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
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:
Paleness of skin, lips, and nail beds
Increased heart rate
Easy tiring with exertion
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:
Symptoms of a low platelet count may include:
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.