Neutropenia is defined as a low white blood cell count. it is often caused by chemotherapy, and will often occur in a cyclical fashion about 7 to 10 days after chemotherapy is given. IV chemotherapy is given every 14-21 days to allow the white blood cell count to recover. We will often give a white blood cell growth factor (Neupogen, Neulasta, Leukine) on the day of or the day after chemotherapy to avoid neutropenia. Neutropenia can be dangerous because a low white blood cell count may predispose you to infection you would not otherwise get. if you are neutropenic, and you have a fever ( defined as a temperature greater than 100.4°F), it is best to call your doctor as immediate institution of antibiotics is in order.
If you are neutropenic, a neutropenic diet should be followed. The basis of this type is that certain uncooked foods can contain large amounts of bacteria which would not be dangerous to you if you did not have neutropenia.
Foods to avoid include:
- fresh fruits and vegetables ( this excludes fruits and vegetables with peels, such as oranges, bananas, melons, since the food inside the appeal should not contain bacteria)
- food made with raw eggs
- uncooked meat or sushi
Additionally, neutropenia can cause mouth sores, diarrhea, rectal sores, all of which should resolve as the white cell count normalizes.