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Blood is composed of several types of cell: red and white cells and platelets.
Chemotherapy acts on all the body’s cells and prevents them from multiplying. Those that multiply very fast, like blood cells, are the most affected and their number decreases.
This decrease varies: it may be slight or very considerable, depending on the different combinations of chemicals administered. Your blood cell count is checked very regularly by means of a blood test known as a ‘complete blood count’ (CBC).
The different types of white blood cells protect your organism from infection. When their number goes below a certain level (neutropenia), you risk catching infections more easily. Prudence is recommended in such a case.
If the number of white blood cells, particularly the neutrophils, goes too low (to less than 500 per cubic millimetre), this is known as agranulocytosis. The risk of infection is serious and protective measures have to be taken and respected. In some cases, particularly if you are running a fever, the medical team will decide to admit you to hospital. You will then stay from a few days to several weeks in a private room in order to reduce the risk of catching an infection while your immunity is very low.
In certain situations, the oncologist will decide to stimulate the growth of your white blood cells by means of injections.
Protective measures are adopted:
Magazines and books are permitted so long as they are new. Laptops will be disinfected daily (the hospital has internet connection). You can add a personal touch to your room with posters, personal photos etc.