Oncology (General Cancer)/CEA of 37


Hello Dr Higby,

I am a current colon cancer patient, diagnosed in 2012, stage 4. Much chemo and several organs removed, I have been tumor-free for 1 yr. But, my CEA has been steadily climbing. Each quarter my CT scans are clear. My surgeon has conducted colonoscopy and PET. All clear. I feel great and even ran a marathon in November. My question is, is there some further testing that could be done to rule out recurrence? Could the elevated CEA be due to inflammation of the bowel post surgery, or even from arthritis? Any additional insight is much appreciated.

There are other causes of CEA elevation, but usually with a 37, you are looking at cancer somewhere.  Other types of cancer can cause rises in CEA, including breast, pancreas, and stomach.  However, in your case it is almost certain that somewhere there is some colon cancer.  It may be growing extremely slowly.  The point is that if you don't know where it is you can't do anything about it.  I think your doctor is doing the right thing with his surveillance, and a time may come when you will find it.  If you were my patient, I would do PET, and chest/abdomen/pelvis CT again if the CEA gets up to 50.  Hope this helps.  

Oncology (General Cancer)

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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

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