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Patient screening for leukemia

Currently, there are no standardized leukemia screening methods that are recommended for regularly testing the general population. Specifically, no screening test has been proven to be reliable enough to detect the cancer in its earliest stages prior to the development of symptoms. Research is ongoing, and there is still much to be learned about the precise causes of leukemia. As the knowledge base continues to grow, scientists are gaining a greater understanding of possible ways to prevent, detect and treat this condition.

In the absence of a routine leukemia screening test, it’s important for people with certain risk factors, such as a prior exposure to benzene or a family history of leukemia, to be especially vigilant for possible symptoms, including fatigue, fever, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, bone pain and anemia, and to consult promptly with a physician regarding anything that seems out of the ordinary. In addition to performing a physical examination to check for swollen lymph nodes and an enlarged liver or spleen, a physician may order a variety of blood tests designed to provide information about the type and quantity of blood cells present in the body.

With that said, chronic leukemia often does not produce any symptoms until the leukemia cells reach a certain level of accumulation, which may take months or even years. Sometimes, however, a physician can detect the presence of leukemia by evaluating the results of a standard blood test. This is one more reason to schedule regular physical examinations at the frequency recommended by your physician to evaluate your overall health condition.

What tests are available for leukemia?

While there are no tests specifically designed or endorsed for leukemia screening, the condition may be detected through a:

  • Chest X-ray or CAT scan – Images of the chest can sometimes reveal swollen lymph nodes or signs of infection
  • Spinal tap – A sample of the cerebrospinal fluid, which fills the spaces around the brain and spinal cord, can be tested for the presence of leukemia cells
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy – A sample of tissue obtained from the hip bone can be tested for the existence of leukemia cells in the bone marrow

If you’re interested in leukemia screening because you are experiencing possible symptoms, you can turn with confidence to the Malignant Hematology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, where all aspects of hematologic cancer prevention, detection, treatment and support are available in a single location. As one of the nation’s leading cancer centers, we have helped thousands of patients fight leukemia and find enhanced quality of life through advanced techniques and procedures.

We also oversee a large number of National Cancer Institute-sponsored early-phase clinical trials of new drugs for leukemia patients. Our robust clinical trial program has led to the approvals of several new drugs.

Medically reviewed by Leidy Isenalumhe, MD, Malignant Hematology

To learn more about alternatives to routine leukemia screening, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. No referrals are necessary to consult with the outstanding medical team at Moffitt.