Well, it is important to point out that neutropenia isn’t an exclusive consequence of chemotherapy. There are isolated cases where underlying cancer can cause neutropenia. In other patients, other medications can induce neutropenia.
The bulk of responsibility lies on the table of your healthcare provider. Your physician must accurately decipher which type of neutropenia you are experiencing (if yours is induced by chemotherapy) to know the appropriate way to manage it.
How can you identify neutropenia?
It is imperative to regularly confirm your neutrophils levels are appropriate as you undergo chemotherapy. This is ascertained by checking for your complete blood count (CBC).
The blood –as amazing as it is – boasts billions of neutrophils. The CBC test would give the physician an accurate picture of the patient’s ANC (Absolute Neutrophil Count). When it is a case of low white blood count, it means the patient’s neutrophil counts are unusually low.
When the patient’s ANC reading comes out under 1,500 cells/mm3, it is mild neutropenia. When the ANC reads below 1,000 cells/mm3, it is a case of moderate neutropenia.
The alarm bells go violently ringing when the ANC reads below 500 cells/mm3. This is a case of severe neutropenia, with the patient being particularly vulnerable to infections.
Are some people more vulnerable to chemotherapy-induced neutropenia?
Yes, some categories of individuals are uniquely more vulnerable to neutropenia. First, a patient older than 70 years who may have been extensively hospitalized or more vulnerable to severe infection will more likely experience neutropenia.
As we have pointed out, patients receiving chemotherapy are at higher risk of experiencing neutropenia. More than this, patients with prevailing reduced low white blood cell count (from previous radiation treatment or past chemotherapy) have an increased risk of neutropenia.
Additionally, if a patient has an underlying condition that suppresses their immunity, such a patient is at a higher risk of experiencing neutropenia.