A cancer diagnosis, of course, is always frightening. But, in many cases, cancers are entirely treatable. That’s particularly true when doctors detect cancers before they spread and before symptoms worsen. When it comes to blood cancer, regular doctor visits are incredibly crucial. That’s because there’s not yet a comprehensive diagnostic test for this type of cancer.
Instead, your doctor must monitor your symptoms and overall health. And, if your physician ever suspected that you had this type of cancer, tissue or blood test results would probably be necessary for a correct diagnosis.
What Is Blood Cancer?
It is a disease caused by mutations in certain genes. Those mutations might bring about the growth of deformed blood cells, or they might cause the body to produce the wrong number of blood cells. In such situations, this type of cancer can develop.
Medical experts haven’t yet pinpointed the precise and direct causes of blood cancer. However, the disease is probably hereditary in many cases. Some toxic environmental chemicals may also increase a person’s risk. And smoking is very likely a contributing factor.
Types of Blood Cancer
There are different types of blood cancer — more than 100, in fact. For example, leukemia is the most common childhood cancer in this category, although people of all ages can suffer from it. Leukemia affects the white blood cells, significantly weakening the body’s ability to counter infections.
Another common one is myeloma. It harms the immune system, keeping the plasma cells from making antibodies to prevent infections.
Physicals and Blood Test Results: Essential Tools for Fighting Cancer
For patients of all ages and backgrounds, regular medical checkups are vital to the battle against blood cancer.
Your physician can tell you how frequently to schedule your exams. Depending on your current health and medical history, it may be once every year or less often.
Moreover, if you ever experience any unexplainable pain, discomfort, or other symptoms, make a doctor’s appointment immediately.
Symptoms vary from patient to patient. Some common signs, however, are the following:
- Joint pain
- Bone pain
- Chest pain
- Frequent infections
- Skin problems such as itchiness, rashes, or bruises
- Appetite loss and weight loss
Types of Lab Tests
Cancer lab tests can be critical in diagnosing blood cancer. And two major categories of tests are blood and tissue tests.
The CEA Blood Test
An especially common blood test for cancer is the CEA blood test.
CEA is a protein that’s involved in fetal development. However, after birth, healthy individuals have only trace CEA levels in their bodies — or none at all.
If a CEA test indicates this protein’s presence, it can be a sign of cancer.
The CBC Test
Another major blood test for cancer is the complete blood count (CBC) test. It shows how many red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are moving around in someone’s bloodstream.
Doctors typically check for an overabundance of blood cells. For example, a surplus of platelets could indicate blood cancer.
In addition, a CBC blood test will reveal your hematocrit (HCT), which is your volume of red blood cells. A high HCT can mean your body is overproducing those cells.
The CBC test will also tell your doctor how much hemoglobin is in your system. (Hemoglobin is a red blood cell protein that transports oxygen.) Too much or too little hemoglobin is yet another potential sign of blood cancer.
A tissue test can be a helpful diagnostic tool as well. For instance, a flow cytometry test examines the condition of cells within the blood, lymph nodes, or bone marrow. It’s a fairly new procedure that utilizes cutting-edge technologies.
How is a flow cytometry test performed? First, a doctor’s office takes a blood sample from a patient and sends it to a laboratory. There, technicians add special antibodies to that sample.
The mixture is then exposed to different light sources, including a laser beam. Finally, a computer analyzes various cell properties. And, from the computer’s information, specialists can often tell if a patient has blood cancer.
In short, the sooner a doctor discovers blood cancer, the sooner a patient can begin taking medication, undergoing chemotherapy, or completing other forms of treatment. The earlier the detection, the better the medical outcomes are likely to be.