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Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA): what is it, what is it for and normal values

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The carcinoembryonic antigen, also known by its acronym CEA, is a protein produced mainly at the beginning of fetal life and during the rapid multiplication of cells in the digestive system, and can be used as an indicator of colorectal cancer.

However, people without gastrointestinal alterations, or those who are smokers, may present an increase in the concentrations of this protein, being necessary to carry out other tests to confirm if it is due to the presence of a tumor.

The carcinoembryonic test is most used in patients who are undergoing treatment for colorectal cancer, because the values ​​of this protein can normalize after 6 weeks after surgery to remove the tumor. This protein can also be increased in people who have alterations in the pancreas, liver and even in the breasts, indicating breast fibrocystic mastopathy.



See more about this disease.

what is it for

The carcinoembryonic antigen must be requested by the doctor to help diagnose colorectal cancer. However, due to its low specificity to confirm the diagnosis, other methods are necessary to confirm it, because the CEA is more used to follow up the patient after the operation and verify the response to the chemotherapeutic treatment. Know the symptoms of bowel cancer.

This antigen can also present high concentrations in blood in other situations, such as:

  • pancreas cancer;



  • Lung cancer;

  • liver cancer;

  • Inflammatory bowel disease;

  • Thyroid cancer;

  • Pancreatitis;

  • Lung infections;

  • In smokers;

  • Benign breast disease, characterized by the presence of benign nodules or cysts in the breast.

Due to the fact that there are several situations in which the carcinoembryonic antigen can be elevated, it is recommended to carry out other exams, which should be indicated by the doctor, in order to make a correct diagnosis.

normal values

The reference value for this exam varies according to the laboratory, so it is recommended that the antigen intake be carried out in the same laboratory, to allow a more accurate interpretation of the exam and the clinical picture of the patient.

Furthermore, when interpreting the result, it is important to consider whether the person is a non-smoker, as the reference value is different. Therefore, the reference values ​​of CEA in blood considered normal are:

  • In smokers: up to 5.0 ng/ml;

  • In non-smokers: up to 3.0 ng/mL.

The concentration in blood, may be slightly increased in persons without malignant alteration, without embargo, when the value is 5 times higher than the reference value, it may be indicative of cancer with possible metastasis. Therefore, it is important that other tumor markers are taken and evaluated, in addition to the evaluation of hematology and biochemical tests to complete the diagnosis.

See what are the exams that detect cancer.

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Consult a Doctor | Translated by User2937

Content for educational purposes only

The translator user relied on the following text:

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Disclaimer – (English version>) This content has been prepared based on information from research, additional publications, or the translation/verification work of a volunteer editor of this web council. This is a non-profit service. It is strongly recommended that all details and information published be carefully verified. We never allow medication recommendations, medication package inserts or any medication guidance. We never allow partisan politics as information.

Isenção de responsabilidade – (versão em português): Este conteúdo foi preparado com base em informações de pesquisas, publicações adicionais ou no trabalho de tradução/verificação de um editor voluntário deste conselho web. Este é um serviço sem fins lucrativos. É altamente recomendável que todos os detalhes e informações publicadas sejam verificadas cuidadosamente. Nunca permitimos recomendações de medicamentos, bulas ou qualquer orientação sobre medicamentos. Nunca permitimos a política partidária como base para checagem. Para mais informações, leia nossos termos.

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