Some types of cancer can result in a low platelet count. The doctor will always find more ways to treat this disease. However, the treatment itself can cause the condition called thrombocytopenia. One of the procedures that leads to this problem is chemotherapy. It can damage not just the bone marrow where the platelets are produced, but other types of cells as well.
How can chemotherapy reduce the platelet count
Platelets are the primary elements of the body that contribute to proper clotting. They travel throughout the blood vessels. They also serve as the lining inside the blood vessel. If the patient undergoes chemotherapy, his blood count becomes low when it happens, the layers of the blood vessels become thin, which can then make the blood leak.
Due to the thinning of the lining, the tiny drops of blood can flow out of these spaces. You may notice the occurrence of this problem through the red dots that appear on the skin which is commonly called petechiae.
Thrombocytopenia is one of the common side effects of the chemotherapy. It may then lead to excessive bleeding, an if not controlled immediately, it can result in blood loss. This condition can also limit the frequency of the treatment as well as the dosage of the drugs. It is because it might provide severe side effects that the body will have difficulty in managing.
The drugs being used in this procedure can prevent the bone marrow from producing the blood cells including the platelets. During this stage, the doctor will monitor your platelet count. Also, the severity of the side effects of chemotherapy varies based on the medicine and procedure being used.
The chemotherapy can cause a low platelet count because this treatment can lead to bone marrow suppression. It is a condition when the bone marrow cannot manufacture blood cells. The deficiency of platelets can prevent the proper clotting of blood.
The radiation therapy is also given to patients with great caution because it might worsen the complications of thrombocytopenia like an increased risk of bleeding. As the chemotherapy breaks all types of cells including the platelets, it can also attack the bone marrow making it weak. Because of it, the bone marrow will not be able to produce red blood cells and platelets constantly.
The chemotherapy is supposed to fight and destroy the cancer cells. However, it also affects the other cells and organs such as bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract, and even the hair follicles. Take note that the bone marrow is considered the “powerhouse” because it is where most of the cells in the body are produced.
Most often, thrombocytopenia can stay temporarily in the body. The platelet count of the patient may get low for about one week after the first session is conducted. It can then drop to the lowest level 14 days after the infusion. The platelet count can return to normal within 28 to 35 days or a maximum of 60 days.
The platelets count and its risk of bleeding
Take note that the average platelet count should be between 150,000 to 400,000 cells/mm3. It is tested through the number of platelets found in a drop or microliter of blood. It also has something to do with the risk of bleeding. The following data tells how high is the occurrence of bleeding in the patient undergoing chemotherapy.
- The patient has a lower chance of bleeding if his platelet count is 100,000 to 149,000 cells/mm3.
- There is a high risk of bleeding when the patient has an injury if his platelet count is between 20,000 to 49,000 cells/mm3.
- The patient has an increased chance of bleeding even without injury if his platelet count is between 20,000 to 49,000 cells/mm3.
- A high risk of bleeding should be reported and monitored if the patient’s platelet count is between 10,000 to 19,000 cells/mm3.
- For patients with less than 10,000 cells/mm3 platelet count, continuous bleeding can occur.
Safety precautions during chemotherapy
Since a person is at high-risk for bleeding when he gets wounded while the chemotherapy is ongoing, he must take care of himself very well. The following are the best ways to prevent any complications or bleeding from occurring.
When brushing your teeth, avoid using a toothbrush with hard bristles. It can damage your gums which can lead to bleeding. Instead, use one with soft bristles and brush your teeth gently. Be also cautious when flossing your teeth. If your gum bleeds, rinse it with water immediately. Make sure to call your doctor directly if the bleeding occurs continuously.
A nosebleed may occur during this stage. Ensure that you blow your nose gently to prevent bleeding.
Avoid the activities that can cause you to get wounded. They include strenuous activities, contact sports, and driving. If it is unavoidable for you to use a knife or other sharp objects, be extra careful so you won’t get cut.
Use an electric razor when shaving. Avoid blades because it might accidentally cause injury.
Drugs like aspirin, Naproxen, and Ibuprofen can also interfere with the proper production of platelets, so it is essential to avoid them. If you are unsure of that medicine, always seek for a doctor’s advice.
It is not recommended to test your body temperature rectally or use any rectal suppository when constipation occurs. You can report this issue to your doctor so he can prescribe a stool softener.
In case bleeding occurs, you must apply direct pressure on the bleeding area. You can also put ice to the bridge of your nose if you have a nosebleed. It is then crucial to call your doctor right after you did these first aid steps.
It is time to call your doctor if you feel dizzy, has blurred vision, constant headache, blood found in the urine or stool, and a black bowel is produced. Take note if there is also blood seen when you cough or vomit so you can report the incident to your physician.
