Understanding medical tests for CLL

CLL does not always cause symptoms. In early stages of CLL, you are less likely to be bothered by symptoms. CLL is usually detected by routine check-up or bloodwork for other issues. Your doctor will need to use medical tests to diagnose CLL.

Common tests to diagnose CLL include:

  • Physical exam—your doctor will give you a physical exam to check for swollen lymph nodes, liver, or spleen (an organ in your abdomen), and other signs of CLL
  • Blood cell counts—your blood is taken through a vein and examined. Most people with CLL have a high white blood cell count
  • Biopsy—a lymph node or small sample of bone marrow is removed and viewed under a microscope to see if you have CLL
  • Flow cytometry—your blood is examined to find out the type of cancer and number of cells involved

Common tests to find out where CLL is in your body include:

  • Imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, or PET scans—these are pictures of the inside of your body that help show where the CLL is