Colon Cancer 101: What Is a High CEA Level for Colon Cancer?

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Want to know what is a high CEA level for colon cancer? The signs of cancer growth are not always obvious after a diagnosis. This is the reason why doctors do carcinoembryonic antigen or CEA, test. Indeed. The doctors do this in order look for another clue.


The test measures the level of a protein, which is CEA, in the patient’s blood. People with some types of cancer, including colon cancer, have higher than normal level of CEA. The question is,what is a high CEA level for colon cancer? Let’s get to know about the test first.

When Will the Doctor Order the Test?

Usually, a doctor will order a CEA test if the patient has the symptoms that might suggest the patient has cancer. The CEA test is also done to find out whether or not a cancer treatment is working. That said, CEA test cannot detect all types of cancer. It can only detect some. This is because not all cancers produce CEA.

The following are the cancers that can be detected by CEA test:

  • Colon cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Prostate cancer

How Is the Test Performed?

Basically, it is a blood test that is performed in a doctor’s office. The blood is generally drawn from the patient’s vein in their arm. The test involves the following process:

  • The puncture spot will be cleaned using an antiseptic. The spot is usually in the middle of the patient’s arm, on the opposite of their elbow.
  • Then, an elastic band will be wrapped around the patient’s upper arm. This is to help the patient’s vein to fill up with blood.
  • After that, a needle is inserted into the patient’s vein in order to collect blood into an attached tube (or vial).
  • The elastic band is unwrapped from the patient’s arm.
  • Finally, the blood sample will be brought to a laboratory to be analyzed.

Read also : Life Lessons from Pancreatic Cancer Death Stories

How Is the Test Used?

The best use of the test is to be a tumor marker. This is especially true in the case of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. If the level of CEA is abnormally high before surgery or other cancer treatment, the level is expected to return to normal after successful surgery of cancer removal.

An elevated level of CEA indicates progression or recurrence of cancer. While this may be the case, it must be confirmed. After all, the test, by itself, is not specific enough to diagnose a cancer recurrence.

What Is the Normal Range of CEA level?

The normal range for CEA level for a nonsmoking adult is less than 2.5 ng/ml and less than 5.0 ng/ml for a smoking adult. What is a high CEA level for colon cancer, then? If you are a nonsmoking adult, that means having CEA level more than 2.5 ng/ml. Or, if you are a smoking adult, having more than 5.0 ng/ml.

That said, do not attempt to self-diagnose. Leave it to your healthcare provider. If you are concerned, the best way you can do is to talk with your healthcare provider. This way, you will be able to assess your condition and act accordingly based on it.


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