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Confirming Your Diagnosis of CML

The following three tests can help confirm the type of leukemia you have and what your prognosis is. A prognosis is a statement about the prospect of surviving and recovering from a disease.

Cytogenetic analysis

This test requires a sample of either your blood or your bone marrow. The cells are then grown in a laboratory. After about three weeks, a pathologist uses a microscope to see the cell's chromosomes, which are pieces of DNA that control cell growth. The DNA changes related to leukemia are not inherited but occur after birth when the cells become leukemia cells. With some types of leukemia, chromosomes may exchange DNA. For instance, part of chromosome 1 is on part of chromosome 2 and vice versa. This is called translocation. Or there may be the wrong number of total chromosomes. A chromosome can be deleted. Or one can be added. Almost all people with CML have the Philadelphia chromosome in their leukemia cells. This means parts of chromosomes 9 and 22 have switched places. This information will affect your treatment plan.

Fluorescent in situ hybridization

Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) also looks for changes in chromosomes. This test uses special fluorescent dyes that only attach to specific parts of chromosomes, such as the bcr-abl gene in CML cells. It can be used on regular blood or bone marrow samples without culturing the cells first, which means results are available quicker. FISH is also very accurate, which is why it is used in many medical centers.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)

For this test, your doctor needs a small sample of your blood. This very sensitive test helps doctors spot the Philadelphia chromosome, which is a change in DNA caused by chromosome changes in CML. Your doctor may also use this test after treatment to help measure the change in number of CML cells.


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