CEA blood test
CEA blood test
Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is a protein normally found in the tissue of a developing baby in the womb. Blood levels of this protein disappear or become very low after birth. In adults, an abnormal amount of CEA may be a sign of cancer.
A blood test can be done to measure the amount of CEA in your blood.
Carcinoembryonic antigen blood test
How the test is performed
A blood sample is needed. For information on how this is done, see: Venipuncture
How to prepare for the test
Smoking may increase CEA levels. If you smoke, your doctor may tell you to avoid doing so for a short time before the test.
How the test will feel
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample may be more difficult from some people than from others.
Why the test is performed
This test is done to check for the return of colon and other cancers in people already diagnosed with cancer. It is not used as a screening test for cancer.
The normal range is 0 to 2.5 micrograms per liter (mcg/L). In smokers, the normal range is 0 to 5 mcg/L.
Normal value ranges may vary from lab to lab. In smokers, slightly higher values may be considered normal.
What abnormal results mean
High CEA levels in a person recently treated for certain cancers may mean the cancer has returned. Higher than normal levels may be due to the following cancers:
- Breast cancer
- Cancers of the reproductive and urinary tracts
- Colon cancer
- Lung cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Thyroid cancer
Higher than normal CEA levels alone cannot diagnose a new cancer. Further testing is needed.
Increased CEA levels may also be due to:
- Cirrhosis and other liver disease
- Heavy smoking
- Inflammatory bowel diseases (such as ulcerative colitis)
- Lung infection
- Peptic ulcer
What the risks are
- Excessive bleeding (rare)
- Fainting or feeling lightheaded
- Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
- Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
Abnormal CEA levels can be found in people who do not have cancer.
Blanke CD, Faigel DO. Neoplasms of the small and large intestine. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 199.
Reviewed by:David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorousstandards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information andservices. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorialpolicy, editorialprocess, and privacypolicy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch.)
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatmentof any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 2014 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication ordistribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.