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Why do I need blood work?

Your doctor orders blood tests to confirm or rule out a suspected illness, to follow the course of a chronic illness, or to see how you are responding to treatment.

Why is my CBC tested?

Chemotherapy attacks fast-growing cells. Cancer cells, white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets are all fast-growing cells. Because chemotherapy does not know the difference between them, these cells are all affected during treatment. Your white blood cell count, red blood cell count, and platelet count may all go down. Your doctor monitors these counts to determine the toxicity of treatment and to predict your risk for complications, as well as a plan future therapy.

What is a Blood Count?

A blood count is a measurement of the amounts and types of blood cells in your body. This is also known as a Complete Blood Count or CBC.

Your body has three main types of blood cells:

1. Red Blood Cells (RBC) help carry oxygen and nutrients to the other cells in your body.

2. Platelets. (PLT) help clot blood whenever you have a cut or bruise.

3. White blood cells (WBC) help prevent infection.

White blood cells fight infection. If your WBC's fall below a certain level you are more susceptible to infection. Red blood cells and hemoglobin carry oxygen. If your red cell count falls too low, your heart must work harder to deliver oxygen throughout your body. The hemoglobin and hematocrit measure your red cell count. If your red blood cells or hemoglobin are very low, you may feel tired or become short of breath. Platelets stick together to stop bleeding. If your platelet count is very low, you could have bleeding problems.

What does a high or low count mean?

These terms describe whether your counts are higher or lower than the normal range for a specific blood test. A high or low blood count has different significance for each individual, depending on his or her health.

What happens if my blood cells are low or immature?

Normally, patients receiving chemotherapy will experience a general reduction in the blood levels of the various types of blood cells due to the effects of the chemotherapy on the bone marrow. This effect on the marrow is called myleosuppression. Symptoms you may experience will depend on which of the blood cells are low.

  • Without enough mature white blood cells, you are more susceptible to infection, resulting in colds, cough, sore throat and fever.
  • An inadequate supply of red blood cells can cause anemia, which leaves you pale, weak, tired and short of breath.
  • Inadequate platelets can cause easy bruising, poor healing, and sometimes bleeding.

What is the normal range?

A normal range for a lab test is based on the test results of a very large number of people. The test results of most, but not all, patients will fall into this normal range. Some healthy patients will always have counts that are lower or higher than the normal range. That just happens to be normal for these patients. However, test results may be lower or higher than the normal range if you are ill or if you are receiving treatment. For example, a viral infection will cause your white blood cell count to go up or down. If you are receiving chemotherapy, your WBC may go down, then comes back up, each time you receive treatment. Typically, normal blood count values fall within a range:

RBC = 35% to 40% of hematocrit

WBC = 5,000 to 10,000

PLT = 150,000 to 400,000

When will my lab results be ready?

Generally, the results of tests performed at our on-site lab are available soon after your blood is drawn. For example:

CBC - 15 to 20 minutes

General chemistry profile - 24 hours

Coagulation tests - 5 hours

Cancer markers or certain anemia-related tests -1 to 7 days

Bone marrow examination - 7 to 14 days

If a test cannot be performed in our lab, it may take from 1 to 7 days or longer to receive the test results.

Can I call the lab for my test results?

No. You may call the nurse or ask your physician about your lab results during your scheduled office visit.

Can I have a cholesterol test?

Insurance companies sometimes restrict what testing may be covered. We try to restrict our practice to hematology and oncology and ask that your primary care physician monitor these levels.

Can I have my results sent to another doctor?

Yes. We will gladly send copies of results to other physicians. Please provide us with their full names, addresses, phone, and fax numbers.

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