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Revista Médica del Uruguay

Print version ISSN 0303-3295On-line version ISSN 1688-0390


GONZALEZ GONZALEZ, Daniel; WAGNER, Gabriela  and  RUSO MARTINEZ, Luis. Effectiveness of carcinoembryonic antigen to diagnose colorectal cancer. Rev. Méd. Urug. [online]. 2021, vol.37, n.2, e201.  Epub June 01, 2021. ISSN 0303-3295.


carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is a tumor marker used for follow up rather than a screening and diagnostic test for colorectal cancer (CCR). However, it continues to be requested in the regular clinical practice for initial diagnosis.


to evaluate the effectiveness of CEA to diagnose colorectal cancer at Maciel Hospital and Cooperativa Medica de Florida Hospital from 2000 to 2019.


prospective study to evaluate CEA as a diagnostic test for colorectal cancer. The following inclusion criteria were used: 1) total videocolonoscopy in all users without CLC and total or partial videocolonoscopy for those with CRC and histologic confirmation of adenocarcinoma; 2) CEA determination within 30 days before or after videocolonoscopy and 3) for the purpose of staging, pathology report of the surgical piece and histological confirmation of distant metastases. The number of cases included was defined by a 10-case minimum in each cell of the contingency table.


211 cases were analysed. The general analysis revealed 33.6% sensitivity, 70.4% specificity, VPP 69.1%, VPN 35%, accuracy 45.9%. In the case of staging II, sensitivity was 18.8%, specificity 70.4%, VPP 30%, VPN 56.2%, accuracy 49.5%. In the case of staging III, sensitivity 31.6%, specificity 70.4%, VPP 36.4%, VPN 65.8%, accuracy 56.8%. In the case of staging IV, sensitivity 65%, specificity 70.4%, VPP 55.3%, VPN 78.1%, accuracy 68.4%.


CEA evidences low effectiveness to diagnose colorectal cancer, and it is still less effective in early stages of the disease.

Keywords : Carcinoembryonic antigen; Colorectal neoplasms; Diagnosis; Screening.

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