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CEA Question

Beachlace's picture
Posts: 37
Joined: May 2013

Hi all! 


First day of chemo today! Port put in day before yesterday and its still really sore. Icing it on and off helps.   Hopefully they will numb it. 

I have a question about the CEA.  I know if it rises or is high, it indicates cancer somewhere.  But my oncologist said some colorectal cancers do not show up on a CEA.  What number is normal?  What is high?  Prior to surgery, mine was 8.  Does that indicate anything?  It hasnt been tested again.  


Thanks all



fighting_ big_c's picture
fighting_ big_c
Posts: 64
Joined: Mar 2013

Good luck on your first day. My mom had very minimal side effects to her chemo. It is mainly fatigue for her and drowsiness on her first 3 days. CEA of 8 is not bad prior surgery. My mother had 189 before surgery and 8.4 after surgery. I wish that you have tolerable side effects.

PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

CEA. It's not always the best indicator of disease (or lack of disease). My Oncologist wishes that her patients didn't follow it so closely or put that much emphasis on it. EVERYONE is different and many factors can cause a rise in it.

The "norm" (whatever normal is...) is 5 or so for a non-smoker.
I was dx stage IV colon cancer and my CEA has never risen above 8.4. Generally mine is between 2 and 5. Some people have numbers in the hundreds or even thousands.

I hope you have great results with the chemo. It can be a bumpy ride but it also can be very effective.

Phil64's picture
Posts: 838
Joined: Apr 2012

Here is a link on U of M web site about CEA:


In my case the CEA has correlated very strongly with cancer development.  My understanding is that it doesn't always correlate with everyone.  Also, some on this support site have reported that their CEA has rissen when having cancer (tumors) in certain organs but not in others (e.g. when in liver but not when in lungs).

My understanding is that the normal level for CEA is 0 to 3 (and up to 5 in smokers).

Also, if it does correlate with the cancer it can actually be viewed as a good thing because it gives us somethng to prompt for searching for the cancer.  In my case the CT scans were coming back clean (e.g. all organs looked healthy, including the liver on multiple CT scans and PET scans).  However, given a rising CEA my oncologist was dilligent in looking for the cancer and two liver mets finally showed up on an MRI of the abdomen area.

Because CEA has correlated very highly with the cancer activity in me I have started tracking it closely (Phil G's oncologist might object :-)...

You can see the graphic of my CEA and significant events (e.g. surgeries, chemo treatment, etc.) on my blog at http://pscamihorn.me/cea-history/

I'm happy to report that my latest CEA test (post liver resection surgery) is 1.1. 

Phil (blog: http://pscamihorn.me/)


Trubrit's picture
Posts: 5511
Joined: Jan 2013

I have just finished my first round of chemo, and tomorrow I get to have blood work done to check my CEA and other stuff.

After my resection my CEA was normal, then the next blood work showed that it came up with a count of 13, so he ordered a PET scan which showed no evidence of cancer. 

So, I'm not fretting (too much) the results of the CEA bloos work. Obvioulsly there's a little anxiety, but I'm not losing sleep.

Good luck!

Sorry that you have the port in one day and infusion the other. I had a month, in which it healed real well. 

thxmiker's picture
Posts: 1282
Joined: Oct 2010

There are several markers for Colon Cancer.  My CEA was 1125 before my first round of chemo.  My CEA is now around 2.0 and I have two turmors in the colon.  Whom would figure?


CEA under 3.0 is considered very healthy. Under 7 is usually good. Over 7 or increasing CEA is a worry. When doing Chemo one's CEA can be all over the place.  (Up and Down)  Do not rely on one marker!  What is the 5HIAA?  Octriotides?  etc...   If all are in the normal then one is most likely good.  


Best Always,  mike

Posts: 1428
Joined: Feb 2011

My CEA after my surgery was very low  .8  or 1.4,  my oncologist didn't feel it was a marker for me.    Then when I took a 10 month chemo break it rose to 3.5 .... scans showed new spots,  and it's been steadily on the rise .... back on chemo.  now changed to folfox.   I was looking at CEA because it's now up to 21 and apparently folfox can cause a spike in CEA,  so I'll have to wait for scans end of June to really know what is going on.    

Posts: 1956
Joined: Oct 2009
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