Thursday, June 26, 2008

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0944 - Poor CEA Results

Should I be nervous about a recurrence of cancer?

Today, my family physician gave me the news that my CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) test results had more than doubled in the past five month (January to June) from 3.6 to 7.8. The CT scan results weren't back yet, but he has already requested another colonoscopy for me with my surgical oncologist and I have a follow up appointment with my medical oncologist in two weeks.

Maybe the reason for my anxiety last week wasn't entirely off the mark. As I've been looking at search results again today about CEA levels, I can't help but wonder whether I should have been more vigilant (after all, my CEA level in January was 3.6, higher than it ever was even prior to treatment). In fact, to be brutally honest with myself, what was I thinking when I was issued a follow-up CT scan and a request for extra blood work from the cancer centre last week? My family physician hadn't said anything to me about getting the cancer centre involved in my regular follow-up protocol again. So was their involvement just coincidental? I don't think so.

And so here I go again, worrying and researching colorectal cancer tumor markers instead of so many other things that I might otherwise be doing. I read about the American Society of Clinical Oncology's 2006 Guidelines for the use of CEA as a tumor marker for the recurrence of colorectal cancer at the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada's web site. Or a case study about a woman roughly my age whose recurrence of colorectal cancer was caught by means of the CEA postoperative follow-up. I read about other people whose CEA kept going up and who ended up with adenocarcinoma in the lungs or liver, clearly evidence of micro metastases after "successful" resections like my own.

But there it is. I can't do anything, except start pestering for test results delivered in a more timely fashion. I can do some more research. I can review my medical records. Simple things like that. But probably most importantly, I can simply live my life.

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