CEA increasing without any cancer detection

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CEA increasing without any cancer detection

Postby james-1 » Thu Nov 26, 2015 10:14 pm

Hello. I'm new to this board so I hope all your experience can help me with my situation.

I'm 48 years old male and never had any cancer. For past 10 years, CEA level was consistently below 2.

However suddently this year, CEA jumped to 11.3. Then two weeks later, CEA was increased to 14.1. In order to check further, doctor performed PET, CT, colonscopy and result was negative.

I understand that CEA can be increased either due to smoking or other non cancerous infection. However, I understand that these non cancerous trigger can only increase CEA insignficantly. I also understand that when CEA is above 10, this almost always lead to reasons due to cancers.

It would be great if you can provide your suggestion on

1) If CEA at current level at 14.1 without any further detection of cancer, should I continue to be concerned?

2) What needs to be done if CEA stays at 14.1, or even worse CEA continues to increase above 14.1

3) How can CEA increase from 11.3 to 14.1 so quickly in two weeks? If it is due to tumor, because tumor grows rather slowly, the CEA level cannot rise this quickly over a short period of time - at this that's what doctor tells me.

Thank you so much.


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Re: CEA increasing without any cancer detection

Postby orcasres » Thu Nov 26, 2015 11:02 pm


I can't help much with question number 3 but a CEA at 14.1 normally means that some kind of inflammation is at work. I would insist on another test soon to see if it comes back down and possibly a second opinion if it were me.

The good news is that the traditional methods for detecting cancer were negative. But I would not stop searching for a cause.

63 yo F
Colon resection Sept. 2010
pT3N0M0 Stage 2A
Medullary Tumor 6.5cm long
Lymphovascular invasion
Lynch negative
12 FOLFOX 11/2010 to 5/2011 8 w/Oxi
NED so far

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Re: CEA increasing without any cancer detection

Postby radnyc » Thu Nov 26, 2015 11:10 pm

Hi, it must be very stressful to get such a high reading, but, the fact that you had a PET/CT scan that came back normal is a great thing. Curious, why have you been checking your CEA level for the past ten years?

There are several non-cancer conditions that could account for it, I would start there with my GP and test for those. This is a pretty useful site:

http://www.exeterlaboratory.com/test/ca ... tigen-cea/

Also, are you a heavy smoker/drinker or drug user, legal or otherwise? CEA is metabolized in the liver, it's usually there where the trouble could be.

Good luck with all
DX Jan '10, at 47
Feb - colon resection - 2/17 nodes
April - liver mets - Stage 4
3 months Folfox chemotherapy
August '10 liver resection and HAI pump
7 months chemo FUDR HAI and Folfiri systemic
NED since August 2010
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Re: CEA increasing without any cancer detection

Postby rp1954 » Fri Nov 27, 2015 12:22 am

I would be increasing my bloodwork, more biweekly tests with more blood panels and a baseline of various cancer markers. I've commented a lot on this for colorectal cancer diagnosis and before any treatments; there are also a number of organ cancers that can elevate CEA. Hopefully you have a CEA transient or relatively benign condition, but higher and longer means more cancer concern, more pressure to definitively rule out other causes. Sometimes the cancer is hard to image.

I could give many concrete examples here, that CEA due to colon cancer definitely did rise that fast, or faster. In fact, oddly enough, I've been personally confronted with elevating CEA numbers like yours, twice. One going exponential (at dx), faster, and the other stair stepping (nodes) every 8-12 wks. We did extra homework and it paid off.

Inflammation can be tested for (hsCRP and ESR), and there are other cancer markers that would allow better definition if you are in situation that hasn't yet become imageable. I would be getting second opinions lined up, doing some homework. Appointments can be cancelled, but lead time becomes precious if you are going hot.
watchful, active researcher and caregiver for stage IVb/c CC. surgeries 4/10 sigmoid etc & 5/11 para-aortic LN cluster; 8 yrs immuno-Chemo for mCRC; now no chemo
most of 2010 Life Extension recommendations and possibilities + more, some (much) higher, peaking ~2011-12, taper to almost nothing mid 2018, mostly IV C

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Re: CEA increasing without any cancer detection

Postby dianetavegia » Fri Nov 27, 2015 1:05 pm

I've been doing some reading on thyroid conditions because my CT scan in Jan. thought I might have a nodule (tiny) then the CT in April didn't see one and the CT in Oct said there MAY BE a tiny one but if it is, it's stable from January. Trying to decide what to do. My onc says 50% of people over 50 have thyroid nodules and 90 to 95% are benign. He wants me to 'forget about it'.

Well........ all this reading brought up CEA. 30% of all autopsies of people 50 and older find 'indolent' thyroid nodules that are cancerous. Indolent..... lazy, slow growing, not dangerous BUT which will produce elevated CEA levels!!! I've been reading about CEA levels for 7 years and have never, ever seen this mentioned!

My neck looks normal and nothing can be felt. My CEA is normal tho it has never been below 2. You might ask for an ultrasound of your thyroid. Wouldn't hurt!
Stage III cc surgery 1/7/09. 12 tx FOLFOX
Stage IV PET = 1.5cm liver met. HR 4/11/12

12 years since dx and 9 years post liver resection.
Pronounced CURED and discharged by onc

“O Lord my God, I cried out to You, And You healed me.” Psalms 30:2

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Possible false positives for elevated CEA

Postby O Stoma Mia » Sat Nov 28, 2015 3:08 am

For your information, here is a list of possible false positives for elevated CEA:

Carcino Embryonic Antigen (CEA) - False Positives

•Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
•Liver disease.
•Tobacco use can lead to elevated CEA levels. (CEA is elevated in 19% of smokers and only 3% of the non-smoking healthy population.)
•Peptic ulcers.
•Cirrhosis of the liver.
•Lung infection.
•Pleural effusions.
•Biliary obstruction.
•Treatment with oral 5-FU.
•High serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase (sGPT) levels.

Reference: http://www.kantrowitz.com/cancerpoints/tumormarkerfalsepositives.html

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Re: CEA increasing without any cancer detection

Postby curious56 » Sat Nov 28, 2015 4:12 pm

OK, here's the deal. I had multiple (4 or 5 or 6) "clean" CTs even though my CEA was rising. My onc finally ordered a PET scan. It showed ONLY one small area of uptake. Surgery was ordered. Imagine the surgeon's surprise when he found EIGHT tumors of significant size all over the place! He was able to get 6 of them, including my ovaries, uterus, cervix, and a considerable amount of my ommetum. The two tumors he left were unresectable at the time and about 1 to 2 cm each in size. My CEA went down significantly after surgery, but is rising again. At least I know WHY this time. :roll:

After talking to knowledgable people/doctors, I discovered that low grade tumors OFTEN hide on scans -- even PET scans. Low grade tumors are typically slow growing -- not real "hungry" for that glucose "stuff".

https://www.healthtap.com/user_questions/912644 (I hope this link works!)

So, I'm thinking you probably DO have "something" somewhere. After surgery, they went back to look at my old CTs and noticed that my ovaries had changed in size over time. NO indication of cancer, just got bigger. I would suggest that you get your doc to get the radiologist to check your scans AGAIN -- looking for anything that looks larger or different.

BTW, I'll take slow growing over agressive cancer ANY day!
dx 12/12 with CC Stage IIIB - T3N2aMO
6/18 nodes +
Resection sigmoid 12/12
Xelox 2/13 -- stopped, BAD side effects
Vegan and supplements
Clear scan 11/13
Met to abdomen - surgery 7/14
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