Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Leukaemia diagnosis

Many of the symptoms of leukaemia are quite general and can be caused by a range of illnesses. To make a definite diagnosis of leukaemia, a number of tests need to be done.

Your doctor will most likely give you a physical examination and take a sample of your blood so it can be examined under a microscope. If the blood test shows large numbers of abnormal white blood cells, and low numbers of healthy blood cells, more tests will be done to confirm the diagnosis.

Tests for leukaemia

There are several tests that can be done to confirm a diagnosis of leukaemia, and to work out which type it is:

  • Bone marrow biopsy - a syringe is used to take a sample of bone marrow, usually from your hip bone, for examination under the microscope and genetic testing.
  • Lumbar puncture - this is sometimes called a spinal tap. A needle is put into the space between the bones of your lower back and fluid from around the spinal cord is removed for examination under the microscope to look for abnormal white blood cells.
  • Lymph node biopsy - if you have swollen or tender lymph nodes, a sample may be removed for examination under the microscope.

Stages of leukaemia

The 'stage' of leukaemia describes how much the illness is affecting the person with it. Doctors do with with a chest X-ray, CT scan or lumbar puncture to see if the leukaemia has spread. They may also look for chromosomal changes in your blood.

For acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), the disease is described as either untreated, in remission, or recurrent (returned).

Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) has five stages: stage 0 to stage IV, the latter being at its most advanced. It may also be described according to its phase: chronic (when there are only a few abnormal white blood cells or blasts), 'accelerated' (when the leukaemia growth suddenly changes), and 'blast' (when there are a lot of immature white blood cells, causing symptoms to worsen).

Last reviewed: April 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 354 results

Leukaemia - myDr.com.au

Find out about leukaemia, including the different types, symptoms, causes and treatments.

Read more on myDr website

Acute myeloid leukaemia - Cancer Pathways

For more information about these leukaemias and where to go for support and help call the Leukaemia Foundation on 1800 620 420 or visit www.leukaemia.org.au.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

Leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma - NT.GOV.AU

Prevention, symptoms and treatment for leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

Read more on NT Health website

Leukaemia - Cancer Council Australia

Find out information about leukaemia (or leukemias - U.S. spelling) from Australia's most trusted cancer control organisation.

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia - Information & Support - CanTeen

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) is the most common type of leukaemia, but only develops gradually. Learn more about causes and treatments with CanTeen.

Read more on CanTeen website

Leukaemia - Lab Tests Online AU

In Australia about 2,300 adults and 200 children are diagnosed each year with leukaemia, a cancer of the white blood cells (WBCs). While exposure to radiation, benzene, and some anticancer drugs have been shown to increase the risk of developing leukaemia, and a few cases are associated with genetic disorders or rare viral infections, the cause of most leukaemias is not known.

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Leukaemia | Cancer Australia Children's Cancers

Leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It occurs when the bone marrow makes too many white blood cells (lymphocytes), which are part of the bodys immune system to fight infections. Find out more on leukaemia, including the types, risk factors, symptoms and treatment

Read more on Cancer Australia website

Leukaemia - Information, Treatment & Support - CanTeen

Leukaemia is a cancer of the white blood cells, which are made in the bone marrow. Learn more about causes, diagnosis and treatments with CanTeen.

Read more on CanTeen website

Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia - Information & Support - CanTeen

Acute promyelocytic leukaemia is characterised by a switching of two chromosomes within the DNA. Learn more about causes and treatments with CanTeen.

Read more on CanTeen website

Leukaemia fact sheet | Cancer Australia

An overview of leukaemia including types, symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment and finding support.

Read more on Cancer Australia website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback