Adult Leukemia Diagnosis

First Things First: Is Your Diagnosis Correct?

Because there are several subtypes of leukemia, effective treatment depends on an accurate diagnosis.

We have some of the most advanced imaging tools and pathology resources available so that we get your diagnosis right from the start.

Roswell Park is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to provide a complete diagnostic workup. Our specialized laboratories will also provide information about unusual characteristics of your disease at the genetic or molecular level that may determine your eligibility for clinical research studies (clinical trials) that are not widely available. This specialized testing will enable us to determine the unique features of your leukemia so we can pinpoint the best treatment options for you.

At Roswell Park, standard diagnostic tests for leukemia include:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor checks for swollen lymph nodes, spleen, or liver.
  • Blood tests: The lab does a complete blood count to check the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Leukemia causes a very high level of white blood cells. It may also cause low levels of hemoglobin, which is found inside red blood cells, and platelets.
  • Biopsy: A bone marrow biopsy is the only way to confirm that leukemia cells are present in the bone marrow. There are two ways your doctor can obtain bone marrow, and some people will have both procedures during the same visit. You will be given either local anesthesia (to numb the biopsy site) or general anesthesia (which puts you to sleep for the procedure).
    • Bone marrow aspiration: The doctor uses a thick, hollow needle to remove samples of bone marrow.
    • Bone marrow biopsy: The doctor uses a very thick, hollow needle to remove a small piece of bone and bone marrow.
  • Chest x-ray: An x-ray can show swollen lymph nodes or other signs of disease in your chest.