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Does radiation treatment cause CEA levels to rise?

jmaddox915's picture
Posts: 80
Joined: Nov 2009

I am Stage IV and just finished number 13 out of 22 radiation treatments. I am also taking Xeloda during this time.

My CEA level has risen at least 10pts since last week.

I know alot of different things can cause a person's CEA level to rise. Does anyone know if radiation can cause it as well?

Posts: 132
Joined: Feb 2009

i do not think so, hope all goes well with your treatments!!!!

Posts: 135
Joined: Dec 2010

I know people who have had their CEA level rise from radiation, and then eventually it went down as there was diminishing evidence of disease.

Posts: 835
Joined: Apr 2004

There is loads written here about how poor cea is as a marker of disease for many people. There is also a theoretical idea that dying cancer cells, killed by the radiation, may also leak cea so lead to a increase before it drops? Don't read too much into at this stage and take your rain the context of how you feel symptomatic ally and what the scans are showing.


fatbob2010's picture
Posts: 467
Joined: May 2012

I have been told the same thing about dying cells and rising CEA. I am not a real fan of CEA even though it is used as an indicator. However, CEA can be a trigger for possibly earlier scans and treatment option discussions. Art

John23's picture
Posts: 2140
Joined: Jan 2007

"Does radiation treatment cause CEA levels to rise?"

You'll find that it does both after radiation "treatments".

(CEA) Monitoring of Radiation Therapy

Rebound in CEA Production

The decline in CEA level with increasing dose of irradiation
was of limited duration. Patients 6, 1 0, and 1 2 regained
their pretreatment levels 6-8 weeks after completion
of therapy. If, indeed, serial CEA titers monitor changes in
the mass of viable tumor, the maximum delay before proceeding
with surgery after preoperative radiation therapy
may be 2 months. This may be the time when there is
maximum reduction of viable tumor tissue and when there
is the least likelihood to disseminate viable tumor cells with
surgicaltrauma [7].

This rebound in CEA production strongly suggests that
the initial decline in serial CEA titers does not correlate
with long term disease control. Only persistently low CEA
levels, as seen in patient 1 1 after a curative dose of irradiation
or in patients 4, 5, and 1 0 after preoperative irradiation
plus complete surgical resection, suggests continued
disease control.

Need for Caution

Patient management decisions based on serial CEA
levels must be made cautiously and only in conjunction
with other clinical, laboratory, and radiological parameters
since false positive or false negative results can occur in a
number of clinical situations [4]. For example, patients 9,
15, and 16 had negative CEA values despite recurrent or
metastatic disease. Patient 9 presented an unusual but not
unique serial CEA pattern. The primary tumor produced a
significant circulating CEA level which fell to normal after
control of the primary tumor by radiation therapy and
after surgery failed to produce elevated circulating CEA
levels. Only 6 months later as metastases enlarged did CEA
levels become elevated.

Nontumor CEA elevation frequently found in cirrhosis,
heavy smoking, or gastrointestinal inflammatory processes
was not encountered in these patients. Definitive
therapy of rectal cancer should not be based solely on CEA
titers ; however, serial CEA titers may be useful as an adjunct
to other clinical, laboratory, and radiologic data in
formulating patient management decisions.

Credit: http://www.ajronline.org/content/127/4/641.full.pdf

Best wishes,


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