Diagnosis

If a patient has symptoms of leukemia, a doctor may perform one or more of the following procedures:

Physical Exam - The doctor feels for swollen lymph nodes, spleen or liver.

Blood Test - A complete blood count test is done to check the number of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Leukemia causes a very high level of white blood cells. It can also cause low levels of platelets and hemogloblin, which is found in red blood cells.

Biopsy - A pathologist looks at a sample of bone marrow under a microscope to check for leukemia cells. Bone marrow is usually taken from the hipbone or another large bone, and local anesthesia is used to numb the area.

The doctor may obtain bone marrow in two ways, and some patients have both procedures done in the same visit.

Bone Marrow Aspiration:
The doctor removes samples of bone marrow with a thick, hollow needle.

Bone Marrow Biopsy: The doctor removes a small piece of bone and a bone marrow sample with a thick, hollow needle.

Cytogenetics - A lab looks at the chromosomes of cells from samples of bone marrow, blood or lymph nodes. The test can show what type of leukemia is present is abnormal chromosomes are found.

Spinal Tap - A doctor uses a long, thin needle to remove cerebrospinal fluid from the lower spine. A lab then checks the fluid for leukemia cells or other signs of problems.

Chest X-Ray - An x-ray of the chest can show swollen lymph nodes or other signs of disease.

Once the results from the test or procedure are returned you will be able to make thoughtful decisions. Please see Newly Diagnosed  for information on being patient active, treatment decisions, partnering with your healthcare team and finding support. 

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is difficult. Please see Caregivers and/or Online Support for more information on how the Cancer Support Community can offer support.

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