Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) Tests and Diagnosis

Tests and procedures used to diagnose childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) include:

  • Blood tests: A blood test may reveal too many white blood cells, and too few red blood cells and platelets. A blood test may also show the presence of blast cells (immature cells normally found only in the bone marrow and that are not circulating in the blood).
  • Bone marrow test: During a bone marrow test, a needle is used to remove a sample of bone marrow from the hipbone. The sample is sent to a lab for testing to determine if leukemia cells are present. Doctors in the lab will classify blood cells into specific types based on their size, shape and other features. They also look for certain changes in the cancer cells and determine whether the leukemia cells began from the B lymphocytes or T lymphocytes. This information helps the doctor develop your child’s treatment plan.
  • Spinal fluid test: A lumbar puncture test, also called a spinal tap, may be used to collect a sample of spinal fluid (the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord). The sample is tested to see whether cancer cells have spread to the spinal fluid.