There are several tests that can be done to help diagnose a leukemia patient. The following three methods are the most common:
1. Physical exam – It is often used to look for lumps, abnormalities, or certain symptoms of leukemia that may be present in a patient. This exam will typically include a thorough review of the patient’s medical history, family history, and any risk factors that may exist specific to the patient. Once the examination has been completed, it is usual for blood tests to be carried out.
2. Blood test – Tests such as CBC (complete blood count) can detect leukemia by determining the number of red and white blood cells, along with platelets (the small, round, thin blood cells that help blood stop flowing from a cut by becoming thick and sticky), the number of red blood cells that make up the blood sample, and the amount of hemoglobin in the blood.
– A peripheral blood smear (a thin layer of blood [stained] smeared on a microscope slide that allows cells to be examined microscopically) for the presence of “blasts,” which will reveal both the type and number of white blood cells that are present.
– A cytogenetic blood test may be used to check for changes in lymphocyte chromosomes, along with other blood tests to see how well the body’s organs are working.
3. Biopsy- A fine needle is usually inserted into the hip or breastbone to remove a sample of bone or bone marrow for microscopic examination in a laboratory (bone marrow aspiration). [most common]). The sample is usually examined by a pathologist for signs of cancer cells.
Other forms of biopsy may include:
(TO) Lymph node biopsy: Depending on the type of leukemia suspected (a lymph node is removed for examination by a pathologist).
(b) Lumbar puncture/spinal tap: This is where cerebrospinal fluid is removed from between the vertebrae of the spine for examination by a pathologist.
Other procedures during the biopsy process may include:
CT scans, X-rays, MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging), and ultrasound scans.