Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Understanding medical tests for CLL

CLL cannot be diagnosed by symptoms alone. In fact, you are often not the first to notice your condition. Your CLL is usually detected by routine checkups or blood work for other health issues. Your doctor will need to use medical tests to diagnose your CLL.

Common tests for diagnosis and evaluation:

  • Blood cell counts: your blood is taken through a vein and examined in a lab. Most people with CLL have a high white blood cell count
  • Physical exam: your doctor checks for swollen lymph nodes, liver, or spleen (an organ in your abdomen) and other signs of CLL
  • Biopsy: a small sample of bone marrow or lymph node is removed and viewed under a microscope
  • Flow cytometry: a sample of your cells is examined using a laser beam and a computer to find out the type of cancer and the number of cells involved
  • Imaging tests: patients with CLL may have CT scans of the neck, chest, abdomen, and pelvis to find out how many lymph nodes are involved, how large they are, and whether internal organs are affected by the disease

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