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Low blood count

Blood cells in the body are normal cells that are affected by the chemotherapy as part of cancer treatments. Before each visit to hospital for treatment, a blood test will need to be collected to measure the levels of these cells.

There are 3 main components of blood that are measured:

  1. Red blood cells
  2. White blood cells
  3. Platelets

Below is a description of the function of each blood cell and its normal count.

Red cells known as erythrocytes

Responsible for carrying oxygen to all cells

These red cells are measured by your haemoglobin or Hb. Normal Hb ranges from 115-165 (female) and from 130-180 (male).

A low Hb is known as anaemia and can usually be corrected by a blood transfusion.

Signs of anaemia

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fatigue/exhaustion.
  • Pale skin.

White cells known as leucocytes

Responsible for fighting infection

These cells are responsible for fighting infection. The main white blood cell is the neutrophil. Neutrophils are the most important white blood cell in detecting and fighting infection.

Neutropenia means that your neutrophil count is less than one (this is low) and makes a patient more prone to infection.

Signs of infection

  • Feeling unwell with or without a temperature of 38 degrees.
  • Burning/smelly urine.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Green sputum with a cough or cold.


Responsible for stopping bleeding

A normal platelet count is 150-400, but many people can go much lower than this without any ill effects.

Signs of a low platelet count include

  • Petechiae – many little spots on the skin surface.
  • Bruising.
  • Bleeding from gums, mouth, nose etc for no apparent reasons.
  • Blood in urine or bowel motions.
A transfusion of platelets can be given to help.

Low blood count