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Formal name: Carcinoembryonic antigen
Related tests: Tumour markers

At a Glance

Why Get Tested?

In the presence of certain cancers, CEA may be used to monitor the effect of treatment and recurrance of disease

When to Get Tested?

Before starting cancer treatment as well as at intervals during and after therapy

Sample Required?

A blood sample drawn from a vein in the arm

The Test Sample

What is being tested?

CEA is a protein that is normally present at very low concentrations in blood but may be elevated in certain types of cancer. When certain types of cancer are present, CEA may be produced by the cancer cells. Elevated levels of CEA may then be detected in blood, but it will not indicate which kind of cancer is present. CEA is often used to monitor patients with cancers of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract such as colorectal cancer. It may be raised in other cancers, such as ovarian and breast cancers, but can also be raised in benign conditions such as liver disease and inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis).

How is the sample collected for testing?

A blood sample is taken by needle from the arm.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

No test preparation is needed.

The Test

Common Questions

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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.