- Physical Exam: During a physical exam, your physician will look for physical signs and symptoms, such as pale skin due to anemia, enlargement of liver and spleen, and lymph node swelling.
- Blood tests: Your physician will be able to determine if you have abnormal levels of platelets or white blood cells, which could indicate this disease.
- Bone Marrow Testing: If other tests indicate leukemia, your physician may recommend bone marrow testing. During this procedure, bone marrow will be removed from your hip using a long, thin needle. This sample will be sent to a lab to look for cells that indicate cancer of the blood. Testing of these cells could reveal specific characteristics that will help to determine an action plan for treatment.
Additionally, your physician may recommend that you undergo some additional testing to confirm this diagnosis and to determine the type of leukemia you have as well as the extent in your body. Cancer of the blood is typically classified into stages, which indicate the severity of the condition. The specific stage of your disease will help your physician to determine a plan for treatment.
What are Treatment Options for Leukemia?
Of course, treatment options for this disease depend on upon a variety of factors. Your physician will determine the best treatment option for you based upon your overall health, age, the type of cancer of the blood you have, and whether it has metastasized- or spread- to the rest of your body.
Common Leukemia Treatments
There are a few common treatments used to combat leukemia including the following:
- Chemotherapy: This is the most common form of treatment for almost all types of cancer. This is a drug based treatment that uses chemicals to kill the diseased cells. The kind of blood cancer will determine if you will receive a single drug or a combination. These will come in an injection form or even a pill form.
- Biological Therapy: This particular form of treatment works by helping your immune system to recognize and attack the cells of this disease.
- Targeted Therapy: This type of treatment uses medications that will attack the vulnerabilities of the cancer cells. One particular drug, imatinib, stops the action of a specific protein in the cells of chronic myelogenous leukemia, which controls the disease.
- Radiation Therapy: This type of treatment uses x-rays and other high-energy beams to damage the cells and stop growth. The radiation can either be directed to a specific area of your body or can be used all over your body.
- Stem Cell Transplant: This is a procedure that will remove your diseased bone marrow, and you will receive an infusion of stem cells to rebuild healthy bone marrow. These stem cells can be from a donor or can be your stem cells. This treatment is very similar to a bone marrow transplant.
Can Leukemia Be Misdiagnosed?
In many cases, cancer of the blood does not show any symptoms until the disease has progressed, which can lead to a misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose. The symptoms of this disease can often be indicative of other illnesses. Misdiagnosis of blood cancer is very dangerous because this means the disease is being allowed to progress since proper treatment is not being used.
The following conditions are often diagnosed in the place of this disease:
- Bleeding disorders
- Autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome
- Immune thrombocytopenic purpura
To rule out a diagnosis of cancer of the blood, your physician should collect a full patient history and assess you for other risk factors, such as family history. Blood tests can preliminarily indicate the presence of this disease as well as help to show the particular type of leukemia you have.
If you have been misdiagnosed with cancer of the blood, you must be able to prove that your physician failed to diagnose your condition in time to receive proper treatment.