Blood test results could help the physician identify if the patient has an acute or chronic leukemia. Other tests such as the following are needed for proper diagnosis.
- Physical exam – to look for signs of leukemia, such as pale skin, skin bruising, swelling of the lymph nodes, and enlargement of the liver and spleen.
- Blood tests – abnormal blood results of red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets could suggest leukemia. However, not all types of leukemia cause abnormal cells circulate in the blood, some are found in the bone marrow.
- Bone marrow biopsy (bone marrow aspiration) – a long, thin needle is inserted into the bone marrow (commonly at the hip bone) to aspirate fluid during the procedure, then the sample is sent to laboratory for pathology testing to determine the percentage of abnormal cells and diagnose leukemia.
The type, location and stage of cancer are some of the factors which can affect how to choose the treatment and would be discussed with the specialist.
- Chemotherapy: most common therapy for leukemia, it uses drugs to kill cancer cell.
- Radiation therapy: uses high-energy beams to kill or stop the growth of cancer cells. The treatment may be used prior to bone marrow transplant. During the therapy radiation may be directed to one area or over your whole body.
- Targeted therapy: is designed to focus on blocking certain abnormalities that present in the cancer cells. This process could help prevent cancer cells from multiplying or kill the cancer cells.
- Bone marrow transplant (stem cell transplant): this procedure helps to reconstitute the healthy stem cells. It substitutes abnormal bone marrow with stem cells that does not contain leukemia and recreates healthy bone marrow. Before a bone marrow transplant, very high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy is administered to kill the bone marrow that produces leukemia cells. Then, stem cells from a compatible donor will be infused.
- Immunotherapy: is the use of drug to help the immune system fight against cancer. As cancer cells create proteins, it makes it difficult for immune system to attack cancer cells. As a result, cells in the immune system cannot recognize that cancer cells are harmful. Immunotherapy becomes effective by interfering that natural process.