Blood count


Some types of cancer treatment may affect a patient’s blood counts.

  • White blood cells help to fight infections.
  • Platelets prevent bleeding and bruising.
  • Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout a patient’s body.

Low blood counts can be treated, but treatment options may be different for each patient based on severity and health history. Patients should discuss treatment options with their doctors if they experience any of the following symptoms:

Symptoms of low white blood cells (Neutropenia)

  • Fever of 100.5° F or greater. Fever may be in patients undergoing chemotherapy may be a medical emergency. Patients should contact their health care provider or go to the emergency department if they experience fever greater than 100.5 F with neutropenia after chemotherapy.
  • Chills or sweats
  • Cough, increased mucous production, shortness of breath or painful breathing
  • Soreness or swelling or ulcers in the mouth
  • Pain, burning, urgency, frequent urination or foul smelling urine
  • Redness, pain or swelling of any area of skin or drainage tubes
  • Confusion or listlessness, especially in older adults, can sometimes be a symptom of infection

Symptoms of low platelets (Thrombocytopenia)

  • Excessive bruising of the skin
  • Tiny, pinpoint red spots on the skin (called petechiae)
  • Bleeding gums or nosebleeds
  • Excessive bleeding from a small cut, or bleeding that won’t stop even after pressure has been applied
  • Dark urine or blood in the urine.
  • Blood in stool or from the rectum when after a bowel movement; black-colored stools
  • Menstrual bleeding that is heavier than usual, lasts longer than usual or occurs between periods

Symptoms of low red blood cells (Anemia)

  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • A faster heart beat or chest pain

Learn more about low blood counts on OncoLink.