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Bone Marrow Suppression and Chemotherapy

Bone Marrow Suppression and Chemotherapy

The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the type of chemotherapy and the amount given. Side effects can be anticipated and managed to help reduce them and provide the best possible experience for the person receiving chemotherapy.

What is bone marrow suppression?

Each person's individual medical profile and diagnosis is different. His or her reaction to treatment is different, too. Side effects may be severe, mild, or absent. Be sure to discuss with your cancer care team the possible side effects of treatment before the treatment begins.

Nearly all chemotherapy agents suppress the bone marrow. This, in turn, causes a reduction in the number of blood cells. The timing of this reduction varies according to which agents and doses are used for your treatment. Red blood cells carry oxygen and white blood cells fight infection. Platelets help to control bleeding and bruising. The risks for anemia, fatigue, infection, bleeding, and bruising are increased with bone marrow suppression.

What are the symptoms of bone marrow suppression?

The following are the most common symptoms of bone marrow suppression. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

Symptoms of a low red blood cell count may include:

  • Fatigue

  • Paleness of skin, lips, and nail beds

  • Increased heart rate

  • Easy tiring with exertion

  • Dizziness

  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms of a low white blood cell count only happen if an infection follows due to the low count. These may include:

  • Fever and chills

  • Mouth soresĀ 

  • Rash

  • Diarrhea

  • Swelling

  • Redness

  • An area that is warm to touch

Symptoms of a low platelet count may include:

  • Easy bruising

  • Bleeding: nosebleeds, gums, or mouth

  • Tiny red spots on the skin

  • Blood in the urine

  • Dark or black bowel movements

The symptoms of bone marrow suppression may look like other medical conditions or problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.