DEAR DR. GOTT: I have been reading your articles in the paper for many years and have found them helpful. Now it’s my turn.
I walk a couple of miles a day. I play 18 holes of golf twice a week. My problem is this: Approximately six months ago, I had my annual physical and blood testing. My doctor called to tell me my platelets were high (400,000 to 500,000). He suggested I see a cancer specialist. I did, and he ran me through a series of echograms on all of my vital organs, did a chest X-ray, and said everything was OK. But now he wants to take a bone-marrow specimen so he can find out what is causing the problem.
What can cause platelets to go higher than usual? Ten years ago, I had colon cancer and received chemotherapy. Could that cause a malfunction of the bone marrow?
My medications are simvastatin, finasteride, Diovan and aspirin. Your help would be greatly appreciated.
DEAR READER: Blood contains four major components: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma. In the simplest terms, plasma carries the blood cells, red blood cells carry oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, white blood cells fight infection, and platelets are responsible for clotting.
When any one of these components is “out of whack,” it can cause problems. For example, a common condition known as anemia occurs when the red blood cells are too low. This can lead to fatigue, paleness and more.
When platelet levels are too low, it can lead to easy bleeding. In contrast, higher-than-normal levels can lead to abnormal clotting. Normal levels are generally considered to be between 150,000 and 400,000, but each laboratory has its own set of standards.
With a level between 400,000 and 500,000, I would not consider that seriously abnormal under most circumstances. I think your physician was (rightfully) being careful given your past history of cancer. Follow the specialist’s recommendations.
Should everything be normal, I would urge you to have blood work every three to six months to monitor the levels. If they remain stable after a year, then testing once or twice a year should suffice. If the levels fluctuate drastically or rise consistently, then further testing may be necessary.
A hematologist (blood specialist) may be another appropriate specialist to consider involving in your case. He or she may be able to discern the cause of your abnormal platelet level more easily, especially if it is not caused by cancer. There are a vast number of blood disorders, and this type of specialist is the best source for determining whether you have one of them.
Chemotherapy can certainly cause problems with bone marrow and blood productions. Given that your chemotherapy was 10 years ago, I don’t believe this is the cause of your current problem. I cannot say this definitively, however.
To provide related information, I am sending you copies of my Health Reports “Blood – Donations and Disorders” and “Medical Specialists.” Other readers who would like copies should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a check or money order for $2 per report to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title(s).
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