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October 12, 2021 | Farah Jassawalla

Which types of cancer can be detected by a CBC blood test?

 If you visit your doctor for any health concerns or complaints, there is a high chance that he will ask for a complete blood count or CBC to investigate your complete health status.

CBC or complete blood count is a blood test that allows doctors to measure various types of blood cells in the sample and detect some major infections, diseases, and conditions; estimating your overall health profile in a much better way.

What does a CBC detect?

CBC is a major part of a routine checkup that plays a fundamental role in diagnosing various diseases and deficiencies in the body. CBC evaluates the parameters of the body including:

  • Red blood cells (RBC) - Responsible for oxygen transportation in the body

  • White blood cells (WBC) - fight against various infections and germs

  • Hemoglobin- Red protein responsible for carrying oxygen from lungs to the rest of the body

  • Hematocrit- A volume percentage of RBCs in your blood

  • Platelets- prevent blood clotting and bleeding

What Types of Cancer Can a CBC Detect?

The abnormal increase or decrease in cell count in the CBC report can detect an underlying medical condition and calls for more evaluation processes and further tests must be conducted following the CBC.

Blood cancer is the most suspicious type of cancer as a result of abnormal CBC reports. Several varieties of blood cancer can also be witnessed depending on the affected locations. Defects in bone marrow and functioning may also cause blood cancer with many genetic and environmental factors involved that can lead to this situation.

Leukemia:

Leukemia occurs in the human body due to the rapid increase of immature white blood cells causing failure in the cell maturation process. Leukemia is a type of blood cancer caused by a mutation in the DNA. Many other factors also provoke leukemia including lifestyle, genes, or some infections in the body cells.

With the help of CBC findings, there is much information doctors can perceive about leukemia.

The main types of leukemia are listed below:

  • Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)

  • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

  • Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

  • Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)

  • Hairy Cell Leukemia

CBC Findings Suggesting Acute Leukemia

  • Normal or high mean corpuscular volume (MCV) in the blood

  • Increment in total white blood cell (WBC) count

  • Decrease in platelet count

  • Severe normochromic anemia

  • Presence of immature blood cells

CBC Finding Suggesting Chronic Myeloid Leukemia

  • White blood cell (WBC) count is greater than 20,000

  • Platelets count can be normal, increased, or decreased

  • Premature myeloblasts in peripheral smear

  • Normocytic, Normochromic Anemia

CBC Finding Suggesting Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

  • White blood cell (WBC) count is greater than 50,000

  • Platelets count can be normal or reduced

  • Presence of prolymphocyte and less mature appearing lymphocytes in peripheral smear

  • Anemia (Mild to moderate)

CBC Finding Suggesting Hairy Cell Leukemia

  • Lower white blood cell (WBC) count than the normal

  • Presence of hairy cells in peripheral smears

Lymphoma:

Lymphoma is another type of cancer that can be detected using CBC findings. This generally lives in the lymph systems which serve as parts of the body’s immune system aiding it in fighting back against germs and infections.

Typically, there are three varieties of Lymphoma, including:

  • Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

  • Burkitt’s Lymphoma

CBC Finding Suggesting Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

  • Reduced lymphocytes with an increase in neutrophils and eosinophils

  • Presence of microcytic anemia in advanced stages

  • Normocytic, normochromic anemia

CBC Findings Suggesting Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

  • Increment in lymphocytes

  • Normal count of other cells

  • Moderate anemia

CBC Finding Suggesting Burkett’s Lymphoma

  • Presence of ‘Hairy cells’ along with ‘Fried Egg’ appearance of the cytoplasm

Myeloma:

Also known as multiple myeloma, myeloma is the type of blood cancer formed in the bone marrow through plasma cells.

CBC Findings Suggesting Myeloma:

  • Anemia

  • Decrease in platelets and WBC count

  • Presence of Pouleaux formation in peripheral smear

Other Types of Cancer and CBC Results

The above list provides all the types of cancer that can be detected using CBC findings. However, there are more suspicious diseases that can be detected using a complete count (CBC). This may include cancers of the breast, stomach, ovaries, and several other types. Meanwhile, this must be kept in mind that CBC is not the complete test to diagnose the specific type of cancer.

CBC only works as a tool to help doctors evaluate the patient's condition and suggests further screening tests according to the result. Several mandatory blood tests are also conducted paired with CBC to get the most precise diagnosis for cancer patients.

 

Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and a healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.