What is CEA?
CEA aka Carcino Embryonic Antigen, is a protein that is primarily associated with certain types of cancer. The most common way to measure CEA is through a blood test. However, CEA testing is not only used to diagnose cancer, it assists doctors in predicting how a person’s cancer may be likely to progress, determining treatment effectiveness and assessing whether or not cancer has returned after treatment.
Purpose of the test?
The purpose of a CEA test is to measure the presence and amount of CEA in a patient’s test sample. Since CEA is a type of tumour marker and found in the body, it may be a sign of cancer or other health conditions.
Estimating cancer prognosis: Prognosis is a prediction of the expected course or outcome of a disease. Doctors may use CEA levels along with other factors such as the stage or extent of a person’s cancer to estimate their prognosis.
Monitoring cancer treatment: An increase or decrease of CEA levels during treatment for specific types of cancer may reflect whether treatment is working effectively. In the case of cancers of the colon and rectum, for example, a CEA level will generally be taken as a baseline measurement after diagnosis so that it can be compared to future CEA levels taken during treatment.
Detecting cancer recurrence: Doctors often monitor CEA levels after treatment for some cancers as a way of trying to determine whether cancer has returned. For example, patients with earlier stage colon and rectal cancer have CEA testing every 3 to 6 months for several tears after receiving initial treatment.
Facts about CEA
CEA testing is not used for screening, which is looking for cancer in people who have no symptoms. It is also not used for cancer diagnosis because other, noncancerous conditions can cause CEA levels to increase and because not all cancers cause CEA levels to rise. Noncancerous conditions that can cause CEA levels to rise include stomach ulcers, pancreatitis, smoking, lung infection, inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or diverticulitis, liver scarring and gallbladder inflammation. Smokers who do not have cancer can also have an increased CEA value.