The ANC [absolute neutrophil count] blood test is a measurement of a specific type of white blood cell that can be found in your blood. When there is a higher level of these white blood cells, then this indicates that your body is fighting off some sort of infection. Neutrophils are one of the most important infection-fighting mechanisms that the body has.
Everyone will have an ANC count if they had a blood test administered today. When there is an injury, a chronic problem with inflammation, or if someone is taking certain drugs, then the ANC levels will rise. Certain types of leukemia are also known to raise the total number of neutrophils that a person has. Having too few of these white blood cells or too many of them will not cause symptoms on its own, but there will be signs and symptoms of the health issue which is causing the abnormal count.
When To Ask About the ANC Blood Test
If you are experiencing chronic infections without a known reason, then this would be a good reason to discuss with your doctor if there would be a benefit to having the ANC blood test.
If you are experiencing bone or joint pain that could be related to an autoimmune disorder, routinely take corticosteroids, or have chronic fatigue issues which do not resolve even after a good night of sleep, then a medical appointment should be considered as well.
Generic symptoms, such as abdominal pain, coughing, a fever, and weight loss may also be present. The issue isn’t generally the number of neutrophils or the total ANC levels in the blood, but what is causing the change from a normal level.
What Do My ANC Blood Test Results Mean?
There are many different types of white blood cells, so a complete count may be ordered instead of a specific ANC blood test. A laboratory will generally come to the ANC result through the multiplication of the number of white blood cells by the percentage of neutrophils that were found in the count.
For example: if the total white blood cell count was 10,000 for a blood test and half of those cells were neutrophils, then the ANC result would be 5,000. If this was your blood test, then the result would be considered normal [or possibly called a “high normal”] because most medical providers consider a normal ANC to be between 2,500-6,000.
Anything that is below 2,500 may be considered a low ANC blood test result. Between 1,000-2,500 may be called a “low normal.” At the 1,000 threshold, a health condition called neutropenia can be diagnosed. This means your risks of infection are much higher when compared to those who have a normal ANC result.
When the test results are above 6,000, then there is an injury, illness, disease, or autoimmune disorder that is active. Some providers consider any result under 8,000 to still be normal Your medical provider will be looking for immature neutrophils in the testing sample as this can be an indication that leukemia may have developed. Otherwise the the high test results will let your medical provider know that there is a health issue which needs to be treated and further testing may be necessary to determine what that issue happens to be.
Here’s What You Need To Know
By itself, the ANC blood test is not used as a diagnostic tool. It is instead used more to determine the risk factors that someone faces with their current health. If a patient has been hospitalized and their ANC is below 1,000, then this lets a doctor know that more proactive measures to prevent infection transmission must be taken to maintain that patient’s health.
Certain people who have an adverse reaction to drugs may experience a low ANC blood test result. This is particularly common when there is an allergy to penicillin. People who are undergoing chemotherapy will typically have low ANC levels.
Smoking is known to artificially increase ANC levels. Certain lifestyle issues, such as the presence of constant stress or daily strenuous exercise, can also artificially increase counts. A medical provider will ask about lifestyle habits to understand whether these issues may alter the test results that are expected.
Women who are in their last trimester of a pregnancy also typically have high ANC levels.
The ANC blood test is used to help your doctor determine if there is a health issue which may need to be addressed or if you are at risk for a future health issue. This common test has many uses, so speak with your medical provider today if you have general feelings of not being well to see if it could help get you onto a path toward a diagnosis.