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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.
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 the lungs to the rest of the body
Hematocrit - A volume percentage of RBCs in your blood
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 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 prolymphocytes 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 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:
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
CBC Finding Suggesting Burkett’s Lymphoma
Presence of ‘Hairy cells’ along with ‘Fried Egg’ appearance of the cytoplasm
Also known as multiple myeloma, myeloma is the type of blood cancer formed in the bone marrow through plasma cells.
CBC Findings Suggesting Myeloma:
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.
Our clinical experts continually monitor the health and medical content posted on CURA4U, and we update our blogs and articles when new information becomes available. Last reviewed by Dr.Saad Zia on April 19th, 2023.
Mayo Clinic. (2021). Complete Blood Count (CBC). https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/complete-blood-count/about/pac-20384919
American Cancer Society. Blood Tests. Tests for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) (cancer.org)
American Society of Clinical Oncology. Leukemia - Acute Myeloid - AML: Subtypes and Prognostic Factors. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/leukemia-acute-myeloid-aml/subtypes-and-prognostic-factors
Cancer Research UK. (2021). Blood tests to diagnose myeloma. Blood test | Tests and scans | Cancer Research UK
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Burkitt Lymphoma. Lymphoma | Learn About Lymphatic System Blood Cancers | LLS
Myeloma UK. Diagnosing Myeloma. Diagnosis - Myeloma UK
American Society of Clinical Oncology. Tests for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/lymphoma-non-hodgkin/testing
Sarwat Makkani, MD
Khurram Tariq, MD
Sameer Baig, MD
Yanelquis Torres, MD
Raga Mohamed Ali Osman