Breast Cancer Treatment and Low Platelets
Why breast cancer treatments chemotherapy and radiation lower platelet counts, and how a low platelet count might affect treatment.
Think of platelets in the same way you'd think of cornstarch or flour when you mix it in a sauce or stew, and it's easy to see why they're so important: They're the clotting factors that make blood thicken and harden. Without them, bleeding becomes unstoppable and every minor cut or injury becomes dangerous.
Why does breast cancer make platelet counts drop?
In most cases, it's not the breast cancer itself but the breast cancer treatment that causes low platelets. Chemotherapy can make platelet counts fall because it targets cells that grow rapidly. Tumor cells grow and divide quickly, but so do the cells in the bone marrow that produce red blood cells and platelets. Radiation can also cause a low platelet count, also called thrombocytopenia, though this is uncommon with radiation to the areas near the breast.