Cold agglutinin disease (CAD) is a rare autoimmune disease in which the immune system develops antibodies against the body’s healthy red blood cells. These antibodies, called cold agglutinins, are activated in cold temperatures (below body temperature) and bind to red blood cells, causing their destruction.
Why should CAD patients be tested for cancer?
Patients should be tested for cancer after being diagnosed with CAD so that any possible cancer can be diagnosed early and treatment can be started as soon as possible, increasing the chances of success.
How are cancer tests performed?
The types of cancer that can cause CAD generally involve blood cells or blood cell precursors that grow out of control, producing antibodies and other immune signaling molecules not normally produced.
One of the best ways to detect these types of cancer is through bone marrow biopsy. However, if a different type of cancer is suspected, or if you are unable to undergo the biopsy, your doctor may suggest a different type of test, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with contrast, or a PET-CT scan, where a series of X-ray images are used to build a 3D image of the inside of the body.
While no procedure is completely risk-free, the risk of complications is generally low in these cancer detection tests.
What happens after the tests?
After a bone marrow biopsy, the sample is tested for signs of cancerous cells. This process can take a few days to a few weeks to complete.
For MRI or PET-CT scans, the images are sent to a radiologist for analysis, which can take a few days.
Your physician will schedule an appointment with you to discuss the results of your tests and any treatments that may be necessary.
Last updated: Jan. 24, 2020
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