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Topic: Low white blood cells long after chemo

Forum: Stage III Breast Cancer — You are not alone. Meet others who have Stage III breast cancer.

Posted on: Sep 18, 2010 01:49PM, edited Sep 18, 2010 01:49PM by Packer5

Packer5 wrote:

My wife was diagnosed Stage III in April 2009 and went through AC and Taxol chemos as well as radiation. In blood tests this year, long after chemo, her white blood cell counts have varied but are often in the low range. Her counts have ranged from about 2.5 to 4, but the latest was 3.0. She also had low platelet counts but that seems to have normalized. A bone marrow biopsy this year showed no problems, but now she's being scheduled to meet with a "benign" hematologist. Has anyone had this kind of experience, especially low white blood cell counts, and what light can you shed on it?

I appreciate your response.

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Posts 1 - 11 (11 total)

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Sep 18, 2010 01:54PM carcharm wrote:

A nurse friend of mine warned me before I did chemo that one of the side effects is something called myeloproliferative disease. Essentially your bone marrow doesn't function the way it should. Sometimes it can lead into more serious blood disorders.

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Sep 18, 2010 06:31PM MoinTexas wrote:

My white blood counts remain below 4, usually aroud 3.2 to 3.6, and I finished chemo just about exactly two years ago.  My onc says that chemo is the reason, that my blood counts otherwise are fine, and it will eventually get better.  Who knows?  More important, from an infection standpoint, is to calculate your absolute neutrophil count.  If it is above 1500  (1.5) it is probably OK, but the higher the better.  Mine runs around 2200 (2.2).  


Dx 3/4/2008, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIIA, Grade 2, 8/35 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Sep 19, 2010 01:52AM Snewl wrote:

I don't think it is really unusual. I had my last chemo 7/06 and my white count has never been where it was pre-chemo. Before chemo it was over 6, now it stays just slightly over 3, but I feel just fine and have no problems with it. Anyone know why the red blood cell count tends to bounce back and the WBC's lag behind?


Courage is just fear that has said its prayers.
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Sep 19, 2010 10:28AM ruthbru wrote:

My WBC & platlets have been consistantly low since chemo; onc. says this happens quite often, and is 'normal'; I feel fine, am not sick any more than usual (bruises take longer to heal); there is nothing I can do to change it, so I'm just not worrying about it.

"Invisible threads are the strongest ties." Friedrich Nietzsche Dx 2/2007, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 0/11 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2-
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Jun 18, 2012 10:48AM srlilly wrote:

I have the same problem.  My oncologist just ordered a vitamin b12 test, and it came back super low.  He's recommending vitamin b12 injections which should help stimulate white blood cell production.

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Jun 18, 2012 06:11PM Outfield wrote:


My platelets and red blood cells recovered well from chemo, but I was leukopenic (low total white blood cell count), neutropenic (low neutrophil component of white blood cell count) and lymphopenic (low lymphocyte component of white blood cell count) for more than a year after chemo ended.  My total white blood cell count and neutrophil count edged up into the bottom range of normal about 15 months after the last chemo, I think.  My lymphocyte count is still low.

I too had a bone marrow biopsy, about 5 months after chemo because my counts were so bad then, and it was normal.  Not just OK, normal.

My oncologists (I see a regular one and a university-affiliated one) advise nothing more.  At this point, I don't seem to get infections more than other people or than I did before chemo, although for quite a while after chemo I would be layed-out if I caught anything at all.  So if I'm immunocompromised, it's not severe.  The other question, which they are unable to answer, is if I have an increased risk of myelodysplasia or leukemia.  I worry about that.  But we're not doing any evaluation other than period CBC because, as far as I know, there's nothing I could do about it to prevent it even if I am at increased risk compared to someone who didn't develop these problems. 

