woman doctor holding a vial with blood

Lab Tests That Can Detect Leukemia

Because it can detect significant abnormalities in white blood cells that are indicative of leukemia, the Complete Blood Count (CBC) is the most effective laboratory test for diagnosing leukemia. While they provide more details, other tests like the reticulocyte count are not conclusive indicators of leukemia. These tests are essential for early diagnosis because they provide more timely treatment, better management decisions, and better outcomes. This highlights how important it is to have regular check-ups and react promptly to abnormal test results in order to properly monitor and treat leukemia.

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Leukemia is a kind of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. It can be particularly challenging to identify because of its mild and sometimes varied symptoms. Conversely, early detection is essential for effective treatment and improved outcomes. We’ll examine how specific laboratory tests may aid in determining the kind and course of leukemia in addition to confirming the diagnosis. These tests are essential for an early diagnosis, which enables targeted and timely treatment approaches that might significantly alter the disease’s trajectory.

woman doctor holding a vial with blood

Comprehensive Wellness Panel Lab Test

Included in the Comprehensive Wellness Panel, the complete blood count (CBC) is the most often used and dependable test for diagnosing leukemia.1 Red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are among the blood components that are examined by a CBC. Leukemia primarily affects white blood cells, and variations in these cells’ quantity, shape, or maturity level may indicate the illness before symptoms appear.

The presence of blast cells, or immature white blood cells, in the blood is often detected by the complete blood count (CBC), which is a crucial predictor of leukemia and may show an abnormally high or low white blood cell count in leukemia. Additionally, it could show anomalies in red blood cells and platelets, which could be impacted by the bone marrow’s increased production of white blood cells.

In the context of leukemia, ferritin levels can be instructive, although not being as precise or straightforward as the CBC.2 A blood protein that contains iron is called ferritin. Many conditions can cause high ferritin levels, including infection, inflammation, and some types of cancer, such as leukemia. High ferritin levels, however, may be concerning, particularly if the CBC is abnormal, although they may not alone indicate leukemia.

Anemia Lab Test

The reticulocyte count is one of the subtests included in the anemia test, in addition to the CBC, which we have already discussed. This subtest may serve as an early leukemia signal.

Even while the reticulocyte count does not directly indicate leukemia, it can aid in the disease’s early detection, particularly when considering bone marrow function. Immature red blood cells, or reticulocytes, are released into the bloodstream by the bone marrow. The reticulocyte count provides information on the activity of the bone marrow in producing new red blood cells by calculating the percentage or absolute number of these cells in the blood.

The proliferation of aberrant white blood cells in the bone marrow, which can obstruct the production of red blood cells among other blood cells, is the hallmark of leukemia. This disruption may result in a decrease in the formation of reticulocytes, which might lead to a decrease in reticulocyte count.

Leukemia commonly causes anemia because it overloads the bone marrow with leukemic cells, preventing the production of healthy red blood cells. The degree and cause of anemia can be ascertained by reticulocyte count. When leukemia is present and anemia occurs, an abnormally low reticulocyte count may suggest that leukemia cells have invaded the bone marrow and prevented it from producing enough red blood cells to compensate.


Improving treatment outcomes depends on early leukemia identification using appropriate lab tests like the Complete Blood Count (CBC) and, to a lesser extent, supportive assays like the reticulocyte count. Prompt intervention following early detection reduces the chance of complications and raises the possibility of an effective course of therapy. If leukemia is discovered early, patients have more options for treatment, may require less aggressive medicines, and have a better chance of experiencing remission or recovery. Early identification also makes it easier to precisely monitor the progression of the disease and adjust treatment plans as necessary, leading to a more focused and effective approach to managing this challenging condition.

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[1] Leukemia. Chennamadhavuni A.

[2] Ferritin--a tumor marker in myeloid leukemia. Aulbert E.

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