How long does neutropenia last in breast cancer?
How severe neutropenia is and how long it lasts varies. It depends in part on the type of chemotherapy you’re getting, Pappacena says.
“Most people see their lowest points of neutropenia somewhere in the middle of their treatment cycle,” Pappacena says. “If you get chemo every 4 weeks, your neutropenia is usually lowest about 2 weeks after the last treatment. It can certainly get worse as treatment continues.”
Treatments for Neutropenia in Breast Cancer
The main treatments doctors use to shorten neutropenia and protect you from infection are medications called G-CSFs (granulocyte colony-stimulating factors). You usually get them by injection about 24 hours after a dose of chemotherapy.
“If we give you chemotherapy with a moderate or high risk of leaving you neutropenic for many days, we will give you G-CSF medication after chemotherapy to increase your white blood cells,” Chen says.
For most people receiving chemotherapy that can cause neutropenia, doctors prescribe long-acting G-CSF drugs. With long-acting G-CSF medications, you only need to get one injection after each chemotherapy treatment. You can either go back to the cancer center where you received your chemotherapy the next day for your injection, or you can inject the medication yourself at home (or have a partner inject it for you).
A newer option for delivering long-acting G-CSFs is called Onpro. It comes in a kit containing a pre-filled syringe in a blister that is applied to your skin (usually on your upper arm). Your healthcare provider will prepare a section of skin and apply the on-body injector pack. They will insert a short needle that delivers the medicine under your skin about 27 hours later.
“Once the injector is activated, it will deliver the medication slowly over about 45 minutes,” Papacena says. “You have to be careful not to accidentally knock it off or take it off too quickly so you don’t get a full dose of the medication. There’s a nice ‘fuel gauge’ on the package so you know when the medication has been completely dispensed. When it says ‘Empty’, you can take it off and throw it away.”