was it enough chemo treatment some docs believe its really only the first two or three treatments that really work the rest is overkill. I hope they are right. I know some may say including docs and frieds not to worry just wait and see. I dont care I have everything looked at. I figure if its comes to the worst Im the one who is dieing nobody else so I dont care how doc may look at me and say just relax. I only get one life and I intend to stay here so I check everything.

HollyID's picture
Posts: 950
Joined: Dec 2009

My onc tells me he would only really worry if my CEA rose three times between tests. so a rise from 0.9 to 2.4 wouldn't phase him, not to mention if it only rose slightly between tests. I'm not sure what other oncs would say.

I also didn't get my full oxi regimen. So I think I know those feelings you are feeling. I don't fear so much anymore, since I've been chemo free for about a year now and my CEA is stable. Just remember there are many things that will influence a CEA and make it fluctuate and rise.

tootsie1's picture
Posts: 5054
Joined: Feb 2008

Praying you get great results when you get the CEA taken again!


Posts: 2
Joined: Jun 2011

Thanks for understanding and support!

Just so nervous and having to wait until July7! Hope the CEA drops a little.
Worried about this inguinal lymph node!


pepebcn's picture
Posts: 6352
Joined: Aug 2010

would not be a problem in those very low levels!.
Don't understand your doc. concerns honestly,but understand yours!

nannalou's picture
Posts: 1
Joined: Aug 2016

I was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 2012 at age 52.  When diagnosed my CEA level as .8,  I had surgery that removed the right half of my colon.  It was considered a stage 2, it had eaten into the colon wall but had not gone outside so I had no chemo or any other treatment.  Like most others with my disease I have had follow up CT scans and CEA level as well as 2 colonoscopies since then, the last one 2 years ago.  All level have come back as less the 0.05 until this time.  My CEA level came back a 1.1  I don't know if I should be worried or what?  I have not heard from my Dr.  although the test was taken on Friday August 12, I received my blood results in my email via patient portal.  At my last colonoscopy they found polups which they say were the cancerous type but removed so I should not worry and they suggested I have my next one in 2018.  Both my parents had cancer, dad bladder, mom colon both parents have passed on my mom a direct result of the colon cancer.  My paternal grandmother also died of colon cancer at age 60.  There are also other types of cancer in my family history, my materal Aunt had melenoma and lost and eye and 12 years later she lost her life to melenoma.  Can anyone give me advise or opinions on how concerned I should be?

Trubrit's picture
Posts: 3644
Joined: Jan 2013

It is always good to be concerned, because that keeps you on the ball. 

1.1 CEA is still in the normal range, of course; and there are several things that can make it rise a little.  

My CEA was also .5 for many months, and then jumped to 1.6.. By the time I went back for my next test (Three months) it was back down to .8.  It is normal for a little fluctuation. 

It is also normal to worry, even with a little elevation. Just a human gut reaction. 

If you are ovely concerned, ask your Doctor if you can repeat the blood work. I did that once, although I did have to pay the full price. 

Because you have posted in a VERY old post, may I suggest you go to the forum page (this is the link  http://csn.cancer.org/forum/128 ) where you can open you own post. It would be better that way. Sadly, several of the members who have posted in this post, are now gone forever.   

I wish you all the luck in the world. 


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