How We Diagnose Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

Expert Care and Treatment for Childhood Blood Cancers

The Hematologic Malignancy Center at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center is one of the top pediatric leukemia and lymphoma treatment centers in the world. In addition to treating blood cancers, our Center also treats histiocytosis, a condition that shares some of the characteristics of cancer.

Childhood Hematologic Malignancy Center

There are many diagnostic procedures that may be used to determine whether your child has AML. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, some of these may include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC): A CBC is a blood test that measures the number and types of blood cells in your child's blood.
  • Additional blood tests: May include blood chemistries, evaluation of liver and kidney functions, and genetic testing.
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy: Marrow may be removed by aspiration or a needle biopsy under local anesthesia. In aspiration biopsy, a fluid specimen is removed from the bone marrow. During a needle biopsy, marrow cells are removed. Doctors perform several additional tests on these samples (flow cytometry, chromosomal analysis, and others) that help determine the exact kind of leukemia your child has and guide how we tailor our treatment approach.
  • Spinal tap/lumbar puncture: A special needle is placed into the lower back between the back bones (vertebral bodies) into the spinal canal. A small amount of cerebral spinal fluid (called CSF — the fluid that surrounds a child's brain and spinal cord) will be removed and tested to see if leukemia cells are seen under the microscope.

After we complete all necessary tests, our experts meet to review and discuss what they have learned about your child's condition. We will meet with you and your family to discuss the results and outline the best treatment options for your child's leukemia.