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Complete Blood Count (CBC)

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Updated August 20, 2008

Definition:

A complete blood count (CBC) is a very common blood test that doctors ask for. It counts the different types of cells in the blood and provides information regarding their size, shape and numbers.

The different things that a CBC checks for:

  • The white blood cell (WBC) count - measures WBC numbers, cells responsible for controlling infections.
  • The white blood cell (WBC) differential - the numbers and percentage of the different types of WBC.
  • The red blood cell (RBC) count - counts RBCs, cells that carry oxygen all over the body.
  • The packed cell volume (PCV) and hematocrit - measures how much space RBCs occupy in the blood.
  • The hemoglobin (Hb)- a protein in RBCs that carry oxygen and a test for anemia.
  • The RBC indices - measure the shape and size of RBCs.
  • The platelet count - measures platelets, cells responsible for blood clotting.

A complete blood count is required in hundreds of conditions, including cancers. In cancers the CBC can tell us a lot of things:

  • if blood cells or bone marrow are affected by cancer
  • the type of blood cancer
  • if an individual is suited for particular treatments like chemotherapy
  • if cancer treatments like chemotherapy have reduced blood cells and are likely to cause infections.

Also Known As: blood count, peripheral blood count, hemogram

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