CEA Blood Test

With my next scan only four weeks away, my anxiety is growing with each passing day. Thankfully, I can’t remember the last time I cried all day, so that’s a positive. I am trying to stay in the mind set that there is nothing I can really do to have the results I wish. The holidays were hard on my body. More alcohol than I have drank in the past three years combined, and enough sweets and salts to go along with it. But that was to be expected and I do not feel like I over indulged. I have to constantly remind myself that I have to quit the “blame game”. If my scan results are bad, that is not because I had a larger piece of pie for Christmas, or because I had two glasses of wine with dinner – there was nothing I could do to prevent it. I am starting to truly believe that. I am cleaning up my eating again because I was to stay consistently healthy for a longer period of time than just three month periods.

I’ve decided after this next scan to change up my follow up schedule. When most cancer patients enter the NED (no existing disease) stage, they all have roughly the same schedule. Two to three years having a CT scan and blood test every three months, the following two years it drops to every six, and at that beautiful five year mark it goes to once a year. This is because with each passing year, your chances of reoccurence technically lowers. Of course, every body is different, but overall this seems to be the case. I however would like to do things differently, as I always seem to do. With colon cancer a good indicator that something is changing is when your CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) levels in your blood are increasing. This isn’t a perfect way to tell if your cancer is back, but it is usually pretty accurate.

Just in case you have no idea what I am talking about – the CEA test measures the amount of a certain protein that may appear in the blood of some people who have certain kinds of cancers, especially cancer of the large intestine (colon and rectal cancer). A healthy person should have CEA level under 4. A smoker is typically under 6. In the late summer of 2015, after my lung surgery, my CEA level was 4. Fast forward to Spring of 2016, when my cancer was back in my liver and lungs, my CEA level was 44.

At my last check up in October my CEA level was 0.3. Yep – that was a shocker. So this month if my levels have increased a significant amount, then something very well could be going on inside. However if they remain very low, I will feel confident that I am on the right track. So I will switch things up and only get my blood taken in May. If that level is also low then my new CT scan and CEA test will be in July – at the six month mark. If my levels are raised in April then we will scan away. I figure I will save myself the stress, and the radiation, if I push it to the six month mark. I haven’t really been able to unwind and enjoy my life in the NED world because my scan is always looming in the back of my mind. So maybe having it every six months will help with that. I guess we will find out.

Fingers and toes crossed that this scan and blood test is clear!

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Cancer IQ

Since my diagnosis I have not participated in any outside program related to cancer. At first I was uncomfortable with the idea of identifying myself with cancer. I am not one to just bring it up and a conversation. Who really wants to hear depressing shit? The only place I have felt truly comfortable saying whatever is on my mind, is in my colon cancer group. There, everyone has the same problems more or less. During one of those meetings the opportunity was presented to volunteer at a local hockey game to promote Colon Cancer Awareness Month. I was intrigued and thought this would be a perfect way to start giving back. 

When I received the information on what we would be speaking about, I discovered it was not so much about colon cancer, but more about promoting a new website entitled “Cancer IQ”. We were encouraged to try it out first. This site asks the user approximately 15 questions, and then identifies what their risk factor is for a specific cancer. I decided to fill out my form based on myself one year ago – before my diagnosis. To my surprise my risk for colon cancer was only 10%. Is this site useful? Absolutely – it brings awareness to the user, and maybe reminds them to go and speak to their healthcare professional about being tested. What this site does not do however is ask the right questions. The biggest sign for colon cancer is all about the way your poop looks. Is it pencil shaped? Is there blood? Is it a solid or a loose movement? These questions would greatly help determine whether or not a person should be concerned. But no – not one single poop question. No wonder I only received a 10% risk factor. Imagine someone like me out there took this? They would pat themselves on the back and go back to sleep. No worries in the world. Wrong. 

What does this teach us? Do not take one opinion as the be all end all. If you have concerns, ask around. Each person will provide you with a different piece of the puzzle.