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Blood Clots/Bruising and Chemotherapy

The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the type of chemotherapy and the amount given. Anticipating and managing side effects can help to minimize them and provide the best possible experience for the person receiving chemotherapy.

How does chemotherapy cause blood clots and bruising?

Platelets are the blood cells that help stop bleeding by clotting your blood. Chemotherapy can affect the bone marrow, where platelets are produced. If your blood has a platelet deficiency, you may bleed or bruise more easily than usual, even without an injury.

Bleeding is considered a potentially life-threatening side effect. The National Cancer Institute recommends consulting your doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained or unexpected bruising

  • Small, red spots under the skin

  • Bleeding from your gums

  • Bleeding from your nose

  • Reddish or pinkish urine

  • Black or bloody bowel movements

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding

  • Headaches or changes in vision

  • A warm or hot area on an arm or leg

  • Feeling very sleepy or confused

How can I prevent problems if my platelet count is low?

Consider the following tips to prevent problems due to a low platelet count:

  • Do not take any vitamins, herbal remedies, or over-the-counter medications without first consulting your doctor. Many of these products can affect platelet counts.

  • Consult your doctor before drinking any alcoholic beverages.

  • Use a very soft toothbrush to clean your teeth. Ask your doctor if it is okay to floss. 

  • Avoid forcefully blowing your nose.

  • Be careful not to cut or burn yourself. Use an electric shaver instead of a razor.

  • Avoid contact sports and other activities that might result in injury.

  • Consult your doctor to determine if it is necessary for you to avoid sexual activity.

Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 2/4/2014
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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