Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA)

Blood Health

A healthy result should fall into the range 0 - 3 ug/L.

Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is a glycoprotein, which is present in normal mucosal cells but increased amounts are associated with adenocarcinoma, especially colorectal cancer. CEA therefore has a role as a tumour marker. Sensitivity and specificity are low, however, so it is of more use for monitoring than for screening or diagnosis.

CEA levels are useful in assessing prognosis (with other factors), detecting recurrence (especially for disease that cannot be evaluated by other means) and monitoring treatment in people with colorectal cancer. CEA is particularly recommended for postoperative follow-up of patients with stage II and III colorectal cancer if further surgery or chemotherapy is an option.

Single values of CEA are less informative than changes assessed over time.

Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA) result calculator

insert the value from you Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA) test result.

What does it mean if your Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA) result is too high?

Increased levels may be found in patients with primary colorectal cancer or other malignancies including medullary thyroid carcinoma and breast, gastrointestinal tract, liver, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, and prostatic cancers. Grossly elevated carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) concentrations (>20 ng/mL) in a patient with compatible symptoms are strongly suggestive of the presence of cancer and also suggest metastasis. Increases in test values over time in a patient with a history of cancer suggest tumor recurrence.

Malignant conditions which may have elevated CEA include:

  • Colorectal cancer.
  • Breast cancer.
  • Lung cancer.
  • Cancer of the stomach.
  • Cancer of the oesophagus.
  • Cancer of the pancreas.
  • Mesothelioma.
  • Medullary thyroid carcinoma.
  • Skeletal metastases. (May occasionally be a useful screening tool for distinguishing skeletal metastases of tumours above from primary bone or haematological malignancy.)

Non-malignant conditions which may have elevated CEA include:

  • Non-malignant liver disease, including cirrhosis, chronic active hepatitis, viral hepatitis and obstructive jaundice.
  • Chronic kidney disease.
  • Pancreatitis.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Diverticulitis.
  • Respiratory diseases - eg, pleural inflammation, pneumonia.
  • Smoking.


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