Acute Myeloid Leukemia Tests

Diagnosing Acute Myeloid Leukemia

An accurate diagnosis is crucial to optimal treatment planning and outcomes. This is especially important for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) because this disease has numerous subtypes and factors that can determine specific courses of treatment.

At City of Hope, our team of experts can precisely diagnose AML, classify its subtype, identify its severity and find the best treatments to fight the disease.

How is AML Detected?

Once you notice symptoms, or as part of a routine examination, your doctor may use the following tests to look for AML:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests
    • Complete blood count: This test checks for the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in your blood sample.
    • Peripheral blood smear: Also known as a blood film, this test smears a thin layer of blood on a glass slide for examination under a microscope.
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy: A hollow needle is inserted into your hipbone or breastbone to extract a sample of bone marrow, blood and bone tissue. A pathologist then examines the tissue for signs of cancer.

If cancer is found, additional tests are performed to determine the type and stage of disease. These diagnostic tests include:

  • Cytogenetic analysis: A test that looks for genetic or chromosomal changes in blood or a bone marrow sample.
  • Immunophenotyping: This test looks for specific markers on the surface of a cell, and is used to identify the subtype of AML.
  • Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test: This test uses chemicals to look at structure or function of genes, and can help identify AML subtypes.

What are the Current Screening Guidelines for AML?

There are currently no screening guidelines for AML, since no screenings have been shown to lower risk of dying from AML for people of average risk. However, your physician may recommend more vigorous monitoring if you are at a high risk of developing this disease, due to:

  • Personal/family history
  • Specific inherited conditions
  • Prior chemical or radiation exposure
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy to treat another cancer