BACK TOTOP Browse A-ZSearchBrowse A-ZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0-9 E-mail FormEmail ResultsName:Email address:Recipients Name:Recipients address:Message: Print-FriendlyBookmarksbookmarks-menuLow white blood cell count and cancerNeutropenia and cancer; Absolute neutrophil count and cancer; ANC and cancerWhite blood cells (WBCs) fight infections from bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other pathogens (organisms that cause infection). One important type of WBC is the neutrophil. These cells are made in the bone marrow and travel in the blood throughout the body. They sense infections, gather at sites of infection, and destroy the pathogens. When the body has too few neutrophils, the condition is called neutropenia. This makes it harder for the body to fight off pathogens. As a result, the person is more likely to get sick from infections. In general, an adult who has fewer than 1,000 neutrophils in a microliter of blood has neutropenia.If the neutrophil count is very low, fewer than 500 neutrophils in a microliter of blood, it is called severe neutropenia. When the neutrophil count gets this low, even the bacteria normally living in a person's mouth, skin, and gut can cause serious infections.Why It OccursA person with cancer can develop a low WBC count from the cancer or from treatment for the cancer. Cancer may be in the bone marrow, causing fewer neutrophils to be made. The WBC count can also go down when cancer is treated with chemotherapy drugs, which slow bone marrow production of healthy WBCs.How Low Is Too Low?When your blood is tested, ask for your WBC count and specifically, your neutrophil count. If your counts are low, do what you can to prevent infections. Know the signs of infection and what to do if you have them.What You Can Do to Prevent InfectionsPrevent infections by taking the following measures:Be careful with pets and other animals to avoid catching infections from them. Avoid catching infections from themIf you have a weak immune system, having a pet can put you at risk for serious illness from diseases that can spread from animals to humans. Learn w...Read Article Now Book Mark Article Practice safe eating and drinking habits. Safe eatingWhen you have cancer, you need good nutrition to help keep your body strong. To do this, you need to be aware of the foods you eat and how you prepa...Read Article Now Book Mark Article Drinking habitsDuring and right after your cancer treatment, your body may not be able to protect itself against infections. Germs can be in water, even when it lo...Read Article Now Book Mark Article Wash your hands often with soap and water. Stay away from people who have symptoms of an infection. Avoid traveling and crowded public places.When to Call the DoctorIf you have any of the following symptoms, call your health care provider:Fevers, chills, or sweats. These may be signs of infection. Diarrhea that does not go away or is bloody. Severe nausea and vomiting. Being unable to eat or drink. Extreme weakness. Redness, swelling, or drainage from any place where you have an IV line inserted into your body. A new skin rash or blisters. Pain in your stomach area. A very bad headache or one that does not go away. A cough that is getting worse. Trouble breathing when you are at rest or when you are doing simple tasks. Burning when you urinate. Open ReferencesReferencesAmerican Cancer Society website. Infections in people with cancer: why people with cancer are more likely to get infections. www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/infections/infections-in-people-with-cancer.html. Updated March 13, 2020. Accessed July 30 2, 2021.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Preventing infections in cancer patients. www.cdc.gov/cancer/preventinfections/index.htm. Updated November 10, 2020. Accessed July 30, 2021.Freifeld AG, Kaul DR. Infection in the patient with cancer. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 34.AllVideoImagesTogA Closer Look Non-small cell lung cancer(In-Depth)Breast cancer(In-Depth)Melanoma and other skin cancers(In-Depth)Sickle cell disease(In-Depth)Cervical cancer(In-Depth)Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma(In-Depth)Acute lymphocytic leukemia(In-Depth)Stroke(In-Depth)Myeloproliferative disorders(Alt. Medicine)Anemia(In-Depth)Self Care Drinking water safely during cancer treatmentSafe eating during cancer treatment Tests for Low white blood cell count and cancer CBC blood testBlood smearWBC countRBC countBone marrow biopsyBone marrow aspirationBlood differential testT-cell countB and T cell screenPlatelet countRelated Information Review Date: 4/28/2021 Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. 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