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Cancer – Immunocompromised

February 2, 2021


“So one of the common questions that people ask that are getting treatment for cancer is, am I immune compromised? And can I be around other people or do I have to worry about getting a disease or an infection that I wouldn’t otherwise get? The simple answer is, probably yes to some degree. But one thing that we do watch very closely, especially when it comes to systemic chemotherapy is what’s called the ANC. And that is an absolute neutrophil count. You do look at your white blood cell count, but your white blood cell count is constituted by two things, lymphocytes, which can be all over the place and your neutrophils, your granule sites. Those are your two main ones. There’s also a bunch of smaller ones. But the neutrophil count or the granule sites are, what’s important to see if you are at risk for simple bacterial infections.

So in general, we definitely want the ANC over 500. That’s where you’re pretty safe from things like if you’re having a bowel movement where you don’t have to worry about like an abscess, if you got a cut in that area, you should be pretty safe above 500. But a lot of times some cancer treatments will bring the counts really low, like 200, 100. That’s where you are at a much higher risk for a bacterial infection. And you really want to keep that on your radar. Your lymphocytes and the things that are not ANC related, are virus related. And those are a little harder to measure. And we know we get some kind of quietening of that system when we use steroids and stuff. But the thing you want to track is ANC. And if it does get too low, you want to stay away from things that would cause bacterial infections, like fresh salads, things where bacteria can grow kind of easily or uncooked meats. And it all goes back to neutrophil count for that reason.”

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