Skip to page body Patient Care Survivorship Research Cancer Types News Giving Community Partners Clinical Trials
UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
Take the Jonsson Cancer Center Site Survey

Leukemia: Tests

Physical exam: The doctor checks for swelling of the lymph nodes, spleen and liver.

Blood tests: The lab checks the level of blood cells. Leukemia causes a very high level of white blood cells. It also causes low levels of platelets and hemoglobin, which is found inside red blood cells. The lab also may check the blood for signs that leukemia has affected the liver and kidneys.

A bone marrow aspirate and a bone marrow biopsy are two of the tests that are done. An aspirate is done to take a close look at the cells in the marrow. It shows what types of cells are in the marrow and what abnormalities the cells may have. The biopsy gives information about how much disease is in the marrow.

A bone marrow aspirate is done by removing a sample of cells from the marrow with a special needle. First, medication is given to numb the part of the body that will be used for the sample. The sample is usually taken from the patient’s hip bone. The marrow cells are looked at under a microscope. The bone marrow aspirate is done to look for abnormal cells such as leukemic blast cells. It can also be used for cytogenetic analysis, immunophenotyping and other tests.

Cytogenetic analysis is a lab test to examine the chromosomes of the leukemic blast cells.
(Each cell in the body has chromosomes that carry genes. Genes give the instructions that tell each cell what to do).
Immunophenotyping is used to find out if the patient’s leukemia cells are B cells or T cells.

A bone marrow biopsy is done be removing a very small amount of bone filled with marrow cells. This is done with a special needle. First, medication is given to numb the part of the body that will be used for the biopsy, this is usually the patient’s hip bone. The bone marrow sample is looked at under a microscope.

Last updated: 5/21/2010 4:28:57 PM