Low blood count due to chemotherapy

Low blood count due to chemotherapy

Blood cells are the normal cells most often affected by chemotherapy. A low blood count means having fewer new cells in the blood than is normal.

How does chemotherapy affect blood cells?

A low blood count means having fewer new cells in the blood than is normal.

Blood cells are the normal cells most often affected by chemotherapy. They are formed in the bone marrow which is a spongy material that fills the centre of long bones and flat bones and some chemotherapy medicines slow down their production. This halting of blood cell and platelet production in bone marrow is known as myelosuppression.

What are the different types of blood cells?

There are three main types of blood cells:

  • red cells
  • white cells
  • platelets

How long does a low blood count last?

A drop in the blood cell count can be expected seven to ten days after chemotherapy medicines have been given. It takes about three to four weeks for the bone marrow to recover after the chemotherapy is finished and for the blood count to return to a near normal level.

The blood is tested while chemotherapy is being given to monitor the count levels of the cells. The tests will be done as often as is needed to keep a close check and to decide on any supportive treatment required. It is quite usual for the frequency of blood tests to vary from several times a day to several times a week.

For more information about low blood count see:

Where to go for more information and support

On this website:
Childhood cancer: Where to go for more information and support

Note that this fact sheet is part of a section about childhood cancer. To access the rest of the content in this section, see Childhood cancer. 

All the information in the Childhood cancer section of this website has been written by health professionals who work in the field of paediatric oncology. They have been reviewed by the members of the National Child Cancer Network (NZ). Medical information is authorised by the National Child Cancer Network Clinical Leader.

This page last reviewed 24 April 2013.
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