Bone Marrow Suppression

What is Bone Marrow Suppression?

Bone marrow suppression, also known as myelosuppression or myelodepression, is a decrease in production of blood cells caused by drugs, radiation or disease. It often occurs when the body is exposed to certain types of chemotherapies, which are commonly used to kill cancer cells. As these chemotherapies attack the cancer cells, the immune system is weakened, leading to a decrease in the number of healthy cells produced in the bone marrow.

Bone marrow suppression can also affect the types of white blood cells that are produced, such as neutrophils and lymphocytes, which help fight infections. This can lead to an increased risk of developing infections that may be more serious than normal.

Symptoms of Bone Marrow Suppression

The most common symptom of bone marrow suppression is anemia, which occurs when the bone marrow does not produce enough red blood cells. This can cause a person to feel tired, weak, and short of breath. Other symptoms of bone marrow suppression may include:

  • Pale skin
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Frequent infections
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Causes of Bone Marrow Suppression

The most common cause of bone marrow suppression is chemotherapy. This happens when the chemotherapeutic drugs used to treat cancer attack the healthy cells in the bone marrow along with the cancer cells. Other causes include exposure to radiation, infection, certain medications, and certain inherited diseases.

Treatment of Bone Marrow Suppression

Treatment of bone marrow suppression depends on the cause. When caused by chemotherapeutic drugs, the dose may be decreased or the drug may be stopped. In certain cases, medications may be prescribed to help stimulate the bone marrow or to boost the immune system. A person may also need to take medications to treat infections. In some cases, a blood transfusion or a stem cell transplant may be necessary.