Our 24/7 cancer helpline provides information and answers for people dealing with cancer. We can connect you with trained cancer information specialists who will answer questions about a cancer diagnosis and provide guidance and a compassionate ear.
Our highly trained specialists are available 24/7 via phone and on weekdays can assist through video calls and online chat. We connect patients, caregivers, and family members with essential services and resources at every step of their cancer journey. Ask us how you can get involved and support the fight against cancer. Some of the topics we can assist with include:
For medical questions, we encourage you to review our information with your doctor.
Platelets are blood cells called thrombocytes and help your blood clot, so you stop bleeding. Low platelet count is also called thrombocytopenia. When your platelet levels are lower than normal, your blood isn’t able to clot as it should, putting you at a higher risk for excessive bleeding. The lower your platelet count, the higher your risk for bleeding. Your doctor will tell you what level is considered a low platelet count. If you have a very low platelet count, sometimes your doctor will delay your treatment or reduce your dose. Your doctor will use a blood test called a complete blood count (CBC) to measure your platelet level
Your platelet count may be low if the body is not making enough platelets, losing platelets, or platelets are being destroyed. In patients with cancer, low platelet count may be caused by:
If your platelet levels drop, you may begin to notice one or more of these symptoms
Call your cancer care team right away if you notice any of these symptoms.
A platelet transfusion might be needed in some patients with cancer who have a low platelet count. Platelets may be given to prevent bleeding when the platelet count is very low, or they may be given if a patient has some unusual bleeding to help stop it.
Before platelets are given, the donor is carefully matched to the patient and the platelets are screened so they are safe. But, receiving a platelet transfusion has some risks:
Talk to your doctor about whether you have a risk for a low platelet count, and what options might be best for your situation.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Balducci L, Shah B, Zuckerman K. Neutropenia and thrombocytopenia. In DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019:2075-2076
Cancer.Net. 2018. Low platelet count or thrombocytopenia. Accessed at https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/physical-emotional-and-social-effects-cancer/managing-physical-side-effects/low-platelet-count-or-thrombocytopenia on September 17, 2019.
Choe JH, Crawford J. Hematologic problems and infections: Disorders of blood cell production in clinical oncology. In Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:521-522
Izak M, Bussel JB. Management of thrombocytopenia. F1000Prime Reports. 2014; 6(45): P6-45
Schiffer CA, Bohlke K, Delaney M, Hume H, Magdalinski AJ, McCullough JJ, Omel JL, Rainey JM, Rebulla P, Rowley SD, Troner MB, Anderson KC. Platelet transfusion for patients with cancer: American Society of Clinical Oncology Clinical Practice Guideline Update. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2018; 36(3):283-299
Wilson BJ. Myelosuppression. In Olsen MM, LeFebvre KB, Brassil KJ, eds. Chemotherapy and Immunotherapy Guidelines and Recommendations for Practice. Pittsburgh, PA: Oncology Nursing Society; 2019: 273-292.
Last Revised: December 15, 2020
Donate now so we can continue to provide access to critical cancer information, resources, and support to improve lives of people with cancer and their families.