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Which Lab Tests Can Detect Leukemia?

The Complete Blood Count (CBC) is the most efficient laboratory test for identifying leukemia because it can uncover critical abnormalities in white blood cells that are symptomatic of leukemia. Other tests, such as reticulocyte count, give additional information but are not definitive markers of leukemia. Early diagnosis using these tests is critical since it leads to more prompt treatment, better management choices, and better results. This emphasizes the significance of frequent health checks and responding quickly to aberrant test findings in order to monitor and treat leukemia effectively.

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Because of its subtle and frequently diverse symptoms, leukemia, a kind of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, can be particularly difficult to diagnose. Early identification, on the other hand, is critical for successful treatment and better results. We’ll look at how certain lab tests may help not only confirm the diagnosis of leukemia but also determine its kind and course. These tests are critical for early diagnosis, allowing for prompt and focused therapy techniques that have the potential to drastically modify the course of this disease.

Comprehensive Wellness Panel Lab Test

The most reliable and widely used test for identifying leukemia is the complete blood count (CBC) and it’s a part of the Comprehensive Wellness Panel.1 A CBC analyzes blood components such as red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. White blood cells are the primary target of leukemia, and changes in their number, morphology, or maturity level can be an early sign of the disease.

The CBC may indicate an unusually high or low white blood cell count in leukemia, and it frequently reveals the presence of blast cells (immature white blood cells) in the blood, which is a significant indicator of leukemia. It may also exhibit abnormalities in red blood cells and platelets, which can be influenced by an increase in white blood cell production in the bone marrow.

scientist looking through a microscope in a lab

Ferritin levels, while not as exact or direct as the CBC, can be informative in the setting of leukemia.2

Ferritin is an iron-containing blood protein. Ferritin levels can be elevated in a variety of situations, including inflammation, infection, and some forms of malignancy, including leukemia. However, high ferritin levels alone are not diagnostic of leukemia, although they may raise concern, especially if the CBC is abnormal.

Anemia Lab Test

Aside from the CBC which we already mentioned previously, the anemia test has another subtest included that could be an indicator for early leukemia and it’s the reticulocyte count.

While the reticulocyte count is not a direct sign for leukemia, it can help in the early diagnosis of the illness, especially in the context of bone marrow function. Reticulocytes are immature red blood cells (RBCs) that are discharged into the circulation from the bone marrow. The reticulocyte count determines the percentage or absolute amount of these cells in the blood, providing information on the activity of the bone marrow in creating new red blood cells.

Leukemia is characterized by the growth of abnormal white blood cells in the bone marrow, which can interfere with the formation of other blood cells, including red blood cells. This disturbance can cause a reduction in reticulocyte production, potentially resulting in a reduced reticulocyte count.

Due to the overloading of the bone marrow with leukemic cells, which prevents the generation of normal red blood cells, leukemia frequently results in anemia. A reticulocyte count can be used to determine the degree and etiology of anemia. An unusually low reticulocyte count in the presence of anemia in leukemia might indicate a failure of the bone marrow to adjust by making more red blood cells, indicating marrow invasion by leukemia cells.


Early detection of leukemia with suitable lab tests such as the Complete Blood Count (CBC) and, to a lesser extent, supporting assays such as the reticulocyte count is crucial for enhancing treatment results. Early identification allows for prompt action, which increases the likelihood of effective treatment and lowers the risk of complications. Patients benefit from a broader choice of therapeutic options, possibly less severe therapies, and a greater chance of achieving remission or a cure if leukemia is detected early. Furthermore, early detection aids in closely monitoring disease development and changing treatment tactics as needed, resulting in a more targeted and successful strategy to battling this difficult condition.

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Lab Testing - Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to do lab tests occasionally?

It is important to do lab tests occasionally because they can provide valuable information about an individual's health and help to identify potential health issues early on. Lab tests can measure a wide range of factors, including blood count, cholesterol levels, liver and kidney function, and hormone levels, and can provide insight into an individual's overall health and wellness. Additionally, lab tests can help to diagnose and monitor the progression of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, and can help to identify any potential health risks or concerns. By doing lab tests occasionally, individuals can take proactive steps to maintain their health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of potential health problems in the future.

What does a routine blood test cover?

A routine blood test is used to check for a range of things, including your blood count and the levels of certain chemicals and substances in your blood. Blood tests can also be used to check how well certain organs, such as your liver and kidneys, are functioning.

How is a blood sample collected for lab testing?

A blood sample for lab testing is typically collected through a process called venipuncture, which involves inserting a small needle into a vein to draw blood. This is usually done on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.

What is the cost of a lab test?

In general, the cost of a lab test can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. It is always best to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider to get an accurate estimate of the cost of a lab test.

Read More: Lab Testing FAQ


[1] Chennamadhavuni A. - Leukemia.;

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