A carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test measures a specific blood glycoprotein called CEA. It means a protein with a lot of sugars added to it by normal or cancerous cells. Scientists first discovered CEA in 1968 when they isolated extracts of liver metastasized by colorectal cancer and also from normal fetal digestive tract. Everyone is born with high levels of this protein. CEA decreases as you get older, but some conditions, including certain types of cancer, can increase your blood CEA levels.
CEA is sometimes called a tumor marker or tumor antigen. Tumor markers are substances that some cancer cells make and shed into bodily fluids at times. Healthy cells also may make tumor markers in very low levels.
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