What does the CEA level mean?

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What does the CEA level mean?

by kris49 on Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:00 AM

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My mom was diagnosed with colon cancer 2 1/2 years ago. She had a colon resection and was cancer free up until two weeks ago. She was having a pain on her side and went in for scan to realize it has now metastisized to her liver and lungs. Her oncologist told me her CEA level is 1700 what does the mean? How long do these patients usually survive? Any help would be appreciated.

RE: What does the CEA level mean?

by Mousey on Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:00 AM

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Hi, I am very sorry that your mom has gotten the diagnosis of a metastised colon cancer. However, you will be reading from this discussion board that people can survive and live with stage IV cancer for years. My husband was diagnosed with stage four with several mets to liver last summer and he was first given a bad prognosis but we learned since that it is not necessarily so.

I was interested in your message because you asked about CEA. I have been trying to understand it too for months now. It seems to be a difficult thing to explain and understand! In principle, the higher the CEA the worse the prognosis. On the other hand, I have read people have had stage four cancer with CEA values of only around 2. The value is individual, influenced somehow for example by the chemical make of the tumor (?), and the value should not be compared to other patients' values really. High CEA values indicate a metastised cancer but that's mostly what it seems to be. Other blood values are more important in showing how your mother is doing, as well as scans that show where the tumors are and what they are like etc.

My husband's CEA values were super high to start with, over 6000. In four months it came down to over 200. The value is useful thus for individual monitoring, to indicate if the treatment is working. However, you should also remember that sometimes the value can go up after a chemo treatment too, when masses of cancer cells die.

I am afraid I am not very good at explaining this. My message is that the value is higher than many other patients would have, but I would not pay too much attention to it at the moment.

All the best, Mousey

RE: What does the CEA level mean?

by kris49 on Fri Dec 19, 2008 12:00 AM

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On 12/18/2008 Mousey wrote:

Hi, I am very sorry that your mom has gotten the diagnosis of a metastised colon cancer. However, you will be reading from this discussion board that people can survive and live with stage IV cancer for years. My husband was diagnosed with stage four with several mets to liver last summer and he was first given a bad prognosis but we learned since that it is not necessarily so.

I was interested in your message because you asked about CEA. I have been trying to understand it too for months now. It seems to be a difficult thing to explain and understand! In principle, the higher the CEA the worse the prognosis. On the other hand, I have read people have had stage four cancer with CEA values of only around 2. The value is individual, influenced somehow for example by the chemical make of the tumor (?), and the value should not be compared to other patients' values really. High CEA values indicate a metastised cancer but that's mostly what it seems to be. Other blood values are more important in showing how your mother is doing, as well as scans that show where the tumors are and what they are like etc.

My husband's CEA values were super high to start with, over 6000. In four months it came down to over 200. The value is useful thus for individual monitoring, to indicate if the treatment is working. However, you should also remember that sometimes the value can go up after a chemo treatment too, when masses of cancer cells die.

I am afraid I am not very good at explaining this. My message is that the value is higher than many other patients would have, but I would not pay too much attention to it at the moment.

All the best, Mousey


 

Thank you so much for the explanation,  this is more than I got from my mothers doctors. I do have more hope after readings these boards.  I am starting wonder if her doctor is being aggressive enough she only has chemo every other week and wont consider radiation. Thanks again

RE: What does the CEA level mean?

by Joan_l_3 on Fri Dec 19, 2008 12:00 AM

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kris49,

CEA stands for Carcinoembryonic Antigen and is used to measure the growth of GI cancer, in particular colon cancer, post-surgery.  Generally, the higher the number the worse is the cancer.  The test result numbers are not measured against other patients but rather against one's own prior test results and the trend is what is important.  Obviously an upward trend is not good.  The significance of 1700 depends upon the past results.  Also, not all tumors release this antigen.

 Hope this helps.

Joan L 

RE: What does the CEA level mean?

by kris49 on Wed Dec 24, 2008 12:00 AM

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Thank you again, so does this 1700 level mean 1700 or 17.0?  My mom does not seem sick at all to be having that high of a level? I know she was a zero after her surgery and end of her chemo last time. Thanks again
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