Bone Marrow Suppression and Chemotherapy
The side effects of chemotherapy (chemo) depend on the type of chemo. They also depend
on the amount given. Side effects can be planned for and managed. This will help reduce
them and give the best possible experience for the person getting chemo.
Each person's health and diagnosis are different. Their reaction to treatment is different,
too. You may not have side effects. Or they may be mild or severe. Talk with your
cancer care team about the possible side effects of treatment before the treatment
What is bone marrow suppression?
Bone marrow is soft, spongy tissue in the middle of certain bones. It makes blood
cells. Nearly all chemo medicines suppress the bone marrow. This causes the marrow
to make fewer blood cells. The timing of this effect varies by the medicines used
and the doses used for your treatment.
Bone marrow makes red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Red blood cells
carry oxygen to all the cells in the body. White blood cells fight infection. Platelets
help control bleeding and bruising. The risks for anemia (low red blood cells), severe
tiredness (fatigue), infection, bleeding, and bruising go up when your bone marrow
What are the symptoms of bone marrow suppression?
These are the most common symptoms of bone marrow suppression. But symptoms may be
a bit different for each person.
Symptoms of a low red blood cell count may include:
Pale skin, lips, and nail beds
Faster heart rate
Easy tiring with exertion
Shortness of breath
Symptoms of a low white blood cell count only happen if an infection occurs because
of the low count. These may include:
Symptoms of a low platelet count may include:
Bleeding through nosebleeds, or from the 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 seem like other health problems. Always
talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.