A decrease in the number of neutrophils in the blood below normal levels. It can be acute (short duration) or chronic (lasting longer than three months). In oncology, neutropenia can arise as a side effect of cancer treatment, caused by chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or molecularly targeted drugs.
Neutropenia can be associated with the occurrence of fever, known as febrile neutropenia, and can result in an increased risk of contracting infections. In some cases, a reduction in the dose of chemotherapy or molecular targeting drug may be sufficient to reverse the neutropenia. In other cases, temporary interruption of treatment may be necessary. When the number of neutrophils is very low and/or when fever or infection occurs, hospital admission and administration of antibiotics may be necessary.
Nowadays there are medications that can prevent and treat neutropenia by stimulating the production of neutrophils. These drugs are known as hematopoietic growth factors.