Leukaemia tests and diagnossis
Leukaemia tests usually start with the doctor carrying out checks for physical symptoms of acute leukaemia. The usual symptoms to expect usually include swollen glands. A blood test will be arranged in order to confirm the diagnosis and the result will show suspected cases of chronic leukaemia. Also, blood tests are useful in diagnosing other health conditions that may not necessarily be related to the leukaemia.
The test results will show if you have developed abnormally high levels of white blood cells. If you have a high level of abnormal white blood cells, it may indicate you have developed acute leukaemia. You will require further leukaemia tests. You will be referred to a haematologist, who is a medical practitioner that specialises in treating blood conditions.
Leukaemia tests using biopsy
Bone marrow biopsy is the procedure for examining a sample of the bone marrow under a microscope. The haematologist will take a bone marrow sample for examination to confirm the diagnosis of chronic leukaemia. The process of getting your bone marrow sample involves using a needle to remove a small amount of the bone marrow. Before taking the sample the haematologist will use a local anaesthetic to numb the required area of your skin. The area is usually the back of the hip bone.
The biopsy procedure is usually a painless process. It takes about 15 minutes. Biopsy does not normally require you to stay overnight in the hospital. You will be treated as an outpatient. But you may experience a few bruising and minor discomfort for some days after the biopsy.
The haematologist will check the bone marrow sample for cancerous cells. If your test result is positive, the biopsy can also determine the type of chronic leukaemia that is present. For more information on the use of biopsy, see the article on Biopsy.
Cytogenetic testing is one that involves finding the genetic makeup of the cancerous cells. There are several specific genetic variations that can occur through leukaemia. So, it is important to fully understand these genetic variations. Doing so can have a significantly impact on leukaemia treatment.
Medical evidence show that an altered gene occurs in about 90% of cases of chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). This condition is referred to as the Philadelphia chromosome. And the condition respond well to matiniba medication. Also, patients who have acute promyelocytic leukaemia respond well to trans-retinoic acid medication.
Acute promyelocytic leukaemia is a subtype of acute myeloid leukaemia. For the types of leukaemia, see Bone Marrow Cancer – Leukaemia.
Other Leukaemia tests
There are other leukaemia tests used to determine how far the condition has progressed. The tests are useful in understanding how the disease can best be treated. These types of tests are briefly outlined below.
Lymph node biopsy.Lymph node biopsies are leukaemia tests that are used to find out how far the disease has spread. If enlarged lymph nodes have developed it may require further biopsies. This is necessary where the presence of chronic leukaemia is confirmed.
CT scans.CT scan is useful in checking how healthy your other body organs are. These organs include the heart and lungs. If a chronic leukaemia is diagnosed, a computerised tomography (CT) scan may be advised. For more information, see the article on CT scans.
Lumbar puncture test.Leukaemia tests using lumbar puncture involves using a needle to extract a sample of cerebrospinal fluid from your back. The cerebrospinal fluid surrounds and protects your spine.
The doctor will want to know if your acute leukaemia has spread to your nervous system. Lumbar puncture helps to achieve this, by confirming or ruling this out.
What have been briefly explained above are all the leukaemia tests you may need to confirm or dismiss the diagnosis. Leukaemia tests are still necessary even in circumstances where the signs and symptoms clearly suggest you have the condition.