Chemotherapy Side Effect – Bone Marrow Suppression

chemotherapy-side-effect-bone-marrow-suppression

Because these medicines travel through the blood to the entire body, chemotherapy is described as a body-wide treatment. The most common chemotherapy agents act by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the main properties of most cancer cells.

Because these medicines travel through the blood to the entire body, chemotherapy is described as a body-wide treatment. The most common chemotherapy agents act by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the main properties of most cancer cells.

As a result, chemotherapy may damage or kill some normal cells.

When this damage occurs, there can be immunosuppression, because certain chemotherapeutic drugs may bring damage to the immune system.

Virtually all-chemotherapeutic regimens can cause depression of the immune system, often by paralyzing the bone marrow and leading to a decrease of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

Depression of the immune system can result in fatal infections. Although patients are encouraged to wash their hands, avoid sick people, and take other infection-reducing steps, about 85% of infections are due to naturally occurring microorganisms in the patient’s own gastrointestinal tract (including oral cavity) and skin.

Sometimes, chemotherapy treatments are postponed because the immune system is suppressed to a critically low level. Anemia and thrombocytopenia may require blood transfusion. Neutropenia (a decrease of the neutrophil granulocyte count below 0.5 x 109/litre) can be improved with synthetic G-CSF (granulocyte-colony-stimulating factor, e.g., filgrastim, lenograstim).

In very severe myelosuppression, which occurs in some regimens, almost all the bone marrow stem cells (cells that produce white and red blood cells) are destroyed, meaning allogenic or autologous bone marrow cell transplants are necessary. (In autologous bone marrow cell transplants, cells are removed from the person before the treatment, multiplied and then re-injected afterward; in allogenic bone marrow cell transplants, the source is a donor.)

Side effects of chemotherapy depend on many things, including the type of cancer and which drugs are being used. Each person reacts differently to these drugs. Some newer chemotherapy drugs that better target cancer cells may cause fewer or different side effects.

Your health care provider will explain what you can do at home to prevent or treat some chemotherapy side effects. These measures include:

Being careful with pets and other animals to avoid catching infections from them

Eating enough calories and protein to keep your weight up

Preventing bleeding, and what to do if bleeding occurs

Practicing safe eating and drinking habits

Washing your hands often with soap and water

You will need to have follow-up visits with your provider during and after chemotherapy. Blood tests and imaging tests, such as x-rays, MRI, CT, or PET scans will be done to:

Monitor how well the chemotherapy is working.

Watch for damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, blood, and other parts of the body.

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