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CEA levels

Posts: 2
Joined: Apr 2020

Just got my CEA results before I go in for surgery next week.

level is 2.0, well below normal levels.  I don't understand.

Tom M.
Posts: 181
Joined: May 2019

Did they see something in there? I was DX with stage 4 colon cancer just over a year ago. My last blood work has my CEA @ 1.5.  If they saw something, get it cut out. It won't bother you. You will be sleeping. Good Luck.


Posts: 2
Joined: Apr 2020

Yes they found something.  I have a spot the size of a silver dollar that is through the inner lining, through the wall of the colon and it's working it's way through the outer lining.  That is why I find the CEA level of 2.0 very unusual. I was getting colonoscopies every 4 ot5 years and obviously this was missed several times by my "specialist". 

Tom M.
Posts: 181
Joined: May 2019

Surgery is a must. When is it? Mine was pretty much out of the wall. The surgeon cut a good section out and reattached me, No bag. Over a year later doing just fine. Some small liver lesions but last 2 scans showed NED. If it's still in the wall you should be good. My colon resection went well, I recovered in 2 days. Be strong and keep us posted. Good luck.

Tueffel's picture
Posts: 262
Joined: Feb 2020

A few days ago I read a study about the use of CEA and CT scan to detect recurrence of cancer. 

End of it: CEA is nice but in a certain percentage of people it is unfortunately useless. I learned that CEA is neither specific nor sensitive. It seems that you might fall under the category "false negative"... But dont worry your oncologist should know that. I learned that it 3rd year of medschool... So even though it seems strange for you. The oncologist will now what to make out of it. 

Or that might also be the case: your prognosis is really good, you have the surgery and with follow ups everything will go back to normal. I wish that for you but dont worry so much. The surgery will be soon and then the doctors will tell you more. 

I keep my fingers crossed for you!


SnapDragon2's picture
Posts: 529
Joined: Nov 2019

Hi Jack, is your onc also checking CA19-9 and inflammatory markers?  If not, it might be a good idea to get him/her to before surgery.

I wish you the best with surgery.  Let us know how you are.

SandiaBuddy's picture
Posts: 1176
Joined: Apr 2017

CEA is not a good indicator for some people.  I had a CEA of less than one despite having a very large tumor.  It was low before surgery and remained low after surgery.  You have plenty to think about before your upcoming surgery, CEA probably should not be one of these things.  Tips?  Bring a bathrobe and slippers to the hospital, and get up and start walking as soon as you are able.  Consider shaving your arms, with all the tape they will be putting on and pulling off.  Also, beware the catheter.  If you have BPE, you might want to start a drug before surgery.  Try to eat well, sleep well and exercise in preparation for surgery.  Best of luck.

Gail E's picture
Gail E
Posts: 19
Joined: May 2020

I would suggest bringing an eye mask. They will be turning on lights in the middle of the night and I felt that it really helped me sleep better. Also, if you use an electric toothbrush, bring that with you. between the pain meds and liquid diet my mouth felt disgusting. I really appreciated having my toothbrush from home.

Annabelle41415's picture
Posts: 6709
Joined: Feb 2009

CEA is not really a determining factor in whether you have CRC or not.  Mine was always normal, even when first finding out.  A lot of doctors don't use the CEA factor because it can be so inaccurate.  Some people the CEA is a red flag, where others it's just a number that doesn't mean anything.  It's a good thing to have it tested though as you never know if there is a chance it might be an indicator for you.  Good luck on your surgery next week and wishing you a complete success. 


Capox Dude's picture
Capox Dude
Posts: 77
Joined: May 2019

that CEA is normal in about 20% of colon cancer surgeries with positive biopsies.    And there are also a lot of false positives  (High CEA above normal levels wtih no cancer) as well.  https://www.ascopost.com/issues/august-15-2014/high-false-positive-rate-of-elevated-cea-seen-in-patients-with-resected-colorectal-cancer/

My CEA has been steadily rising.  But then, my asthma has been getting worse, and that can cause an elevated CEA.   I have doubled to 4.8 in the last two months, but that is within normal for a smoker. I'm not a smoker.  Weirdly, 15 years ago my CEA level was 19 in a test.  They repeated it and it was verified.  I had a fullwork up as they looked for the tumor.  They never found a thing.  So an elevated CEA can be a sign of some neoplasm somewhere - or like me 15 years ago - a sign of nothing.  There is a quote from the study that said they found no CEA above 35 that was a false positive.   All in all, lower numbers are good.   But people have their cancer come back with normal CEA limits, or get mets with normal limits, so all we can do is keep a good attitude and take any good news as good news until proven otherwise.

Posts: 274
Joined: Dec 2013

If you do a search under my username and CEA, you'll find a few posts I've put up here about how off CEA can be.  After my experience, I'm convinced CEA testing is an absolutely miserable and horrible test.  More research needs to go into a better test as all oncologists agree that they do not treat on CEA numbers alone.  There has to be corroborating evidence via scans, biopsy, etc before any action is taken.

Here's a recent thread where I summarized my recent CEA craziness:




The last three CEA tests I've had resulting in numbers well above 35.  Yet nothing has been found via a CT, PET, or MRI.  In addition, my CEA has been abnormal for over 3 years now.  Having jumped from a pretty steady baseline of being in the 5s to 15.6 in the span of 3 months.  From there it's been bouncing between 11 and 20 up until last year where it started climbing to 26, then 28.6, then 52.6, then 51.9, and then 44.4.

I've found only one medical article where doctors were following a Taiwanese woman that presented with higher CEA levels than me.  They tracted her for 5 years doing CT scans and never found anything.  Her lowest CEA during that period was in the 60s with other CEA numbers in the hundreds.  The only thing they couldn't do was a PET scan as the nationlized insurance system of Taiwan wouldn't pay for it.  I however have had a PET scan and an MRI which have showed nothing.  Not even something questionable.

I feel the future in more accurate blood tests lies with liquid biopsies.  Instead of chasing some marker that could be elevated due to benign causes, liquid biopsies attempt to detect the presence of cancerous DNA in your blood.  I've been asked why I haven't had a liquid biopsy.  At this point, what's the point.  If it does come back positive, what are we going to do?  It's not clear that starting chemo would be warranted.  As I said, I've gone through over 3 years of this mess.  Something should have been found by now.

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