high white blood cell count in cancer patients

High White Blood Cells Count In Cancer Patients

A white blood cell count generally refers to the number of white blood cells available in your body. There are several types of white blood cells, and you should have a given percentage of each type of white blood cells. However, sometimes due to a number of factors, which may be mere or severe, your white blood cells count can either fall or rise beyond the normal healthy range. One major cause of a rise in the white blood cells is cancer. In this article, we are going to discuss more high white blood cells count in cancer patients.

According to research, high white blood cells count appears to be one of the independent predictors of risk for deaths from cancer. For instance, in a recent study that studied more than 3000 older people in Australia, the investigators found that those patients who had a higher quartile of white blood cells count had a significantly higher risk for cancer mortality as compared to the other patients with lower WBC count.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the following is an overview of the normal ranges of white blood cells counts per microliter of blood.

  • Newborns- 9,000 to 30,000
  • Children below 2 years- 6,200 to 17,000
  • 2 years and above – 5,000 to 10,000

What has considered a high white blood cell count is any value beyond these normal ranges. For instance, white blood cell count above 30000 may represent leukemia.

Another important factor that you should know is that infants tend to have higher numbers of white blood cells which even out gradually as they age.

High White Blood Cell Count in Cancer Patients Represents?

Some types of cancers are associated with white blood cells. Mainly, they include lymphoma and leukemia.

Leukemia is usually found in the blood as well as the bone marrow. It is mostly associated with the rapid production of abnormal white blood cells in the body. These abnormal cells affect the body in that they impair your body’s ability to fight infection. Also, they reduce the ability of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells and platelets.

Leukemia can be categorized into four main types

  • Chronic lymphatic
  • Acute myeloid
  • Acute lymphocytic and
  • Chronic myeloid.

High white blood cells can in cancer patients represent lymphoma. This condition happens when lymphocytes begin to behave abnormally and can accumulate anywhere in the body. The lymph nodes around the armpits, groin, and neck are the most likely areas where these abnormal lymphocytes can collect.

If you are diagnosed with any of these types of cancers, your doctor will administer various treatment options.

How to Check White Blood Cells

A healthcare provider or lab technician needs to draw blood to check your WBC count. This blood sample is taken either from a vein in your arm or a vein on the back of your hand. It only takes a couple of minutes to draw your blood, and you may experience minor discomfort

To carry out a white blood cell count, a doctor will draw a blood sample, usually from a vein in the arm or the back of the hand. This is a common procedure, and side effects are rare but may include lightheadedness, bleeding or infection. No special preparation is required for a white blood cell count, but a person should inform their doctor of any medications they are taking, as these can affect the results. A white blood cell count is usually taken as part of a complete blood count.

High White Blood Cell Count in Cancer Patients Causes

A number of factors may cause elevated white blood cells in cancer patients. For instance, some types of cancer treatment such as chemotherapy can affect the normal production of white blood cells. In addition, factors such as immune system disorders, inflammation, infections, burns, and physical or emotional stress can cause high white blood cells production.

High White Blood Cell Count in Cancer Patients Symptoms

People with cancer can experience several symptoms which can include;

  • Headaches
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Clogged blood vessels- a condition referred to as leukostasis
  • Confusion and sleepiness
  • Shortness of breath in cases where blood vessels in the lungs are affected
  • Blurred vision

These symptoms can, however, be caused by something else other than cancers related conditions.

How to Reduce High White Blood Cells in Cancer Patients

Generally, the key to preventing or reducing a high white blood cells count is by strengthening your immunity by living a healthy lifestyle. Engage in healthy practices such as avoiding stress, eating healthy, exercising regularly, and taking vitamin supplements. For instance, include the following in your diet;

  • Vitamins: Eating vitamin C can regulate and reduce the levels of your white blood cells and as well enhance your immunity. Consider eating fruits like oranges, lemons, pineapples, berries, guava, and line. Also, cauliflower, bell peppers, broccoli, and carrots are rich in vitamin C.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These components can be easily obtained through foods such as fatty fish like trout, herring, and salmon. They help the body by improving cardiovascular health and elevating the activities of phagocytes.
  • Antioxidants: You should also consider eating foods rich in antioxidants. These are chemicals that are responsible for neutralizing harmful molecules called free radicals. Consider adding the following in your meals, onions, leeks, tea, grapes, garlic, and vegetables. Antioxidants can help support a healthy immune system.
  • Avoid Food Rich in Fat, Sugar, and Salt: This also includes foods like soda and processed and fried foods. They can weaken your immunity.
  • Avoid Stress and Smoking: This can be accomplished by simple activities such as getting enough sleep as well as exercising regularly. Smoking can also trigger inflammation in the body and weaken the immune system which can make your body vulnerable to infections and diseases.

High white blood cells can mean anything from cancer to something mere like an infection. For instance, slightly elevated white blood cell count should not worry you that much. However, it should never be ignored. There are also other factors that can cause high white blood cells to count in cancer patients.

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad