CEA Test

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Formal name: Carcinoembryonic Antigen

At a Glance

Why Get Tested?

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

When to Get Tested?

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

Sample Required?

A blood sample taken from a vein in the arm

Test Preparation Needed?

None

The Test Sample

What is being tested?

CEA is a protein that is normally not detected in the blood of a healthy person. When certain types of cancer are present, CEA may be produced by the cancer cells. 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 (Crohns disease or ulcerative colitis).

How is the sample collected for testing?

A blood sample is taken by needle from the arm.

NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.

Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.

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

No test preparation is needed.

The Test

Common Questions

Ask a Laboratory Scientist

Article Sources

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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.