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Leukemia - Exams and Tests

Tests to diagnose leukemia

If your doctor suspects leukemia, he or she may:

Finding the type of leukemia

If your blood work points to possible leukemia, your doctor will want to find out what kind you might have. Your treatment plan will depend on the specific kind of leukemia that you have.

  • A blood test is usually enough to find signs of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
  • Tests that look closely at unusual cells, chromosomes, or proteins on cells can show what type or subtype of leukemia you have. These tests include:
    • A test that looks for certain changes in the cell chromosomes from a sample of blood or bone marrow (cytogenetic analysis).
    • A test that compares cancer cells to normal blood cells to find the specific kind of leukemia (immunophenotyping).
    • A test to look for genes that are "turned on" in several types of leukemia, such as acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). This test is called a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test, or RT-PCR.

These tests can help guide treatment. Sometimes they can help your doctor and you know whether your leukemia is likely to go into remission or come back. In some cases, the tests can predict survival rates.

Your doctor may also order other tests, including:

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: December 14, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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