A condition called neutropenia occurs when the number of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell that helps your body fight infection) in your bloodstream falls below normal, putting you at a high risk for getting an infection.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are often the cause neutropenia because those treatments prevent the production of neutrophils. Patients who have cancers that affect their bone marrow, such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, are also at risk for neutropenia.
Neutropenia is most often diagnosed by a blood test. If you are determined to be neutropenic, your doctor may temporarily halt your cancer treatment to give your body time to increase your neutrophil level. Your doctor may prescribe medicine to boost your number of white blood cells.
If your neutrophil count is low, you may be asked to take your temperature several times a day as a sign of infection is a temperature of 100.4 degrees or greater for more than an hour. If that occurs, you should see you doctor or go to an emergency center immediately.
Other possible signs of an infection include:
- Chills, with or without a fever
- Body aches
- Extreme fatigue
- Sore throat
- Mouth sores
- Runny nose
- New or worsening cough
- Redness, swelling or tenderness in any area, including around a catheter site
- Burning or pain with urination
- Unusual vaginal discharge or irritation
- Pain in the abdomen or rectum
- Changes in mental status, including confusion or sudden forgetfulness
There are many things you can do to prevent infection. Here are some tips:
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently, especially before eating, after using the restroom and after touching doorknobs.
- Shower daily in lukewarm water.
- Never walk barefoot.
- Moisturize dry skin.
- Wear gloves when working with chemicals.
- Avoid eating raw fruits or vegetables.
- Limit sun exposure.
- Avoid large crowds, gardening and pet waste.
- Wear a hospital mask to prevent exposure to airborne germs.
Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that helps your body fight infection. A condition called neutropenia occurs when the number of the neutrophils in your bloodstream is lower than normal, putting you at risk for illness or infection.
If you receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy, you may develop neutropenia because the cancer treatment prevents the production of neutrophils. Patients who have cancers that affect bone...