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Postby CancerConqueror » Mon Apr 17, 2017 10:37 pm

Hello! I am new here and would like to wish everyone a good day.

I have a quick question and hopefully you kind folks can help me out. I finished my chemotherapy for stage IIIB/C colon cancer last month and my oncologist has/had been taking my CEA for the last 2 months (every 2 weeks). The numbers started off at 1.8 but are now at 9. Oncologist wants to schedule a CT scan ASAP. Now a month 1/2 ago I was complaining about headaches and dizziness and my he had me do a CT and PET scan and both came out clean.

I am in panic mode right now because I dread having to deal with a cancer recurrence so soon.

Has anybody had a similar situation? Thank you in advance.

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Signature creation

Postby Jacques » Tue Apr 18, 2017 1:48 am

I think it would help if you could create a signature so that people here can know more about your situation, particularly the information from your pathology report that would be relevant for discussing local vs remote recurrences: e.g., How many lymph nodes were removed and how many were positive? Were the margins clear? What was the grade of the tumor? What type of tumor was it?, etc.

Here is a template showing the kinds of things to put in your signature:

Signature template:

Here is a link to the signature creation page where you can enter, preview, and Submit your signature
DX(2012): RC
Stage II, T4 N0 M0 L0 PN1 H0 D0 P0 I1
MSI: not tested
Chimiothérapie adjuvante : capécitabine + oxaliplatine
CEA < 1.0
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Colorectal Cancer Stages (TNM)

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Postby jhocno197 » Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:09 am

CEA can rise for several different reasons, not all of which are cancer.
DH - dx Dec 2014, stage IV with bladder & peritoneal involvement - non-resectable
FOLFOX failed
FOLFIRI failed
Tumor actually distending pelvic skin
Not a candidate for last-ditch pelvic exenteration
Stivarga finally begun 2/19/16
Tumor growing/fungating
Lonsurf started 11/18/16
Died 3/10/17

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Location: Villa Rica, Georgia


Postby dianetavegia » Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:01 am

Chemo can cause a false positive CEA and since you've just completed chemo a few weeks ago, this might be the cause. Actually, very few oncs do CEA's during chemo because they're so unreliable.

That being said, a CEA of 10 or more is indicative of active disease. Remember that CEA can rise 4 to 8 months before the cancer can be visualized on a CT or MRI. A PET Scan won't see anything (generally) smaller than 1 cm.

Most normal persons have detectable concentrations of circulating CEA. Approximately 85% of adults have CEA levels less than 2.5 ng/mL, while 95% have levels less than 5.0 ng/mL. CEA levels are slightly higher in men than women. The median level is 3.4 ng/mL in men and 2.5 ug/mL in women. Healthy persons seldom have levels above 10 ng/mL

An MRI is a better modality for liver involvement. You might ask for a CT w/wo of the lungs and an MRI of the abdomen. Also, with the PET scan, did they do a full body including the brain since you were having headaches? CRC only spreads to the brain is around 1% of advanced cases so don't freak out by my asking that. I'm just wondering if he included that area due to your complaints.

The headache and dizziness can be a side effect of FOLFOX and to be very honest, many side effects worsen about 2 months post chemo and some continue to worsen and never go away. I'm 8 years post chemo this coming August and have several issues that got worse over the years.
Stage IIIB cc surgery 1/7/09. 5/17 nodes. 12 tx FOLFOX
Stage IVa 2/15/12. CEA 6.4 PET = 1.5cm liver met. HR 4/11/12 No chemo

NED April 2017 Eight yrs, 3 months since original dx. Five yrs. NED post liver resection.
“O Lord my God, I cried out to You, And You healed me.” Psalms 30:2

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False positives for elevated CEA

Postby Jacques » Tue Apr 18, 2017 1:13 pm

jhocno197 wrote:CEA can rise for several different reasons, not all of which are cancer.

Yes, there are a number of other conditions that can lead to elevated CEA and that can be considered as false positives for cancer tumors. In other words, you would have to eliminate quite a number of other possible causes before you could conclude that the rise was due to cancer.

The article below has a list of some of these conditions in the paragraph on "CarcinoEmbryonic Antigen (CEA)"

DX(2012): RC
Stage II, T4 N0 M0 L0 PN1 H0 D0 P0 I1
MSI: not tested
Chimiothérapie adjuvante : capécitabine + oxaliplatine
CEA < 1.0
Info links:
Create Your Signature
List of Forum Features
Colorectal Cancer Stages (TNM)

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Joined: Sat Sep 10, 2016 3:25 pm


Postby BUD2016 » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:02 pm

Dealing with elevated CEA right now.

CEA at dx, before surgery, 4 weeks after surgery, before start of chemo and during chemo - fluctuates between 3,8 and 5,2.
CA19-9 always 5 or 6, never higher

March 1st CEA - 5,2
April 12th before 11th treatment - CEA 11,2 :shock:
April 18th (6 days later) - CEA 6,1: AFP low as usual: CA19-9 low as usual, CRP 5,5 (upper normal is 5), LDH in upper normal range

I am sure the doctors will want to wait until early May next scan before making any conclusions. But it is really nerve racking. I am hoping cancer is dead and releasing those dead cancer cells into blood stream and liver is tired to process them quickly enough :D
Sept.2016: Mom dx/rectal cancer (sigmoid rectal junction). MRI shows no mets
Oct. 2016: Open surgery. T3N0. Grade 2
Nov. 2016: Pre-chemo CT - 10 mm liver spot right lobe
Nov. 2016: PET/CT scan shows 4 liver mets (4-12 mm) in right lobe and one met 8 mm in left lobe
Nov. 2016: FOLFOX + Avastin started on her 71st birthday
KRAS gen 2 G13D mutant, BRAF Negative, MSS
March 2017: Oxi stopped after 9th tx. CT scans w/ contract every 2 months - small shrinkage/stable
April 2017: Evaluation for liver ablation(s)

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Postby stu » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:29 pm

My mum's CEA went up towards the end of chemo . Higher than it had ever been. What a fright it was. However the scans were significant shrinkage to the point it was no longer visible. It happened again the next year when she was back on chemo and we dealt with it better. Took a while to settle.
Hope it's good news for both of you.
supporter to my mum who lives a great life despite a difficult diagnosis
stage4 2009 significant spread to liver
2010 colon /liver resection
chemo following recurrence
73% of liver removed
enjoying life treatment free
2016 lung resection

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Location: NZ


Postby NZJay » Wed Apr 19, 2017 2:24 pm

My CEA fluctuated wildly during chemo, which my onc said was likely due to the inflammation caused by the treatments (I suffered chemo induced colitis and kidney failure).

Since finishing chemo in late 2014, my CEA has settled around the 4.0 - 5.0 mark. This is "high normal", but it seems fairly stable.

Be vigilant and ensure you find the cause. But don't assume cancer without proof. Best wishes.
11-13 Dx CC
SPS T4b(touched stomach organ),N1(3/23),M0(Stage 3B)
11-13: resect + partial gastrect
2-14: 1 Tx Cape + Oxy; renal failure, colitis
4-14: 7 Tx Capecitabine
1-15: clear CT
7-15: clear scope
1-16: clear CT
CEA@dx: 8.4 / 6-15: 4.0 / 10-15: 4.2 / 2-16: 4.9 / 7-16: 4.9 / 11-16: 5.0
Awaiting 3 year scan results.
NED since resection

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