Low white blood cell counts
A lower level of immunity is called immunosuppression. Some diseases, including cancer, and some treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy, may cause immunosuppression to some people. This is commonly referred to as a low white blood cell count, but you can also hear other words to describe it.
Neutropenia is a low white blood cell. Because radiation therapy and chemotherapy destroy cells that grow at a rapid rate, white blood cells are often affected. Patients with a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy are at greater risk for neutropenia.
White blood cells (WBCs) fight infection with bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other pathogens (infection-causing organisms). An important type of WBC is neutrophils. These cells form in the bone marrow and travel throughout the body in the blood. They feel infection, gather at places of infection, and destroy pathogens.
When there are very few neutrophils in the body, the condition is called neutropenia. This makes the body difficult to fight against pathogens. As a result, individuals are more likely to become ill from infections. In general, an adult person has less than 1,000 neutrophils in a microliter of blood, with neutropenia.
If the number of neutrophils is very small, less than 500 neutrophils in a microliter of blood, it is called severe neutropenia. When the neutrophil count decreases, even bacteria that normally live in a person’s mouth, skin, and intestine can cause serious infections.
Since white blood cells play an important role in preventing infection, any time your white blood cell count drops, you are at greater risk of infection. Since these cells help fight infection once in the body, when your white blood cell count is low, the infection can be difficult to overcome. Therefore, you need to take precautions to reduce the risk of infection while receiving treatment.
Low Red Blood Cell Count
- Feel a little tired or very tired.
- Feel less alert or have trouble concentrating.
- Have a loss of appetite or lose weight.
- Have paler-than-normal skin.
- Have trouble breathing.
- Have a rapid heartbeat.
- Have a reduced ability to exercise or climb stairs.
During your treatment, your white blood cell count will be calculated periodically. Anytime your white blood cell count drops below 1,000 per mm3, you will be considered neutropenic. Should this happen, a nurse will review with you specific steps you should take to reduce the likelihood of getting an infection. These neutropenic precautions are discussed below.
What is a white blood cell (WBC) count?
Healthy blood contains a certain percentage of white blood cells (WBCs, leukocytes, or leukocytes), which, as part of the body’s immune system, help the body fight infection. A white blood cell (WBC) measures the number of white blood cells in a person’s blood sample. The number of white blood cells in the body varies between individuals or at different ages in their lives. The normal range for white blood cell counts in a healthy adult is between 4,000 and 11,000 WBC per microliter (µl or MCL) or cubic millimeter (mm3) of blood, although this may vary between men and women, And healthy children and young people usually have more.
To measure the number of white blood cells in a person’s body, a doctor will often perform a white blood cell count as part of a complete blood count (CBC) test. A low white blood cell count can indicate conditions including infection, inflammation, certain cancers, HIV / AIDS, and others, making it an important diagnostic test. In addition to these conditions, a person’s white blood cell count can indicate their immune system activity, cancer response to treatment, and overall health.
What is neutropenia?
Neutropenia is defined as less than a normal number of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell). White blood cells are part of the immune system. There are different types of white blood cells, and they have an important role in protecting the body against germs:
- Lymphocytes (which include T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes)
What Can I Do To Prevent Neutropenia?
Since white blood cells are destroyed as a side effect of chemotherapy, there is nothing in particular that you can prevent neutropenia from occurring. Nevertheless, there are several things that you can do to reduce the risk of infection when your white blood cells are low:
Perform excellent daily personal hygiene.
- Wash your hands often, especially before eating and after using the bathroom.
- Use an alcohol-free antiseptic mouthwash daily.
- Do not cut or touch the cuticles. Use a cuticle cream instead. Even if you have a manicure, you should only use cuticle cream.
- Use deodorant instead of an antiperspirant. Antiperspirants block the sweat glands and therefore can promote infection.
- When menstruating, use sanitary pads instead of tampons, which can promote infection in a neutropenic patient.
Avoid situations that will increase your chance of getting an infection.
- Stay away from people who are sick.
- Avoid contact with anyone who has recently been vaccinated, including infants and children.
- Avoid crowds as much as possible. When going to places where there are often a lot of people (i.e. church, shopping), try to go during off-peak hours, when they are not so crowded.
Use extra precautions to decrease the chance of injury and infection.
- Always wear shoes to avoid cuts on your feet.
- Protect your hands from cuts and burns. When washing dishes, wear rubber gloves; always use potholders or another protective cover when cooking or baking; Wear gloves when working in the garden.
- Wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and avoid sunburn.
- Do not receive any vaccines, including a flu shot, unless your oncologist has approved it.
- Avoid activities that are prone to falling or injury, including but not limited to cycling, skating, skating, and skiing.
How is Neutropenia Treated?
One of the most significant advances in recent decades has been the development of “growth factors”, which stimulate the production of specific substances in the body. A growth factor stimulates the growth of white blood cells and is frequently used with cancer patients, especially those receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy. By increasing the production of white blood cells in your body, this growth factor can lower your risk of developing an infection.
Growth factors are given by injection, usually, 24 hours after chemotherapy has been completed.
If you develop an infection, your doctor will prescribe medications to treat the infection. Depending on the cause and severity of the infection, medications can be administered orally or through a vein using an intravenous (IV) catheter. If you need intravenous medications, arrangements can be made for you to receive them in our office or possibly at home. Some patients require hospital admission to effectively treat their infection.
If necessary, your oncologist may decide to delay further treatments until your white blood cell count has returned to normal levels and/or is free of infection.