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The carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test measures the amount of this protein that may appear in the blood of some people who have certain kinds of cancers, especially cancer of the large intestine (colon and rectal cancer). It may also be present in people with cancer of the pancreas, breast, ovary, or lung.
CEA is normally produced during the development of a fetus. The production of CEA stops before birth, and it usually is not present in the blood of healthy adults.
The carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test is used to monitor a person before and during treatment. Along with other tests, this test may be used to see how well a treatment is working. And in some cases, it may be used with other tests to see if the cancer has grown or come back.
You do not need to do anything before you have this test.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form( What is a PDF document? ).
The health professional taking a sample of your blood will:
The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.
There is very little chance of a problem from having blood drawn from a vein.
Results are usually available in 1 to 3 days.
The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.
Less than 5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) or less than 5 micrograms per liter (mcg/L)
Many conditions can change your CEA levels. Your doctor will discuss any significant abnormal results with you in relation to your symptoms and medical history.
Most cancers do not produce this protein, so your CEA may be normal even though you have cancer.
Heavy smoking affects the test results.
CitationsPagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.Other Works ConsultedChernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
Current as ofDecember 19, 2018
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineJimmy Ruiz, MD - Medical Oncology, Hematology
Current as of: December 19, 2018
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Jimmy Ruiz, MD - Medical Oncology, Hematology
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