Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is a protein normally produced in the tissues of a developing fetus; its production stopped just before birth. CEA can be found in the blood of normal adults but at very low levels. Elevation of CEA levels in the blood can indicate cancer or benign conditions. CEA is a marker for different forms of cancer including cancers of the colon, lung, breast, liver, ovary, pancreas and stomach. However, CEA blood test is not used for screening the general population for cancer because not all cancers produce CEA and an elevated blood CEA is not always due to cancer.
The primary use of CEA blood test is to monitor the response of a patient to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery. CEA is measured before and after therapy to see if the patient’s condition has improved after receiving treatment. CEA test is also ordered to see how extensively a cancer has metastasized or spread to other parts of the body. To test the recurrence of cancer, CEA blood test is ordered. Patients whose tumors have been successfully removed need periodic CEA blood test to check if cancer cells returned back.
No special preparation is needed for CEA blood test. A health care provider will just draw small blood sample from your arm for laboratory testing. The test result will be interpreted by your doctor. Normal range of CEA for adults is 0 to 0.25 micrograms per liter (mcg/L). Slightly higher CEA value is considered normal for smokers. Smoking can increase blood CEA levels.[ad#afterpost]