A Series on Prevention, Early Diagnosis, Personalized treatment of Blood and Bone Marrow Disorders.
As we all are aware, in medicine, an early diagnosis and proper guidance is the key to a successful outcome. A good CBC is a very basic but crucial tool in doing so. In my clinical practice, I have seen cases where an early diagnosis of blood cancer is missed and unnecessary expensive investigations are performed, even though the CBC is giving a direct clue to proceed in a very specific direction. At times, blood transfusions are performed where the case could have been managed without it by treating the underlying etiology.
In the western world, the cure rate for cancerous as well as non-cancerous blood and bone marrow disorders is around 80-90%. Though we have access to the best available world-class diagnostic and therapeutic resources, most patients are diagnosed in an advanced stage leading to a less than the desired outcome.
In terms of disease prevention, information is power. Knowing about minor problems the minute they arise gives you the opportunity to change things before they become a major issue. The objective of this article is to guide various aspects of the Complete Blood Count (CBC) such as their components, normal role in our body, their origin, and when to get an expert opinion.
What is Complete Blood Count (CBC)?
A Complete blood count (CBC) is a blood test used to evaluate the overall health condition and detect a wide range of disorders, including anemia, infection, and leukemia.
A complete blood count test measures several components and features of your blood, including:
- Hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells (RBCs).
- White blood cells (Army or Policeman of our body), which fight infection and have 5 subtypes.
- Platelets, which help with blood clotting. So, depreciation in platelets can lead to bleeding.
Why is Complete Blood Count (CBC) done?
To review your overall health:
As part of a routine medical examination to monitor your general health and to screen for a variety of disorders, such as anemia or leukemia.
To diagnose a medical condition:
If you’re experiencing weakness, fatigue, fever, inflammation, bruising, or bleeding, a complete blood count may help to diagnose the cause of these signs and symptoms.
To monitor medical condition & treatment.
How you prepare for Complete Blood Count (CBC)
No special preparation is required before or after sampling. You can return to your usual activities immediately.
CBC is not a definitive test:
A complete blood count is typically not a definitive diagnostic test. Depending on the reason your doctor recommended this test, results outside the normal range may or may not require follow-up. In some cases, if results are significantly above or below the normal ranges, your doctor may refer you to a specialist in blood disorders (hematologist). An expert look into these reports definitely helps in an optimal outcome.
Keeping copies of your previous lab reports, in order to keep an eye on trends, also provides an edge in preventing and managing diseases in the long-term.
What the results may indicate:
Quantitative (number) abnormality inform about low or high values, which can be indicative of serious underlying bone marrow (production house for CBC) disorders like Cancer, or its failure syndrome such as aplastic anemia. Before making a conclusion, results should be correlated with clinical information like history, and examination of the patient.
In a nutshell, it can be concluded that a mere blood test is not enough, but its validity, clinical correlation, and further workup, if required, is of utmost importance and can’t be ignored.
Be Alert, Be Aware.