What Are the Uses of Flow Cytometry for Leukemia?

Marlene Garcia
Marlene Garcia
Swollen lymph nodes can be a symptom of acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Swollen lymph nodes can be a symptom of acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Flow cytometry for leukemia detects abnormal cancer cells through immunophenotyping, allowing doctors to identify subtypes of leukemia cells. This laboratory test represents a valuable tool for isolating specific leukemia cells to determine treatment options. Flow cytometry for leukemia tells doctors how many cancer cells exist, the size of abnormal cells, and the type of cell causing illness. This diagnostic equipment can segregate one cancer cell from thousands of healthy cells in the human body.

The process involves taking a sample of bone marrow, blood, tissue, or other bodily fluid to test for antigens. Antigens might be present in the body when bacteria, toxins, or abnormal blood cells invade. These proteins stimulate the release of antibodies to fight off foreign substances that cause disease. Flow cytometry for leukemia gives doctors a glimpse of the patient’s immune system functioning and determines if cancer cells are present.

Certain antibodies are first treated with a fluorescent dye, called fluorochromes. Physicians select which antibodies to use in flow cytometry for leukemia based on the patient’s medical history and symptoms when they suspect leukemia. These stained antibodies attach to antigens in the biological sample as they pass through the flow cytometry machine.

Abnormal cells become fluorescent when flow cytometry for leukemia is used to diagnose the disease. The equipment also isolates cells by the degree of fluorescence, which reveals subtypes of leukemia cells. This precise information helps doctors differentiate between lymphoid and myeloid types of leukemia.

Most leukemia patients suffer from one of four main types of this blood cancer, with all forms affecting the bone marrow or blood. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) appears in immature cells that may grow quickly or slowly. Chronic myeloid leukemia occurs in three phases and is typically diagnosed in the latter stage.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) most commonly occurs in children. It might appear anytime between infancy and the late teen years. Various subtypes of ALL can be isolated by using flow cytometry for leukemia testing. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia most often affects adults. By diagnosing the different types of leukemia, doctors analyze the speed of cell growth and decide how to treat the disease.

Symptoms of leukemia usually include fatigue, accompanied by aches or pains. Patients might contract frequent infections, and wounds might not heal promptly because the disease attacks the immune system. Swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, and fever might also be present. Some patients suffer from excessive sweating at night.

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    • Swollen lymph nodes can be a symptom of acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
      Swollen lymph nodes can be a symptom of acute lymphoblastic leukemia.