Leukemia is a form of cancer that originates in the tissues that make blood (mainly the soft bone marrow located inside the bone) and manifests in the blood cells created by the affected tissue. When affected by leukemia, the patient's lymphatic system will produce immature and abnormal white blood cells in abundance - thus causing it to overcrowd the red blood cells and giving the blood a whitish tinge. This is primarily where the condition gets its name from as the Greek word 'leukemia' translates to 'white blood'.
Some of the more common symptoms of leukemia include chronic fatigue or weakness, weight loss that cannot be attributed to exercise or dieting and an increase in the frequency of skin rashes and obscure bone pain. The primary methods of detection of the condition happen to be blood tests and examinations of the bone marrow. Like with any type of cancer, the cause of the condition is largely unknown. However, recent studies show that certain types of people are more susceptible to the condition than others. For example, these studies show that the condition affects more men than it does women and also affects more white skinned people than it does black.
The complete blood count is the most common blood test ordered when dealing with a case of leukemia. The primary aim of the test is to be able to measure the concentration of white blood cells, platelets and red blood cells in the blood. Just as with any other type of blood test, a small sample of blood will be drawn from the patient. Before the blood is drawn, however, the targeted area is cleaned with the help of an antiseptic and any excessive hair is shaved. A needle is inserted into the patient's vein and the blood pulled out with the help of a syringe. The resulting sample is then sent to the laboratory for an analysis.
The result of leukemia blood tests can signify a number of medical problems. For example, a high white blood cell count will represent an infection present within the body, while a low white blood cell count is indicative of a problem with the bone marrow. A low red blood cell could possibly indicate that the individual is affected by anemia while a low platelet count is indicative of thrombocytopenia - or prolonged bleeding.