Blood counts are checked frequently while receiving chemotherapy. This close monitoring should help keep severe problems from occurring.
There are 3 important types of cells produced in the bone marrow and checked in our blood count. They are:
Red blood cells contain hemoglobin. The hemoglobin combines with oxygen and carries the oxygen to the organs of the body. The hematocrit is the percentage of blood made up of the red blood cells. When the hemoglobin and hematocrit are low you are said to be anemic.
What are the signs of Anemia?
You may notice your child tires easily and looks pale when the hemoglobin is low.
There are different kinds of white blood cells. It is the neutrophils that are most important in fighting dangerous bacterial infections. Other names for neutrophils are granulocytes or polys. When your absolute neutrophil count (ANC) is low, this can also be called neutropenia, and a bacterial infection is suspected, antibiotics are usually prescribed.
What is Neutropenia?
Neutropenia is when your white blood cells are low enough to make your child more susceptible to infection.
What is ANC?
The ANC (Absolute Neutrophil Count) is a calculation of the percentage of segmented (“polys” or “segs”) and banded (“bands” or “stabs”) white blood cells on the total white blood count. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause suppression of your bone marrow, preventing normal production of blood cells. The ANC is an indicator of bone marrow production and provides a way to calculate your infection fighting abilities.
To calculate: WBC x (segs + bands) = ANC
Example: WBC = 3200
Segs = 20% 3200 x (20% + 3%) =
Bands = 3% 3200 x 0.23 = 736
ANC > 1500 Normal
ANC 1000 – 1400 Mild neutropenia (very minimal if any risk of infection)
ANC 500 – 999 Moderate neutropenia
ANC < 500 Severe neutropenia (ability to fight infection is very low)
Platelets are cells in the blood that form clots. These clots help to prevent excessive bleeding. Chemotherapy may lower your platelet count.
Normal values 150,000 – 350,000
What is Thrombocytopenia?
Thrombocytopenia is a drop in the platelet count. This may lead to easy bleeding. If the platelets drop below 20,000 a platelet transfusion will be necessary.
What are the signs to look for?
What can I do to prevent bleeding when platelets are low?
If bleeding does happen while platelets count is low it may be hard to stop. Anytime bleeding occurs that is hard to control, you should apply pressure and call your doctor.
If you suspect that your child’s platelets are low, a platelet count should be done. When the platelet count drops below a certain level, the doctor may order a platelet transfusion.
*Information provided by Florida Hospital Cancer Institute
Last update Nov. 1, 2008