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Will a CBC Detect Leukemia?

written by: Vikas Vij • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 12/18/2010

Will a CBC detect leukemia? This is a pertinent question many people face, and the answer is that a complete blood count test may be a good indicator of leukemia, but it does not provide a conclusive evidence of leukemia by itself.

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    The Importance of Complete Blood Count Test to Diagnose Leukemia

    Patients suffering from unexplained and prolonged infections are sometimes faced with a key question: Will a CBC detect leukemia? CBC refers to “Complete Blood Count" and it is one of the comprehensive blood tests that a physician may order in order to evaluate the cause of infection in the body. The test involves a detailed analysis of various components or values of blood. There are pre-determined parameters that help to diagnose the precise cause of infection. The key components that are analyzed under a CBC include the platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells.

    The complete blood count analysis provides the physician information about the numbers and the comparative maturity stage of the blood cells and platelets. If any irregular patterns in the cell counts are seen, such as a high level of white blood cells or a lower than normal count of red blood cells or a decreased number of platelets, it may be an indicator of leukemia. However, this is not conclusive evidence because these abnormal patterns may also develop due to any other kind of infection in the blood as well. Follow-up tests and detailed evaluation is necessary, but CBC is one of the earliest indicators to pave way for further investigation.

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    Key Components of Complete Blood Count

    Will a CBC detect leukemia for sure? The answer is no. But a detailed analysis of its various components can definitely contribute towards the diagnosis in a significant way.

    White Blood Cells (WBCs): The normal count of WBCs in the blood ranges between 4,300 and 10,800 per cubic millimeter. Any abnormality in this leukocyte count may be an indicator of leukemia. Furthermore, different types of WBCs are identified on the basis of their shape and size. So an evaluation of the separate counts of differentiated WBCs also helps in diagnosing the disorder.

    Red Blood Cells (RBCs): The normal range of RBCs in the blood lies between 4.2 and 5.9 million per cubic millimeter. RBCs are smaller sized compared to WBCs, but there number is far higher in the blood. Any abnormality in the normal erythrocyte count may be an indicator of leukemia.

    Hemoglobin (Hb): The level of hemoglobin in the blood varies between males and females. In case of males, the normal range of Hb is between 13 and 18 gms per deciliter. In case of females, the normal range is between 12 and 16 gms per deciliter.

    Hematocrit (Hct): This component represents the ratio between the volume of red cells and the total volume of the blood. The normal range for males lies between 45 and 52 percent, and for females the range is between 37 and 48 percent.

    Platelets: A platelet is not a complete cell, but just a part of the cell. Platelets play a key role in clotting of the blood. The normal count of platelets may range between 150,000 and 400,000 per cubic millimeter. Any significantly abnormal increase or decrease in the platelets count may indicate a blood disorder which could also be leukemia.

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