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Jun 18, 2012 06:24PM Linda-n3 wrote:

I finished chemo Dec 2010, have had WBC around 3 since then. I was not told that this would be a long-term issue, but was warned about the possibility of myeloproliferative disorder, but the MO just used those words, but not what it might mean. So far I have had no problems with infection other than post-op wound infection last year after BMX. I agree with Outfield that there is nothing else we can do to prevent the myelodysplasia or other blood cell problems - that is now out of our control - once the chemo is done, it is done and has damaged whatever it's going to damage - we just wait and hope all is OK.

Another cause of low WBC is tamoxifen, so I would guess that chemo + tamoxifen might cause additional low wbc.

Linda - "Loving to learn; learning to love." "Gratitude leads to joy. Joy leads to prayer. Prayer leads to gratitude." "Oh, what fresh new hell is this???" - Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory Dx 7/14/2010, IDC, 3cm, Stage IIIc, Grade 2, 19/23 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2- Dx 8/2011, IDC, Stage IIIc Dx 9/2012, IDC, Stage IIIc Dx 12/2012, IDC, Stage IV
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Jun 25, 2012 02:31PM lkc wrote:

It is not unusual to see low counts after cytoxic systemic chemotherapy. I am over years out from dx and I still run low WBCs. I do take a few supplements daily. Flaxseed, fish oil, etc. I find if I hold these supplement for a week, my counts bump up abit. My onc is ok with it.

Linda K dx'd May 05 Stage IIIC erpr-, her pos, 12 pos nodes
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Feb 16, 2013 04:27PM , edited Feb 16, 2013 04:49PM by HANRSC


I was diagnosised with colon cancer with met to liver, underwent 12 sessions of First Line Chemo. My wbc count since has 98% of the time below the normal of 4, ranging between 2 and 3.4. In December 2012, I finally ask my oncologist concerning the cause but I already knew from research and other oncologists, his reply, "this is caused by chemo." My wbc for that month was 2.7. I have not had any problems but for me the concern is a low wbc means a reduced immune system to fight dieases, bacteria, fungus, etc., being around around pets and humans could eventually cause problems. Some people are more likely than other to get dieases from annimals...a person age and health status may affect his or her immune system again increasing the chances of getting sick. http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/animals/dogs.htm


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Apr 21, 2015 12:26AM Mariasnow wrote:

My WBC is 3,3 over two years after finishing chemo. My platelets are also low at 130. I do find myself worrying about recurrence or other possibilities. But, I try to stop myself and stay in a healthy frame of mind.

Dx 3/2/2012, IDC, 1cm, Stage IIa, Grade 3, 1/12 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+ Dx 3/2/2012, DCIS, 3cm, Stage IIa, Grade 3, 1/12 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2+ Targeted Therapy 06/28/2012 Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab) Surgery 01/28/2013 Reconstruction of my left breast; Reconstruction of my right breast Surgery 03/23/2012 Mastectomy of one or both breasts: Mastectomy of my left breast, Mastectomy of my right breast Surgery 08/07/2013 Reconstruction of my right breast: Latissimus dorsi flap Surgery 02/25/2014 Reconstruction of my left breast: Nipple reconstruction; Reconstruction of my right breast: Nipple reconstruction Surgery 08/07/2013 Reconstruction of my left breast Radiation Therapy 10/08/2012 Partial-breast radiation: 3-D conformal external beam radiation (also called 3DCRT) Chemotherapy 04/06/2012 AC + T (Taxol): Adriamycin and Cytoxan, plus Taxol
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Apr 21, 2015 07:53PM Jillian777 wrote:

I finished chemo ten years ago.  My CBC was completely wacky for the first five years with over half of the counts being way out of the normal range.  Over time each value started to normalize.  At my ten year check up everything was in the normal range except my WBC and platelets.  My WBC consistently runs around 3.0 and my platelets bounce in and out of the normal range.  My onc is also a hematologist and is fine with these values. Like Marilyn said above, the important count to look at is your absolute neutrophil count.  Mine is usually around 2500 or 2.5 and I am never sick.  Knock on wood!

This is my new normal.Smile

Dx 11/5/2004, ILC, 6cm+, Stage IIIb, 9/26 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-