The complete blood count (CBC) is often used as a broad screening test to determine an individual’s general health status. It can be used to screen for a wide range of conditions and diseases and help diagnose various conditions, such as anemia, infection, inflammation, bleeding disorder or leukemia. It is also used to monitor the condition and/or effectiveness of treatment after a diagnosis is established, or monitor treatment that is known to affect blood cells, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
A CBC is a panel of tests that evaluates the three types of cells that circulate in the blood, including the following:
- Evaluation of white blood cells, the cells that are part of the body’s defense system against infections and cancer and also play a role in allergies and inflammation.
- Evaluation of red blood cells, the cells that transport oxygen throughout the body:
- The CBC may also include reticulocyte count, which is a measurement of the absolute count or percentage of young red blood cells in blood.
- Evaluation of platelets, cell fragments that are vital for normal blood clotting:
- The platelet count is the number of platelets in a person’s sample of blood.
- Mean platelet volume (MPV) may be reported with a CBC. It is a calculation of the average size of platelets.
- Platelet distribution width (PDW) may also be reported with a CBC. It is a measurement of the variation of platelet size.
When is it ordered?
The CBC is a very common test. Many people have a CBC performed when they have a routine health examination. If a person is healthy and has results that are within normal limits, then he or she may not require another CBC until their health status changes or until their doctor feels that it is necessary.
A CBC may be ordered when a person has any number of signs and symptoms that may be related to disorders that affect blood cells. When an individual has fatigue or weakness or has an infection, inflammation, bruising, or bleeding, a doctor may order a CBC to help diagnose the cause and/or determine its severity.
What does the test result mean?
A doctor typically evaluates and interprets results from the components of the CBC together. Depending on the purpose of the test, a number of additional or follow-up tests may be ordered for further investigation.
Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to your health! You are already taking steps towards prevention of many conditions by leading a healthy lifestyle and eating well, but remember that many conditions are genetic and go undetected for years. Isn’t it a good idea to get an annual checkup, just to make sure of your health?