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should I be concerned?

JoyceCanada's picture
Posts: 134
Joined: Mar 2006

Nurse gave me a copy of my blood work. Of course I have no idea what the numbers mean so I started scaring myself silly.
I'm at #15 of radiation/chemo combo
Leukocytes 3.9
Hemoglobin 117
red cell distri width 16.1
Hematocrit 0.365
these are the numbers which are circled on the sheet.

Can someone tell me if these are way out of whack?

I'm starting to let my imagination work overtime!!

nanuk's picture
Posts: 1362
Joined: Dec 2003

I"m not sure what these mean, but ask your doctor to explain them to you-(that's their job..) There are also a number of site out there that will explain these ..google "blood" bud

JoyceCanada's picture
Posts: 134
Joined: Mar 2006

I'm seeing my doc to-morrow. I asked for the report. I know that these numbers are outside the "norm". I guess you could say that I'm gun shy because I was told originally that I had a benign tumour, when I in fact had a stage IIIx2 lymph node involvement.
My doc has never discussed my "blood work" and I just presume No news in good news...unfortunately that was my BIG mistake when I believed that everything was O'k and they had "lost" my pathology report and I was blissfully ignorant of the stage of my cancer.

Posts: 719
Joined: Feb 2005

Okay - here is the real me and the real me...No news is NO NEWS. Joyce, please understand that this is your life and your future. Every once in a while, I want to just stop thinking about my diet, my testing, my bloodwork...and my cancer. But hey, it is here as of 2004 - or earlier. Please, don't stick your head in the sand. I am so glad that you asked for the report. I am glad that you see your doc tomorrow. Do ask him about everything. It will be worth it because he will know that you are serious about your disease. Take care and know I wish you only good appts with your doc and wonderful bloodwork. I just hate to see us be afraid of ourselves. I am there sometimmes as well but I know we need to push through our own fears. All the best to you - Maura...who wants you to be able to be blissfully NED!

Posts: 1560
Joined: May 2006

Hello Joyce,

If you look closely at your blood test results, you will see numbers in square brackets next to each element numbers. For example, it would say:

Leukocytes 3.9 and then there should be a number in square brackets. This number is what is supposed to be normal range. You can then compare what you have with what should be normal. At least this is how they do it here in US. I hope it helps.

Best wishes, Eleonora

JoyceCanada's picture
Posts: 134
Joined: Mar 2006

Eleanor I know that the results are below normal

Leukocytes 3.9 (4:00-11.0)
Hemoglobin 117 (120-160)
red cell distr width 16.1 (11.5-14.5)
hematocrit 0.365 (0.37-0.47)

Guess what I am asking is how low is too low ---am I in trouble???

spongebob's picture
Posts: 2598
Joined: Apr 2003

Joyce -

You're just barely outside the normal range on all. They have to have a tripwire somewhere and you fall just below that. Considering you're in chemo, you're numbers aren't bad at all. Just keep an eye on them - but more importantly listen to how your body is yelling you it is. THAT'S what's important!

- SB

Betsydoglover's picture
Posts: 1256
Joined: Jul 2005

Joyce - as others have said those are definitely normal counts - just at the low end of normal really and considering you are on chemo not surprising.

The reason the RDW is higher than normal is because the hematocrit is very slightly lower than normal. RDW reflects the variation in size of red blood cells, with immature RBC's being larger than older RBC's. So a higher variation in size simply means your body is working to make more RBCs (higher percentage of relatively young ones) to correct for and thus prevent a true anemic condition.

I really don't think you should worry, but you should be aggressive in asking your doctor about your results.

Take care,


KathiM's picture
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

I keep all my lab sheets, ask for them. I watch trends. My white count WBC and RBC (red) ALWAYS drop after a treatment. By asking for it each time, I make my DOCTOR aware that I'm watching. I agree with Bud, ask your doc, but don't get too paranoid...

JoyceCanada's picture
Posts: 134
Joined: Mar 2006

Spongebob and Kathi: Thanks for the reassurance.
I think I was just having an attack of "chemo blues". Yesterday I lay on the couch all day and watched mindless TV programs, the weather was rainy and my disposition was about the same. I've been so up-beat and positive up to this time - guess it was just having a little "feel sorry for Joyce day"...

I'm not going to worry about the numbers. I've given myself a shake "get back on the horse"!!!

lfondots63's picture
Posts: 822
Joined: Jan 2006

Hi Joyce,

Sounds like you just had a down day. That happens to all of us. Glad you are feeling a better. Like others asking your doctor is ok. That is what we pay them for and if they don't give you a straight answer, ask again. I even switch doctors because he didn't take my concerns as serious. Take care and tell us how it goes.


Posts: 1560
Joined: May 2006

Hi Joyce,
According to numbers in brackets, your numbers are just a bit below the normal range. So, I agree with SpongeBob. But when you see the doctor next time, ask for reassurance. It is a good idea to write your questions on a piece of paper before you go to a doctor. This way you have them ready. When you are in doctor's office, you feel tension and may forget something. So having your questions ready will help. I always do this.

I hope you feel better soon.

Best wishes and God Bless.

Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

It has been useful for me to see what others have written. Those normal values are very useful, but don't tell the whole story. Once (when monitoring liver counts -- slightly different story) I asked my doctor "how far outside of normal should I be concerned?" (mine had been a couple of points high) and he said something like only when it gets to be 4x the mean normal values (!) [Actually, I don't remember the details, but I hope you get my point].... I strongly support the notion of asking your doc -- that is your right and your responsibility. But it can be tricky knowing just what question to ask....Best of luck with these counts, Joyce! Best wishes.

Posts: 59
Joined: Mar 2006

Everyone has given you good information. What you will find out is that as you take more and more treatments the red and white blood cell counts will gradually drop. The chemotherapy attacks rapidly growing cells (cancer) and since the bone marrow that produces our blood cells also has rapidly growing cells it tends to be affected also. It's not a problem at all where you are now! It's just a way of keeping track. Eventually you might have to spread your treatments out a bit to allow the blood cells to rise back up. Also, when they get really low, your doctor can give you injections to boost your bone marrow production. It's all part of getting through the chemotherapy and it means the drugs are working! I had a 6 month course of chemo stretch to 8 months to allow for my red cells, white cells, and platelets to stay at safe levels. You should talk to your doctor, but also to the chemo nurses. It's really not all that complicated and the more you understand the numbers, the more involved and positive you can be. Right now you are just getting a little low-don't be discouraged! You're getting there.

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