|MadSci Network: Medicine|
Dear Jane, Yes. I sincerely hope this isn't a question from personal experience. If it is, a conversation with your physician would definitely be in order. But you have hit all the nails on the head. Chemotherapy is aimed to kill cancer cells, which divide actively. As a consequence, it also kills normal cells that divide rapidly, including those of the bone marrow that give rise to the blood cells and platelets. The low platelet counts that result definitely increase the risk of bleeding, whether from a fracture or from any other injury or trauma. Also, the anemia that accompanies bone marrow depletion does indeed prolong the healing process. Infections are much more likely in chemotherapy patients during the times their white blood cell counts are low. Patients often must be in isolation ("reverse precautions") to reduce infection risks. As to age, it also is a factor. Basically, the older you are, the further out of warranty you are. All systems gradually lose efficiency with age, but the variation from one person to the next is huge. Hope this answers your question. Paul Odgren, Ph.D. Dept. of Cell Biology Univ. of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester
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