Neutropenia itself does not cause symptoms, but patients with the condition can become severely ill due to even minor infections. Most patients discover they have neutropenia from a blood test or after an infection develops, says the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
While neutropenia does not cause symptoms, a doctor should be contacted if a patient notices the signs of even a minor infection, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology. These symptoms include fevers, chills, sweating, sore throat, abdominal pain, anal pain, burning when urinating, diarrhea, cough, shortness of breath or unusual vaginal discharge or itching.
Neutropenia is a severely low level of the type of white blood cell, neutrophils. These types of cells assist the body in fighting infection by destroying harmful bacteria and fungi, reports the American Society of Clinical Oncology. A degree of neutropenia occurs in almost half of people with cancer who are receiving chemotherapy. It is also a common side effect in people with leukemia. It can result from types of chemotherapy that cause bone marrow to not work properly, cancers that directly affect bone marrow and radiation therapy.
People over the age of 70 who have cancer or those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for neutropenia, explains the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Neutrophil counts begin to drop roughly a week after each round of chemotherapy begins and usually reach a low point around two weeks after treatment. A doctor may recommend antibiotics to try to prevent infections from occurring during periods of prolonged neutropenia.