- Cancer Information
- Cancer treatment
- Managing chemotherapy side effects
- How chemotherapy affects the blood
- Bleeding problems
Platelets are the blood cells that help the blood to clot. A low level of platelets (thrombocytopenia) can cause problems with bleeding. You may bleed for longer than normal after minor cuts or scrapes, have nosebleeds or bleeding gums, or bruise easily.
Your treatment team will monitor your platelet levels. If chemotherapy causes thrombocytopenia, you may need a platelet transfusion. Ask your oncologist to explain the risks and benefits of platelet transfusion.
Contact your treatment team or call 000 if you have any persistent bleeding, such as a nosebleed that doesn’t stop within 30 minutes.
Tips for when you have a low platelet count
- Be careful when using scissors, needles, knives or razors, as you may bleed easily. Small cuts or nicks can also harbour germs where an infection can start.
- Use an electric razor when shaving to reduce the chance of nicking yourself.
- Wear thick gloves when gardening to avoid injury. (The gloves will also prevent infection from soil, which contains bacteria.)
- Use a toothbrush with soft bristles to avoid irritating your gums.
- Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes indoors and outdoors to avoid cuts and scrapes on your feet.
- Blow your nose with care.
- If you bleed, apply pressure for about 10 minutes and bandage as needed.
- If you have problems with bleeding, talk to your doctor.
Dr Prunella Blinman, Medical Oncologist, Concord Cancer Centre, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, and Clinical Senior Lecturer, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Gillian Blanchard, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Julie Bolton, Consumer; Keely Gordon-King, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; John Jameson, Consumer; Dr Zarnie Lwin, Medical Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Senior Lecturer, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Felicia Roncolato, Medical Oncology Staff Specialist, Macarthur Cancer Therapy Centre, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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