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Is a CEA count of 170 survivable?
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Is a CEA count of 170 survivable?

My 70 year-old father had surgery for colon cancer 17 months ago.  It was considered to be at stage 4--they removed half of his colon, gall bladder, appendix, part of his liver, and some additional tissue beyond the intestinal wall.  At that time, his CEA count was 17.  After chemo, it was lowered to 5.5.  He had a clean colonoscopy in November '01, but his CEA was elevated at that time to 14.  MD said it was due to diverticulitis.  Two weeks ago, a CAT scan revealed a spot on his liver.  CEA count is now 170, off the charts.  He is having a "PET" scan evaluated this week.  He otherwise is feeling fine, has gained back all of the weight he lost and has no other symptoms.

From research, I've seen that the chance of recurrence of cancer after a stage 4 diagnosis is quite high.  It's disturbing to see a CEA count so high.  Has anyone seen a count this high and the person survived?  Does colon cancer typically recur as colon cancer or does it spread to other places?  The CAT scan showed the lungs were clear, but I don't know to what level of accuracy it can be predicted from the CAT scan.

Anyone with experience out there, I'd appreciate your input, good or bad.

LindaO, worried daughter
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Dear Worried Daughter. As you know, level 4 cancer is advanced, and the surgery your father had was quite extensive. I assume his cancer had invaded surrounding tissue. Since his CEA levels decreased after surgery, they are a good marker for recurrence. 0-3 for normal persons, 0-5 for smokers. Colon cancer has a high recurrence to the liver. Since your fathers cancer markers are rising and he now has a spot on his liver, it probably is recurrence. There is a promising new treatment for colon cancer and much research. Check into a research program right away, and make sure it's an open study where the doctor knows he's getting the treatment and not placebo. I wish you the best.
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