How Is Leukemia Diagnosed?


Quick Answer

Doctors diagnose leukemia by conducting diagnostic exams, including a physical exam, blood tests and a bone marrow test, according to Mayo Clinic. X-rays, MRIs and CT scans can help doctors determine how far the cancer has spread and the causes of symptoms related to lung problems.

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Full Answer

The patient's doctor checks the patient's medical history and determines if the lymph nodes in the neck, underarm and groin are enlarged. He performs a complete blood count test and blood chemistry test to check symptoms of fatigue, weakness, fever, weight loss and bruising. Abnormal levels of white blood cells or platelets can suggest leukemia. To diagnose leukemia and its type, a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy are conducted, adds WebMD. A long, thin needle is used to take a bone marrow sample, which is sent to a laboratory to check for leukemia cells.

A routine blood test can reveal chronic leukemia before symptoms start, notes Mayo Clinic. Leukemia symptoms include fever or chills, frequent infections, swollen lymph nodes, persistent weakness, small red spots on the skin, and easy bleeding or bruising. The symptoms are not specific and may be overlooked because they are similar to flu symptoms. The stage of a patient's leukemia, his age and overall health determine his treatment plan.

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