What should patients look out for?
The first challenge in the diagnosis of febrile neutropenia is to make sure that patients will recognise signs suggesting that they are seriously ill – and take the necessary action.It is essential to inform all patients receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer about the risk of febrile neutropenia, and to explain what to look out for, before they start their treatment. Typical signs include a temperature higher than 37.5°C, flu-like symptoms, mouth ulcers or a sore mouth that prevents eating (Malik et al, 2001). Less commonly with many of the regimens used in the treatment of breast cancer, patients may also have uncontrolled diarrhoea/vomiting, and uncontrolled nose bleeds or bleeding from the gums. Patients should also be made aware that they might not feel hot – indeed, those most at risk sometimes feel cold, or may merely describe systemic malaise/pain (Malik et al, 2001).It is important to indicate to patients and carers, depending on the specific chemotherapy regimen, the days i