Oncology (General Cancer)/Colon cancer


My mother had colon cancer 4 years ego. after surgey and chemothropy, she's better. Now in test cea= 2 (normal <5) and
ca 19-9=42 (normal <37). what is the mean?

Thanks a lot

ANSWER: A slight elevation in ca-19-9 may not mean anything.  Sometimes irritation of the lining of the intestines can cause this.  However, it also may reflect pancreatic or gall bladder cancer.  So what I would do is repeat the test about six weeks later, and if it is still abnormal, I would look for evidence of pancreatic or other upper gastrointestinal malignancy.  I don't think this has anything to do with the colon cancer.  Hope this helps.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Has the risk of infection to the pancreatic and another cancer been increased by a slight elevation in ca19-9? How much?

Best Regards

Many of the tumor markers we use are produced by normal tissues.  It is when their numbers are abnormal that we are concerned.  However, since they are produced by normal tissues, there are things that can cause overproduction (a little bit) which are not cancer.  The elevated CA 19-9 is not a "risk factor" for cancer.  It's possible that it reflects an underlying cancer, but at this level, not certain.  As I said before, I would repeat the test in six weeks and if it is rising, I'd be concerned.  

Oncology (General Cancer)

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Donald Higby, M.D.


I can answer almost all questions related to the treatment and natural course of most kinds of cancer, especially cancers of prostate, colon, lung and breast.


I have been a practicing medical oncologist for 36 years, and have been chief of service at a major medical center for 25 years. I've also done research in cancer treatments.

American Society of Clinical Oncology

New England Journal of Medicine American Journal of Medicine Journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Hematology Transfusion Medicine

MD, Stanford University Internal Medicine residency, St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO Medical Oncology Fellowship, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

Awards and Honors
America's Best Physicians, last 14 years

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.