What Is Neutropenia?

By Health Monitor Staff
Reviewed by Health Monitor Advisory Board

About half of all chemo patients develop neutropenia, a dangerous reduction in white blood cells (the body’s main defense against infection). Because neutropenia makes you vulnerable to infection, it may require you to postpone chemo sessions. During chemo, we’ll track your white blood cells to help you escape neutropenia. If you do have neutropenia, we may prescribe meds to ramp up your body’s white blood cell count.

Signs of infection
Routine blood tests can detect neutropenia, but you should tell us if you develop these signs of infection:

  • Fever above 100.5°F
  • Pain or burning when you urinate or blood in urine
  • Diarrhea or vomiting that lasts over 12 hours
  • Chills
  • Sore throat or cough
  • Unusual vaginal itching or discharge
  • Redness, swelling or sores on the skin
  • Sores in your throat or around your rectum
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Stomach pain

What about febrile neutropenia?
Neutropenia with fever is called febrile neutropenia. You may be most at risk if...

  • You’re 65 or older
  • You’ve had prior chemo or radiation treatment
  • You have any wounds or infections
  • You’ve gone recent surgery or had a recent stem cell transplant
  • You’ve already had febrile neutropenia episodes
  • You have deprived kidney or liver function
Published March 2014

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