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Who Needs Bone Marrow Tests?

Your doctor may recommend bone marrow tests if he or she thinks you have a blood or bone marrow disease or condition, such as:

  • Myelodysplastic (MI-eh-lo-dis-PLAST-ik) syndrome. This is a group of diseases in which your bone marrow doesn't make enough normal blood cells.
  • Neutropenia (NU-tro-PE-ne-ah). This is a condition in which you have a lower than normal number of white blood cells in your blood.
  • Anemia (uh-NEE-me-uh). Anemia occurs if you have a lower than normal number of red blood cells. The condition also can occur if your red blood cells don't have enough of an iron-rich protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
  • Aplastic anemia. This type of anemia occurs if your bone marrow doesn't make enough new blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets). Aplastic anemia is a rare, but serious condition.
  • Myelofibrosis. This is a serious bone marrow disorder that disrupts normal production of blood cells and leads to severe anemia.
  • Thrombocytopenia (THROM-bo-si-toe-PE-ne-ah). This is a group of conditions in which your body doesn't make enough platelets and your blood doesn't clot as it should.
  • Essential thrombocythemia (THROM-bo-si-THE-me-ah). This is a disease in which your bone marrow makes too many blood cells, especially platelets.
  • Leukemia. This is a cancer of the white blood cells. Types of leukemia include acute and chronic leukemias and multiple myeloma.

Your doctor also may recommend bone marrow tests if you have another type of cancer. Examples include breast cancer that has spread to the bone or Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (cancers of a certain type of white blood cell).

Bone marrow tests help show what stage the cancer is in. That is, the tests help doctors know how serious the cancer is and how much it has spread in the body.

Bone marrow tests also can show what's causing a fever. Doctors may recommend the tests for people who have diseases that affect the immune system. The tests also are used for patients who may have uncommon bacterial infections.

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Last Updated: December 12, 2011