My sister in law has had colon cancer and surgery. Stage III. Limited nodal involvement. She had standard chemo and her CEA was under 3. She recently had a PET SCAN and CAT Scan which revealed a new tumor. Her CEA went from 3 to 78 in one month.
We cannot seem to find any information regarding what a number like 81 means? How high does the range go?
So is it that a number above 3 is a signal for recurrence and it continues to grow until the tumor is removed? Or do certain levels mean the cancer has spread elsewhere as well?
The CEA is mainly used to monitor for disease recurrence. The cut-off would depend on the individual laboratory and on smoking history.
Different levels do not specifically point to involvement of any particular organ. There used to be imaging tests that use the CEA as a probe to look for the site where the CEA is supposed to be coming from, but the test didn’t work quite as expected and the PET is a much better alternative.
The level is dependent on how much the tumor is producing, so a big tumor with small production may produce the same amount of CEA as a small tumor which has a larger production. So the values do not always correlate with the disease burden.
Discuss your concerns with your doctor. Stay positive.
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