Childhood acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) tests for diagnosis
If doctors think your child might have AML, they’ll have tests to confirm whether this is the right diagnosis.
Some tests will be repeated on a regular basis to help doctors monitor the disease, the effect of treatment and your child’s general health.
At any time, you can ask the healthcare team to explain why a particular test is being done and what the results mean.
Common tests for childhood AML
Blood tests can provide doctors with a lot of information about your child’s condition.
- A full blood count measures the number and type of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, and shows if there are any leukaemia cells present.
- Flow cytometry analyses the blood as it passes through laser beams, measuring the number and type of cells in the sample.
- Morphology examines the leukaemia cells under the microscope.
Blood cells are made in the bone marrow, so there may be leukaemia cells there even if the blood sample is normal. A bone marrow sample can confirm a diagnosis, show what type of AML your child has and check how well treatment is working.
Using the blood and bone marrow samples they’ve taken, doctors will do a range of tests in the laboratory to look for gene changes in the leukaemia cells. Genes provide a set of instructions to individual cells, and changes in these instructions mean cells don’t behave the way they should. We don’t know why these changes happen – they aren’t passed through families.
Analysing gene changes in the leukaemia cells gives doctors more information about the type of AML your child has and helps them recommend the best treatment.
An MRD test measures how well your child is responding to treatment. It’s done using cells from a bone marrow sample. Your child will have an MRD test when they’re first diagnosed, and at other times during their treatment. It’s a very accurate test that helps doctors decide how much treatment your child will need.
A lumbar puncture is done to look for leukaemia cells in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that surrounds the spinal cord and brain. A sample of CSF is taken using a needle. The aim is to check if there are any leukaemia cells in the CSF, and also to give some chemotherapy into the fluid to prevent the leukaemia cells spreading there.
After your child is diagnosed with AML, they will need more tests to monitor the leukaemia cells, measure their response to treatment and check for possible complications and infections. These tests include:
- liver function test (a blood test)
- urea and electrolytes test (a blood test)
- scans including X-ray, CT, MRI.
We have more information about tests for childhood leukaemia.