If your healthcare provider believes you may have leukemia cancer, you will need certain exams and tests to be sure. You should expect to be asked questions about your health history, symptoms, risk factors and family history of disease. Understanding your background will help your provider make a diagnosis.

Because there are multiple types of leukemia, and treatment varies depending on the type, it’s important for the diagnostic process to be thorough and comprehensive.

Your provider may draw blood for a complete blood count, or CBC, test. This test provides details about the number of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets in the blood. Blood samples may also be taken and examined, looking for abnormalities in the type or shape of the blood cells. 

To get a good look at your bone marrow, a sample of it may be removed for testing. This can be done through either a bone marrow aspiration, which samples the fluid in the bone marrow, or a bone marrow biopsy, which samples the solid portion of the marrow.

These tests may be ordered to look for changes in the genes or chromosomes that could be markers of leukemia.

Imaging tests and diagnostic procedures such as lumbar puncture may be used to determine the extent of the leukemia and whether it has spread.

Patients will be contacted after a biopsy to review results. Further management will be recommended at that time.

When you are diagnosed with leukemia, it is common to feel a sense of urgency around starting treatment. However, in most cases there is time to do the needed research to ensure that your diagnosis is correct. That may include getting a second opinion.

Our team of experts works together to diagnose, treat and prevent leukemia cancer, with a focus on individualized patient care.

Markey is among the best cancer centers in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report, when it comes to advanced treatment options, survival rates and experienced providers. As the one and only NCI-designated cancer program in Kentucky, Markey is able to serve many patients each year with rare and common cancers, including leukemia.

Our specialized team is happy to work with your doctors and communicate to ensure confidence in your diagnosis.

Should I get a second opinion?

A second opinion can help to ensure that you will be getting the latest and most effective therapy for treating leukemia. The following are common reasons for seeking a second opinion after your initial diagnosis:

  • You are having difficulty understanding your diagnosis.
  • A dedicated team specialized in your cancer type may not be available in your area.
  • There may be uncertainty around the stage of leukemia.
  • You may want to learn more about different treatment options, including clinical trials and advanced technologies only available at an advanced center like Markey.
  • Your health insurance requires a second opinion before continuing toward treatment.

Questions to ask when getting a second opinion

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, you may have a lot on your mind. Here a few questions to keep in mind for your doctor when seeking a second opinion:

  • Is there a chance that my medical problem could have a different diagnosis?
  • Are there additional tests I should take before moving forward with treatment?
  • Do you recommend any treatments at this time?
  • What do you expect to happen if I wait or don't have the treatment?
  • What are the side effects of treatment?
  • How long are treatment recovery periods?

For more information, visit these trusted national sources for a variety of additional educational tools and resources:

Markey Cancer Center is NCI-designated

The UK Markey Cancer Center was first designated by the National Cancer Institute in 2013 – a distinction that recognizes our extraordinary ability to provide world-class care for our patients. We are the only NCI-designated cancer center in Kentucky and one of only 71 in the nation.

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