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Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA)

What Affects the Test

Heavy smoking affects the test results.

What To Think About

  • The CEA blood test is not reliable for diagnosing cancer or as a screening test for early detection of cancer.
  • CEA testing is a reliable test for recurrent colon cancer if the original cancer produced this protein before treatment.
  • Most types of cancer do not produce a high CEA. Having a normal CEA level does not mean that you do not have cancer.
  • CEA levels usually return to near-normal levels within 6 weeks of starting treatment if cancer treatment is successful.
  • Measuring the amount of CEA in other body fluids, such as abdominal fluid (peritoneal fluid) or the fluid around the brain and spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF), can determine whether cancer has spread to that part of the body.
  • Other diseases, such as COPD, cirrhosis, and Crohn's disease, may also raise CEA blood levels.
  • CEA levels are usually higher in smokers than in people who do not smoke.

Citations

  1. Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.

Other Works Consulted

  • Chernecky 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.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Current as of May 29, 2013
1 | 2 | 3

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 29, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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