Some cancers and cancer treatments may cause changes in your body’s normal mechanisms that control bleeding.1 Cancer treatment can temporarily lower the platelets, a type of blood cell that helps to clot the blood so that you do not bleed too much.1 If your platelets are low, you may be at risk for significant bleeding from the slightest injuries. Alternatively, sometimes the blood becomes too thick and clots too much.1 The blood clots may collect in the lower legs or travel to body organs such as the brain, heart and lungs.
If you are at risk for bleeding problems, you should avoid activities that can result in hemorrhage if you are injured such as activities that may put you at risk for falls and other traumatic injuries. Blood clots occur most often in certain types of cancer, in actively growing cancers, and in those individuals whose mobility is limited. The general population with or without cancer is at risk for developing blood clots on long air flights; you can reduce this risk by drinking lots of fluids and getting up and walking around in the aisle when travelling for long periods.
What you can do
Speak to your healthcare team to learn whether you are at particular risk for bleeding problems and ways you can cope. You will not necessarily feel any differently if your platelets have dropped, but some of the signs suggesting low platelets (called thrombocytopenia) include:
- easy bruising
- small red spots (petechiae) on your arms and legs
- bleeding from the gums when you brush your teeth
- unusually long or heavy menstrual periods
- sudden onset of severe headache, with or without limb weakness
Signs of blood clots:
- Swelling of the lower legs, often on one side only, with or without pain in the leg muscle or under the knee
- Difficult or painful breathing
- Pink secretions from the lungs when you cough
Take steps to keep your body healthy when you have a low platelet count. The Mayo Clinic recommends to:1
- eat a balanced diet
- avoid injuries
- avoid germs
Modify your work tasks and how you work:
- Prevent trauma. Ask for alternative duties to work tasks that involve a higher risk of physical injury.
- Wear safety equipment suited to your occupation.
Modify your work environment:
- Reduce risk of falls:
- Remove clutter, loose cords and wires from workspace.
- Ensure adequate lighting in all workspaces.
- Keep floors free from spilled liquid.
- Eliminate uneven flooring surfaces.
- Wear well fitting, supportive footwear with a closed heel and rubber sole.