For women who have heavy menstruation, the doctor may recommend a hormonal therapy together with birth control pills to stop the next menstrual cycle.
Other ways to boost your platelet count
The doctor may prescribe an Oprelvekin to increase your platelet count. It can fight the antibodies that damage the cells including the platelets. However, he may require a platelet transfusion if the medicine can’t treat the ailment.
In some cases, the doctor may also delay the chemotherapy session if severe symptoms are seen on the patient especially if bleeding occurs. He may also adjust the dosage of the drug that is used for chemo.
Some foods can also contribute to the increase of platelet count. It is crucial to practice a balanced diet, so your body has a defense mechanism against the complications brought by the disease. Avoid sugary and processed foods because they may contain ingredients that can harm the cells. Instead, opt for organic meat for you to gain protein so you will not feel weak.
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Take note that foods like eggs, fish, and green leafy vegetables are also helpful in a balanced diet. Vitamin K rich foods will also allow proper clotting of the blood. Don’t forget that meals containing iron and folate are also excellent platelet-boosting sources. Check out more on what vitamins help you to increase white blood cell count here.
You can also take supplements to increase your platelet count. However, you must first confirm with your doctor if the nutritional product is approved. The papaya leaf extract is one of the supplements known to boost the platelet count effectively. It is also responsible for rejuvenating your cells when you are undergoing the chemotherapy. If you are planning to combine it with other drugs, make sure that you have your doctor’s approval to avoid any side effects.
Alcohol is a culprit when it comes to low platelet count. Therefore, you must avoid consuming it during the chemotherapy.
As additional tips, make sure that you increase your consumption of these foods:
Papaya is high in vitamins E and E. It does not only make our skin glow and smooth, but it also has rejuvenating properties that can boost your platelet count. It contains antioxidants that fight the antibodies that destroy the cells. It also has papain, which is a proteolytic enzyme which is also responsible for treating different types of cancer.
This substance can regulate the immune cells of the body to create helpful chemicals that can fight the malignant cells caused by cancer. It can also stimulate the body to produce platelets so the patient can tolerate the side effects and radiation of the chemotherapy. For people who experience nausea during the treatment, eating a slice of papaya can help ease the symptom.
Kale is a power food which is rich in essential nutrients that help the body fight the side effects caused by chemotherapy. It contains iron which is a mineral needed by the blood cells to reproduce and avoid anemia. It can also boost your immune system, allowing your body to withstand the effect of chemo. Aside from that, it also contains vital elements that can rebuild the platelets and other cells in the blood.
Kale also contains flavonoid and carotenoid, which are substances that boost the performance of the immune system. It also has vitamins C and A. It is high in calcium, a mineral that can help in rebuilding the bone marrow so it can produce platelets. Some chemo patients may experience constipation, so eating a plate of kale can ease this symptom.
- Dairy products
You need to supply your body with calcium, B vitamins, and protein during the chemotherapy. All these sources can be given by dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and low-fat milk. These essential nutrients help rebuild the bone marrow so it can manufacture platelets. As a result, they can boost the count enabling you to recover from thrombocytopenia.
- Brown rice
Brown rice contains complex carbohydrates compared to white rice. It also has extra fiber that can help you have a regular bowel. To boost the nutrients it can give, you can try to boil it using a lean stock, so you’ll get more calories to increase your energy.
A cup of brown rice alone contains 1 milligram of iron, 1.2 milligrams of zinc, and 4.5 grams of protein. These three minerals are responsible for increasing your platelet count. Its antioxidants can also fight the antibodies that break the platelets.
- Lean Meat
Lean meat contains protein which is responsible for repairing the cells that are broken down during the chemotherapy. The protein also aids in the formation of red blood cells to prevent anemia. This nutrient can come from skinless chicken, beef sirloin, liver, clams, and salmon. Usually, chemo patients experience nausea during the early stages of the treatment. If it occurs, eat baked or broiled meats instead of frying them.
Grains enable the chemo patient to tolerate the effects of the treatment, including thrombocytopenia. Typically, the person undergoing chemotherapy can experience a distaste for foods. The minerals you can get from grains such as iron, vitamin, and protein can combat this issue. So, .whether you want to eat your meal or snack, make sure that you have either noodles, crackers, or cereal.
- Dried beans
Since the cells and tissues are broken down during the chemotherapy, it is essential that you eat dried beans to repair them. It contains vitamin K and iron, essential nutrients that the body need to produce platelets. Dried beans include black bean, lentils, and garbanzos. You will still enjoy a healthy snack when you have them.
If you are a cancer patient, you must take these key takeaways to boost the efficacy of the treatment being done to you. Your body’s immune system is prone to infections and virus so you must be extra careful when doing some activities. Make sure that you also eat nutritious foods that can boost the production of platelets as well as your energy.