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Bone marrow supression
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This page describes how to manage bone marrow suppression you should also read our main diet page.

Managing Bone Marrow Suppression

What is bone marrow suppression?

Nearly all chemotherapy agents cause a reduction of blood cell counts. When this reduction occurs it varies, according to which agents are used for your child's treatment. Red blood cells that carry oxygen, white blood cells that fight infection, and platelets that control bleeding are usually lowered with chemotherapy use. Risk for anemia, fatigue, infection, and bleeding are increased with bone marrow suppression. Common terms that you may hear that refer to blood cell reduction include the following:

  • anemia - decrease in red blood cells.
  • neutropenia - decrease in neutrophils (a specific type of white blood cell; a main defender of bacteria).
  • thrombocytopenia - decrease in platelet counts.
  • pancytopenia - decrease in red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

While your child is undergoing chemotherapy treatment, these blood cell levels will be monitored frequently. Many parents like to keep track of their child's blood counts to record their progress. Ask your child's physician what levels are acceptable for your child.

What are symptoms of bone marrow suppression?

The following are the most common symptoms of bone marrow suppression. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Low platelets:
    • easy bruising
    • bleeding: nose bleeds, gums, or mouth
    • tiny red spots on the skin (petechiae)
    • blood in the urine
    • dark or black bowel movements
  • Low white blood cells:
    • fever and chills
    • rash
    • diarrhea
    • signs of infection (anywhere in the body):
      • swelling
      • redness
      • an area that is warm to touch
  • Low red blood cells:
    • fatigue
    • paleness of skin, lips, and nail beds
    • increased heart rate
    • tires easily with exertion
    • dizziness
    • shortness of breath

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