First Time User? Enroll now.
Weather Updates: Check our weather closings and delays page to see if your facility or clinic is impacted by inclement weather.COVID-19: Vaccine information, visitor restrictions, testing, treatment, and additional resources | Medicaid: The program is changing and you must take steps to keep your UNC Health providers
Home > Health Library > Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA) Test
The carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test measures the amount of this protein that may appear in the blood of some people who have certain kinds of cancers, especially cancer of the large intestine (colon and rectal cancer). It may also be present in people with cancer of the pancreas, breast, ovary, or lung.
CEA is normally produced during the development of a fetus. The production of CEA stops before birth, and it usually is not present in the blood of healthy adults.
The carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test is used to monitor a person before and during treatment. Along with other tests, this test may be used to see how well a treatment is working. And in some cases, it may be used with other tests to see if the cancer has grown or come back.
In general, there's nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.
When a blood sample is taken, you may feel nothing at all from the needle. Or you might feel a quick sting or pinch.
There is very little chance of having a problem from this test. When a blood sample is taken, a small bruise may form at the site.
Results are usually available in 1 to 3 days.
Each lab has a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should show the range that your lab uses for each test. The normal range is just a guide. Your doctor will also look at your results based on your age, health, and other factors. A value that isn't in the normal range may still be normal for you.
Most cancers do not produce this protein, so your CEA may be normal even though you have cancer.
Many conditions can change your CEA levels. Your doctor will discuss any significant abnormal results with you in relation to your symptoms and medical history.
Current as of:
September 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineJimmy Ruiz MD - Hematology, Oncology
Current as of: September 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Jimmy Ruiz MD - Hematology, Oncology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
3100 Duraleigh Road
Raleigh, NC 27612
6602 Knightdale Blvd.
REX Healthcare of Knightdale, Suite 201
Knightdale, NC 27545
2800 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC 27607
131 E. Market St.
Smithfield, NC 27577
166 Springbrook Ave.
Clayton, NC 27520