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T and B Lymphocyte and Natural Killer Cell Profile

Does this test have other names?

Lymphocyte profile, lymphocyte subset panel

What is this test?

This test finds and counts three types of white blood cells in your blood.

Your body makes several types of white blood cells to fight off disease or illness. Lymphocytes are one type of white blood cell. They help your immune system by making antibodies and other substances that battle cancer and infections and by killing cells that are infected or that are foreign to your body.

This test, called "lymphocyte profiling," looks at three types of lymphocytes to see how well your immune system is working:

  • B lymphocytes, or B cells, make antibodies that help your body fight infections.

  • T lymphocytes (T cells) attack foreign cells, cancer cells, and cells infected with a virus. T cells start growing in bone marrow and then travel to the thymus gland to mature.

  • Natural killer cells, or NK cells, contain substances that can kill tumor cells or cells infected with a virus.

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test if you have an illness like HIV/AIDS that could be related to problems with your immune system. You may also need this test if you have certain types of cancer or are being treated with chemotherapy.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Your doctor may order other tests to check how well your immune system is working. One of these tests measures the amounts of different kinds of immunoglobulins, or antibodies, in your blood.

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

Having low or high numbers of B cells, T cells, and/or NK cells can be caused by many illnesses or diseases.

How is this test done?

The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.

Does this test pose any risks?

Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.

What might affect my test results?

Your results may not be accurate if you have been sick recently or have a fever.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test. But be sure your doctor knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.