Diagnosing Leukemia

Support Throughout the Diagnostic Process

Our physicians, nurses and support staff are here to advise you, listen to you and calm your fears. Your physicians will explain your diagnosis and compassionately offer suggestions for treatment and care. Their job is to help you.

Also available for counsel, support and guidance are nurse coordinators, oncology social workers and a pastoral team. They’ll help you navigate through the system and provide additional assistance, including:

  • Social support
  • Spiritual guidance
  • Emotional support
  • Practical advice
  • Tips on coping

Call on them. They’re here for you.

Four basic types of leukemia. Numerous subtypes. Some of them fast-moving and aggressive, requiring immediate treatment. Some of them slow growing and lifelong.

It’s essential that you have a knowledgeable, experienced team who can accurately diagnose your exact type of leukemia and plan your treatment quickly and accurately.

We’ve got that expertise here.

At Scott & White, we’ve assembled a preeminent team of dedicated hematologist/oncologists whose specialty is disorders and malignancies of the blood. They have a wealth of experience in diagnosing and treating all types of leukemias.

We think having more than one eyes see a patient frequently helps us to avoid missing things.

Mark H. Holguin, MD, Hematology/Oncology; Chief – Section of Hematology

Diagnostic Excellence and Precision

Your Scott & White Leukemia Team has a breadth of knowledge and experience in diagnosing leukemia unrivaled in the state. They're nationally recognized experts providing the most advanced diagnostic procedures available.

Our specialists have scores of years of training and experience in the clinical care of leukemia. They know and understand leukemia and all its complexities.

Your physician will discuss with you:

  • What kind of leukemia you have
  • How your leukemia will likely progress
  • What your chances of remission or cure are
  • What your treatment will be like
  • The side effects of your treatment
  • The emotional aspects of dealing with leukemia

Of note are our hematopathologists, physicians who specialize in diagnosing diseases of the blood, bone marrow and lymph system. Our pathology team is superb at analyzing:

  • Bone marrow biopsies
  • Blood smears
  • Lymph node biopsies

They provide necessary information regarding the progression and prognosis of your leukemia for your treatment team.

Our cytogeneticists are expert at studying chromosomes and chromosomal abnormalities in order to diagnose leukemia and determine subtype. Like hematopathologists, they’re key members of your Integrated Care Team, providing vital information for treatment planning.

Our hepatopathologists and cytogenetics group are invaluable to us in helping us figure out what specific features are there in this leukemic cell that can predict for how you’re going to do.

Mark H. Holguin, MD, Hematology/Oncology; Chief – Section of Hematology

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Leukemia Diagnostic Services

At Scott & White Healthcare, our fellowship-trained hematologist/oncologists use state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment to help diagnose and classify your leukemia with meticulous precision.

If your physician suspects you may have leukemia, he or she may recommend one or more of the following tests.

Physical Exams & Laboratory Tests

  • Physical exam and history. Your physician will begin with a thorough physical exam and medical history.
  • Blood Tests. There are a number of blood tests your physician may order to help determine treatment options for your leukemia.
    • Complete blood count. Determines the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets you have, as well as the amount of hemoglobin in your red blood cells.
    • Peripheral blood smear. Helps determine which type of leukemia you may have.
    • Lumbar puncture. Helps determine whether your leukemia has spread to your brain or your cerebral spinal fluid (CSF).
  • Flow cytometry and cytochemistry (Immunophenotyping). These highly specialized tests to help determine which subtype of leukemia you may have.
  • Cytogenetics. This highly specialized test to help detect genetic abnormalities in order to better plan your treatment. Cytogenetics can help detect translocations such as Philadelphia chromosome.
  • Fluorescent in site hybridization (FISH). This type of genetic analysis is used to identify specific changes within chromosomes. Your physician may order this test to help identify whether you carry a particular gene change.
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This highly precise genetic test is used to find chromosome changes too small to be identified under a microscope. A benefit of this test is that only a tiny sample of cells is required.
  • Blood chemistry and coagulation tests. These tests measure certain chemicals in your blood to assess how well your blood is clotting.

Chromosomal analysis of some of these malignancies has frequently become a critical analysis in understanding the prognosis of a disease and sometimes to confirm a diagnosis.

Mark H. Holguin, MD, Hematology/Oncology; Chief – Section of Hematology

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A biopsy is generally the best way to confirm the presence of leukemia. Your physician may order a biopsy if leukemia is suspected based on the results of other diagnostic tests.

A biopsy is the surgical removal of a small sample of tissue. This tissue sample is sent to the laboratory for evaluation by one our specially trained cytopathologists.

  • Bone marrow aspiration. Bone marrow aspiration is the removal of a small amount of tissue in liquid form for examination. Bone marrow is found in the hollow part of most bones. It helps form blood cells.
  • Bone marrow biopsy. A bone marrow biopsy is the surgical removal of a small sample of soft tissue, called marrow, from inside bone. Bone marrow is found in the hollow part of most bones. It helps form blood cells.

Imaging Tests

Your physician may recommend one or more of the following imaging tests to check for signs of disease and determine whether your melanoma has spread to other areas of your body.

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Chest X-ray
  • Bone scan

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