Neutropenia is a condition of having a low white blood cells level due to chemotherapy killing rapidly dividing cells—both “good” and “bad” (cancerous). This can cause serious infection, and interrupt your chemotherapy schedule. (That sounds good at first, but really, you want to get through chemo as quickly and smoothly as possible.)
A blood test for a complete blood count is taken every two weeks on the week of chemo, and detects neutropenia. Neulasta and Neupogen are medications to help your body produce more white blood cells, helping prevent neutropenia, and infection.
Some ways to manage or prevent neutropenia and infection include:
—In addition to the list of ongoing precautions during treatment for cancer, check your temperature. If it’s over 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit, call your doctor, or on-call doctor.
—Avoid crowds. Stay away from people who are sick. If someone wants to visit and they’re sick, ask them to reschedule. At this point, your immune system is really fragile. If you have to go to the store, wear a surgical mask. Yeah, it looks a bit goofy, but it beats getting sick.
—Avoid food bulk bins, pot lucks, and buffets. Make sure all foods are washed, and meat is fully cooked. Stay clear of shrimp and raw eggs.
—Maintain personal hygiene, and encourage others, too. In addition to frequent hand washing with warm, soapy water, I requested those who stayed over to bring their own toothpaste (to prevent their toothbrush from touching my tube—then my toothbrush.) Take daily showers.