Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA) Blood Test
This CEA Blood Test measures the protein in the blood called carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA). This protein can be found on some cancer cell types.
The carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test measures the amount of this protein that can occur in the blood of certain people with certain types of cancers, particularly large intestine cancer (colon and rectal cancer). It may also be present in people with prostate, liver, thyroid, pancreatic, breast, ovarian, or lung cancer.
CEA is a tumor marker which is a substance found in tissue or blood or other body fluids that may be a sign of cancer or certain benign (noncancer). CEA was initially thought to be a specific marker for colon cancer, but further studies have shown that there is an increase in CEA in a wide range of other cancers. Some non-cancer conditions, such as inflammation, cirrhosis, peptic ulcer, ulcerative colitis, rectal polyps, emphysema, and benign breast disease, and smokers, may also increase CEA.
The CEA test is primarily used for:
- monitoring cancer treatment, including response to therapy and recurrence
- an indicator of the amount of cancer or size of tumor present (tumor burden) and to assist in cancer staging
- on occasion as follow up to a positive screening test for cancer, to compare if the level falls to normal (indicating that the cancer was all likely removed) after treatment for the cancer.
Since not all cancers produce CEA, cancer can occur, but normal CEA can also occur. If a cancer does not produce CEA, the test is not a useful tool for monitoring.
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