Carcinoembryonic Test
Tests & Procedures

What Is The CEA Test And How It Is Done?

CEA, the acronym for Carcinoembryonic Antigen, a type of protein seen in the tissues of a foetus (a developing baby). After birth, the CEA level falls very low to almost zero in adults. But in certain cases of cancer, these CEA levels are observed to rise high. So, the CEA test is a test carried out to identify the amount of blood CEA levels, which is a marker to identify the tumour. Let us go through for a better understanding of this Carcinoembryonic antigen test (CEA). CEA test is also known as the CEA assay.

What Is CEA Test?

A CEA test is a type of blood test carried out on tumour suspicious patients to manage and diagnose certain types of Cancers. This CEA test is carried out more specifically on the rectum and large intestine cancers. Doctors also suggest taking this test to understand and observe if the treatment made already is performing in an expected way.

Cancerous tumour cells prepare antigens which are sometimes released into the body bloodstream. CEA tests can measure blood CEA levels. A CEA test is not helpful in screening or diagnosing cancer or in finding the type of cancer, but it helps in monitoring cancer treated patient in monitoring how effective your treatment is and also using this, Doctors can find out if the tumour has spread to any other parts of the body.

Why Is CEA Test Done?

A CEA test is suggested by a doctor in many scenarios like;

  • Symptomatic suspected cancer case.
  • To evaluate if the cancer treatment is working. This treatment may include any one of the surgeries, radiation or chemotherapy or even all 3 together.
  • To know if cancer has returned even after treatment.

This Carcinoembryonic Antigen test is very useful in cancers that produce CEA. Be noted that not all and every type of cancer produces CEA.

The cancers that show high levels of CEA are;

Colon cancer, Breast cancer, Medullary thyroid cancer, Gastrointestinal tract cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, etc.

Doctors use this CEA test value as a base value for your CEA while treating. And, one value of CEA can’t provide sufficient information and so the Doctors will perform the test multiple times prior, during and post the treatment to note the changes in the CEA values.

How To Prepare For The Test?

The CEA test doesn’t need much preparation. Just inform the Doctor if you’re a smoker or pregnant or if you take any drugs or aspirin that may cause bleeding.

Also, inform your doctor of any drugs like vitamins or supplements or any other medicine.

[Also Read: List of disease caused by deficiencies of vitamins and minerals]

The Procedure Of The CEA Test

The CEA test is more likely to be any other blood test. Blood is taken from an arm vein. The venipuncture involves;

  • Cleaning of the site where the puncture is made which is usually at the other side of the elbow (middle part of the arm).
  • An elastic band is wrapped on the upper arm so that the veins get filled up with blood.
  • The needle is inserted into the vein by piercing through the skin and the blood is collected into a tube or vial.
  • Now the armband is unwrapped.
  • The collected blood sample is sent to the laboratory for further analysis.

CEA Blood Test High

Abnormal or high values of CEA are that higher than 3ng/mL. Cancer people usually have that high value. But at the same time, higher values don’t always indicate that you have cancer, there may be other reasons too like infection, chronic smoking, cirrhosis, IBD, etc.

If the CEA value is above 20 ng/mL then it’s very high. These high values of CEA indicate that the cancer is not gone and has also metastasized which means that cancer has spread to other parts of the body too.

Smokers show high CEA values but less than 5 ng/mL.

Causes Of High CEA Levels

Various causes of high CEA values are;

Cancerous cases like Breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, ovarian cancer, stomach cancer, and a few others as such.

Non-cancerous causes like peptic ulcer, rectal polyps, chronic smoking, infection, cirrhosis, ulcerative colitis, benign breast disease, emphysema, inflammation of the pancreas, inflammation of the gallbladder, etc.

CEA Blood Test Low

For cancer confirmed patients a low value of CEA means that the tumour is constrained to a specific part and hasn’t spread to any other parts of the body.

Causes Of Low CEA Levels

The CEA amount is usually low in any healthy adult.

Carcinoembryonic Antigen Test Normal Range

A Carcinoembryonic antigen test (CEA) normal value is anything below or equal to 3 ng/mL and mostly whoever are healthy has a CEA of this level. Also, post successful cancer treatment, the CEA levels come to this value.