A full blood count is a test that’s part of the diagnostic process for almost any cancer or disease. The test shows the levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in your blood.
The test isn’t enough on its own to confirm a diagnosis of cervical cancer. However, it’s still important to the overall diagnostic process.
It can help doctors see how well your organs are working, test for anemia, see how far cancer has progressed, and get an overall picture of your health. It can be used along with tests such as a biopsy and colposcopy to detect and diagnose cervical cancer.
A full blood count is a test that measures the number and health of white blood cells, red blood cells, hemoglobin, and platelets in your blood. This test is also sometimes called a complete blood count (CBC). This test can give doctors a variety of information about your health. This include:
- levels of chemicals and proteins that can indicate cancer and other diseases
- levels of red or white blood cells that are too high or too low because of cancer or other diseases
- how well your organs are functioning
- how far a disease has progressed
- your overall health
Full blood counts show the overall level of inflammation in the body. It also reveals the ratio of healthy white blood cells and platelets to cancerous cells.
Are white blood cells elevated with cervical cancer?
Elevated white blood counts can be indicators of certain types of cancer. However, not all cancers raise your blood cell count.
Cervical cancer doesn’t generally cause an elevated white blood count, but it’s used to identify other issues like anemia due to vaginal bleeding.
Infections caused by cervical cancer, and reassurances of cervical cancer, can lead to elevated white blood cell levels. But an elevated white blood cell count isn’t considered a standard sign of cervical cancer.
The first step to a cervical cancer diagnosis is a medical appointment. Your doctor will discuss your health history and conduct a physical exam.
You’ll be asked to discuss your symptoms and your sexual health history. You might receive a Pap test and pelvic exam. If your doctor suspects cervical cancer, you’ll have multiple tests to confirm the diagnosis. These
- A human papillomavirus (HPV) test. An HPV test looks for strains of HPV that are linked to cervical cancer. This test can sometimes be done along with a Pap test.
- Blood chemistry test. A blood chemistry test is a blood draw that checks how well your liver and kidneys are working by measuring the levels of important chemicals in your blood.
- A colposcopy. A colposcopy is a test that uses a lighted magnifying tool to get a close look at the vagina, vulva, and cervix.
- A cervical biopsy. During a cervical biopsy, a small sample of tissue will be removed so that it can be detected in a lab. This test is often done at the same time as a colposcopy. A doctor will numb the target area and remove a small amount of abnormal-looking tissue using specialized tools.
- An endoscopy. During an endoscopy, a doctor will insert a thin and flexible tube with a light and camera lens on one end, called an endoscope, into your bladder and urethra. This test can see if the cancer has spread.
- Imaging tests. Imaging tests such as CT scans and MRIs are used to create detailed images of the pelvic region, abdomen, lymph nodes, and cervix. They can help doctors assess if cancer has spread. They’re sometimes also used for guidance during biopsies.
Other risk factors for cervical cancer
- increased sexual activity, especially sexual activity at a young age or unprotected sexual activity that increases your risk for HPV or chlamydia
- a family history of cervical cancer
- exposure to the medication diethylstilbestrol (DES) in the womb. Between 1938 and 1971, DES was prescribed to prevent miscarriages. Today, the medication is no longer prescribed, and womb exposure is linked to a higher risk of cervical cancer.
- being from a
low-income communitywith a lack of access to healthcare services. Many communities in the United States lack access to cervical cancer screenings, STI testing, and other important preventive tools. This inequality disproportionately affects Black, Latino, and Native American people, and results in people from these communities having a higher risk of cervical cancer.
The early symptoms of cervical cancer can be mild and overlap with other, less serious, conditions.
However, it’s still best to make a medical appointment if you experience any symptoms that could be cervical cancer, especially if it lasts for more than a week or two. You’ll have the best treatment options and the best outlook when cervical cancer is detected early.
- increased or abnormal vaginal discharge
- bleeding or spotting between menstrual periods
- a change to your standard menstrual bleeding
- bleeding after menopause
- bleeding after sexual activity
- pain during or after sexual activity
- pain in your pelvic region or back
Living with cervical cancer
Managing a cervical cancer diagnosis can be challenging and overwhelming. Having the right resources in your corner can make a big difference. If you need a little support, check out these organizations:
- Cervivor. Cervivor offers advocacy, an online learning library, and a supportive online community for people with cervical cancer.
- CancerCare. You’ll find resources, online support groups, financial assistance, and more with CancerCare.
- The Society of Gynecologic Oncology. The Society of Gynecologic Oncology offers a toolkit for people with cervical cancer that includes information documents, important forms you can use in your medical care, and resources for friends and family.
- The Foundation for Women’s Cancer. The Foundation for Women’s Cancer can help you find a cervical cancer specialist, get connected with financial resources, or sign up for a clinical trial.
- The National LGBT Cancer Project. The National LGBT Cancer Project provides resources for mental and physical health for LGBT people with cancers — this can be especially valuable in cancers like cervical cancer that are often seen as “women’s health” concerns.
A full blood count test isn’t enough to confirm a diagnosis of cervical cancer. However, it’s an important test that will likely be part of any cervical cancer testing process.
A full blood count shows the levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in your blood.
Cervical cancer doesn’t generally result in an elevated white blood cell count the way blood cancers such as lymphoma or leukemia do. But elevated ratios of cancer cells to white blood cells and to platelets can indicate that cervical cancer has progressed.
Make sure to talk with your doctor if you have any symptoms of cervical cancer or to set up regular testing for reproductive cancers.