Pancytopenia

Selina M. Luger, MD
Last Modified: May 12, 2002

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
My friend was diagnosed last night with Pancytopenia. Can you explain this condition please?  

Answer

Selina M. Luger, MD, Director of the Leukemia Program and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Pancytopenia means that the blood counts are low. Normally there are three different types of blood cells that are made. There are red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. When someone has low platelets that is called thrombocytopenia, low red blood cells--anemia, and low white blood cells leukopenia or neutropenia. If all of the normal blood counts are low that is called pancytopenia.

Once someone has been found to be pancytopenic, we try to figure out why. Leukemia is one of the reasons that a person can be pancytopenic. This diagnosis is usually made if leukemic cells are seen in the blood or in the bone marrow (the organ that is responsible for normal blood cell development). Other causes can include medications, infections, and genetic abnormalities.