CEA raised?

Hi all, my hubby was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer last July, followed by surgery & 3 months chemo which finished mid December, his CEA level was raised end of December which triggered at CT scan, in Jan we got results & all ok, said it may be raised because chemo still in system? he had bloods again in April  & CEA raised further again which triggered another CT which was done last week with no results as of yet… we’re going out of our minds with worry that the cancer has come back… I’ve got to the point where I dare not Google anything but are there other factors that can raise the CEA level? 

  • Hi Luck 78

    Please don’t Google. I’ve frightened myself in the past and now I stay here for advice 

    I’m not sure about the levels you can phone the MacMillan team here for advice. Some others may have more info and add to your question 

    Its really a time of anxiety and I completely understand, if I have a twinge or have an appointment I get the collywobbles.  
    Thankfully your husband is being monitored  Your husband could phone them to see how things are progressing 

    Take care 

    Best Wishes

    Artsie Ann 

  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24925201/


    CEA spikes are false in around 50% of readings depending on your number . I have included a link as I was popping it on for another thread . My understanding is other things can influence CEA like inflammatory issues . I think that’s why it’s not used as a diagnostic tool . My mum has had two spikes that actually stayed up for a few months , scans were clear both times and then it popped back down of its own accord . It not always reliable for everyone . However it has its place as can also be a life saver .

    Take care ,


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  • Thank you for the link, you’ve also helped alleviate a bit of anxiety, I just assumed if cancer marker is raised, cancer is back! … thanks again, I’m a bit impatient when it comes to results & think I’ll ring again next week x

  • Nothing like a raised CEA to raise everyone’s anxiety . It’s a rotten process but also very good at getting quicker scans when needed .

    Glad it’s helped a bit . My mum’s CEA would scoot away up on chemo which was also very concerning despite great shrinkage . 

    Take care ,


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  • Thank you Court, I think you’ve helped me out in the past with worries… wish I had you on speed dial! …. Think the cea was 9 in dec and now at 10, just read anything above 3 is high so still worried! My hubby is feeling & looking so well though! He’s going to the gym 5 times a week & playing football twice a week! (He’s fairly young) No health or tummy problems! So I’m trying to stay positive xxxx

  • That depends on which country or even health authorities you are in and which pharmaceutical test is being used . Here in our health authority it has to be over 5 before it is flagged . My mum’s frequently sat at 4:8 so not a lot of wriggle room .

    Smoking also influences it and other things .

    I got myself in knots over CEA but honestly my mum’s is so odd we eventually had to regard it as unreliable but not before sweating it out through the scanning process .

    Hope it’s just a spike and starts to come back down .


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  • Always happy to help . I know exactly what it feels like .


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  • My rectal cancer was diagnosed and treated but my tumour markers stayed in their 80's (I was told 0 to 30 was normal for people without cancer. Saying that when they first discovered I had cancer my markers were 21). I had MRI's, Ultra scans, PET scans and other scans to check for further cancerous tumours. Nothing was found. The surgeons were puzzled as to why. That was 11 years ago. I had check- ups over the years and the markers came down to about 40. Some things remain a mystery.  I had severe adhesions/ inflammation after the first op which I think left a legacy.

    "don't think about tomorrow"

  • That is really interesting  . I have spoken with one other man who has the same issue and they have literally looked for years for a spread then decided he was just unique!

    Must have been tough for you going through all that though .

    Hope your doing well !


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  • Much good advice on here.  CEA levels are a marker and not a definitive diagnosis.  My own have varied from 4 to 7.  A single 'rise' means very little unless indicates a real trend, usually established by a 3 month repeat, if it is again raised a CT scan is arranged.   My January result was raised to 5.3 my April 'repeat' was 5.8, the resulting CT scan was clear.

    I won't say 'don't worry,' about a raised level but do try to 'maintain perspective. '  CEA is an indicator, and a rather crude one - remember it points to 'next action,' whether that be further investigation or no action necessary.  Those wonderful people, our care teams, are 'on top,' of what is happening; trust them.

    YNWA - congratulations City, a phenomenal season and many thanks to Jurgen for keeping us in it until the end