Why do we do this test?
To monitor cancer treatment (chemotherapy and post-surgical) including response to therapy and to detect recurrences.
It is also done during diagnosis, before treatment to assess the tumour size and the degree of spread, and for staging.
You will be requested to get this test done when you have been diagnosed with colorectal, pancreatic, gastric, breast, lung, ovarian, or medullary carcinoma thyroid.
CEA is a protein produced by certain tissues of the developing fetus(embryo) of which levels lower after birth and become almost undetectable in adults. But in certain cancers re-expression of this protein occurs giving rise to significant amounts in blood.
Although it is considered a marker for carcinoma of colon, CEA is not specific for colonic cancer and it is elevated in certain other pathologies as well such as cirrhosis,
peptic ulcer disease, ulcerative colitis, rectal polyps, emphysema, benign breast diseases and smokers.
Because of this fact CEA cannot be used to screen general
The main use of CEA is in evaluating response to cancer treatment.
Specimen Type
Serum, Plasma (EDTA), Plasma (Li Heparin)
Instructions for specimen collection & Patient preparation
Specimen transportation & Processing
Transport separated serum/plasma in ice (2-8C). If prolonged storage store at -20 C.
Specimen storage & stability
Separate serum as soon as possible.
Specimen storage duration
Reference Intervals & Target Values
Healthy non-smokers < 3.0 ng/m
Critical Limits
Possible Pre-analytical Errors
Gross Haemalysis
Possible Analytical Errors
Insufficient serum/plasma volume, Air bubbles, Fibrin clots.
Available Government Laboratories
Apeksha Hospital, Medical Research Institute, National Hospital Kandy, Teaching Hospital Jaffna, North Colombo Teaching Hospital, Karapitiya Teaching Hospital
Recommended turnaround time
1 to 7 days

Test Method


1. Daniel W.Chan, Stewart Sell; Tumour Markers. Burtis CA, Ashwood ER. Tietz Text Book of Clinical Chemistry,3rd edition, USA, Elsevier Saunders 1999, 722-749

Last Updated : 2020-09-14 06:18:53






College of Chemical Pathologists of Sri Lanka

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