NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Caring for Adolescents and Young Adults - page 15

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NCCN Guidelines for Patients
®
: Caring for Adolescents and Young Adults
Version 2013
Part 2: Dealing with the diagnosis
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Blood tests
Blood tests are an important part of cancer diagnosis and treatment. During the
diagnosis phase, blood tests will be used to check your overall health and to
look for tumor markers that can sometimes be found in the blood when cancer is
present. Once treatment starts, blood tests will be used to check your response to
treatment and to monitor potential side effects.
Before blood tests can be run your doctor will need to get blood samples. This can
be done at a doctor’s office, a laboratory, or in the hospital, and is usually done by
a nurse or a phlebotomist, a technician who specializes in taking blood samples.
Most nurses and phlebotomists are really, really good at taking blood as smoothly
and painlessly as possible. If you don’t like needles or get a little freaked out by
the sight of blood, be sure to let the nurse or technician know right up front so he
or she can help ease you through the process.
The complete blood count
It’s likely that you’re going to have quite a few blood tests during the course of
your diagnosis and treatment. One of the most common is the CBC (
c
omplete
b
lood
c
ount). The CBC is a measure of the various types of cells found in the
blood, including the white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. After your
blood is taken, it is analyzed to determine the actual number of each cell type
in the sample. These numbers are then compared to the normal range for those
cells in a healthy person who is about your age.
Blood chemistry tests
In addition to the CBC, your doctors will probably order frequent blood chemistry
tests to keep track of what’s happening in other parts of your body. Blood
chemistry tests measure the levels of minerals, enzymes, and waste products that
are normally found in the blood. A blood chemistry panel may include more than
a dozen different tests, including several measures that will allow your doctor to
track how your heart, liver, kidneys, and other organs are working.
Definitions
Enzymes:
Proteins
that speed up chemical
reactions in the body
Normal range:
A set of
values based on results
seen in 95% of healthy
individuals
Platelets:
A type of blood
cell that forms blood clots
to control bleeding
Red blood cells:
A type
of blood cell that carries
oxygen from the lungs to all
parts of the body
Side effect:
An unplanned
physical or emotional
response to treatment
Tumor markers:
Substances found in body
fluid or tissue that may be a
sign of cancer
White blood cells:
A type
of blood cell that fights
disease and infection
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