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November 1986

Carcinoembryonic Antigen: A Routine Test in Patients With Breast Carcinoma?

Author Affiliations

Mayo Clinic Department of Medical Oncology 200 First St SW Rochester, MN 55905

Arch Intern Med. 1986;146(11):2125-2126. doi:10.1001/archinte.1986.00360230041004

In an era of medical cost containment with a renewed emphasis on cost-effective patient management tools, it is appropriate to reassess and place in realistic perspective the clinical usefulness of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) levels in women with breast carcinoma. Carcinoembryonic antigen levels have been evaluated as (1) a screening tool in an effort to diagnose early asymptomatic breast cancer; (2) a prognostic indicator at the time of diagnosis of localized disease; (3) a tool for serially following patients after completion of primary therapy for localized disease; (4) a prognostic indicator at the time of diagnosis of metastatic disease; and (5) a tool to help determine therapeutic changes in women with metastatic disease. While this research has resulted in many interesting findings and a better understanding of CEA levels, has it demonstrated that CEA levels are clinically useful in a nonresearch practice setting?

It has been well established that in healthy,