Guide to Blood Counts

Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: April 15, 2016

Cancer therapy not only destroys cancerous cells, but may affect healthy cells in your body. Blood cells are commonly affected during cancer therapy, and this can lead to problems depending on the function of that blood cell.

Use the blood count chart to follow your blood counts after treatment. This will help you know when extra precautions are necessary.

White blood cells (WBC): These cells are produced in the bone marrow and are a part of the body's immune system, helping to fight infection. A normal WBC count is 4,000-11,000 in adults.

Neutrophil: A type of WBC. It is the most important WBC in fighting infection, so you are at higher risk of infection when this number is below 1000. A normal count (sometimes called an ANC) is 2500-7000. A count below 1000 is called neutropenia. When this count is low wash your hands frequently, avoid large crowds of people or those who are sick, and check your temperature at least twice a day. Notify your healthcare team if you have a temperature greater than 100.4, a sore throat or cold, or a sore/wound that does not heal.

Hemoglobin: The part of a red blood cell that is responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues. Normal levels for an adult female are 12-16 and 14-18 for an adult male. A low hemoglobin can make you feel tired. If you notice any difficulty breathing or pain in your chest, you should notify your healthcare team. If your count becomes too low or you experience breathing difficulties or chest pressure, you may receive a blood transfusion.

Platelet: A blood cell that is involved in blood clotting. When this count is below 50,000, you are at higher risk of bleeding. The risk of bleeding increases as the count becomes lower. A normal count is 150,000-300,000 in an adult. When your platelet count is low you should not use a razor (electric razor is ok), do not participate in any contact sports, or take aspirin or ibuprofen products (these can also increase the risk of bleeding). Let your doctor or nurse know if you have any bleeding, including nose bleeds or bleeding gums. If your count becomes too low or you have bleeding, you may receive a platelet transfusion.

Guide to Blood Counts

Use the treatment column to record days you received chemotherapy, bio or radiation therapy and any types of blood transfusions you may have received.

Download Guide to Blood Counts Worksheet

Date White Blood Cells Neutrophil Count Hemoglobin Platelets Treatment Received
Normal Values 4000-11000 2500-7000 Neutropenic if <1000 F:12-16 M:14-18 Transfuse< 7/8 150000-300000 Transfuse<10  


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