Cancer patients who are undergoing (or have undergone) chemotherapy tend to experience neutropenia. This is typically a side effect of the treatment, resulting in a significantly reduced white blood cell count.
Neutropenia is a condition where there are appreciably downsized levels of neutrophils being circulated in the blood. Alright, I heard your question: what are neutrophils?
To combat infections and invading pathogens, your body needs a fortified “battalion” of white blood cells. Now, neutrophils are the precise kind of white blood cells needed to ward off diseases.
The sad reality is that when a cancer patient undergoes chemotherapy – a crucial treatment regimen – neutropenia is induced. In the chemotherapeutic process, drugs are administered to the patient to kill off the cancerous cells.
These drugs work by targeting cells that are growing at an incredibly fast rate. Such growth speed is characteristic of cancer cells. But here is the sad part of the story. Some beautiful cells grow fast too. Cells domiciled in your hair follicles, intestines, or even blood cells in your bone marrow develop rapidly.
Regrettably, chemotherapy is less discerning as it destroys all the fast-growing cells, both the good guys and the cancer cells. It is like throwing away the baby with the bathwater, right?
When neutropenia comes into the scene, your immunity is substantially suppressed, and you find yourself at a larger risk of infections – like the fungal and bacterial variant.
Neutropenia – as induced by chemotherapy – can occur seven days after your chemotherapy. In some unique incidences, such neutropenia can occur as early as three days after chemo.
Depending on your chemotherapeutic dosage and treatment type, your neutropenia may be ephemeral or more long lasting. Within this interval, neutrophil levels would be remarkably low.