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CBC Explained: 5 Important Things to Know About a Complete Blood Count Test

CBC explained

So, your physician has ordered a complete blood count test. You’re probably a little nervous and wondering what this means.

A CBC test is the most common test performed each year. One in every eight people will get one.

So take a breath. We’ve put together a list that will help get CBC explained clearly for you.

CBC Explained: What to Know About a Complete Blood Count test

Let’s look at some of the facts surrounding the CBC to keep you informed and at ease.

1. What Is a CBC Test

The test stands for complete blood count, which means the test will count the cells that make up your blood. Your blood is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. 

Your doctor may order the test to check for things like:

  • Anemia
  • Unexplained weakness
  • monitor an existing blood condition
  • to see how medications are affecting your blood

2. How Is the CBC Done

The test is simple. As long as it is the only test you are having that day, you can eat and drink beforehand.

The test takes a few minutes. A lab technician or nurse will take a sample of your blood by putting a needle into a vein in your arm. After the sample is collected, it will be sent to a lab to be analyzed. 

3. What Is Included in the Test

The test measures a variety of things to get an understanding of your overall health. Here’s a breakdown of what is being measured:

  • Hemoglobin- This is a protein in your blood that holds oxygen.
  • Red blood cells- These cells deliver the oxygen to your body. If your RBC count is too low, it could be a sign of a condition like anemia.
  • White blood cells- These are the germ-fighting cells. Too many WBC could be a sign of inflammation or infection. If you have too few, it could be a sign of a viral infection or a bone marrow disease.
  • Hematocrit- This test indicates how much of your blood is made up of RBC. If this count is low, it could be a sign of iron deficiency while a high sign could mean dehydration. 
  • Platelets- These are basically the glue that holds your blood together. They help you clot your blood. 

4. Results 

Your results should come back with a column that is for your results and another for your reference range. Your results should be within the reference range. Things like anemia or dehydration could sway your results. 

Each lab is different and things like your age, sex, and where you live can affect the reference range. Generally, your main ranges should be as follows:

  • White blood cells-4,500-11,000 cells/mcL 
  • Red blood cells-4.5 million-5.9 million cells/mcL for men and 4.1 million-5.1 million cells/mcL for women
  • Platelets-150,000-450,000 platelets/mcL 

Hematocrit and hemoglobin levels will also show up on your results, and your physician will discuss all results with you.  

5. Test Is Not Always Final

In some cases, further testing is needed. Results out of the reference range may or may not require additional tests. 

For example, if you are a normal and healthy person with no other existing conditions and you have slightly out of range results, it is not likely that the doctor will order more tests. If however, you are undergoing treatment for something like cancer, your doctor will most likely order additional testing if your results are out of range. 

Moving Forward

With the CBC explained for you, hopefully, you feel confident about your test. There is no need to worry about this common procedure. 

For more information like this, click here.

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