What are laboratory tests?
Laboratory tests are often one of the first steps on the road to a diagnosis. If your physician thinks it’s necessary, we can test your blood, urine, bone marrow, and/or other bodily fluids at our general clinical lab.
If this is your first visit to the Netherlands Cancer Institute, we will inform you about our blood biobank. We ask all our patients to donate blood for future scientific research.
What are the different types of laboratory tests?
Clinical chemistry tests
Clinical chemistry tests are tests through which we measure the levels of various chemical compounds in the blood or other bodily fluid. Some examples of compounds we may test for are sodium, glucose, protein, cholesterol, or liver and cardiac enzymes in the blood.
Hematology is the study of blood cells. We can count your blood cells, see which cells are present and at what stage in their development they are.
The results of these blood counts can provide us with important information about the production of red and white blood cells and their distribution. This helps us diagnose and treat blood disorders like leukemia, lymphoma, anemia, or white blood cell disorders.
Blood coagulation tests
Coagulation tests help us detect malfunctions in your blood’s ability to clog. Your blood may take too long to coagulate, or clot too quickly. The most well-known disease that affects the blood’s ability to coagulate is hemophilia. Patients at risk of thrombosis require a lower coagulation speed. If this is the case for you, you will need to monitor your blood values yourself, or visit the thrombosis service for check-ups. We can assess whether you will need blood thinners, and what dose you will need to take.
After major surgery or chemotherapy, you may need a blood transfusion. We will have to test for your blood type and rhesus (Rh) factor. We can also detect (unwanted) antibodies in your blood.
If we do find unwanted antibodies in your blood, we will identify them and take them into account during your blood transfusion.
Your urine, and especially its sediment, can give us important information about your kidneys and urinary tract. We check for non-dissolvable substances such as cells (erythrocytes, leucocytes), bacteria, or mold.
Next to the sediment, it can be beneficial to analyze the urine composition. Examples are proteins, sodium, and potassium. One portion of urine may be sufficient for this analysis, although your physician may ask you to collect 24 hours of urine.
Bone marrow tests
You will need a bone marrow test if you have blood cancer (leukemia, malignant lymphoma, or multiple myeloma), or if we want to determine the type and stage of your tumor.
There are two possible ways to collect bone marrow: tissue biopsy or aspiration.
We take a tissue biopsy by drilling into the bone and marrow using a small stick, and take a bone marrow aspiration by inserting a hollow needle into the pelvic bone or sternum through which we can withdraw the marrow.
We will then analyze the material through a microscope, using cell specific antibodies (FACS analysis).
Apheresis is a technique in which stem cells are removed from your blood as a preparation for a peripheral stem cell transplant (PSCT). The stem cells are isolated through apheresis and reintroduced back into the bloodstream. They can help your recovery after treatment with a high-dose of cytostatics.
Molecular diagnostics or genetic testing
Molecular diagnostics, or genetic testing, plays an increasingly vital role in diagnostics. We aim to find mutations in genetic material.
You may not respond well to a certain treatment due to a genetic mutation. Through genetic testing we can ensure that you will be prescribed the correct dose that works for you, and won't receive too much treatment.
Genetic testing can help us map out tumor characteristics. We expect a strong increase of possibilities in this area over the coming years.