Breast Cancer Chemo: Tips for Dealing With Neutropenia

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When you get chemotherapy for breast cancer, you’ll very likely run low on white blood cells called neutrophils. Doctors call this neutropenia. It’s a normal part of going through chemo.

With neutropenia, you’re more likely to get infections and fever. That’s because neutrophils are part of your body’s front-line immune response. So with fewer of them available to fight off threats, you’re more vulnerable.

Keep in mind that neutropenia is a temporary side effect of chemo – and you can take simple precautions to help avoid catching an infection.

Ways to Help Prevent Infection During Neutropenia

Do these things to help protect yourself:

Get all your vaccinations that your doctor recommends. This includes the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters. Ask about other vaccines, like those for hepatitis B and pneumonia. If you’re getting chemotherapy, your immune system needs the help no matter what your age is.Wash your hands often. Avoid contact with people who you know to be sick. Do this even if they say they feel OK or aren’t infectious anymore.Avoid busy indoor spaces. “If you need to go to an indoor place like church or the grocery store, wear a mask and limit the amount of time you’re there as much as you can. I would even suggest wearing a mask if you’re at a crowded outdoor event,” says Jeremy Pappacena, PharmD, a clinical pharmacy specialist in hematology and oncology at Allegheny Health Network in Pennsylvania.Prepare your food carefully. Cook food thoroughly. “Avoid having meats on the rarer side or things like sushi or other uncooked fish, and wash and scrub raw fruits and vegetables,” Pappacena says.Have the people help protect you. Ask family members and others who live with you to follow similar precautions as much as possible.

You don’t have to take your temperature every day during

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