Blood Cancer Awareness Post 8: Blood Tests

Today we’ll be talking about blood tests. I’m sure many of us are familiar with  that long list of numbers, and acronyms we get from the doctor’s office. I don’t know  about the rest of you, but until I was diagnosed with ET, I really didn’t care what the acronyms meant. It was more out of morbid-nerd-curiosity, than actual necessity that I bothered to familiarize myself with blood counts, what they mean, and why they’re important for me. Let me elaborate: My family is a nerd family…we love words; bases, prefixes, suffixes..what other words do these parts appear in, and getting the definitions from context. This nerd-drive is probably what got me interested in my blood counts to start with. Seeing bits of Greek or Latin, and recognizing it, gave me a feeling of nerdy satisfaction. After I got to know the words, I started to familiarize myself with the series of numbers and ranges that followed the words.

OK..enough of my rambling..lets get started

A Complete Blood Count, more commonly known as a CBC, is a diagnostic and metering test for the blood. Your doctors can tell a lot about your body by what’s floating around in your blood. Do you have a high WBC, which can be a sign of infection? Do you have low HCT, or HGB, what about your MCV, or MCH, MCHC, AST, ALT, ETC…See what I mean, with all those acronyms?! Crazy! Until you break them down, and learn what they mean.

First, when looking at a CBC you will see the listing on one side for what is being measured, and the other side will have the typical ranges that what is being measured should fall into.

Some of this may be a little redundant, since we’ve already talked about our basic blood cells, but here we’ll go a little more deeply into what it means. The examples I’m giving below are from my own previous lab tests, so the ranges you see on your own, may be different. These are just examples!

  1. WBC – White Blood Cells. Range: 3.8-10.8 thousands/uL (thousands per microliter). If your results are outside of the typical range, this can indicate infection, leukemia, allergic reaction, among other things.
  2. RBC – Red Blood Cells. Range: 3.8-5.10 million/uL (millions per microliter) Abnormal results can indicate anemia (low) or polycythemia (high), among other things
  3. HGB – Hemoglobin. Range: 11.7-15.5 g/dL (grams per deciliter) High HGB can be seen in people who live at high altitudes, or in smokers, but high HGB can also indicate Polycythemia, certain kinds of tumors, and emphysema. Low HGB can indicate anemia, sickle cell disease, or kidney failure.
  4. HCT – Hematocrit. Range: 35-45% To have low hematocrit is to be anemic. And high HCT is also indicative of Polycythemia, and many other things.
  5. MCV –  Mean Corpuscular Volume. Range: 80-100 fL (femtoliter) MCV is used to determine the type of anemia a patient may have. Microcytic Anemia – low MCV, Normacytic Anemia – average MCV, Macrocytic Anemia – high MCV.
  6. MCH – Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin. Range: 27.0-33.0pg (picogram)
  7. MCHC – Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin Concentration. Range: 32.0-36.0 g/dL (grams/deciliter)
  8. RDW – Red Cell Distribution Width. Range: 11.0-15.0% High and low RDW levels are indicative of anemia as well.
  9. PLT – Platelets. Range: 150-500 thousand/uL (Thousand per Microliter) High platelets can indicate recent trauma, surgery or Essential Thrombocytosis, Low platelets can indicate ITP (idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura). Platelets also decrease during pregnancy, due to an increase in blood volume.
  10. Absolute Neutrophils. Rang: 1500-7800 cells/uL (Cells per Microliter)
  11. Absolute Lymphocytes. Range: 850-3900 cells/uL (Cells per Microliter)
  12. Absolute Monocytes. Range: 200-950 cells/uL (Cells per Microliter)
  13. Absolute Eosinophils. Range: 15-500 cells/uL (Cells per Microliter)
  14. Absolute Basophils. Range: 0-200 cells/uL (Cells per Microliter)
  15. Neutrophils. Range: %
  16. Lymphocytes. Range: %
  17. Monocytes. Range: %
  18. Eosinophils. Range: %
  19. Basophils. Range: %

10-19 typically indicate infection, allergic reactions, reactions to medications, or different types of blood cancers.

As always, this information is very generic. For more information, talk to your doctor, or NP, and always take everything you read on the internet (including this blog) with a grain of salt.

Tomorrow we’ll start talking about blood cancers.

Until tomorrow,



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