Tests for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) | Cancer Research UK
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Tests for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)

Men and women discussing chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

This page has information about what happens when you go to your doctor with symptoms that could be due to chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Tests for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)

You usually begin by seeing your GP. They will ask about your general health and examine you. Your GP may order a blood test. Your doctor will feel for any swollen glands or organs and look for signs of abnormal bleeding.

Many cases of CLL are picked up by chance when a person has a routine blood test. 

At the hospital

If your GP suspects that you may have leukaemia, they will suggest that you go to see a specialist called a haematologist. A haematologist is a doctor who treats diseases of the blood. Your haematologist will ask you to have some tests to help find out if anything is wrong. The tests may include

You will probably have to make other appointments and go back to the hospital or outpatient clinic to have some of these tests.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Diagnosing CLL section.

 

 

At your GP surgery

If you have symptoms that are worrying you, usually you begin by seeing your GP. Your doctor will examine you, ask about your general health and ask about your symptoms. This will include what the symptoms are, when you get them and whether anything you do makes them better or worse. Your doctor will also ask you questions about your personal and family medical history. During your examination, your doctor will feel for any swollen glands or organs or for signs of abnormal bleeding. Your GP may ask you to have a blood test. 

Many cases of CLL are picked up by chance when a person has a routine blood test. Most people with CLL are elderly and for most of them the treatment will be close monitoring with no treatment (watchful waiting).

 

At the hospital

If your GP suspects that you may have leukaemia, they will suggest that you go to see a specialist. A haematologist is a doctor who treats diseases of the blood. Your haematologist will ask you to have some of the following tests to help to find out if anything is wrong. You will probably have to make other appointments and go back to the hospital or outpatient clinic to have some of them.

 

Blood tests

The blood test for CLL involves taking a small amount of blood from a vein in your arm using a needle and syringe. The blood is sent to the laboratory where it is studied under a microscope to count the different types of cells. This is called a full blood cell count (FBC). The blood will also be checked to see whether the cells look normal or not. You can find out what it is like to have a blood test in our section about cancer tests.

 

Chest X-ray

X-rays use high energy rays to take pictures of the inside of your body. X-rays can show changes in tissues and organs, such as lungs. You may have a chest X-ray to

  • Assess your general well being
  • Rule out any infections
  • Rule out any other causes of your symptoms
 

Ultrasound scan

An ultrasound scan uses high frequency sound waves to create a picture of the body organs. Your liver and spleen may be examined in this way. But if your doctor can clearly feel that your liver or spleen are enlarged, you may not need to have this test. You can find out more about having an ultrasound scan.

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Updated: 3 March 2015