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About the test
What is this test done for?
CEA stands for carcinoembryonic antigen. This test is used as a tumor marker especially for colorectal cancers.
Why is it Done?

This is a tumor marker and is done for ruling out adenocarcinomas of colon (large intestine) and rectum.

CEA levels are also useful in

  • Assessing prognosis of colorectal cancer
  • Detecting recurrence (especially for disease that cannot be evaluated by CT Scan or MRI)
  • Monitoring the treatment in patients with colorectal cancer
  • As a routine follow up test for patients with stage II & stage III colorectal cancer (if further surgery or chemotherapy is an option)
When should it be performed?

This test is performed

  • When the patient presents with symptoms of colorectal cancer i.e.
    • Change in bowel habits i.e. sudden onset diarrhea or constipation or alternating diarrhea and constipation
    • Unsatisfactory bowel evacuation
    • Passing of blood in stool, either fresh or dark
    • Abdominal pain & cramps
    • Unintended weight loss (>10% of total body weight)
  • For assessing the prognosis in case of colorectal cancer
  • As a routine screening test in patients who are operated for colorectal cancer in stage II or stage III for assessing the response of adjuvant or neo-adjuvant chemotherapy
How is it done
A blood sample will be collected from a vein in your arm. Fasting is not need for this test. In case of smokers, smoking should be stopped for few days before conducting the test.
  • In Non-smokers, Negative results (< 2.5 µg/L) means absence of cancer.
  • In smokers, negative results (< 5 µg/L) means absence of disease.
  • Results are positive for benign cancer (colorectal cancer), if levels are between 5 µg/L -10 µg/L
  • Positive levels > 10 µg/L mean presence of Malignant colorectal cancer

Positive results are also seen in

  • Malignant conditions like cancers of
    • Breast
    • Lung
    • Stomach
    • Esophagus
    • Pancreas
    • Bones
  • Non malignant conditions like
    • Liver cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis
    • Kidney failure
    • Inflammatory bowel disease
    • Pancreatitis
    • Diverticulitis
Other Tests
  • CA 19-9
    • This is another tumor marker
    • High levels of CA 19-9 indicate spread of cancer
  • Thymidine synthetase (TS), dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase (DPD) & thymidine phosphorylase (TP)
    • These are enzymes that are important in development of colorectal cancer
    • They also aid in determining the response to chemotherapy.
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