The most widely known side effects of chemotherapy are hair loss, nausea, and loss of appetite. But according to Lisa C. Richardson, MD, MPH, patients are least informed about neutropenia. Neutropenia is a side effect of chemotherapy in which a patient has a low white blood cell count.
Simply put, chemotherapy works by killing fast growing cells. Unfortunately, it also kills healthy white blood cells along with the intended target: cancer cells. We all know that white blood cells are our bodies‘ main defense to infections and antigens. Patients undergoing chemo are more susceptible to infections (some more serious than others). Here are 10 things every chemo patient should do to protect themselves from further sickness.
1. Ask your doctor to analyze your chemotherapy schedule to determine when your white blood cell count will most likely be at its lowest. Be extra cautious at this time.
2. Know the signs of infection. These include:
- Chills and sweats
- Constant coughing/sore throat/nasal congestion
- Shortness of breath
- Increased frequency of urination/ burning sensation during urination
- A stiff neck
- Unusual vaginal discharge or irritation
- Changes in your skin
- Changes in your mental status