What is CEA?
CEA stands for carcinoembryonic antigen. CEA is a type of protein molecule that can be found in many different cells of the body, but is typically associated with certain tumors and the developing fetus. The word "carcinoembryonic" reflects the fact that CEA is produced by some cancers ("carcino-") and by the developing fetus ("-embryonic").
How is CEA measured?
CEA is most frequently tested in blood. It can also be tested in body fluids and in biopsy tissue.
What is the normal range for CEA blood levels?
The normal range for CEA in an adult non-smoker is <2.5 ng/ml and for a smoker <5.0 ng/ml.
How is the CEA test used?
The best use of CEA is as a tumor marker, especially for cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. When the CEA level is abnormally high before surgery or other treatment, it is expected to fall to normal following successful surgery to remove all of the cancer. A rising CEA level indicates progression or recurrence of the cancer. In addition, levels >20 ng/ml before therapy may be associated with cancer which has already spread (metastatic disease).
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