Blood Cancer Diagnosis
The National Cancer Institute estimates 44,600 new cases of blood cancer in the United States in 2011. 21,780 people might end up losing their lives to this dreadful ailment.
The symptoms of this disease manage are either vague or mimic the signs of other ailments to remain undiagnosed. According to the American Cancer Society, blood cancer diagnosis is thus a challenge and nearly one-fifth of the patients of this disease remain unaware of the fact that they are suffering from it. Awareness on this subject can help such individuals and their loved ones in commencing the treatment early.
What are the Different Types of Blood Cancer Diagnosis?
The stage of the disease and the manner of its progression are the two vital factors which decide the type of diagnosis. A list of these available techniques is as follows:
Complete Blood Count:
Blood cells are of three types. They are the white blood cells (WBC), the red blood cells (RBC) and the platelets. The WBCs protect the body from foreign threats, the RBCs provide oxygen to all the other cells and the platelets help in clotting of the blood in case of injuries and wounds.
All these three types of cells are expected to be present within a certain range. Excess count of any of these cells in a collected sample of blood implies cancer revealed by this test.
Bone Marrow Examination:
This is the location in the body where all the three types of blood cells are produced. Special type of cells known as stem cells get converted to any of the three types of blood cells based on the requirement in the body.
In the case of a patient, unhealthy cells are produced in excess amounts which can be known after carrying out an examination of the bone marrow (soft and spongy central section in the bones).
Biopsy of the Lymph Nodes:
Lymph nodes are small and round organs present all along the body. They are the garrisons containing cells of the natural protection system of our body technically known as the immune system.
When a dreadful disease like cancer strikes the body, these organs swell indicating that the cells present in them are fighting hard to inhibit the growth of malignant cancer cells in the blood. Involvement of the lymph nodes means that the disease is not in the early stage anymore.
Biopsy is the process where these organs are separated from the body and studies under powerful microscopes to learn more about the changes in their internal structures caused by the rogue cells.
Blood Chemistry Tests:
As the disease progresses, it affects vital organs of the body like kidneys and liver. Presence of toxins released by the rogue blood cells can be detected when blood sample of suspected patient is tested using artificial chemicals in the laboratory. Such tests confirm the stage and severity of the ailment based on which the doctor devise a treatment regime.
Sometimes, these tests are also carried out to measure of extent of damage caused to the patient owing to the side effects of the standard treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
An important organ associated with the immune system and worse affected in the case of any type of cancer is the spleen. Extent of damage caused to this organ can found out by sending powerful sound waves towards it and recording the reflected waves to produce a picture of it. This technique is known as the Ultrasound.
MRI: When the brain is affected in the near advanced stage of the disease, its state is known by performing a test called as the magnetic resonance imaging.
The process involves passing the body of the patient through a magnetic field and exposing it to certain energy waves. These waves under the presence of the field produce a picture of the brain revealing its state.
X-rays: Bones become fragile when the rogue cells affect them. The extent of destruction can be known by carrying one of the oldest diagnostic techniques, the X-rays.
CT Scan of the Lymph Nodes in the Chest:
In the last stage of the cancer in blood, the lungs get affected. The lymph nodes which are the components of immune system in this location get destroyed eventually.
This can be confirmed by carrying out a technique called the computer tomography scanning of these organs in the chest region. Energy waves passed into this region get reflected back which are collected. A computer creates an image of the location where these energy waves fall. In this way, the extent of damage is assessed.
Conclusion: In a rare case, blood cancer diagnosis is carried out through the process of genetic sequencing, especially in children. Research studies have found that alteration in the structure of the gene SPRED1 is associated with the development of leukemia in children.