Diagnosing Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
To diagnose leukemia, doctors perform a number of tests. Usually, doctors begin with a blood test (called a CBC, or complete blood count). Although the blood test may show leukemia cells, doctors need to examine a sample of bone marrow before confirming the exact diagnosis. This sample is obtained by performing a bone marrow aspirate, where doctors take a small amount of fluid from the bone marrow, where blood cells are made. Then they examine the fluid under a microscope to confirm the type of cancer before they begin treatment.
An additional test that may be performed along with the bone marrow aspirate is a bone marrow biopsy. A bone marrow biopsy may help in making a diagnosis when there are too few cells in the aspirate sample.