Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you have signs or symptoms of acute myelogenous leukemia, your doctor may recommend you undergo diagnostic tests, including:

  • Blood tests. Most people with acute myelogenous leukemia have too many white blood cells, not enough red blood cells and not enough platelets. The presence of blast cells — immature cells normally found in bone marrow but not circulating in the blood — is another indicator of acute myelogenous leukemia.
  • Bone marrow test. A blood test can suggest leukemia, but it usually takes a bone marrow test to confirm the diagnosis.

    During a bone marrow biopsy, a needle is used to remove a sample of your bone marrow. Usually, the sample is taken from your hipbone (posterior iliac crest). The sample is sent to a laboratory for testing.

  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap). In some cases, it may be necessary to remove some of the fluid around your spinal cord to check for leukemia cells. Your doctor can collect this fluid by inserting a small needle into the spinal canal in your lower back.

If your doctor suspects leukemia, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in cancer (oncologist) or a doctor who specializes in blood and blood-forming tissues (hematologist).

Determining your AML subtype

If your doctor determines you have AML, you may need further tests to determine the extent of the cancer and classify it into a more specific AML subtype.

Your AML subtype is based on how your cells appear when examined under a microscope. Special laboratory testing may also be used to identify the specific characteristics of your cells.

Your AML subtype helps determine which treatments may be best for you. Doctors are studying how different types of cancer treatment affect people with different AML subtypes.

Sept. 12, 2015