Platelets are an essential part of the blood that promotes proper blood clotting. We need to have the right amount of it, which ranges from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood. If the bone marrow produces lower than this necessary level, some risks may occur and can sometimes lead to severe complications.
A person diagnosed with cancer is more likely to develop a low platelet count. Some types of cancer like leukemia or lymphatic cancer can crowd out in the bone marrow and interferes in the production of blood cells. This problem can lead to a condition called thrombocytopenia. In this case, any of these risk factors can cause it to occur.
- The bone marrow is not producing a sufficient amount of platelets.
- The body produces antibodies that destroy the cells.
- The body loses large amount of platelets.
Effects of cancer treatments in the platelets
One of the most common methods to treat cancer is chemotherapy. People undergoing this process can have a low platelet count. The medication damages the bone marrow in which the platelets and other blood cells are produced. This treatment doesn’t have a permanent effect on the bone marrow.
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If the patient receives radiation therapy, he can also have thrombocytopenia. However, the cause is not the treatment itself, but some other factors that allow this condition to exist. It can be due to the large amount of radiation therapy that hits the pelvis. Low platelet count can also occur if the patient is also treated with chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy also uses a medication that produces antibodies. These substances cannot recognize the cells including the platelets, as vital elements of the body. So, it also destroys them which results in thrombocytopenia.
Cancer cells that spread in the body is another factor that causes thrombocytopenia. Once it breaks out, it can reach the bone marrow wherein platelets are being manufactured. As a result, they will replace the blood cells, including platelets, in the bone marrow. This portion will also have difficulty in generating enough amount of blood cells that should travel all throughout the body.
Some types of cancer can also be the primary cause of thrombocytopenia. One of these diseases is prostate cancer which prevents the bone marrow from producing platelets. Spleen cancer is another serious condition that causes the spleen to collect more platelets due to its enlargement. These cases are rare to happen but can be life-threatening when they exist.
Diagnostic tests should be performed to determine the causes of thrombocytopenia in cancer patients. One of the first steps is blood testing which will allow the doctor to monitor the level of platelets and other blood cells in the body. It should be done regularly to ensure that the person’s system can still tolerate the condition, and bleeding can be avoided.
A blood cell count monitoring on cancer patients is also required because the body is more prone to infection. If the platelets become too low, abnormal clotting can occur. The antibodies are not sufficient enough to eliminate the bacteria and virus that enter the body. Thrombocytopenia can also hinder the spontaneous treatment to make you recover fast. It is not advisable to continue the chemotherapy if the patient has a very low platelet count.
If the diagnostic tests show that the cause of thrombocytopenia in a cancer patient is the medication being used for chemotherapy, the doctor will recommend reducing the dosage of the medicine. Another alternative is to extend the period between two cycles of therapy sessions. He can also prescribe a drug that can reduce the symptom of thrombocytopenia like oprelvekin.
For cancer patients who need to undergo surgery, the doctor may schedule the procedure once the platelet count of the person is stabilized. It is crucial to consider his current platelet count to prevent the occurrence of bleeding.
If bleeding is already present, the doctor should recommend platelet transfusion to replace the lost platelets. However, this method can only last within three days, which means that the patient should undergo multiple procedures. This method may not take effect for people who have experienced several transfusions. The best alternative is to find a donor with platelet that matches with the recipient.
It is essential for the person to receive palliative care during the treatment. It is a method that helps relieve the symptoms experienced by the cancer patient. It is a way to let the patient, including his family members, understand the goals of treatment and set proper expectations.
While being treated, it is also crucial to take care of yourself to avoid serious complications. Remember that cancer patients, especially those who are undergoing chemotherapy, are more prone to bleeding. So, if you are planning to take any drug, make sure that you seek for consultation before purchasing one from the drug store. Not all medicines that provide relief to a specific health condition are safe to use. Some of its types can trigger the low production of platelets or may damage them.
Take extra precautions when using a knife, blade, scissors, or any sharp objects. Even a small cut can cause excessive bleeding and can’t be controlled if you have a low platelet count. Apply a pressure or ice pack to the affected area to stop the blood from flowing out. If the problem persists, make sure to report immediately to the doctor. The same procedure is applicable if you experience nosebleed.
If possible, avoid doing such activities that can cause injury. It can complicate the issue even more when you are not careful with your actions. Always consider the risks when you suffer from thrombocytopenia if you have cancer. Follow your doctor’s advice if you want to recover continuously.
Observe the changes that happen to your body and report this occurrence to your physician. It will help him seek for available treatment that best matches with your health condition. Also, practice self-care as a way to relieve the symptoms caused by the disease.