The Department of Laboratory Services at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) plays an important role in patient care. Our pathologists analyze laboratory tests for cancer diagnosis, staging and treatment planning and monitoring. These tests include those of blood, urine or other bodily fluids. The goal is to ensure that you receive the appropriate cancer treatment plan designed for your needs.
The team prides itself on accurate, reliable and rapid turnaround times for in-house blood tests. Our goal is to eliminate as much of your wait time as possible, so you can receive targeted treatment with fewer delays or interruptions.
Key divisions of the laboratory include processing of blood, chemistry, transfusion services, hematology and urinalysis.
Chemistry and special chemistry
This group of tests uses chemical processes to measure levels of chemical components in the blood or urine to help us evaluate your general health status. Components of the blood include: blood glucose (sugar), electrolytes, enzymes (e.g., creatinine kinase), lipids (e.g., cholesterol), proteins (e.g., albumin, globulins), hormones (e.g., cortisol) and other metabolic substances (e.g., uric acid, blood urea nitrogen or BUN). Some special chemistry tests deal primarily with tests for thyroid function, vitamin B12 and folate, and tumor markers.
- Tumor marker tests: A tumor marker is a substance that can be found in the blood or other bodily fluids which may be elevated in a person with cancer. Aside from detecting the presence of cancer, tumor markers are used to monitor your response to therapy. Tumor marker testing turnaround time is less than two hours from the time blood is drawn to the time the results are sent to the medical oncologist.
Blood bank/transfusion services
One specialty within the laboratory is transfusion medicine, otherwise known as the blood bank. Medical technologists in the blood bank are responsible for ensuring that blood products given to you are compatible with your blood. Donated blood is screened for infectious diseases and tested for antibodies to ensure the blood is suitable for a transfusion. We use the highest level of checks and balances in this department to ensure safety.
Hematology is the study of blood cells and blood-related disorders. Tests performed by this team include complete blood counts (CBC), differentials, body fluid analysis and bone marrow procedures. The results are used to monitor your general health.
- Complete blood count (CBC): CBCs are performed on an analyzer using laser technology, which measures the reflection of the laser light from each individual cell, and in turn, provides cell identification. CBCs are used to gage your ability to receive additional therapy. The analyses may also help diagnose anemia, blood cancers and problems in the bone marrow. A CBC can include white blood cell count (WBC), red blood cell count (RBC), platelet count, hematocrit red blood cell volume (HCT) and hemoglobin concentration (HB) and a differential blood count, identifying the blood cells.
- Coagulation tests: These tests are used to measure platelet function, coagulability and clotting ability to help diagnose and/or monitor bleeding and clotting disorders, as well as anti-coagulation (anti-clotting) therapies (e.g., heparin therapy). Bleeding and clotting disorders can result from cancers such as liver disease, or as a side effect of certain medications.
- Urinalysis (UA) test: This test determines the content of urine to help diagnose infections (e.g., of the kidney, bladder) and disease. It includes examination of color, pH level, red and white blood cells, bacteria and chemical analysis of blood, proteins, glucose and other substances.
Microbiology is the study of disease-causing microorganisms that are too small to be seen with the naked eye. Microorganisms can include bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. Microbiology tests help to isolate and identify infectious agents in the blood, stool, urine, sputum (mucous from the lungs), cerebrospinal fluid, and other body fluids. The Laboratory typically sends microbiology tests to a reference lab, where the infectious agents are tested and the results are sent back via an automated computer system.
The laboratory team at Southeastern
Patients may not see the bustling activity that goes on behind the scenes in our laboratory at CTCA at Southeastern Regional Medical Center (Southeastern), but the department is an integral part of the hospital. According to Nina Braswell, Director of Laboratory Services, about 75 to 80 percent of the information our doctors use to treat, monitor and diagnose patients comes directly from our lab.
Braswell has been with CTCA since 2008, starting first with the laboratory at CTCA at Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Zion, IL. She leads a team of experienced lab technicians who assist in making sure our doctors receive accurate laboratory results in a timely manner. Overall, our laboratory staff has almost 70 years of combined experience working in a lab setting.
The laboratory is located inside the hospital, and most testing will be performed as it is received. The goal for sample turnaround time is under two hours.