If a brain cancer patient's white blood cells are low, what are the next steps?

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MaryWelchMD (Physician - Neuro-Oncology (Verified) ) - 01 / 16 / 2014

Typically when a brain cancer patient has low white blood cells it is the result of treatment as many of the chemotherapy agents we use can affect the bone marrow where these cells are produced. In addition to the white cells, which are involved in the immune system, red blood cells and platelets can also drop. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body and platelets help in the clotting process. A doctor will monitor all three of these cell types by checking a “complete blood count” or CBC periodically.

The white cell count is important to monitor because if it drops below a certain threshold, a patient can be at higher risk of infection. If this happens, there are several steps that can be taken depending on the degree of count reduction. A doctor may simply reinforce the need to maintain good hand hygiene and avoid contact with sick family members or friends. If the drop is more pronounced, treatment may be held for a period of time or the dose reduced to allow the bone marrow the chance to recover its function. Rarely, doctors may use another drug, called a granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) to help the body produce and release more immune cells.

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